The Joy of Being Understood


I have been teaching a two-week course on Missionary Member Care. That is a broad topic and can focus on logistics, or life cycle, or

English: * This image is a png copy of Image:M...

English: * This image is a png copy of Image:Missionary_ship_Duff.jpg with reduced size and recoloured (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

fund-raising, or whatever. However, in part since I am an administrator of a Counseling Center, I have focused on the psycho-emotio-spiritual aspects or struggles in missions.

One assignment I gave was to ask the students to interview a missionary. The questions are the one’s Dr. Dan Russell used when I took his class in Missions years ago.

INTERVIEW SHEET

                                                   Student:                                                                                                 Missionary:

                                                   Place:                                                                                                     Date/Time:

Description of the Missionary:

How were you called to missions?

How do you have devotions? Include habits about both bible reading and prayer!

What problems do you face as a spouse on the mission field? (Optional)

How do you relate to your family back home?

What medical problems have you had in the country?

Do you exercise or have hobbies?

What are some security issues you have faced?

Tell me about your best local friend.

Why did you decide to go to the city or people you are serving now?

How did you raise support?

How do you keep in contact with your home or sending church?

How do you communicate prayer requests and other needs to supporters?

What mentoring have you received and given as a missionary?

Why did you choose your organization?

What is the size and ethnic background of your team?

How have you experienced spiritual warfare?

Can you share about a time when you wanted to give up?

What type of work have you done? and What is your current ministry?

How do the churches at home look at missionary work outside of the country?

These are good questions, and they are all good to ask missionary friends when you get a chance. But to get real answers there needs to be a foundation of TRUST between you and them. Missionaries are often ready to give the “Praise God for His Victory!” answers. But missions is full of at least as many struggles and hurts as there are joys and victories. Sometimes the joys and meaning flow from the struggles and hurts as much as anything.

Most of those interviewed were from NSC (new sending countries) and are serving in what is sometimes called the 10/40 window. Many serve with little financial support. Some/most are bivocational. If the rope is a symbol of missionary member care and support, for many of them, their rope is more like a shoe string. It is inspiring to read in their interviews NOT the victories, NOT the mountain top experiences, but the quiet commitment and perseverance. I feel a certain connection with them and thank God that they felt the confidence to share their experiences with my students. In reading their stories and trying to understand what they are going through, I feel understood as well. It sounds strange, but true. In some small (and not so small) ways, there is resonance between my experiences and theirs. As I have said before (as I was told by another) one of the greatest gifts you can give a person is to give them your full attention for a few minutes and TRY your best to truly understand what they are going through.

I almost wonder if I would like to teach a class in which the only tasks would be:

                      1.  Interview 10 or 20 (or so) NSC missionaries here in Southeast Asia

                      2.  Analyze the responses for common problems and concerns (ethnographic or GTA perhaps)

                      3.  Develop a prayer and support network for the missionaries.

Maybe that is not a good class project. Maybe it is a better Counseling Center project, or church project.

If you decide to ask a missionary the questions listed above: ensure that there is a trust between the two of you, encourage honest answers (not “churchy” answers), try your best to understand what they are really going through, and LISTEN.

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2 thoughts on “The Joy of Being Understood

  1. Good thoughts here, Bob.

    I’m guessing one reason missionaries don’t share many of their problems is they want to say something uplifting/encouraging when they write to their supporters. I’ve always tried to keep the news upbeat unless there’s a real need to share a trial or burden.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Kevin. I think you are absolutely correct. And as a general letter to supporters, I reckon that is appropriate. In counseling a person who is TOO QUICK to share all of their problems with people they don’t know may have some problems they need to deal with (emotionally exhibitionist). Hopefully, everyone has someone they can share their burdens with, however.

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