15 September, 2009

Missionaries can be lonely?

Someone was surprised by this statement in my last blog post. Let's take a quick tour through a typical missionary's life:
Very early in our time in Japan. We're
smiling, but deep down we were pretty
First he/she has to say goodbye to all their friends and family and move to a country that is
foreign and where probably they don't speak the language. Intense loneliness. This is pretty obvious.

It can take years to feel comfortable in the newly 'adopted' country. Possibly never. Even if good friends are made with the locals, there can be a sense of not ever being able to truly share your heart. Much like a pastor can not be good friends with most of his parishioners.

Through the years, though, things generally settle and the missionary feels more and more comfortable. Small and large changes in the way the missionary thinks and behaves make this possible.

Then, it is time to return home for a period, short or long. They face saying goodbyes again, this time to colleagues with whom they've shared much and local friends too, many of whom will not understand why the missionary must come and go.

When they get "home" the missionary then realises how much they themselves have changed. Additionally, the people back home haven't remained static. They've married, divorced, had kids, changed jobs, houses, moved, and certainly the spot that the missionary once held in their lives is no longer vacant. The missionary finds it difficult to find a place to belong in their lives. People find it difficult to relate to this person they once knew, but now don't know as well because of lack of shared experiences and the changes which have taken place within the missionary. Loneliness!

Additionally while missionaries are 'home', they tour around different churches and groups. Their lifestyle is quite unsettled and their time is often spread across many different situations and relationships. Loneliness!

Missionaries can look like they know lots of people, but again many relationships are not deep ones where their true worries and concerns can be shared. Usually they feel the pressure to tell success stories and to keep the personal stories and the failure stories to themselves. Not many stop long enough to hear beyond the surface details. Loneliness! 

Enough. I think you get the picture! Of course there are special friends who remain faithful throughout life. And for them we are truly grateful.


-J said...

Well said. I will point friends to this post.

Tim and Susan said...

Great Wendy. I would like to "guest post" you on this one if that is ok.

You're right, I have never thought about "loneliness" to describe our missionary life, but true.

Well written.

Hope you can have some more quieter evenings to just "live" with your family so you all don't feel so tired.

Remember to give yourself time to "re-couperate" from all the stress and tiredness of transitioning!! (I know, I know, I'm preaching to myself too!!)

Wendy said...

Susan, certainly you can "guest post" me. I'm just glad that what I've written can be useful and help to inform, even inspiring prayer.

I've trying to give myself time, there is just so much calling for my attention (plays on my natural hyperactivity lol). I'll try to remember!

Footprints Australia said...

Hi Wendy, you'd definitely have to be 'called' to be a missionary otherwise there's no way anyone'd want to do it hey!

But then I say the same thing about teachers ;-)

Brian said...

That was really helpful, thanks Wendy. Helps me consider the cost. It reminds me of a comment by Vincent Donovan who says, "a missionary is essentially a social martyr."