Today I glanced down at my phone and saw the number 100 on my countdown app. I clicked on the app, and when I opened it it said “Furlough One Hundred days away...” When I saw this my mind went back to the phrase, One Hundred Days away... I immediately opened my sentimental drawer (doesn’t everyone have one of those? ) and began to search for a card. I found it. I read the message inside and instantly thought of my sweet friend who had given me this card when we were 100 days away from moving from America to South Africa. Although her heart was sad, she was able to encourage me and rejoice with me over the good things that were happening. She has remained a true and faithful friend.
As I was in the drawer, I also found a box of dozens of letters from our home church. I began to read the letters and tears quickly formed in my eyes. They were full of such encouraging words. Some of the friends have now moved overseas as missionaries themselves, no telling when the next time we will end up stateside together. One was from a special friend who is now in heaven. I had no clue that when we left in 2013, it would be the last time to see her here on earth. I began to think about my stateside friendships: how the craziness of living thousands of miles away, our busy schedules, our time difference, our “iffy” internet have all complicated what we once determined would remain the same.
When you read the title, The Missionary Friend, you may immediately think it would be addressed to those that are sending. How they should support, help, pray and be there for the missionary. Books have been written and messages, at missions conferences, have been preached on that very topic. The mission field can get lonely and the need for “home support” is very real but I don’t think, however, the fault for shaky goer/sender relationships stops there.
A missionary can quickly and easily fall into the trap of the “taker”. For years we travel around America with our hands out, asking others to provide and sacrifice for us. We are quick to share our every need because we are often asked to. Our resources abroad are often limited and we rely heavily on our stateside support. But this does not entitle us to be a taker and not a giver. The Missionary Friend, should be a missionary that is a genuine friend to others.
We often have high expectations
EXPECT NOTHING AND APPRECIATE EVERYTHING
We just landed on the field after years of being the star at the churches we visited; to expect the gift baskets, cards, phone calls that once were received quickly becomes disappointment instead of gratefulness for all that has been given.
We tend to think we deserve more.
We think this sacrifice we have made by moving far away entitles us. We deserve to be prayed for because we are a missionary. We deserve to be given to because we are a missionary. We deserve to be remembered because we are a missionary. When in truth we deserve nothing. My children should obey me because “it is right” not because it entitles them to rewards.
We often think of ourselves more then others.
We are so blinded by “self” that we only think of our sacrifices and needs. We often forget that life gets complicated in the states as well. Our supporting churches go through struggles. Our friends get overwhelmed with hectic schedules. They need our prayers, our friendship, our support just as much as we need theirs.
We must be a friend where we are
We can’t put life on hold for four years. We can’t live for America and for being with family. We have to be genuine friends to the ones God has placed in our lives. If we sit around waiting for America to wake up so we won’t be lonely today, we will live in a constant state of loneliness and with the expectations of others to fulfill it.
We should be givers
It is more blessed to give then to receive. God loves a cheerful giver. Missionaries are given much. Every month, people we may not even know, sacrifice to give to their missions program. Parents give of their children. Churches give up faithful members and are left with a void that must be filled. We should be willing and happy to give sacrificially as well. The checkbook doesn’t just run one way. The phone-line doesn’t just dial on one side. It is actually easier to send birthday gifts or cards to an American address.
My husband has been the best teacher of all of this. If he hears of a friend with a need, he simply asks himself what he can do to help and he does it. I, on the other hand, have been known to over think it: Did they help us when we needed money for land? Wouldn’t that money come out of our plane ticket fund? Why do I always have to be the one to call? If not careful, I can consume myself with myself and not be a friend to others as Christ ask of me to do.
A deserving, selfish, lonely missionary with high expectations makes for a type of friend I don’t want to be.