A kickback in missionary work is hard.
By definition, a kickback means a strong reaction.
And, we definitely have had that in response to our becoming missionaries, living overseas, the things we do, the things we don’t do and on and on.
Almost 95% of the time, the kickback is positive. The reaction is good. The response is understanding, helpful, and supportive.
But the other 5%…
It can be eye-opening, devastating and hurtful to see and hear the things people do and say as you prepare to walk in obedience to the call on your life.
It can be said in love and still feel discouraging.
I hesitate to write some of these things but I suppose writing them and filling in some of the answers can be helpful for you and for me.
That glimpse behind the prayer card that most missionary families won’t tell you.
So, what kickbacks are common for missionaries?
What kinds of things can be said to someone who is moving overseas to be a part of the Great Commission… going into all the world doing missionary work?
1. “Don’t you know the world is a dangerous place?! Especially for missionary work!” Yep. We do. The whole world. Here in America and there… wherever there is. Yet, we must acknowledge that some of the places we are going are more dangerous than other places. Disease, crime, war, religious tensions, political upheaval… all very real parts of everyday life when you live in other parts of the world. It is dangerous, but that does not and should not stop us. The 10/40 window is still as valid as it was 20-30 years ago. Very few are going to this dangerous part of the world. Even more reason for us to obey and go, dangerous or not. There are people in this dangerous window who need someone to tell them.
2. “Should you really be taking kids with you?” For us, we hear very specifically, “You have three girls and you are taking them where?” or “I would never take girls there.” or “You need to be careful with those girls.” Yes. We absolutely DO have girls and we DO need to be careful with their lives. But, thankfully, they were entrusted to us by God and we know that He will be faithful to protect them as only He can. We pray daily for wisdom and for health and for safety in our girls’ lives. They are in His hands wherever we live!
3. “How can you go so far away when there are people here who don’t know Jesus either?” Well, the bottom line for us is that Jesus called us to go there and not stay here. We go in obedience. We go because we believe that God has equipped us to do a job there that He needs specifically for us to do for His Kingdom business. We trust that He is also working in the lives of people here to continue to reach the thousands in our own nation who need to know about the hope Jesus offers them freely.
4. “We shouldn’t send missionaries anymore. We should send teams and fund projects to help the national churches.” This is a very powerful statement that has greatly affected missions around the world. Teams are good. They are wonderful. But they can not replace full time missionaries. They can not in 2 weeks duplicate what missionaries need years to accomplish. From language to culture to relationships to religions to governments… it takes years to establish the trust needed in many settings to even have the opportunity to proclaim the gospel in the simplest way. Long term missions is necessary, valuable and irreplaceable. Especially so those short term teams can keep going.
5. “Missionary work just costs too much.” Yes. The cost is crazy high. The funds needed to support a missionary family are steep. But the money is there. And God provides it.
6. Silence. Sometimes when we tell friends or family they truly don’t know what to say. They don’t understand. They don’t agree. They don’t want us to go. They don’t know how to respond so they are silent. Or, when we come back, they don’t know what to ask or how to process the things we do tell them. Loneliness in missions is very real.
7. “You don’t have to do this forever. You can go for a few years and then come back home.” It is very hard to explain the idea of moving overseas as a full time endeavor. This isn’t a few short years and then it is done. This is a lifetime commitment. Now, saying that… I don’t know how many years we will be on the field. I don’t know what our future holds. But, as of right now, this is a long term, lifetime thing. We plan to spend our lives working in Africa. We believe in the value of longevity in missions.
8. For him: “How can you take your family there?” This is close to #2 but yet very different. This is deeper and bigger. It questions something about his being the “man of the house” and his ability to determine where God is leading our family. He answers well every time. I’m thankful to be lead by God and by this incredible, wonderful, godly man.
9. For her: “Is missions something you want to do too?” Well, missions has always been on my heart. I just never really saw it as something I would ever OR could ever do full time. As I share more in depth in this post, God very quickly challenged me to trust Him for everything I need to walk in obedience to whatever He leads us to do in our married life together. I am confident to follow God’s lead and support my husband anywhere in the world. Not only confident, I’m excited about this adventure God is leading us on!
10. “I could never do what you are doing.” Hmmm… every time I hear that I think, “I can’t do what I’m doing either. Not on my own. But with God, I can. Only with God can I do what He is asking us to do.”
11. “Wow… you are doing what most people pray never to be asked to do!” The first time someone said this, I thought, “Oh my word! We ARE doing something that most people pray not to do!” In fact, we feel the total opposite now… We LOVE what we get to do! The travel, the fun, the journey, the obstacles, the challenges, the excitement, the opportunities to experience life in such an incredible way… having the opportunity to live out our faith every single day. Being daily involved in the Great Commissions… what a cool life we get to live. Even if it is THE HARDEST thing we have EVER done.
12. “How can you say goodbye to family for years on end?” I don’t know. We must choose obedience over comfort every single time we say goodbye. Every time a party is missed. Every time a holiday passes without a huge family gathering. Every wedding, every birthday, every death… missed. gone. Obedience to the call. Trusting God to help it all make sense in the end.
13. “How can you send your kids away to boarding school?” We didn’t send them. We let them go. The opportunities for them there are endless. The friendships, plays, choir, trips, sports, classes and fun. Things they can not get where God has asked us to live. We let them go. We allow them this time at school. Plus, overseas you’ll hear kids say, “When do you GET to go to boarding school?” It looks completely different from this side of the ocean. With all of that said, I don’t know how we do it. Again, with God’s help and the prayers of those who stand with us.
Missionary work kickbacks
Common things we hear on our journey to go.
These questions about our missionary work are asked in genuine concern. The statements are made in love. The people around us truly care about our welfare and our family and our safety.
But we must obey.
We must trust.
We walk in this crazy adventure knowing that God has gone before us. He sees the days to come. He has already counted our years on the field. He has already prepared the way in an unknown place. He knows the people we will meet and the places we will go and the challenges we will face.
He is there, already. He knows, right now.
Thankfully… we don’t know. We can walk in the light of today and trust Him for the unlit path of tomorrow.
Because we believe that although some of these kickbacks to missionary work are valid, the Great Commission is true.
“If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small.” — Pat Morley
The whole world must hear.
So, our plans in missionary work are not too big.
They need to be bigger. More people need to go. More full time families must be sent. Regardless of the danger and the cost and the kickback. We can’t get by with “too small” any more. Missionary work and life must be big even when kickback comes.
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