As always, I hope my personal experience can be a help and blessing to someone else.
After our first formal meeting on deputation, I began to resent the idea of relying on other’s hospitality. That meeting was a nightmare in every way: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Catalina got mono from the nursery and then passed it to me, to say that the prophet’s chamber was dirty would be an understatement, it was spiritually oppressive, etc. Long story short, I began to become ungrateful and bitter at the prospect of living out of prophet’s chambers and hotels for 2-3 years. Through a series of events (mentioned in the article titled “When the Lord says, ‘No’”) God helped me to get rid of the bitterness and resentment I felt, but it would take other events to realize how unthankful and ungrateful I truly was.
We were at a mission’s conference and all the missionary wives and some ladies from the church were invited out to eat. As is common among missionaries, we started to rehearse our “horror stories” from deputation. One by one, the stories were told, and each lady was sympathetic to the awful situations that were recounted. It is hard to believe that Christians in Bible believing churches could treat others, much less missionaries, this way. One lady even spoke up and said as much. She then continued on to tell us that she was a young Christian and had only been in church for a few years, she said she was thankful she was in a good church where brethren didn’t act that way.
After she finished speaking, my heart sank. Here was a young sister in Christ and all we did was expose the disgusting side of ourselves and other Christians. The stories were not edifying, as far as I could tell they did not glorify the Lord. The only thing recounting those stories did was exalt the flesh and feed our pride and entitlement. Please don’t misunderstand me, I believe there’s a time and place for those sorts of stories. I know that any sort of ministry can be rough and there are times when you just need to vent to a trusted friend. But I do not believe that those stories belong in the setting we were in and certainly not with the bitterness that accompanied them.
I’ve reflected on this day quite a bit, I wish I would have realized my mistake sooner. Think of the edifying that could have come from that table of ladies. Imagine what encouragement that younger sister would have received if we had shared stories of all the miraculous things that God has done on deputation or even if we spoke of just how kind and generous most churches are to missionaries. Time after time, we have met brethren whose love for the Lord and missions is so great that it’s humbling and overwhelming. If we had spoken of these things instead, we could have encouraged that sister, as well as one another. I’m convinced that the proceedings of that luncheon were a result of an unthankful heart.
I don’t want to discredit the hardships other missionaries have had to bear. I know, from limited experience, that deputation 15 years ago was a lot harder than it is now. “Missionary Horror Stories” were worse and more frequent some years ago, and even now I know there are missionaries who have had to go through much more than myself, all in the name of raising support to do what God has called them to do. I recognize that there are legitimate “deputation horror stories”.
However, as I look back to when we were first starting deputation I found myself with the expectation that we’re going to be mistreated or uncomfortable and so I would start reading into every situation we would face. The truth is that yes, it is a very strong possibility that we will be uncomfortable BUT it is rare. Most people who say unkind things and offend you don’t mean to. Most people you stay with are doing their absolute best to make you as comfortable as possible. When you walk into a prophet’s chamber and it’s not been cleaned from the last person, consider that the pastor may work a full-time job or had visits to make, or maybe they forgot that the shower needed to be cleaned.
Perspective goes a long way in the ministry of deputation. When you have the right perspective and you view people’s intentions rather than the outcome, most of the time, it will result in a thankfulness for the brethren rather than another “horror story” to add to your list. I have found that by being thankful I can now see the effort, sacrifice and love other Christians pour into our lives as missionaries, which is so humbling.
Deputation is hard, but finding joy through being thankful can make it a little easier.