This month, I was asked by our leadership team at the Xingu Mission to write a short article about my experience of being a new missionary for our Field Report. I am posting it here for you as well. God Bless!
I don't think any two people have the same experience of being a new missionary. Each perspective is so unique with its own expectations and past. So, I will do my best to speak of what this experience has been like for me.
Being a missionary has been a life long dream and calling. Its been my heart's desire to encounter new people and new ways at living life. I've always wanted my life to be an adventure. So, the real question is, now that I'm here, is it everything I thought it would be? Yes and no.
When I first got here, I expected to have some big explosion of delight. I expected it to be like stepping into an imaginary land where everything you touched was enchanted. But instead, I felt lost and disoriented. There were many changes to be sure, but they exhausted me rather than excited me. Instead of enchantment, everything looked mundane and ordinary and real. It was then that I realized that I had been holding on to this dream for so long, that I had started to put my trust in it. I had started to believe that it would be my salvation. This, of course, was not at all true.
But God used this disappointment to confront me. He painfully reminded me that my salvation and delight and enchantment can only come from him. I was thankful for this challenge because I knew God was using it to, once again, transform my heart. He reminded me that my true home will never be on this Earth. This is a temporary assignment. Heaven is the only real resting place, and I need to start making my home there now.
Along those same lines, God also began to confront my selfishness. Here in Brazil, the people share almost everything. The high boundaries that we have in the States against things and time and space operate here at a much lower level. I realized how much my daily life had always been about me.
Being single makes it even easier to fall into this category. Here, I have been given many opportunities to see outside of myself to the needs that surround me. When I cook, I'm not just cooking for myself. When someone isn't getting the water that comes from the city (which happens often), they come over to your house to take a shower or fill up their jugs. When someone has a personal disaster that is too big for them to handle alone (which happens often), we all pitch in to try and help financially or otherwise. Your role within the group is just as important as your own individuality.
I've been here for almost 7 months now, and I could certainly go on and on about the many changes I've experienced. I am in the long process of trying to learn a new language. Everyday, I learn a little bit more about where to find things in my city. I've learned how to drive a motorcycle. I've learned what to expect from the weather. I've learned that your clothes get stretched out when you don't use a dryer. I've eaten more different kinds of fruit than I ever knew existed. Seriously, the list is eternal.
And after 7 months of trying to get accustomed to my new land, I have found that the delight that seemed so void in the beginning is starting to appear. Not because of the place itself, but because this is where God wants me to be. My heart has expanded into allowing him to be my reason, everyday, for being alive. God is using me in this place to bring about his Kingdom. That is the goal and that is the joy. As this place has challenged and stretched me, my capacity has grown for allowing God to work through me.
What I think is common about the “being a new missionary” experience is confrontation. Whatever parts of your character are weak will certainly be revealed. What's really in your heart will be exposed. It is not fun, but it is absolutely worth it. If you allow yourself to be transformed by it, true delight will follow.