Almost 4 years ago I wrote an article called “10 things a missionary won’t tell you”, adapted to our situation from another article I read online. Since it is only available in Romanian language, you can read someone else’s similar version here: Ten Things That Your Missionary Will Not Tell You. I strongly encourage you to read it as you will be more familiar to some of the difficulties missionaries go through. Even as a Romanian, I can identify myself with all those points.
Going to Romania is hard
You would think that returning home on furlough is wonderful. Every missionary looks forward to it. It is the focus of the year that it is going to happen.
That is partly true. However there are two things that your missionary will not tell you. One you probably already know. Logistically it is difficult. Most missionaries don’t have a place to live, a car to drive or a plate to eat off of. All those things that we need in everyday life, from pillow cases to car seats, we do not have. We have to find short term solutions and we HATE borrowing stuff. We also do not want to live in your basement. We want to be a family with our own privacy and family time.
We also want to visit and spend time with our donors and churches, but making that happen is so hard when we have donors in 12 different states. It isn’t cost feasible to spend $1,200 to visit a church in Arkansas that gives you $25/month. But you want to and think that you should. The logistics make home assignment difficult.
The second thing that you probably do not know is that it is hard emotionally. Why? Because we discover that we have changed and that you no longer really want to be around us. I wrote about this one time. Let me summarize that blog here. A man from the land of Blue became a missionary to the people of Yellow. He struggled because he was a Blue man among Yellow people. However, after a while he began to truly understand their culture and become partly assimilated. One day he looked in the mirror and saw that he was no longer Blue, he was now Green. It made being in the land of Yellow easier. Then, after many years, he returns to the land of Blue. To his dismay, no one there in his homeland of Blue wants to be with him because, well because he was a Green person in the land of Blue.
After being on the mission field you are a different person. People perceive you differently. Even people who were friends are no longer friends. They have grown without you. They have had different experiences without you. You are no longer ‘one of them.’ When you return, people want to shake your hand and say that they missed you, but they don’t want to be with you. They are also worried that you are going to ask them for money. We actually asked a person out for dinner, a person who had been a friend before going to the mission field. Their response was, ‘We don’t have any money to give you.” They REALLY said that!
After being in my home church, where I had been a pastor, and was now feeling ostracized, I shared my feelings with a staff member of the church. He told me that he knew why people avoided us. I asked him what it was. He said, “You intimidate people. Not by what you say, or what you do, but by who you are. We look at you and your choice and we feel guilty for being materialist. It is easier to avoid you than it is to repent of our love of money.”
I don’t know if that is the reason or not, but missionaries feel unwanted. We may think that you appreciate us, and we really are grateful for your financial support, but we feel like you don’t want to be our friend.