Are you a Missionary?
Someone defined a missionary as a “person called, prepared and guided by God, to be what God made him to be in a cross-cultural context.” Obviously the key is the “cross-cultural context” otherwise we’d all be missionaries and the word would just mean a “Christian.” Of course we know that all Christians are “witnesses unto Jesus” but a missionary does his witnessing in another language, or cultural context.
Stress! Stress! Stress!
One of the greatest frustrations about missionary life is the stress the cross-cultural context brings upon the missionary – like a heavy load, dampening his joy, suffocating his enthusiasm and darkening his prospects for the future. The problem is that “it sneaks up on you” before you are aware of it. How come? Well, being in a totally unfamiliar situation (language, culture, relationships, food, dress, gestures, values, right and wrong, etc) the missionary is being bombarded with loads of new information to be sorted, categorized and – if possible – integrated into his way of life to make living in that culture simpler and stress-free.
Too much new Information
Remember that “Culture is a tribe, nation or clan’s standardized way of resolving physical, social and ideational challenges so as to facilitate community life and minimize STRESS.” Interesting! Life is easy when everyone understands what to do, how to act and react, communicate and respond. But the missionary hasn’t got there yet, and may not for several years – depending on the language and culture, so he experiences stress.
There is simply:
- too much new information for his brain to assimilate;
- information that is too difficult for his brain to cope with; perhaps due to conflict with his values and worldview.
There is a solution! If they can “in everything, and for everything, give thanks to the Lord; then “the seeds of discouragement will never germinate in their hearts.” Our prayers will help them to learn and appreciate the people’s total life way, and move deeper and deeper as they are able. The thing is that other cultures aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re just different. If they learn to take a joke that will help, for in reality a new missionary is the biggest joke in the country. When people laugh at them, pressure comes off when they can join in the laughter even though they are the big joke. God has called them, prepared them and lead them to that people group to be a blessing to them “in Christ.”
What a privilege to be a “missionary!” And what a privilege for us to pray for them so that they might be able to embrace new, different, ways of doing things and escape the stress phantom.