You can picture it now: living in a shack under a roof made of palm tree leaves, the tropical sun blazing outside, dirt floor, unfamiliar language, snake-tail soup for breakfast... These are some of the things you might imagine when you hear the word "missionary".
But, how many of the things we believe are based in reality? Here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the missionary life.
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1. You'll have to live in a shack
It's true that some missionaries are called to reach the rural and isolated, but there's no need to take a cookie-cutter approach to mission life.
Every Christian has their own set of gifts and their own unique calling. You could be called to serve in a variety of places in many different ways over your lifetime. After all, there are hundreds of thousands of unsaved people living in New York City, not just in the jungles of Africa or the mountains of Nepal.
Wherever we go, we're called to live alongside the people, be it in a dorm, on a church floor, in a large house, or yes, maybe even in a shack.
2. You will lead thousands of people to the Lord
Some days, you'll sweat and slave without seeing any results.
Some days, you'll pray and think you don't hear an answer.
Some days, you'll share the gospel and no one will respond to the call.
Some days, you'll question if you're making a difference.
But other days, you'll watch as a lost man, woman, or child finally surrenders their life to Jesus. Those are the days that remind you why you wanted to become a missionary.
You may not see entire tribes, people groups, or nations turn to the Lord because of your ministry, but you can rest assured knowing that you're not responsible for miracles—you're only responsible for being faithful and obedient to God.
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You never know how the seeds you plant and the small contributions you make will go on to grow, multiply, and affect the hearts of hundreds of people long after you are gone.
3. You're going to be poor and miserable
Life is full of trials, and going on the mission field does not exempt you from hardship. Missionaries living abroad often struggle with homesickness, culture shock, learning the language, and raising financial support.
That being said, the reality is that even if you choose to live a "normal" life, you'll still face trials and discouragement. As a missionary, you can find peace and joy even in the midst of difficult days because you know that you're right where God wants you to be.
You may have "less" materially than others, but the fulfillment you experience from being in the center of God's will for your life is far more valuable than money, fame, or material possessions.
4. You'll go hungry
Depending on where you go, the real struggle might actually be eating too much! Many cultures are renowned for their delicious food and gracious hospitality.
For instance, in Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, it is customary for families to invest a significant amount of time and effort in preparing a large meal for you, and they may honor you with special dishes reserved only for guests. In other countries, such as India, you're expected to eat everything on the plate to show your approval.
The day will undoubtedly come when your host offers you something strange to eat—think baked lizard or toasted grasshoppers—but for the most part, you'll find people eager to welcome you into their home or church by blessing you with delicious food.
You might even find you like the cuisine of your adopted country more than your home country!
5. You'll never see your family again
God loves families—they were his idea in the first place. Many missionaries in YWAM can attest that God has surprised them with thousands of dollars for plane tickets or blessed them with 50 dollars for a bus ticket across town. God loves you and knows the value of family and relationships. Lean on him and trust him to provide. Who knows, maybe he'll encourage your family to hop on a plane and visit you!
God has called each and every one one of us to play a part in fulfilling the Great Commission. If you feel like be's calling you to the journey of becoming a missionary, don't let the questions, doubts, or misconceptions hold you back. Let him shake up your old ideas about being a missionary and blow your mind with what be actually has in store for you.