I’m starting a series called “On Being” where one or both of us will share what we’re up to in one sphere of life or another (ie: being missionaries, being parents, being married, being residents of Thailand, and so on).
We get asked a lot what we’re doing now to prepare for Thailand. What does being a missionary now mean?
Well, for starters:
It means, for me, spending a lot of time at home with Shep. Specifically in this position. With this exasperated, exhausted expression. Note the lack of makeup. I am, however, wearing HARD PANTS. So it’s a wash. We spend a lot of time wearing our baby. Shepherd loves to cry and he loves to snuggle, so between the ring sling and Tula, this kid gets a lot of time on mom and dad’s chest.
Once we knew we were going to be moving to Thailand, we knew we wanted to start our family soon. We wanted the experience of having our first baby close to friends and family. Not only that, but we both felt strongly that we wanted to start our family around the mission field. We feel strongly called to having our family live with a mission mind set (it just so happens it will start internationally).
That said, the hours we spend bouncing on the yoga ball and strapping this kid on and prancing around our apartment, are all an investment in getting to Thailand. Getting to spend time with grandmas and grandpas is such a gift and something we’re cherishing. This time of being a family and being close to family is part of what will help us be healthy and successful once we’re abroad.
Being a missionary looks like a lot of prayer, reading, studying, dealing with sin issues and getting closer to God. I mean, this is life and this is on going and this is forever. But there are lots of things we’ve been asked to read before we leave. So we’re diving into that. We’ve put parameters around our schedule to force us (unfortunately, sometimes we need to be forced to do what we know we need to) to keep ‘first things first’. Meaning, we need to spend time with God each day before watching TV. We need to make sure we’re keeping up with our reading. We need to hang signs on our walls (literally) to remind us we need to be praying for certain things daily. We have different people in our lives we’re working some of our junk out with and confessing sin to. We take what we’re doing seriously, and we know that while we will never be totally ‘prepared’ or ‘ready’ to be missionaries, we can certainly dig some deep wells now.
Being a missionary looks like having surgery. Along with starting our family, God also provided the resources (time, insurance, a great surgeon) for Stephen to have the series of surgeries that would cure his disease and allow him to be healthy. We knew it was a gift from God to pursue this before we moved. We knew Stephen being whole and healthy was important for ministry. We knew, too, that going through something like this would give us a perspective and understanding that we didn’t have before. It’s been hard. Like, the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. It’s so clear how first being obedient to go through the surgeries, second dealing with the physical and emotional toil of the surgeries and then third, trusting God with the debt from all of the surgeries, have been so key in getting us ready to become missionaries. Working together. Trusting together. Going through hell together. Seeing each other at our worst. Believing God when every.single.cirsumstance. says we’re idiots for that faith. It meant our son was born while Stephen had a drain in and was in crazy pain and still (it’s always and still, isn’t it?) believing God. So, right now, being missionaries means scheduling the last surgery (insert hallelujah chorus here and repeat ten times) and praying for the now thousands of dollars in hospital debt to be gone before we leave.
Being a missionary looks like spending lots of time with friends and those who have gone before us. It looks like depending heavily on close friends to hold us accountable, pray with us, and circle in on us before we leave. We have a group of friends with whom we’ve committed to being painfully honest and transparent and we’ve asked them to fast with and for us, pray for us and hear God for us. We know that we can do nothing alone. Nothing. And we have not be afraid to ask for help. Being a missionary for us means acknowledging that we need help and that our service would not be possible without the help of other people. We know we’re being sent by lots of communities, and we want to honor that. So we’re doing our due diligence in meeting with other missionaries, going to trainings and getting our hands (when they’re not bouncing a baby) on all the resources we can. We are intentional about spending time regularly with those who are holding us accountable, praying for us and are the people we know will tell us the hard truth and encourage us when we need it.
Being a missionary looks like asking for money. A large chunk of our time is spent looking at our budget and debt and doing all we can to eliminate unnecessary spending. It has been spent making a budget with Venture and figuring out what we absolutely need each month. It’s been spent figuring out a way we can confidently ask people to support us financially, both because the numbers are real and reasonable and because we’re doing all we can. It will be spent asking people to donate 20$ a month to Venture, for our family.
It’s not super glamorous or even all that exciting, our lives right now. But here’s the thing I’ve learned, minus the asking for money bit, it’s with this intentionality and purpose that we should be living no matter what. For us, it took committing to become missionaries to make us focus on what’s important and really decide, not have it decided for us because of lack of planning, how we want our lives to look.
So while I’m making dinner plans with prayer friends and folding laundry that I hauled to someone’s house to save money and bouncing my baby and not eating out and praying for HOSEA Community Center, I remind myself why. Why this matters. Not just for Thailand but for right now.
And that is (part) of what being a missionary looks like for us.