The Frustrations of a Missionary (Part 1)

Missionaries! Frustrated?

Missionaries aren’t supposed to get frustrated, are they? Aren’t they – like Pastors – a class apart that is exempt from normal human emotions? Rest assured, they are human and they do get frustrated. What are some of the main reasons?

1. The local people’s complex language and strange ways of thinking and acting.

On arrival, and for a few months, these things are almost an “adventure” and so “nice and curious.” But as time moves on the hard slog of mastering the language and intereacting with society begins to take its toll and the missionary may become frustrated because it’s not going too well.

2. The Climate, Bugs and Bities

It’s not just a few flies and mozzies that bothers the missionary, but some strange and disconcerting stomach bugs (Ooh, the horrible pains!), and other mosquito-carried sicknesses that are some of the major killers in the world today. It’s easy to become paranoid about “getting bitten,” and frustrated when the temperature either drains your energy or makes you so lethargic you just want to sit in a “warm or cold” air-conditioned room. What frustrations.

3. You and Your Colleagues

A survey on Missionary Attrition (leaving the field) reveals that the issues above aren’t the main reason why missionaries leave the field and return home. It’s – watch it! – PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP ISSUES. When you have to live and work closely with a missionary who may be better at the language than you are, identifies more closely with the people (or, hardly seems to even care about the people?), has a more dynamic ministry than you, seems to be more spiritual than you are, and receives better support from their church than you do; then you can get frustrated.

4. The Real Problem

But really the problem is ME. I’m just too concerned about me – egocentric is the word. Instead of just being what the Lord made me to be according to the gifts and talents he gave me, I keep making comparisons with others – and that’s depressing and frustrating. As a pastor once said to a young man who was praying that he might be a “nothing” for Jesus: “My son, you are a nothing!”


So the secret is to just get on with the job the Lord has given you to do, praise him for your situation, the local people and their language and culture, your colleagues and who you are in Him; and keep singing:

Only to be what he wants me to be every moment of every day;

Yielded completely to Jesus my King, every step of this pilgrim way.

Just to be clay in the Potter’s hands, ready to do what His will commands.

Only to be what he wants me to be every moment of every day.