Missionaries are not heroes

I have often been amazed at the way some folks idolize and romanticize missions workers. And after the last five years of being and knowing missionaries, I have concluded that they are not all heroes as some think.

First of all, a missionary better never believe this about themselves. This is the reason we have seen so much hurt and pain and exploitation throughout Africa over the last century. Colonial missions was often fueled by heroism. If you enter a foreign land and think (in your head and heart) that you are a hero to the people, you have lost before you even began. We don’t come in high, we come in low. We don’t come in as rescuers, rather we come in as encouragers. Nothing is more untrue than thinking that your coming is about to save the day. If God uses you, it will be Him that saves the day, not you. If anyone is the hero, they are, and you are there to convince them of it. Which leads me to the second idea…

It is not more courageous to go share Jesus overseas, it’s LESS courageous. It is EASY to walk around a foreign context and say bold and spiritual things….people are already expecting that you will. They know you must have something different to say, because you ARE different. So, in a sense, they roll out the carpet for you and make it easy. And half the time you make a fool of yourself culturally, you don’t even know you did it. It’s easy to stand out and be brave where know one knows you and everyone likes you.

You wanna see a hero? Watch the American who despite incredible fear of rejection steps out for their faith at work knowing what it may cost them. That’s a hero. Watch the family who tries every possible tactic to enter the lives of their atheist neighbor next door and never gives up until they receive Christ’s love. That’s heroic. That’s hard. Or the Muslim Son who found Christ and goes and visits his Mom and Dad to share with them all about who Jesus Christ has become to him. That’s a hero…

What I’m finding is….

….Mission in YOUR familiar context is a lot harder than mission in someone else’s strange context. So if you are going for it for God amidst your family and friends and neighbors and co-workers, you are one of my heroes!

Disclaimer: Yes, there are loads of sacrifices that come with living in a foreign country with a family. It’s not always easy. There is a cost. And there are things that are easy to see as quite brave and courageous and I won’t take all of that away. But it’s important that we don’t miss the beauty of living on mission for God right where we are!