What is missionary life? After reading an article called This Is Missions by Brooke Vanguard, a description of missions in China, I was challenged by a friend to write our own version of missions in Thailand. This is a glimpse of what it is. The photos are a bit random, some having to do with the words, and some not.
Again, a small disclaimer. Sometimes I hesitate to write anything about missions here, simply because so many people get the picture that missions is some sort of really special work that only really special people can do. It is not!! Sometimes I cringe when I am labeled as a missionary, because of this. It is a really special work that people with a really special God can do. And being a missionary does not mean that you need to go to a foreign country. It can be done on your very doorstep.
This is missions…..
It’s reaching up and finding spiders in your hair and going on wild mouse chases in the middle of the night. It’s brushing off the ants from that precious banana bread — and eating the banana bread. It’s waking up at night hearing rats running around attic. It’s setting sticky traps in the kitchen and having to haul off the results later, while choking back nausea.
It’s trying to make food that your Thai guests will enjoy and instead, it’s putting way too much water into the rice which leaves it sticky and mushy. It’s feeling like a bumbling city girl who can’t cook anything because you simply don’t know how to make Thai food. It’s ordering fresh milk and feeling stupid and naïve because no matter how desperately you calculate, you can’t think of how much 10 kilograms of milk might be in pounds. It’s feeling silly because you don’t know how to change children’s diapers Thai style— pull off the diaper and spray ‘em with the hose!
It’s being told that you are way too trusting when you invite the lonely stranger you met at the bus station to stay at your house. It’s being told by your neighbors and friends how you should arrange your furniture, how you should put up your shelves, how you should always close your door to keep out the mosquitos, and how you should not go out into the sun without long sleeves, or let yourself get wet. It’s feeling frustrated when you’re constantly told by your coworkers at school that you need to speak harshly to your children in order to make them behave, and feeling like you can’t do anything right because you don’t quite do it their way.
It’s trying to impress your hosts with your ability to eat spicy food, and then paying for your pride the next morning in the bathroom. It’s feeling frustrated by not being able to communicate the way you want to and it’s being tired of feeling like a 3 year old who keeps on using the wrong words and saying silly things.
It’s feeling totally comfortable telling a male friend at church how much you weigh. It’s laughing at jokes you would not have thought funny 2 years ago. It’s eating with your spoon in your right hand and your fork in your left without a thought. It’s being ok with changing plans at the last minute, or not even having any plans in the first place. It’s going home and asking your mom if the mattress in your room is new—- because it’s so soft! It’s asking people if they’ve eaten yet and what they ate, as a way of being polite. Or asking them where they’re going.
It’s feeling like you’re brain is permanently fried by language study and hot weather. It’s feeling like you use so much brain energy just surviving that all the profound, cool thoughts you used to think have simply vanished from your brain.
It’s wondering how on earth to help the bouncing ADHD student learn to control himself and stop shooting things with his imaginary gun. It’s holding tightly an angry child bent on hurting whatever he can touch in his little world. It’s feeling like all you do is tell little people what to do.
It’s going to church and feeling a heaviness on your heart because you wish so badly that your unbelieving friends could be there too. It’s driving home late at night and feeling the sadness of the city circle around your soul.
It’s being ecstatic about the fact that in a little over a week you get to fly home for an entire month. At the same time, it’s feeling terrified too.
It’s being on cloud nine after being able to carry an hour long conversation all in Thai, and then it’s crashing down to reality when you can’t understand a simple question.
It’s always feeling a little self -conscious, wherever you go. It’s being told you are sooo beautiful all the time and you speak Thai sooooo well. It’s being used to the stares that come from passengers on the backs of trucks as you drive down the road on your bike.
It’s listening to your friend recount with glowing face her new found faith and the way God is working in her life and leading her to witness to her co-workers. It’s listening to her bold statement of faith before she is baptized on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
It’s having a young student crying inconsolably after leaving school because she found out that Teacher Lori is going home to America, not realizing it’s only for a month. (Ok, not quite inconsolably. She was consoled by donuts eventually, I heard.)
It’s listening to a 4 year old student from a Buddhist family announcing to his friends, “When I grow up I am going to go to church!”
It’s watching the even rising and falling chest of a young girl as she sleeps and running your finger over her smooth cheek, praying that God would give her a hope and a future, even when all the odds are against her.
It’s feeling that odd tug at your soul when you crest the mountain peak – on those few occasions that you do get to the mountain – and seeing smoke rising from a valley village, far below. It’s that heartfelt connection that you feel after stopping at a roadside stand to escape the rain for a few minutes and striking up a conversation with the vendors and customers, finding that they too know the true God. It’s seeing the delight on a market vendor’s face because you speak their language and eat their food.
It’s feeling the small strength of a child’s hand in yours. It’s seeing the solemn trust in a little girl’s chocolate eyes and hearing her say your name. It’s hearing the squealing laughter of 30 children loose on the playground. It’s giving piggy back rides and bouncing wildly on big rubber balls and roaring like a tiger and rolling on the ground and doing other quite unladylike maneuvers.
It’s sitting at Wednesday night cell group, singing Thai songs and sharing struggles and realizing over and over again that we are brothers and sisters.
It’s knowing it is all worth it.