Missionary Myths

Since joining MAF ten years ago, I’ve found there are some myths out there—common misconceptions—about missionary life. Here are some I’ve seen truly hurt the Body of Christ, and a few ways you can help. Hopefully this will get some dialogue started!

MAF floatplane in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Isaac Rogers.

MAF floatplane in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Isaac Rogers.

We are Super-Christians who have it all together. Don’t be surprised when a missionary opens up about struggles he or she is facing. Give your missionary friends a safe place where they can share their faults, to receive the love and support they need (James 5:16; II Cor. 1:3-5).

We find it easier to share our faith than the average Christian. Cultural differences, unintentional bias, and language barriers can all equal one chicken missionary (including me!). Pray for your missionaries, for boldness and wisdom to share the greatest gift they can possibly share (Romans 8:15; II Tim. 1:7).

We live in mud huts. Um, no. Just. No. Living in a developing country is difficult enough without dirt floors and mud-thatched walls. I’m thankful MAF provides housing options that are comfortable (not fancy) and secure. Missionaries need a safe place where they can let down their guard, enjoy time with their family, and simply rest so they can effectively (and safely…thinking of our pilots here) continue serving.

We all preach / do church planting / run an orphanage. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to missionaries. There are so many possibilities today. MAF is a wonderful example of the Body working together to better impact the world: pilots, mechanics, teachers and technical staff serving pastors, evangelists, church leaders, Bible translators, doctors, nurses and others. Pray for the Body to function as a unified body, tempered with love (Romans 12; I Cor. 12-14).

Our marriages are perfect. Add unstable environments, cultural struggles, and a revolving door of community and friends to the normal everyday stress on marriages today, and you get a glimpse of what missionary couples face. Pray for them and for their spiritual growth as they truly seek to honor God with their lives (Eph. 5:22-33).

Our children are perfect. Kids are kids, no matter who their parents are. Sometimes they obey. Sometimes they don’t. Offer a little grace when it’s needed, and try to understand that Third Culture Kids have few places they truly “fit in” (Eph. 6:1-4).

We share a sense of adventure. Most missionaries don’t like change and uncertainty. We don’t seek out “exotic” places around the world. We simply follow God’s leading wherever that may take us (Ps. 143:10).

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As an MAF missionary, I am blessed to have a whole department [thank you, Member Care!], as well as individuals, dedicated to helping me stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Many of my missionary friends do not have this kind of support network. Please join me in lifting up our brothers and sisters around the world who are living out God’s calling on their lives.

8 Comments

  • Avatar Allan M. Stensvad says:

    Pretty much sums it up. While serving in Sao Luis (Brazil) we were blessed to have an MAF plane located there several years – in the ’60s. Have flown with Joe M., Tom D., Art Mc. and Bill B. Great servants of the Lord.

  • Avatar Steven Fairweather says:

    Hello, I am one of the MKs from the 60s and 70s from a year or the Congo. Very interesting topics here. Except for #3…our house for many many years was mud walls & floors and grass roof.
    Oh, and my parents kids were perfect! Ha ha ha ha ?
    It can be a real blessing to live overseas in these verses that come with that it can be a real blessing to grow up overseas as an MK.

    • Avatar Steven Fairweather says:

      Oops… I meant to say that I am one of the MKs for the 60s and 70s from Zaire or the Congo…

    • Avatar Karen says:

      Hi Steven. Thanks for your response, and for your family’s service to the Lord in Zaire. I have friends who have served in the same region during that time! They’re in Tanzania now. And I’m pretty sure my kids would disagree with the “our kids aren’t perfect” part too ;).

      I appreciate your comment about your experience on the field. It’s true that some missionaries still live in more rural settings. My experience has been that people today see this as the norm, not just dependent on the place of service, or a family’s needs. This can put unnecessary pressure on our missionaries or even heap guilt upon them for being in “nice” housing. Whether we live in a mud hut or a mansion, make that house a home, a haven for those God places in our lives. I Peter 4:9-11 reminds me that it’s all for His glory regardless! Thanks again for sharing, Steven 🙂 God Bless!

  • Avatar Joe Techau says:

    Great comments. Carol and I often flew with MAF in Madang, PNG. Bob P. was our pilot – a good Christian brother who lost his life in a plane crash shortly after we returned home. We still connect with his family and it has been a lasting friendship. There are real dangers in the lives of missionaries.

  • Avatar Wendy Fath says:

    Yes, I am so much in agreement with these sentiments. The other thing is, that sharing Christ cross-culturally may not be an issue of ‘chickening out’ but rather of huge cultural/linguistic limitations. It takes a LONG time to fully understand each other’s cultural paradigms. I have become a strong believer of out-of-culture missionaries coming alongside and supporting indigenous missionaries. It’s a good partnership that God can use. (Eight years of living and ministering cross-culturally has impacted my perspective.) The other thing is that having a prayer support network is SO, so, so important and supporters at home may think that money is the key to support. Prayer IS the key.

  • Avatar Candice says:

    Such a great article! I can totally identify with a lot of these points! Haha Especially the mud hut part – When I sent a video home of my brick house with tile floors the amount of people that commented “oh, I guess you’re not really doing it tough out there” was a bit vexing, as though my housing situation was the hardest thing I would be facing. There was a lot of people who had no idea about the spiritual and cultural difficulties that we were facing on a daily basis, and yes, while having a decent (albeit rat infested) place to rest my head at night was a big help, it didn’t mean that all the other difficulties just went away haha!
    You’re article is fantastic, I will be sharing it 🙂

  • Avatar Dick Doan says:

    I had the privilege of working on a hospital in Mulia, Irian Jaya for about 17 months. Our only way in and out was MAF. I found the pilots and spouses to be Godly servants. They were the best trained people of any missionaires I know. Our pilot at the time was Dave Rask. I went from their to Haiti for 14 years, where I again was blessed with MAF pilots.

    The comments made above are so on target.

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