I received a Whatsapp from a friend who is a long time missionary. It was a picture of his wife and and daughter at a soccer tournament. After being pleased to get it and admiring how much his daughter has grown and how his wife appears unchanged after many years, I thought to myself how “normal” a picture it was to send. My friend is doing great things for God in a culturally and spiritually very different part of the world, but the picture he sent me was of his family. It was not of him in front of a crowd of students or in front of a church, but it was of his family which rests most closely to his heart and where much of his love and pleasure is found. I wonder if one of the great misconceptions people have about missionaries is how normal are our lives. Missionary life is normal life. Especially for those of us who do missions in more vocational roles. I have stresses at work, trying to balance the work with family time. I struggle to not come home in a bad mood when I have a bad day with hard patients. I struggle with 1 John 2:15-18 and wonder whether I am desiring the things of heaven or the things of earth. We still like our comfort and luxuries in the mission field. Good food is still a craving. I love watching my kids have fun. I worry about their emotions and education. I like spending time with my friends. I like a good movie or a nice meal. I try and be a good husband. I enjoy a good sermon. If it goes too long I get tired and distracted.
None of the thoughts, enjoyments, pleasures, concerns, and struggles change in the mission field. Assuredly, there are big cultural differences, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually life is just the same. I think now like I did when I lived in the US. My core struggles of faith and righteousness and love are the same as they were before. It is only the culture and setting in which they occur that has changed. We have more interesting pictures, but only because they are different. I can take lots of pictures of Quechua people, but the ones I will look at on my phone over and over again are the ones of Allison and the kids. The ones I send to my friend or want to share on Facebook are the pictures of my family. Mission life is normal life except for the setting and the label. Life is the same.