Sometimes I get questions about “a day in the life of a missionary”. What do you do all day? I figure the forum of A2Z Hope is a great place to write a little about that.
The short answer is… everything. At least for this stage of the game (and probably for much of the future) this will be my “go to answer”. Here are some examples:
– Parent: Since in some cases (such as ours) both of you are working. If you have young children that aren’t in school yet, or off on break, you can’t simply say “Hey, enjoy the day at home, we’ll see you later!” One of you needs to be with them. Sure, you can take them along to a meeting and ask them to read quietly… but 20 hours a week of that is stretching for an adult, much less a child. You can take them along on activities and outreaches, but again, they need some direction and oversight.
– Meetings: There are prayer meetings and planning meetings. Just like any other job you need to communicate. I’ll go with the planning meetings first. You simply need to talk to your co-workers (other missionaries on your team) about the logistics of an outreach or activity or plan or event. Prayer meetings. Ok, so you may pray at work… but it’s the rare job that prayer is part of your work. As a missionary I view prayer as the “research” portion of many other jobs. I was a Landscape Architect for many years before becoming a missionary. I would spend a good bulk of my time planning what I would need to do, finding resources, gathering information. Prayer is a way to move things forward and see progress in the spiritual arena, not simply in the physical world we see around us. (Also, I’ll lump Networking into meetings. These are simply meetings with others outside of your direct organization)
– Language: At the beginning stage in a country you’ll need this to varying degrees. Thailand is a country with very little spoken English compared to many other places. A working knowledge of Thai is very valuable. This can range from classroom work to meeting with a tutor to studying on your own to practicing with people you meet on the street.
– Office Work: This is the document writing, communication, practical planning and so much more. This is everything from budgeting and taxes (since many missionaries are “self employed”) to emails and updates. Again, like a typical job you have this no matter what you do. (I did want to lump research into this category too, especially in the area of Human Trafficking, as this is a part of your time and it can be behind a desk or out in public)
– Events: This is the “meat” of missionary work. This is where you take all the other components and do the work you are here to do. This involves something as small as talking with people one on one to organizing a big event which hundreds of people might attend. This can also include many of the roles of a typical pastor with activities at church on a Sunday and other church related activities.
And when I look at a typical day, the first 4 are fairly consistent. My week is filled up with 40+ hours of those items on a regular basis. It’s the last item that varies. Some of the “event” work happens every week and is very predictable. Some of it comes in waves where you put in 70 hours that week and the next, just to pull off a big event that reaches many people.
And so here I am, looking over that list above and getting to the point of all of this. I find myself, right now, in a place where I am evaluating this list. We are approaching the “planning” season, where we will communicate our vision for the next year to partners and churches that support us and to our sending organization. And part of vision is the overall picture, but part is also the nuts and bolts. Can I work 60 hours every week and not be burned out? And that is one of the classic missionary questions. I see so much I can do, and it’s all good… but where should I focus. What is God calling ME to do? And so there I am. This is what I’m praying about even now and into the next few days, looking forward for an answer to emerge.
So here is where Hope comes into it all. I have a deep, abiding Hope that God will provide the answers I need. The list of possible pressures and expectations that try to weigh into my decision is so long I won’t even begin to address it here. But greater than that list is Christ. And so there is where my hope is found… “built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness”.