John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
I am going to take you back to one of my weakest moments. I remember sitting at a camp and hearing a missionary speaker. I was distracted. I was distracted by his clothes, his manner and his words.
Then I am horrified by what came next. What I had planned in my heart for this poor man. The infamous questions. The questions that I wanted to ask the poor man during Q&A time. 'How many people have you lead to The Lord?' ‘How many churches have you planted?’ ‘Share with us the last time you shared your faith.’ They may seem innocent enough, but this was not the case.
Unfortunately these questions were not for his edification or to glorify the Lord, they were to be asked to measure his evangelistic prowess and communication abilities. My purpose was to show him to be a bumbling fool and a poor communicator. An unfortunate judgement, that would come back to haunt me.
Had I taken any consideration for him? Did I ever step back to think that he was having to do reverse translation in his head? Or that he was suffering from the sheer exhaustion of the curse of furlough? Or maybe the last evangelistic conversation, as with most of these conversations, was not one of any significance and maybe he was trying to remember a ‘positive’ one for my benefit?
Shame on me. I did not think of any of those things. I just saw a weird guy who needed to be humiliated. I will admit, I thought it and I am not proud of it, but in my head was the question...
'Are all missionaries weird?'
(Pause for effect...)
Definition: weird (in Australia it is pronounced wid, now that is weird) 1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural. 2. Of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange.
As I ponder this question, I know the answer. You might not like it, but the answer to this question is ‘Yes.’ They (we) have to be weird. Before you judge me and start to write a scathing status on Twitter or Facebook, keep reading.
All missionaries are weird. At the time, due to my own short sightedness and sinful nature, I was focused on the external of this man. I did not take the time to meet this bloke, I cannot remember his name, but now I realise I was missing something. Missionaries have to be a bit different, dare I say weird, to even consider doing what they do. Going to a foreign country, sharing a strange message and setting themselves up as counter culture in a new culture, and then do the unthinkable. Fall in love with the country, the culture and the people they are sent to by God. I know, weird.
Fast forward to 2013: Our family is classified as missionaries. We call Australia home, we have lived here close to 8 years and we have become citizens. I do not wear white shirts and we call ourselves ministry workers, not missionaries. Why? Because otherwise we are thought of as Mormans. I know, weird.
Weird Words: Relating to the original example, I understand why the missionary struggled at the camp. The longer we are in Australia, it is harder to communicate with people from our country of origin. We dress differently, we talk differently (Mate!), we like different food, we communicate the Gospel differently, and do you know why? The explanation is... We live in a different country. I know, weird.
Visitors: We had some Christian friends come and visit. They experienced the ministry, our life, the country, the people that we serve with here and our Australian friends that had become some of our closest friends. As we described the experience of ministry in Australia to our US friends, one word kept coming out, 'Weird.' It was strange, but this caused me to get angry. The word hit me in the face and the reason that term frustrated me was this visitor was in 'my country' and kept calling it weird. The culture, the food, the language and the churches were all apart of this country. Technically he was the odd man out. Based on the definition, he was the the weird one. Yet, even in my frustration, he was right. It was weird from his perspective.
In the near future, we will be weird with an audience: We will be the guy standing in front of a crowd trying to communicate what we do in Australia. Our family will be going to the US for the infamous furlough. A strange position from both sides of the ocean. Americans think we come back for rest and refreshment. Our friends in Australia that think that is is a time for holiday in the US. Yet, it is one of most challenging and exhausting times in ministry.
To give you perspective, try leaving your current career, country and home. All your work, the relationships and career objectives you have been building over the last eight years and travel through a foreign country and raise funds for months. Hoping that all the work and people will be there when you come back. Each week you pack up to travel to a different church every week. Deliver the same message to every church. The expectation is to keep it fresh & make sure there is enough rah-rah! Oh yeah, now you are the one who gets asked those questions. During the Q&A sessions, if you talk too much about the challenges, people think you are depressed. If you talk of too many successes, you are bragging and need a dose of humility.
I will let you in on a little secret, the goal and ultimate desire of missionaries is to get back to the country that is now called home. So, we can recover from furlough. Getting back to the people and country, that we see as where God has directed. Deep in the hearts of missionaries, we want to go home. I know, weird.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
If you have made it to this portion, you might think this is a poor judgement of a people group, a personal lament or a pity party. You would be wrong.
I am a missionary and I am weird.
Guess what? This is the life the Lord has directed us. We understand it and in a strange way, we enjoy the process. Through all of the challenges, all the travel, all the rejections and humiliations, we come out the other end better for it all. If weird means loving the country the Lord has sent us to serve, loving the work we do, loving the people we serve alongside and loving the God who sent us here. I am good with that.
I know, weird.
The adventure continues...
Russ, Cathy, Becca, Hope, Joshua and Caroline