My personal, little identity crisis began as soon as Paige and I committed to come to India last July.
Once you commit, and once you begin to rally partners for the cause, you have to describe what you are going to do, where you’re going to do it, why, and that brings me to the hardest part: who I am going to be because of it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Who I am, what I’m made of, etc. is not going to change because I live on the other side of the world, but inevitably the “M” word enters the conversation. Okay, yeah, I guess, in some ways, maybe, okay, yeah, probably, um, a missionary.
I respect, admire, appreciate, am thankful for and hold dear so many missionaries I have known in the past and present. I just never thought I’d be one myself, and still don’t really see myself as one. I’m just someone who, ultimately motivated by their faith, moved across the world to help give some overlooked kids a chance, and needed some financial help from his surrounding community in order to do it because this just isn’t a lucrative business.
Not a missionary.
Okay, yeah, I guess, in some ways, maybe, okay, yeah, probably, um, a missionary.
It’s just got a certain perception that goes with it:
Nice, needy, skinny, poorly dressed, poor in general, a little weird, socially awkward, sorta different, not in touch with everyday life, have to eat horrible, strange food every day, kids go to “international” schools, they “appreciate” and “respect” totally backwards cultures and even take on some of those characteristics, we have a picture of them on our refrigerator, always ready with a slideshow – usually pictures surrounded by a bunch of non-white kids in a village with dust, animals and straw-roofed huts, sharing the “good news” at best, at worst promoting cultural imperialism…and they live somewhere no one else would ever want to.
Well, as a whole, yes and no. Indulge me as I unpack each of these:
- Nice: Um, try not to be, but occasionally have moments of weakness.
- Needy: Emotionally sometimes (like on Easter away from home). Financially? Yeah, every little bit helps!
- Skinny: Well, not so far. The term “rice belly” comes to mind (for me, not my wife, of course).
- Poorly dressed: This was more a pre-married phenomenon than a “missionary” phenomenon.
- Poor in general: After three months in rural India, one thing’s for sure. We are NOT poor.
- A little weird: Probably. We did just move to India.
- Socially awkward: Nope, only in 6th grade.
- Sorta different: Hopefully in a good way…
- Not in touch with everyday life: One word – “internet.”
- Have to eat horrible, strange food every day: My mouth waters every time I think of my next meal (see #3 above).
- Kids go to “international” schools: N/A, and hopefully stays that way for a little while longer!
- They “appreciate” and “respect” totally backwards cultures and even take on some of those characteristics: Yes. And only the parts that give us a healthier overall view of the world.
- We have a picture of them on our refrigerator: Yeah, this one was tough for me to overcome and send out, I’ll admit it.
- Always ready with a slideshow – usually pictures surrounded by a bunch of non-white kids in a village with dust, animals and straw-roofed huts: Simply not true - some roofs have palm branches! (and our slideshows are iMovie spectacular!)
- Sharing the “good news” at best: When we can, but it preceded us to India by about 2000 years.
- At worst promoting cultural imperialism: Nope, working with a marvelously indigenous organization bringing hope to tens of thousands who are otherwise without any.
- …and they live somewhere no one else would ever want to: Yeah, guilty as charged, but you can always come for a visit!
The most significant way that I still just don’t feel like a missionary is because the one resounding characteristic of a missionary has always been “they are far away, never to be heard from again for many years.”
Um, you just finished reading our blog that we just wrote Monday morning.
And you see our status updates every day.
And we just got off of webcam Skyping with you.
And we watched the same TV show yesterday.
And, with the internet, we’re all officially in the same world, and around the corner from each other.
For better or worse.
In this case, for better. Thanks for reading and thanks for your support of us…okay, yeah, I guess, in some ways, maybe, okay, yeah, probably, um, missionaries.