February 29, 2016
If you have any curiosity about your abilities to be the next “certain type” for mission work after reading this, then please pray about it. Whether this call is coming as a quiet whisper or a loud shout, it is something to investigate seriously.
The spirit of a missionary
After living in Kenya for approximately 18 months many things have changed for us. Some of these I have discovered on my own and other thoughts come as a result of heartfelt conversations with good friends who are walking or have walked the same journey.
First of all, there are many misconceptionsas to what a missionary does or, more so, who a missionary is. Perhaps we have an idea, or at least I did, that a missionary needed to be a “certain type” like someone who was deeply steeped in theology, richly educated in the meaning of the Gospel readings, prayerfully faithful, unbelievably kind and, of course, patient, too. All these traits are good and, by all means, helpful but this description might be the finished product of a perfect human being.
I would love to say this was me, but truthfully not so. I am a work in progress and seem to be constantly practicing and learning about many of these traits from my surroundings every day. Many times I do not have the answers and feel I am getting more from others than I am giving.
This is hard to accept; however, I am the missionary here, right? This is my job and I have a great need to be useful and maybe even a little successful, too. Nevertheless, I am reminded yet again that God is really good at what He does. I have to accept the fact that I do not see what God sees and sometimes I am the one that is in need; be it mentally, physically or spiritually. I rest assured in the fact that God calls us to be faithful, not successful; and I am learning to work with that and understand that.
The calling came in a whisper
The “call” might be another misconception as to why a person might find themselves here, there or somewhere in between. For some, this request sent by God was a shout—loud and clear. For these few, there was no doubt and they were willing to march out be it two by two, in teams, alone or with family to serve God and all that is good. Others, like myself, listened to a little whisper for many years before it made any sense.
I really had to discern whether this was a true calling or a feeling of obligation for my faith. I think many people discerning overseas mission life spend much time floating between these two ideas without knowing it. On one hand, it is easy to think about all God has given us and want to repay Him in some big way, but, on the other hand, we need to keep in mind that God’s grace is free, He doesn’t want a “payback” in this sense. He just wants you!
In this time of discernment for me, it was important to keep praying, keep reading Scripture and keep listening. It is amazing how God was able to sneak this life changing confirmation into the goings on of a most regular day.
I will be honest though, there are still times that the desire for “normal life” back home sets in and I question my call to be a missionary. However, these are the times that the lives of Blessed Mother Teresa, Abraham and even St. Ignatius of Loyola speak to me and help me combat my struggles because they once walked with similar emotions. Their example soon helps these feelings pass.
Am I qualified?
I struggled with the “missionaries are a certain type” idea for a long time. I wondered what I had to offer and if it would be enough. Before coming to Kenya, I was a stay-at-home mom by profession and held an elementary education teaching degree for those times when I was in between "mom jobs" like after Zachary and Abigail (our two oldest) and before Cameron and Chloe (our two youngest).
Although I do not teach here, I am thankful for all of the experiences I had both at home and school. Yet, I question, does that make me qualified? Each missionary comes to this position with his or her own “toolbox.” Some might have medical backgrounds others are teachers, accountants, mechanics, and yes, even stay-at-home moms. The category of your qualifications is not as important as the desire in your heart to do the work God has sent you to do.
I laugh when I think about some of the tasks I have taken on. I have mended skirts for girls here at St. Theresa’s school, fixed zippers and ironed blouses, arranged flowers, bandaged toes, rescued puppies, planted a garden, taught Sisters origami, saved drowned geckos and, I will admit, crushed a few spiders. I cry when I think about some of the other tasks such as visiting our sick with HIV and having to say goodbye to a life too short, as well as missing our kids back at home. But, am I that "certain type?" I think I am getting there.
I would encourage you to listen to others and ask questions about our mission here in Kenya. We love God’s work through us and would invite anyone wanting to share their thoughts to contact us on Facebook or through the diocese. We look forward to hearing about your call!