That’s Bunk In My Missionary Book


We’ll always let you know how these three guys are doing as they grow up in South Africa!

I admit it.

This article bugged me:  “Ten Things Missionaries Won’t Tell You.”

I appreciated this person’s opinion and need to share. However, to assume that as a missionary I would feel this way, bothered me.

The one thing John and I have always, always, and always shared with our family, our friends, prayer partners, and financial supporters is that we will consistently offer up the real deal about our lives with them. There is no question that cannot be asked; even if the question is a difficult one. We don’t want anyone to second guess what we say or wonder if we’re really telling the truth.

What you see is what you get with the Witherow family!

What I didn’t appreciate about the article is that there is an assumption that what missionaries say is not necessarily the truth, or at least the full truth. There is a suggestion that missionaries must guard their feelings. There is a need to self-protect. There is a desire to only share on the surface, because others may not be able to handle or may not even want to hear how the missionary is really doing at his/her core.

Sorry, folks. That’s bunk in my book!

Maybe, I’m naïve.

Maybe I haven’t been a missionary long enough (just passed the 8 ½ year mark in South Africa).

Maybe I just think differently.

However, it is my contention that our family, our friends, our prayer partners, and our financial supporters can handle the truth relating to our ministry experience and our family life in southern Africa. They don’t want to be kept in the dark. They want to hear the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly.

Now, that is not to say that I’m going to blog, post to Facebook, or even tweet about the days that are really tough. We won’t necessarily post the kind of days when John and I ask each other, “Did we sign up for this?” It is not appropriate for us to reveal every aspect of our personal lives or the lives of those we serve by posting on the internet.

What we may do is write an email or skype with our family, friends and supporters and let them know how we are really doing, though.

When the first indication came through that I may have cancer in 2012, John was out of the country and out of cell-phone range. One of the first things I did was write to our  family and our prayer team and tell them exactly what was happening. The love, care, support and prayers I received, was overwhelming! That support sustained me until John came home and then throughout my cancer journey.

When we shared about our challenges with finding an education option for our two boys on the autism spectrum, it was our family and friends who came through for us in prayer and support once again. When no viable, outside option could be found, our family, friends, and supporters helped me get over the homeschool hurdle and believe I could teach my kids!

When our car continued to break down again and again and again, it was our supporters who came through and helped fund our ‘new’ vehicle. Without their generous financial assistance, we’d still be lurching, sputtering, and clunking our way along the streets of Johannesburg.

You see, when we’re lonely, we say so.

When we’re concerned about how things are going, we ask for prayer.

When we’re tired, exhausted and ready to collapse, John and I admit it.

When we cannot do something, we let others know. We do what we can, but the reality is that we cannot do everything.

When short-term teams come our way, yes, the preparation and logistics are a ton of extra work to pull together. However, John and I find great encouragement in being able to share our world with those who make the arduous, expensive, and life-changing trip to be with us. We love seeing how God works in our lives and theirs during that short span of time.

When we finally are able to go on holiday with our family, we share about it. These opportunities for rest and rejuvenation just don’t come very often.

Perhaps other missionaries would disagree with me and take issue with our experience. The deal is though that this is our experience. John and I have chosen to share the real deal and not lie or keep quiet about what’s really happening with us.

If others want to know how we are really doing and what we really think, and we believe our family and friends do want to know, we’ll tell them. After all, we want the same kind of disclosure from them. Isn’t that what friendship is about?

In Scripture it is written, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator….

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” New International Version, Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14

If Christ is really in us and truly directing and transforming our lives, then, why should we lie about what’s really going on as His representatives on the mission field?

When we wonder if we really signed up for something that just devastated us, challenged us, stretched us, irritated us, or wounded us, it’s okay to share these struggles with those we love and who love us. Isn’t this what it means to bear with one another?

Like I shared, other missionaries may disagree with me. For some reason, they may feel they can only share on the surface and keep their pain raw and deep within themselves. They may feel that they can not tell the whole truth about their mission experience.

This is their choice.

But, it’s not mine.

2 thoughts on “That’s Bunk In My Missionary Book

  1. Totally agree. But Dave having been a missions pastor for 15 years we did find a few missionaries who would not be real — and sometimes made up what they did on the field – or took credit for what others did. But they were few! And sooner or later the truth would reveal itself. People are in church — and on the mission field for a variety of reasons – we are glad OC screens carefully – so those who want to come to the field for the wrong reasons aren’t selected.

    1. Wow, Sondra, thanks for this insight! I hadn’t even considered the possibility of people fabricating what they did on the field. My point centered on being real about what life is like for us on the field. I agree that missionary life and service flow from a response of love and obedience to our God. Thanks again for writing, Sondra. I really appreciate your thoughts! love, heather

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