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The Best and The Worst

April 1, 2014

Before I became a missionary I always wondered what it would be like.  Do missionaries live in grass huts?  Do they carry river water long distances?  Do they pray more than the average pew warmer?  Do they put a notch in their belt for every soul saved?

The inspiration to do international development work, as I like to call my work, came from visiting Global Ministry Mission Personnel in my home church and in their country of service.  (Thank you Paula Bidle and Garry Sparks for your hospitality!)  I was able to get a lot of my questions answered before making the plunge.  (No, sometimes, most likely and no.)

For those of you considering working, living and accompanying people of a culture different from your own, or for those who just wonder what it would be like, I have compiled a list of the best and the worst things about doing international development work.

THE BEST:  Meeting new people. This is especially nice if you are an extrovert.
THE WORST:  Missing your old people.
THE BEST:  Trying new foods.
THE WORST:  Missing familiar comfort foods and finding the “American” section of the grocery store to be small, expensive or non-existent.  Heinz Ketchup and Coca-Cola, however, are available everywhere.
THE BEST:  Cell phones and internet.
THE WORST:  Cell phones and internet that don’t work.  (That was in rural Minnesota, by the way.)
THE BEST:  Doing God’s work.
THE WORST:  Trying to figure out exactly what is God’s work.
THE BEST:  Reducing, re-using, recycling, reclaiming and living a simpler life.
THE WORSE:  Wishing for a little more of life’s complications, such as hot water and a washing machine.
THE BEST:  Year ‘round gardening.
THE WORSE:  Year ‘round weeds.
THE BEST:  Eating popcorn and watching Out of Africa streamed from Amazon.
THE WORSE:  Throwing a rock at the TV when the power goes off, the popcorn is half popped and Meryl Streep is about to kiss Robert Redford.
THE BEST:   Not paying car insurance.
THE WORST:  Not having a car when you want it.  (This fortunately isn’t very often.)
THE BEST:  Worshiping God in new, refreshing ways.
THE WORST:  Not understanding the sermon spoken in the local dialect and having to write your own sermon in your mind, hoping you are doing justice to the pastor’s words.

Often people think life as a Mission Personnel is full-time adventure, danger and exhausting service to the glory of God.  The truth, if you must know, that, after the initial excitement wears off, life abroad isn’t much different than life at home.  We get up, we work, we play, we pray.  We have challenges and joys, just like everyone.  We want what everyone wants, comfort and fulfillment, love and acceptance, peace and joy.

Whether you are a prayerful, armchair missionary or serving in a remote region of Planet Earth, know that you are doing the work of God in the world.

Don and Maryjane Westra serve in Honduras assigned to the Christian Commission for Development (CCD).

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