This post is not meant to be a how to post. It is not meant to be taken word for word. It is simply meant to be food for thought if you are considering having people visit you on the field or if you are thinking about visiting a mission field. I am writing from North Africa but I am not only writing as someone who is visited. My husband and I have it a priority in our lives to also visit other mission fields. We have had the privilege of living in two foreign countries and visiting quite a few more. That being said I am writing as someone who does some visiting as well.
Also as you read keep in mind all missionaries are different. Some wives are struggling daily to focus on Christ to get her through the day. Maybe even fighting an enteral battle of desiring to go home. Others are so in love with their beautiful home in a beautiful country they rarely even think of the States. Most are probably somewhere in between.
So, for starters:
Do go with an open mind. Don’t base you expectations on the news or even someone else’s opinion.
Do expect it to be different from your home country and other mission fields you have visited before.
Do resist the urge to state out loud all the differences you see.
Don’t compare the mission field you are visiting to others. Saying things like, “Oh, they don’t have that here? They do in _____.” or “In such and such country they have to walk to the market, you guys have it so easy here.” Even little statements like can come across as insensitive.
Do bring small gifts or candy for the missionaries’ children.
Don’t focus on how they can’t get that certain type of whatever where they live.
Do trust the missionary you are going to visit. If they say it is safe to eat something or walk down a certain street, don’t feel the need ask several times just to “make sure.” Trust me the missionaries don’t want anything bad happening to you while you visit. We LOVE visitors and any “bad thing” that could possibly happen would not help us continue to keep the visitors coming.
That being said, Do listen carefully to any words of caution that are given. I learned from traveling all over the USA while we were raising our support that some parts of certain cities can be down right dangerous. The same goes for any given mission field.
Don’t just assume things. Feel free to ask.
Do try you best not to offend the national believers and friends. If you are warned something could be offensive try with upmost sensitivity to refrain for doing whatever it is. Remember you will be on a plane in a few days or weeks. The missionary lives there.
Do try to make conversation!
Do expect the missionary to translate!
Don’t feel bad asking for help talking or learning how to say something. I personally love it when the believers here have the opportunity to really engage in conversation with visiting believers. It is a window into how much bigger the family of God is than just the few believers they know.
Do realize that not talking to them and just speaking English amongst yourselves does communicate disinterest in them and their country.
Do talk about the privilege it is to see the ministry where you are visiting.
Do empathize with the missionaries. Don’t feel sorry for them.
Don’t talk about what you miss at home. It has been a lot longer for the missionary. Do keep in mind that even as we are making our home in another country, our parents, aging grandparents, brothers, sisters, friends and their children and new babies are all back “at home” and we do miss them.
Do brag on their food. Don’t make faces if the food is not what you would like to eat.
Do consider bringing enough clothes for you entire trip without having to do laundry. Of course any stay longer than a week would merit a load or two. Many missionaries have small European front loader washing machines. Though they work great they can take about 2 hours for a single wash which for some is about 1/4 the size of a normal size American washer.
Do help the missionary wife in the kitchen. Do resist the urge to remind her that it takes less than half the time to prepare the same meal in the States.
Do be aware that the missionary family might have some familiar food items tucked away in their kitchen that you can’t buy in their country. You eating those special carefully rationed granola bars might not go over so good. The missionary should have plenty of other snacks and at least semi familiar foods on hand for you to try. Just wait until next week to hit up Walmart for your granola bar fix.
Do visit the local market with the missionaries. Don’t remind them of all the great sales T.J. MAXX, Target, and Macy’s are having right now… ugh.
Do focus on all the awesome positives! Though you might have just stepped in donkey doo the day before on your walk downtown, talk about the cool artisan things the nationals make. You could maybe mention the amazing architecture of the city or whatever positive thing you truly are enjoying about your trip. FYI two of the nicest malls I have ever been to are in China and Morocco.
Do tell the missionary you are blessed to have visited the work. Know that you are a huge blessing to them. It is often when I am back in the States that I feel that the people around me just don’t understand. Those who have seen where I live and have worshiped here with us can understand us in a way few others can! For those who have sacrificed to come and see what God is doing here, I am very grateful!