Missions, Misunderstood

July 4, 2009

Missions, Misunderstood

Photo by tinkernoonoo (license), adapted by Jon Reid

One of my favorite new blogs I read regularly is Missions, Misunderstood by “Ernest Goodman,” a pseudonym for a former missionary. A recent post titled Expectations began,

It usually goes something like this:

“Yay, we’re going to be missionaries! We love the nations! God’s glory! Passion! Finish the task”

Then, “It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Different isn’t necessarily bad. We can do this.”

Finally, “I’m just not cut out for missions. The missionaries here aren’t cut out for missions. I’m never leaving home again.”

Those lines in particular really resonated with me. I left the following comment, but decided to share it here as well:

Either God didn’t exist, or he hated us.

Ow, this is so familiar. My wife & I went to Japan, expecting to start concerts of prayer that would lead to revival. The culture itself would be no problem, as we had both grown up in Japan as missionary kids.

After a year, we concluded that either God didn’t exist, or he hated us. I imagined returning to the States and never volunteering to lead any ministry again, because it might bring up the fact that I had once been a missionary. And I wouldn’t want that to get out, because it would only fill me with shame.

At our lowest point, we met other missionaries who were much more seasoned and long-term than we were, yet were also at a low point. Together we prayed, desperately. And our small group (we called the group “the gropers” because we felt like we were groping in the dark) experienced revival. Miracles. Prophetic guidance. Physical healing happening before our astounded eyes.

And then, just when we thought again that we were going to conquer the world, the leaders of our group lost their son to leukemia. Despite all our prayers, prophecies, and apparent signs to the contrary, he died. We were all rocked, helpless, confused.

Maybe God doesn’t want us to be “strong” and “successful” after all.

As I wrote in a worship song, “Teach me the power of total dependency.”

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

3 responses to Missions, Misunderstood

  1. Don’t know if you’ve seen that my wife and I were missionaries for 23 years (25 if you count the last two years of ministry among the “unreached peoples” of Canada: tongue firmly “in cheek). The final four years outside North America in England where my wife reveled in four years of working in a local hospice where no one knew what I did (they assumed CIA), no one knew she was a “one of those Christians,” and where she could simply be Debbie, a person who loves and care for others. Those were vital years because she emerged from seven years in Germany with a the firm diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not because of the Germans, not because of the German believers, but rather to the nature of the so-called “Christian community,” comprised of North American Christians, in which we had to live.
    If you have time, take a look at http://zoodad.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/07/when-gods-promises-fail-1.html and tell me your thoughts. I’ll post the whole message later.

  2. P.S. My conclusion at one point, alongside your most apt one (either God didn’t exist or he hated us), was: either God isn’t powerful enough to work or he isn’t loving enough to work.

  3. ZooDad, that’s quite a story. Yet here we are. And you lived to tell the tale, as a pastor — remarkable.
    I like your flowchart.