Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Struggle Is Real

And no, I’m not referring to the fact that as I write this (EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was written several weeks ago) I’m on spring break (meaning that my beloved cafeteria is closed for the week), and that due to water damage earlier this semester I don’t have access to the one room in my residence hall with a stove/oven, which means that I have to survive on food made in the microwave in my room (all of which doesn’t really sound that bad, considering that some people don’t even have microwavable food, microwaves, electricity to power the nonexistent microwave, a residence hall room to sit in, a break from school, a school to go to, a cafeteria to normally go to, or pipes that can break and cause water damage—so no, I’m not talking about that).

My microwavable dishes, now empty of any microwavable food ( I was kind of hungry)
My microwavable dishes, now empty of any microwavable food ( I was kind of hungry)

No, the struggle that I am referring to is the fact that mission work can be a struggle, that it can be tough, that it can be discouraging. This has been a common theme running through many of my conversations in the past few weeks with different missionaries, both domestic and abroad. The more and more that I talk to missionaries, the more and more that I am realizing that mission work is not a stroll through the daisies; that it is not always a fabulous, glamorous job; that it is definitely not always easy. When Jesus talked about being “persecuted because of righteousness” (Matthew 5:10) and being “hated by all nations” (Matthew 24:9), he wasn’t just talking to the apostles.

Probably the biggest part about this is that mission work is first and foremost about working in this broken and dying world to share the news of the restoration and life found only in Jesus Christ. Which means that missionaries ultimately seek to work with broken people, with sinful people, with ungrateful, unforgiving, malicious people. And please don’t try to simply picture in your mind the toughest thug as you read this—please remember first of all that all of us are broken, sinful, ungrateful, unforgiving, and malicious (and also please remember that Jesus loves/forgives you). At the same time, the goal of spreading the Gospel is to work with people who are going to be hostile to the message that we share, people who are not going to want to be loved by us. And as any parent, camp counselor, or psychiatrist can tell you: the most difficult (often impossible) people to work with are those who don’t want to be helped.

To really get a fuller perspective on all of this, though, you have to realize that this kind of work goes beyond what we can see, hear, taste, touch, and feel. The battle that missionaries fight is a spiritual one (check out Ephesians 6:12). Missionaries are going head-to-head with the spiritual forces of darkness, not by swinging machetes or pulling out machine guns, but by sharing and spreading our one weapon in this fight: the Word of God, and the message contained therein, the Gospel. This fight is often difficult, exhausting, discouraging, and painful.

Spiritual Warfare

OK…pause real quick. Before you start thinking that I’m having a pity party over here for missionaries, and that you should feel super sorry for them, let me put this in perspective: all Christians are called to be missionaries; “real” missionaries simply go by that name for their job description. If you don’t get what I mean by this, please check out my previous posts, in which I describe how we all can be used by God to further his Kingdom. And thus, whenever we are engaged in this holy work, whenever we are out there sharing Jesus through our words and actions, we’re going to be persecuted, we’re going to be rejected, we’re going to find ourselves in the spiritual battle of the Kingdom of Heaven against the Kingdom of Hell. As Paul puts it: “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Thus, expect this work to be tough. Obviously, missionaries are (hopefully) doing this kind of stuff “full-time”. But remember for yourself also, the more and more that you follow God’s call to go and make disciples, the more and more you are going to face opposition, rejection, and discouragement. Missionaries have A LOT of other struggles besides the big themes that I have touched on in this brief post that you probably won’t ever encounter (so, yes, their struggle is a lot more real usually than for most people), but my hope is that you too find yourself in struggles. That you do find yourself feeling weak while spreading the Gospel. That you are often feeling discouraged. Because when all of that is happening, it probably means that God is using you. And, as one missionary pointed out to me, the more weaker and weaker, the more inadequate and beaten down that we find ourselves, the more we can see how God is the one whom we need to depend on, and that he is truly the one who is using us even as we struggle and even as we make a lot of mistakes. He can use us the most when we realize that he is the one doing the work through us.

It’s Getting A Lot More Real

Picks up piece of paper. Puts piece of paper squarely on desk. Puts down signature near the bottom of the piece of paper (including dotting the i and crossing the t). Pick up piece of paper. Put piece of paper in box on desk. Repeat entire process x 10. “Hm…This is really boring…” Repeat x 15 “I’m in the library…I could try to read a book while doing this…” Sets down pen. Walks over to the periodicals. Finds a publication on Lutheran missionology. “Oooh…looks interesting.” Puts book on desk near large stack of paper. Tries reading book while signing papers. “Nope…I can multitask, but I’m not that good…” Repeat entire process x 130 Things have been getting a lot more real lately. One such thing is that I’ve been putting together a letter to send out to some of my friends and family on my mailing list (which can include you too, so if you want to be on my mailing list, please let me know!) to let them know what I’ve been doing, i.e., getting ready to go overseas full-time to do mission work. And then I had to sign all of them! It only took about an hour. Now I just need to fold them, put them in envelopes, and mail them out. Sponsor letter March 2015 blog postI’ve also been making some progress on trying to figure out how my internship is going to work. For example, I’ve now had many talks with LCMS World Missions, and these talks have been going well. I’ve taken a gazillion assessments with them now (see previous blog post for an idea of what that has been like), and it looks like all that I have left to do with them to complete the application process is to have a Skype interview with a psychologist (just to make sure that I’m not crazy) and then a physical (just to make sure I’m healthy). They have a big board meeting this May, and so after that meeting (probably early June) I will find out if/where I’ll get placed with them. Then I would have to graduate (good idea), go through their two-week orientation about a year from now (trip to St. Louis!), and then start fundraising and going through language school (no hablo español perfectamente todavía), after which I would head off for the mission field probably around June/July 2016. We’ll see where God takes us with all of this. I’ve also been spending a lot more time trying to get a good perspective on what mission work really does look like. Thus, I’ve been corresponding with multiple missionaries, some here in the States who are doing mission work. Plus, I’ve had some good email conversations with missionaries who are right now serving in Latin America. Through these conversations, I have learned a lot of stuff (some of which I probably will be reflecting on through blog posts in the next few weeks). I’m also super-pumped about my summer plans, not only because I am once again going to be a camp counselor this summer (this time at a camp in Michigan), but also because of the mission opportunities that I quite possibly will have while working at that camp. The camp director, when he heard that I can kind of sort of speak half-decent Spanish wanted to know if I would be interested in helping to lead a Spanish camp over the summer, i.e., a free/cheap camp for the children of Hispanic immigrants in the area, who 1. probably don’t have as many camp options (who ever does Spanish camps?), and 2. may not be able to afford the full camp price. This quite possibly could be a great way to reach people with the Gospel. I know for certain that at least two other staff members whom I will be working with can speak Spanish–one of them is fluent, and the other one is not quite as advanced as me yet but is definitely getting there and will also definitely be an asset. Camp ministry and mission trips are about my two most favorite things to do ever, so combining them is going to be a blast if this works out!

Extra bonus of this summer: the camp I'm going to be working at has this awesome playground!
Extra bonus of this summer: the camp I’m going to be working at has this awesome playground!

Yep. Things are definitely getting real. Please continue to keep me in your prayers!