Tuesday, November 27, 2012

5 Things That Make Missions Gritty and Real

or, 5 Things I Worry About Constantly, Transitioning to the North, & Our Map to Cabarete, DR

On my birthday in Bayahibe, pondering our future.

Popular perception is a powerful thing.

Likewise, social proof of our story is just as strong. What people think when they see our blog posts or status updates carries a lot of weight in their minds.

  • We could look like we are doing the adventurous thing. 
  • We could seem like we are living exciting, Indian-Jones-like lives. 
  • Or, our journey could seem extraordinary, Pinterest-y, or desirable.

We love our journey so far. We love our path. But, we go to great lengths to make sure that we deliver the reality of the journey.

That is the purpose of our constant contact with people like our supporters; to give them the reality about what we are doing. Efforts like The Rookie Missionary are to dispel the popular perception (while making missions approachable, of course!) The reason I write all the time is to connect you to the mission; the real, challenging, and ugly sides of the mission work.

You see, I want it to be gritty. I want you to think "wow, that seems more challenging than I thought." (I also want you to think "that seems far more fulfilling than I thought", too, but that is for another post.)

So, to that end, to make the reality of the mission field more real, to ground you in the nitty-gritty of what it is like to be on the journey toward a life of mission, here is a transparent look at 5 things I worry about the most right now.

1. Money

This is ever on the fore-front of my thinking. Our goal is to set an example of sustainable mission. But with every step we take, ever meal we buy, or every tool we purchase I see the money-ticker counting down.

I say it all the time, "This is a time counter, not a money counter. This time counter is counting down to when we have to return to the States."

2. Returning to the States Too Soon

You see, we love where we are. We love the idea of what we are building. But I worry all the time that we are not taking the right actions to ensure our ability to stay here.

It would be one thing to do the typical ministry thing here: "Hey, we are doing some general missionary thing, so support us, yeah!" [Enter Sally Struthers with more 'poverty porn.'] I think we could raise a lot of money to do that without a problem.

Instead, we set the bar kinda' high for ourselves. 'We will only raise money for project stuff that is legitimate. We will never raise money or create projects to simply fund ourselves.' That value makes it very difficult to simply raise money.

And, with me watching number 1: Money, above, my fear is that the bar has been set too high and we will have to Return to the States Too Soon.

Marissa already missing her girls, L.A. & Mandy.
Key in on the "too soon" part. We are not concerned about returning to the States. Getting jobs should not be too difficult for us. And we miss our community very much. But if we return too soon we may not have grown like we should have, accomplished what we should have. I worry about that.

3. Will We Get Sick Suddenly

In the middle of the night, Marissa rose suddenly and went to the bathroom. She returned to bed and was shivering. I asked her what was wrong and she could barely chatter out that she had the chills.

I got pale and frightened. I was burning up. The windows were closed. The door was closed. The fan was not on. I was melting in the tropical humidity. That meant that she was legitimately experiencing an unexpected illness.

Thoughts of no insurance, no emergency fund, and the nearest hospital being at least an hour or more away made my stomach turn over.

One could say that this is highly unwise. I would not disagree. I would simply respond that this is one area that we have left up to our general healthy dispositions and reliance on God.

We never worry about our health, until something happens. Needless to say, I am anxiously waiting to see Marissa return from class to gauge her health this afternoon. This fear runs through me now and again. I just push it out of my mind.

4. Our Marriage Will Be Tested Beyond What We Can Bear

I worry about this all the time. One of the initial benefits of going to the mission field so early in our relationship was to help us bond together quickly. This is true, but in an unexpectedly gritty way.

When Marissa and I were at Earthship school in Taos, New Mexico, we had to work closely. We discovered that we had never really had to work closely before. That meant we were newly discovering the nuances of each other, like it or not!

  • Marissa found out that I can't stand language which I perceive to be negative. 
  • I found out that Marissa doesn't like to be critiqued. 
  • I found out that I am not as proficient of a communicator as I would have liked to believe. 
  • Marissa found out that she isn't either.

Moving to the island, I thought that it would ease up quite a bit. After all, so my thinking went, we were now working on our missionary work together. Marissa went off to the SCUBA Instructor classes, and I started writing.

This was all part of the plan: we lean into our gifts and passions to continue to build a self-sustainable ministry here on the island. However, with all of my time writing, I watch things like our time-counter (our bank account) tick away and I start to panic. Marissa goes to class, walking out the plan, and does not feel any need to increase the pace of our work.
Marissa & I stretching our marriage, in a good way.

Small differences like this, right or wrong, lead to tension in the marriage. I am still glad we are doing this so early in our relationship. Since I sincerely do not want to fail here, I do not let up in my drive. Since Marissa does not want to fail here either, she does not let up in pacing out the plan.

I guess these things are good, but they strain us both.

5. General Failure

I have often been told that fear of failure is actually the fear of success. I think that is usually true. I think it is true that people sabotage their own success because they do not know what they would do if they were phenomenally successful.

And, I think that Marissa and I have, along this journey, experienced the fears of success and the unknown obstacles it brings.

However, more than that, I think we fear failing most.

  • That could look like coming back too early. 
  • Or it could look like finding ourselves penniless like so many other Americans...but with a language barrier, no community here, and no way home. 
  • Or it could look like sudden, unexpected illness that causes a massive stop in all of our efforts with very little to show for the time, energy, money and calories spent shaping our lives for the mission.

It could also look like us slipping into passivity, falling away into lives of just getting by, not seeking to spark others, not feeling ignited successes, unable to feel explosive significance in our own lives.

PHEW! That was medicinal to say! That was cathartic.

These are the things that I pace the apartment pondering. I obviously think of all the good things that could occur. But, in an effort to share with you the gritty reality of our time here, these are the things I deal with.

Transitioning to The North

While being robbed on the road is a possibility I do not fear it too much. Regardless, I must be off to ensure that we are not by planning our move to Cabarete in the north of the Dominican Republic.

We are quite sure that this is where we will land as a home base for our time here. We feel it spiritually, but, more than that, we cannot afford to move again for a while!

We will give you the update once we do!

1 comment:

Yvette said...

Awesome Son-in-Law, How I KNOW our HEAVENLY FATHER must smile down upon you as you type out such honesty that leaves a trail for others!! YOU make my heart smile!!! Thank you for loving HIM and my DAUGHTER as you do!!!!!