What is it Like to be a Missionary?
1. What made you want to be a missionary?
Michael was not looking into ministry as a career when the Lord “called” him. He hesitates to use the term “called however” because it is such a subjective experience. He believes that everyone’s experience is their own. Lots of people claim to be “called” to missions, but in Michael’s opinion he would rather see someone who is an ordained minister sent by a church on the field than someone who “feels called.” For him, the desire followed the first step of obedience. His subjective experience was during a short term trip to Brazil when he was asked by a full time missionary why he didn’t want to be one. Immediately he began trying to come up with reasons not to, and yet he really felt the Holy Spirit tugging on his heart in that direction. I found Michael’s feelings to be similar to those we talked about in class in reference to the “call.” I appreciated the fact that he didn’t base his career as a fulltime missionary on one singular moment in his life.
2. How did you prepare to leave?
Michael prepared to leave by first running his subjective experience by the pastor of his local church. The pastor then put together a meeting with the church’s deacons and they presented him to the church. The church agreed together that he should attend seminary where he studied until he was an ordained minister. This process was followed by deputation. After estimating the cost of living abroad, he was sent by Baptist Mid Missions to visit about 100 U.S. churches to raise financial support. When they had gained the support of 27 churches, he and his family had enough money to go. Michael explained that he was very careful about the churches that he allowed to support him because he didn’t want his ministry to be influenced by churches whose theology he disagreed with on a substantial level. I found this very interesting because, though I understood the importance of gaining full financial support I had not contemplated only allowing churches to influence my ministry if I agreed with their doctrine.
3. What were some challenges you faced when you arrived?
Michael said that getting set up without speaking the language was hard. Very little English is spoken in Cambodia, so doing anything, even buying food was a great challenge. Also, renting their first house was difficult because they didn’t know anything about any of the neighborhoods and they had to depend on other people for absolutely everything at first. Also, the heat was and is still difficult to adjust to. Michael, his wife Julie and their four daughters Rachel, Elizabeth, Christie and Katie still struggle to sleep at night in a country where many people die from the heat. Something I though was fascinated that Michael brought up was that as a minister in the U.S. he was busy working all the time. When they made the move to Cambodia he was unable to do anything for quite a while because of the language barrier and he found this very difficult to cope with. He also said that making new friends doesn’t necessarily make up for the loss of old friends. These are just some of the challenges they face daily.
4. What is it like to come home for breaks?
Michael has not yet been home for a break, but Julie has. She said that lots of things moved on without her and when she came back, her home country was different. Just has Julie’s home culture changed, so did she. And as her outlook and maturity had changed, the world she knew had not experienced that with her. Saying goodbye to her friends and family all over again was also very hard. Michael and the rest of his family will be back in the states in August of next year to meet with their supporting churches.
Another thing I found interesting that was not on the list of questions was a pet peeve of Michael’s. As we talked about in class, Michael lives in a mission field where many short term missionaries have made it difficult by their “throw money at it” solution. He knows of one church planted by some Korean missionaries, where if the locals show up every week each one is given a dollar on the way out the door. In a “yes” culture, like we talked about a few weeks ago, this has proved to be extremely damaging to Michael’s work of correctly preaching the Gospel.
He also expressed the difficulties of preaching the Gospel in a culture where absolutely everything about their understanding of God is different. He explained that when he shares the Gospel he has to use the chronological method of teaching, just like I heard about at the Missions Conference. He said that beginning in Genesis was extremely important because it begins with what people’s idea of God is and builds from there, so that when he offers the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the salvation of their sins the Cambodians fully understand what they are accepting.
I greatly enjoyed interviewing my brother Michael because it confirmed many things we had spoken about in class and this time when I talked to him I had a better understanding of some of the missionary jargon he uses. I feel like this interview brought me closer to the brother I have never known as well as I would like to. I really appreciated his perspective because he is currently on the field living out the challenges we learn about in class in his day-to-day life. This was a wonderful opportunity and I look forward to speaking to more missionaries in the future.