3 Secret Fears of a Missionary

I know, you never have days like this.

Even as a missionary, when something does not go your way, the emotions and doubts come. Those secret fears we have buried deep inside of us raise their head and whisper their lies.

Here are three lies that we deal with as a family on the missions field.

1. Can this be our home?
We came home the other day to a “For Sale” sign on our home that we rent. We knew it was coming. Yet there it was, screaming loudly, “You have no home.”

My son saw it as he came home from school and immediately began weeping for twenty minutes. We moved to South Africa when he was one, and into our current home when he was two. This is all he knows. All his memories are attached to this structure of concrete and brick.

It awakened in us a long seated desire to own a home, to be able to plant down roots. Doing this in the nation we serve is something significant. It shows we are serious about being here, not merely passing through.

We began looking at homes. We renewed our efforts to fundraise. We investigated financing options for foreigners.

Things seemed to be heading in a positive direction, and once again we were thwarted. The house we were looking at was sold a mere minutes before our offer came in.

Today we find ourselves back in a familiar position. Transient. The fears begin whispering….

2. Will our kids resent us for this choice?
This one is obviously related to the first, yet different. We have often played a scenario out in our minds that has our oldest son growing up in South Africa and having it be home. Then, he turns eighteen and is forced to leave when he is no longer on our visa, since he is an American. He would be forced to return to the US, his “home” country, but he would be a stranger in his own land. He would have no knowledge as to obtaining a job or a driver’s license, much less understand the culture and the slang of the land of his birth.

These scenarios lead us to speculation. Do we need to return for a season so our boys can learn both lands and make their own choice?

The scenarios are plenty and the answers few. But at the root, lies a secret fear that we will one day be resented for our choices.

3. Are we having an impact?
I suppose this is a basic human question. It is most definitely one related to life in ministry. But, when you have left family, friends, and country to serve; it seems to come up a bit more.

Of course there are the victories and the newsletter headline type of days. But often, missionary life is one of faithfulness in the ordinary. We attend just as many or more meetings than if we worked in the US. We deal with all the problems common to working with people. Problems like disunity, assumption, and gossip. It is these days where the secret fear raises its head….

Is this leading anywhere?
Will our efforts last after we leave South Africa?
Are we really making a difference?

The whispers are there, they really never go away.

As I close my eyes at night, I am able do so with peace. Not because these secret fears are answered, but a peace that comes from doing our best to be faithful to what God has called us to. Someday we want to look back over our time in South Africa and say we were faithful.

The best description I have heard of faithfulness is to “put one foot in front of the other.” Don’t stop, don’t quit, just keep walking. It reminds me of the title of Eugene Peterson’s book, “Long Obedience in the Same Direction“. God is a God of the supernatural, but often He chooses to work with us in the journey.

I trust that as my family walks on this long, slow path, those secret fears will fade away.

What are the whispers that you struggle with in missions, leadership, or just life?

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