A life dangling

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It’s been a couple months since Kati and I announced our plan to move to Portugal. In that time the support and encouragement has been overwhelming and we’re so thankful. At the same time, there have been moments when it’s obvious to me the limitations of understanding the missionary life from the outside. I grew up a missionary kid so to me it was just another viable vocational option. Only as time went by did I realize that being a missionary only made sense if it was absolutely a call from God, and even the call would need to be confirmed repeatedly along the way.

The term missionary has meant different things in different Christian traditions through Church history. Perhaps the simplest common denominator of Christian understanding of the term is a sent one. Barnabus and Paul were set apart and sent out by the church in Antioch for a specific work that the church community in that city deemed worthy and legitimate. I love the early teaching by Loren Cunningham “Go Means a Change of Location”, which I think sums up the most foundational aspect of missions: going. Of course there are home missions and foreing middions and urban missions and frontier missions. All are legitimate as long as some community of faith agrees that a work needs to be done and God has called some to do it.

But in this post I do want to focus on the crosscultural missionary. Unless you’ve lived crossculturally/internationally for long-term periods of time it’s very difficult to understand this lifestyle. Take the affects on your children. If your kids are born overseas they might look at their parents as fully adjusted to the context in which they were born. But at some point it dawns on missionary kids that mom, or dad, or both, are very different than them. Where is home? I represent the third generation of missionaries in my family and answering the question “where’s home?” is a tough one.

Point is, when talking to those who aren’t called to the our lifestyle we missionaries need to be a little guarded about some of the things we share and that we receive. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, I certainly don’t believe that missionaries are in any way superior to any other disciples of Christ. If you’ve never pastored a church you’re limited in giving advice to pastors, if you’ve never been through a divorce you’re comrehension only goes so far.

Missionaries live a life dangling, we usually don’t know how long we’ll be in a determined context. If you have a crosscultural marriage you can never be certain that life will take root more in your culture or your spouse’s. It’s very hard to explain what this feels like and get good advice unless the person you’re talking to has lived the same experience long-term. Missions paradigms will change over the years but as long as the term refers to sent ones the church will need wisdom and comprehension in pastoring and supporting them effectively. The best approach? Probably listening mostly, and knowing that missionaries will need space for seasons of transition in a more exaggerated sense than those who live their entire lives within their home culture.

Uma vida pendurada

Faz alguns meses que eu e a Kati comunicamos à família e amigos a nossa decisão de nos mudar para Portugal.  Embora temos recebido muito encorajamento, houveram momentos em que percebemos a limitação da compreensão das pessoas em relação à vida missionária. 

“Missionário” significa diferentes coisas ao longo da história da Igreja, mas geralmente se refere a alguém que foi enviado para realizar um ministério específico.  Ser enviado na maioria das vezes queria dizer algo transcultural e internacional.  

A não ser que você tem experiência em missões transculturais é muito difícil compreender este estilo de vida.  Quando um casal missionário gera família no exterior seus filhos têm uma ligação àquela nação que os pais dificilmente terão.  Mesmo que eu passar 50 anos em outro país eu sempre serei um norte americano.  As pessoas podem dizer, “Davi você é um de nós”, o que é um grande carinho, porém eu não deixo de ser o que sou.  Nunca me transformarei em outra pessoa culturalmente 100%.

Os missionários vivem uma vida pendurada.  Nós geralmente não sabemos quanto tempo estaremos em determinado local.  Se você casar com estrangeiro isso será mais exagerado ainda.  Nunca vocês dois saberão em qual cultura passarão a maior parte da sua carreira juntos.  Para muitos casais transculturais missionárias um alternativo feliz é uma terceira cultura onde ninguém está “vencendo” por morar em sua cultura nativa.  

Qual é a melhor forma de encorajar uma família missionária?  A melhor abordagem geralmente é ouvir as estórias e experiências deles.  A melhor abordagem é lembrar que os missionários provavelmente passarão por mais fases de transição em suas vidas e que estas transições levarão mais tempo.  Muito tempo de transição mesmo, não uma vida normal, mas como qualquer vocação inspirada pelo Espirito Santo ela vale a pena se for tão somente para a glória e honra de Jesus Cristo.  

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