When I first moved to the mission field, I was 12 years old, eager, and expectant of an adventurous life. Who could fault me? After all, I was moving to Africa, and everybody said I was so blessed, and would have great experiences. I quickly realized that they and I were wrong. It was so utterly boring! My friends would message me asking what life was like and if I did anything cool. No, I would reply. All I do is school and go to the international church on Sunday. Sometimes we go grocery shopping.
And it was hard! So hard! Like that time when our electricity was out the entire month of Ramadan. Or when our best friends got sick and we were forced back to America. Or when that insane man threw the rock at our brand new van and barely missed the window. And that time I spent hours making an entirely homemade apple pie and the power went out while I was baking it. That one made me so mad.
Furloughs were worse. We traveled everywhere, nowhere new, and people marveled at the ever-so-faithful missionaries from Africa, making us feel guilty about our secret imperfections. We were different now, culturally, socially, even academically. I never could relate to these people. I began telling people that I lived “out of town” and hoped they didn’t realize I meant overseas.
Our country began to get difficult, even more so, and after my second furlough I returned (begrudgingly) to find that every one of my few friends had moved elsewhere in the world. Maybe it was because our ministry was beginning to come to life, or maybe I was just more cynical, but if you can believe it, it was harder.
It was (is) actually dangerous here and I felt constant fear and I felt utterly alone. I cried at every little thing and I resented missions and missionaries and everything like it. I got mad when I watched movies about Africa. Why did everyone want to come here so bad? It’s overrated. I grew bitter, and it showed, and I affected the other impressionable missionary girls here. At my worst, I was reading and stumbled upon this; “You learn not to mourn the little things over here (Africa) or you’d never stop grieving.” Sure, it’s hard. No, there is no grand adventure, and yes, you are giving up so much, probably unwillingly.
The thing is though, if you’re unhappy about whatever country you’re in, it’s most likely your own fault. As cliché and simple as it sounds, it really all depends on your point of view and your attitude. I’ve painted a pretty awful picture of my host country and I conveniently haven’t paid attention to so many things. Things like how you can literally see millions of stars when the power goes out. That our friends were able to take their foster son to America with them. That the sizable dent in our van still allows us to drive 13+ people to church on Sunday. And that we can get imported apples from Italy at all.
I’m not a writer, or a speaker, and this probably didn’t make any sense, but it’s what I, as an “experienced” missionary kid, took five years to realize.
Don’t spend forever hating your mission field, just make up your mind to see the beauty in it.
Submitted by an MK who wishes to remain anonymous.