A Plastic Community

July 16, 2012

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We all have seasons in our lives where we struggle financially.

When you live on support or through donations, a regular paycheck does not appear each week or month.

Whether business, sales, of the missionary life, some months are good and some are difficult.

There are two kinds of people when times are lean in missions (or life for that matter.)

  1. Those which share their struggles and rely on one another.
  2. Those who use the convenience of the credit card to remain isolated and independent in their struggles.

Prior to the rise of credit cards:

  • If you needed a cup of sugar you would walk to a neighbor’s house.
  • When a family was struggling, the church was a great line of support.
  • Even in the Bible, the poor were allowed to glean the edges of a field.

This was an acknowledgment of need.

Today, we just swipe the card. Plastic has replaced community.

plastic community

I know many missionaries who are not making it.

Few people know this. Every month, we slide the card, digging further and further into debt and isolation.

Poor money strategy aside,(credit cards are the worst kind of interest to pay), this represents a breakdown in community.

  • People struggle in isolation.
  • Then we progress towards loneliness, perhaps even depression.
  • Finally, it gets so bad, we leave missions under a cloud of failure; taking the next few years to dig out from the debt.

All because we were unwilling to say, “We are not making it”.

What if the need was made known?

What if people were real, sharing the truth which is that ends are not meeting? What if we were willing to make the necessary lifestyle sacrifices rather than continue on with no change in outward behavior?

Some missionaries (and other “normal” people) won’t sacrifice.

That’s hard to believe since the definition of missionary seems to be sacrifice. But often we won’t change our lifestyles when things get tough.

This is true for more than missionaries, isn’t it? This is the state of economics worldwide.

Sacrifice is a word we want in the vocabulary of others, but not in our own.

No President will ever be elected while running on the platform of personal sacrifice and restraint.

One of our jobs as missionaries is to create and transform missional communities of believers. Google it! You will find endless pages and resources this.

Perhaps, community is not something “those we are reaching” need.

Perhaps, it is something which requires looking in the mirror and asking if we are engaging in it ourselves.

Or is our community, a plastic community?

Do we feel entitled as missionaries to a certain social status or lifestyle?

This post is about missionaries, but really it applies to anyone.

  • Do we share our needs or live in isolation?
  • Would we rather suffer and fret in secret than share the truth?
  • Are the three most difficult words to say, “I need help”?

Whether in missions or not, we all have seasons of lack in our lives. Do we take the easy way out and swipe the card, or do we take the path of humility declaring our lack?

Rather than relying on plastic, lets look to flesh and blood for our source of support during times of need.

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God