I am by no means an expert of missions. I just love Jesus and telling people about Him. Serving in my country as a native, I get to meet many foreigners who also love Jesus and telling people about Him. Sometimes, however, even though they come with great intentions, their attitudes can speak louder than their words or actions. Not because they’re rude necessarily, but because they never thought about it. These are five encouragements I have for Western missionaries from the perspective of a native.
We all feel when someone genuinely loves us versus when we’re a part of someone’s agenda. There is a huge difference. I feel when someone truly cares for me and I also feel when I’m someone’s job. Peter said not to do things out of obligation.
Our obligation or agenda might be to share the Gospel. But if we care to share the Gospel with people, and do not care about the actual people, we’ve got it all wrong! We’re nothing like Jesus. We ought to share the Gospel with people because we love them, not the other way around.
Our motivation to share Jesus should always be love. So love us, cause we do sense when you don’t; when we’re just a number in your statistics of “people I shared the Gospel with.”
Learn from us.
Chances are that you’ve been taught many things differently than us your entire life. But that doesn’t mean we were taught wrong. In most cases it simply means we were taught differently.
I love Americans (I’m married to one), I admire many qualities I see in you like generosity, great work ethics and inventing football—which isn’t a quality, but still.
I have learned much from Americans. However, I stop being teachable the moment I feel treated like I’m a lesser person just because I’m not an American. You wouldn’t believe how many times this happened. Paul said there’s no Jew nor Greek anymore. There’s only Jesus. We might have a different mindset than yours, but we do have the Holy Spirit just like you. So please do teach us, by all means! But don’t forget to learn from us.
See us through OUR eyes.
You should have seen my face the first time I was introduced to customer service in America. “Wait, what? I can return this in a month if I don’t like it anymore? And get a full refund?” Most of the world doesn’t work this way! Customer service in my country is light-years away from being “customer service.”
Cashiers are grumpy, baristas make lukewarm coffee, bank tellers are everything but helpful, hotel staff frown upon any request you make. These things are easy to spot. But what’s not easy to spot is the conditions people in my country work in.
I know people who didn’t get paid for six months but kept working in hopes that they will. Most of the people I know work overtime for free. Suing your boss won’t get you anywhere due to corruption. The statistics say that every third woman in my country is a victim of domestic violence. So the next time the cashier lady doesn’t smile at you but shoves your groceries in a bag making your chips into a mush, think of that.
Suddenly your lukewarm macchiato isn’t the worst thing in the world, is it? Don’t let these things frustrate you, but let them break your heart for us. See us through our eyes. Like Jesus overlooking Jerusalem, let your hearts be moved with compassion.
Give us Jesus.
Don’t get distracted. My country needs Jesus desperately. I feel like sometimes it’s easy to lose focus of our main goal. There’s a time and a place for humanitarian work, after all James says we ought to show our Christianity by taking care of the less fortunate. But our end goal is to tell people about Jesus.
Don’t get distracted with helping us only. Giving us money in a time of need is an honorable thing. Fixing our roof is something we will never be able to repay you for. But giving us Jesus is what’s gonna change our life. So use all those things to tell us about Jesus. Otherwise, we’ll just think you’re a really good person raised by amazing parents, and move on with our life. We need Jesus, even if we don’t recognize it.
Be all in.
Facebook is great! It helps us keep in touch with our family and friends. It also puts our life on a very visible, vulnerable, public place. And if your Facebook is packed with statuses like ”I miss my family” or ”I miss Starbucks” or ”I wish I was there,” then I’ll be the first one to feel sorry for you because you’re telling everyone you’re suffering here.
It’s not wrong to miss your family. It’s not wrong to miss the amenities of your homeland. But if it’s all you write or talk about, or if furlough is the only thing in life that excites you, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude you’re miserable.
Are you all in? Did you count the cost? Seeing a homesick missionary is the pits for me. It tells everyone that you don’t like it here, and that hurts us because even though this country isn’t your home, it is ours. We feel like we’re not good enough for you, that our country isn’t good enough.
Be a Roman to Romans, be a Jew to Jews. Be all in!