9 Lessons learned as a missionary, thus far

But first, let's rewind back.

Two years ago, I cleared out my office desk and walked out of my corporate career of ten years. I also moved out of my first owned home. I lived, breathed, and loved the high-rise living in downtown Vancouver, Canada. I meticulously curated the furnishings and decors of every corner of my floor-to-ceiling windowed home with my eye for interior design, including my beloved "war room." My home was my safe haven but also my social outlet. I hosted themed gatherings such as the "tininux" party (martini + Canucks hockey game), pie party (held on March 14th in honour of Pi!), Christmas ugly sweater party, etc. I hosted and led bible study group meetings weekly where I enthusiastically served three-course dinners, showcasing to friends that veganism is both healthy anddd delish! I craved the hustle and bustle of the city life, its convenience, and yes even its noise.

Two years ago, I became a missionary. First as a student in a missions school in Hawaii, which eventually led me to become a missionary in a tiny town called Alotau nestled in a cove on the island of Papua New Guinea. Major boonies. But what is a missionary? How does one apply to be one? What are its requirements and qualifications? I'd say it is most commonly defined as a full-time volunteer serving in a foreign land for a specific cause while upholding its faith-based values. For more details, I am still figuring it all out myself. Here are nine things I wish I knew before entering into this world, but am now learning from my personal experience:

  1. You will not be celebrated by everyone. This cold hard fact is true for both in and out of your missional organization. Internal: The mission field is not immune from politics, you will need to wisely navigate through it. External: "How dare you think you can help change a nation?" The truth is, only God can call my highly-allergic-to-dust self to Papua New Guinea - not my husband, not the people, and not even the enticement of the unlimited supply of fresh coconut water. It is my privilege and responsibility to see God's vision through me come to past... and so I persevere, with all of my heart and passion. Also, it gives me comfort that even Jesus did not sing "kumbaya" with everyone!

  2. You will deeply miss familiar faces and friendships. Contrary to popular belief, it is hard to find good solid friendships in the mission field. Specifically in this side of the world, a missionary is usually set-apart as holy and perfect. All eyes are on you all the time, literally. I joke at how we can now empathize with celebrities' struggles on gossip and lack of privacy. It is a challenge to find friends you can fully trust and confide with. Everyday, I deeply miss my niece, sisters, and friends. The hangouts with my girls, with my mentors, with double dates, and with groups of all shapes and sizes, I miss them all. Uh huh, I am an extrovert.

  3. You do not have to fear sharing with others your life's enjoyments. Earlier on in this journey, I was given an advice to avoid posting on social media photos of vacations, sunsets, and food. There seems to be an expectation that missionaries are to be lowly and poor, for financial support purposes. I beg to differ because we serve an unconditionally gracious and generous Father God! "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" - Luke 11:11-13. If we are deceitful in sharing God's blessings, I believe we are essentially stealing his glory from him. There is no shame in celebrating God's gifts of rest & relaxation, stunning views, and delicious food. My gram posts concur.

  4. Your belief that living in a developing nation is cheap - is a myth. Oh how I wish I can capture the many times I've been shock of the high prices of goods and services. And perhaps I will on a new post someday.

  5. You need an overdose refill of patience and grace. Every. Single. Day. I never realized how much I value justice and order until I've had head-on collisions with corruption issues. I wonder sometimes if I'll eventually get used to these misconducts. Hmm meh, I highly doubt it. Oh, and the unreliable supply of power, water, and mobile network can sure feel like life's biggest test.​ I am very much a work-in-progress. Please pray for me.

  6. Your culture and their culture must yield to the Kingdom culture. The clash of the goal-oriented western culture versus the "que sera sera" tribal culture ensues. Neither truly wins. We both need to yield to a culture shift of a radically surrendered, unoffendable heart.

  7. Your relationships with people is the missionary world's currency system. Simply put, in volunteerism the monetary benefits are non-existent, therefore are non-leverages and non-influences. Your relationships motivate and inspire people to move.

  8. You are not called because you are qualified, you are qualified because you are called. When it gets overwhelming, I find comfort in God's word. I am the barren Sarah who gave birth at ninety-years old. I am the stuttering Moses who led his people out of slavery. I am the underdog David who took down the giant. "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'" - 1 Corinthians 1:28-29,31 I boast that I am and I can, not because I am qualified but because I am called.

  9. Your true joy is found in pursuing a purpose-driven life - is a fact. Two years ago, a big leap of faith to leave the fancies and the cozies, and to step into the unknown launched me into an unspeakable joy! It hasn't always been flowers and butterflies but in each new day, I bask in the joy of knowing that the one thing I can truly control is my everyday choice to discover fragments of my purpose here on earth, and to ultimately live for something much greater than myself.

Photograph by Kristina Narag | Keleton Island, Papua New Guinea


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