Answers, Part 1

Answers, Part 1

Posted on 18. Jan, 2010 by in Missions, Thailand

First, I have to say, you guys have some tough questions! Things that we’ve had to really think about and discuss to come up with answers to them.  And in all reality, some of the answers would be better served in a one-on-one conversation or email.  Also, we may not have a full picture of some of the answers until we’re back in the States with time to process.  That being said, we’ll give it our best shot…

Q.  What was your biggest misconception prior to being in Thailand that has changed after living there for 6+ months? Which views of yours have changed in the last 6 months? – Brad Ruggles

A.

Well, for one thing, it’s kinda hard to remember what we thought about Thailand before we came.  By now we’re pretty used to it.

Place Comparison
I remember that my immediate reaction was to compare things with Korea.  After all, that’s the other Asian country I’ve lived in and taught English in.  But, it’s really not too similar to Thailand (ok, they both eat a lot of rice and have black hair…).  For some reason the first thing your mind goes to is comparing with other places you’ve been.  So, if I’m going to do that, it  is probably most similar to Jakarta, Indonesia out of the places I’ve been.

Culture Shock
Part of living in another culture is realizing how ethnocentric you actually are.  They do things differently, and at first you think “That’s wrong!  It would be better our way.”  But as you live within the culture, you come to learn that it’s not wrong, it’s just different.  Whole books have been written on this topic.  We’d recommend Ministering Cross-Culturally and Cross-Cultural Conflict.  They will totally open your eyes if you have any interaction with people of different cultures.

Time
And, I’ll warn you now, I think our concept of time has become more casual.  We’re used to waiting around, and we’re used to doing things a half hour after they were scheduled.  So if we’re late for something, I apologize in advance. 😉

What is a missionary?
Personally, my biggest misconceptions had more to do with what a missionary is like, or what I’d be like as a missionary, than what the country is like.  You picture missionaries as people who pray all the time and automatically keep up a good devotional life, etc.  Well, turns out they (ahem, we) struggle with it as much as the average American churchgoer.

And, things don’t feel spiritual all the time.

When you go on a short-term mission trip, you’re generally with a team of people you know to some degree, you spend a lot of time praying together and having devotions together, and you put on a special event or do a specific project.  It gives you a spiritual high and you come home all on fire for God and missions.

Long-term missionary life is much less “glamorous.”  It’s a lot of day-to-day faithfulness with the hope of seeing lasting results in the future.  Honestly, we don’t always feel like spending 4 hours sitting on a rock-hard bench (literally- it’s made of rock) in the Bangkok heat trying to communicate in English with college students.  But, by doing it day after day, we get to know people.  We make friends.  And eventually those friends come with us to church, and some of them become Christians.  Sure, it’s not the immediate results you might get from a large scale evangelistic crusade, but they are lasting results.  These people have asked their questions, they are already plugged in with a church, they are immediately assigned a mentor, and they are ready to be rooted and established in their faith.  But, it doesn’t always feel like we’re getting anywhere.

And I could go on about real missionary life compared to the ideal picture, but I think I’ll leave it there for now.

Now admit it, What are your preconceptions about missionary life?

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3 Responses to “Answers, Part 1”

  1. Dad G

    19. Jan, 2010

    I think I’d buy a cushion if I had to sit on a rock bench regularly…

    Reply to this comment
  2. April

    21. Jan, 2010

    Yeah, if I were your age I would too 😉

    Reply to this comment
  3. Brad Ruggles

    01. Feb, 2010

    Wow, those are some really great observations. It sounds like God has really been teaching you guys some heavy stuff. I especially like “Things don’t feel spiritual all the time.” Man, that is so true for most people in ministry. I think that’s a huge misconception people have about ministry life or missionaries.

    Great thoughts! Thanks for responding to my question. We love you both and are praying for you guys. I believe that God has amazing things in store for both of you!

    Reply to this comment

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