Missionaries Have Bad Days, Too

Well, that’s going to leave a mark,” I grimaced.

While taking down one of my go-to cookbooks from a shelf that was well beyond my reach, another cookbook toppled with it. Before I could shield my head, the second cookbook crashed into my lifted face and then thudded to the kitchen floor.

“Ouch,” I said as I touched the side of my mouth. “That really hurt.”

As I rubbed my cheek, I thought of John’s departing words this morning. “This day is going just as well as yesterday.” I couldn’t help but agree with him as I winced.

John embarked on another short ministry trip for Zimbabwe this morning. He’ll be away for most of the week. When preparing for a trip, it’s our desire to commit much of our time and energy to that readying effort.  It rarely works out that way, though. Life happens. Obstacles arise. Other immediate, time-sensitive needs present themselves. The sort of stuff that is beyond our control.

This trip was no different.

Yet, the challenges that arose seemed to cause more distraction, frustration, impatience and consternation than normal. Things that should have worked, didn’t. Answers that should have come, floundered in cyber abyss. Fixes that should have remained, failed. As this particular Zimbabwe trip neared, more problems developed. It was the proverbial one-thing-happens-after-another series of events happening day after day. As one difficulty layered itself upon another, even more time and energy were spent on these complications. And unfortunately, attitudes that were usually patient and self-controlled were stretched thin, thin, thin. Rather than responding well, we reacted poorly. Ugh.

Missionaries have bad days, too.

We don’t often share about these get-under-your-skin, raw and real type days.

When the uninvited and unwarranted criticism comes

or the water heater stops working

or the computer won’t sync

or the power goes out

or someone asks for one more thing at the last possible moment

or your neighbor’s sewage floods into your back garden

or your kids don’t get along

or your stomach starts to ache

or you just can’t sleep

or a cookbook falls on your head

John and I know we’re dealing with what everyone deals with at one time or another.

Missionaries are real people with real feelings who experience real challenges, too.

And missionaries have bad days. We just don’t share about them that much.


Honestly, it’s because of the people we serve.

We interact with people who provide perspective checks about what a difficult life circumstance really is – day in and day out. As one example, there was a terrible, terrible, terrible storm here yesterday. While we were dealing with our stuff, families were ravaged by the devastation wrought against their homes. Torrential flood waters deluged their shacks and their life’s belongings with mud and debris. While we were dealing with our stuff, others watched their cars submerge under water that had overrun riverbanks. While we were dealing with our stuff, others struggled as their businesses and livelihoods were wiped out by both wind, hail and tornado. John and I may have been experiencing a series of not-so-great days, but those in our midst had just experienced a catastrophic day. The onslaught of stormy weather had decimated their day.

Honeydew Storm
A violent storm laid waste to parts of Johannesburg on October 9, 2017.

What do John and I have to complain about?

There is always someone in our sphere of influence who has experienced much worse than we have.

In addition, we have observed how people have suffered from afar. Natural disasters have impacted and often devastated the lives of people across the world with hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and droughts. The depravity of man is in full view as well. War, terrorism, violent crime, racism, and more pit person against person based upon culture, religious faith, race, and world view. In the midst of it all, there are casualties related to human suffering, significant loss and death.

We don’t take comfort in these harsh realities. Instead, they provide the needed perspective to count our bad days in their proper context. We’ll get through them. Life goes on. Even now, John is driving towards Zimbabwe to serve pastors and ministry leaders there – leaving our set of bad days and their many frustrations in his rear view in Johannesburg.

I’m still here, of course. The challenges remain. However, the sun is shining and there is no cloud in sight this morning. It’s a new day.

And the Lord is with me, too. As He was the past few days – when things kept going awry – and missionaries like us experienced some bad, not-so-very-good days.

Yet, God promises to be with John and me (and you too) in the good, in the bad and in the ugly. My sure and certain faith in the Lord is founded upon my sure and certain hope in Him to help us persevere. I count upon His promises to sustain us.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

New International Version, Hebrews 11:1

Our hope remains.

Honestly, I have no idea why John and I experienced a barrage of nothing-seems-to-be-going-right few days. To say that we were not discouraged or frustrated would be untrue. We were. Sometimes, we are beaten down. There are never-ending needs. Our work never ceases. Expectations run high. However, because of the faith and hope we have in Jesus Christ, we choose not to wallow in that exhausting, disgruntling space. We choose to hold fast to the hope we have in Christ and seek Him to see us through as we keep moving forward.

Like I said, John is on his way to Zimbabwe for three days of ministry. He has set his sights on moving beyond our challenges to focus, to care for, to encourage and to inspire those who have dedicated their lives to pastoring others. Honestly, we are grateful that our vocation in life is to encourage and strengthen others in Christ. It’s the passion of our beating hearts. We love what we do.

Yes, we’ve experienced a few, crazy-making days – but John and I are still here and we’re still fighting strong because of the love and care of our Lord and Savior. Our hearts are steadied by His encouraging and enduring hope. We are okay.

We’d appreciate your prayers, though – especially as John ministers up in Zim.

And be assured, the next time a cookbook starts to fall, I’ll duck!


15 thoughts on “Missionaries Have Bad Days, Too

  1. Praying, Friends! Would love to chat with you two soon.

    1. Thanks, Brad! We’d love to connect with you guys. John is away for a bit, and then we have team objectives meetings. I’ll send you a note as to our availability and then you and Sheri can compare calendars and get back to us! Praying for you guys, daily!

  2. I’ve experienced the bad days too (although I am not a missionary, and I’m sure bad days are definitely bad). I find it sometimes as a test, but just like you, I let it happen, I deal with those bad days, because I know that my trust in Jesus Christ will get me through. You and John are amazing missionaries, and I am so thankful that you are sharing your life with us so we are constantly inspired.


    1. Thank you, Harley! What an encouragement! As I shared, we don’t tend to talk about the ‘bad’ days we experience because as you intimated, we all have them! I appreciate your kindness!

  3. Heather, don’t go messing up that wonderful face! But, I will be praying for all of you anyway. It does seem that those wild and wacky days all come at once!🙃

    1. Thank you! May I ask why you chose to reblog this particular posting? Thanks!

  4. Hi Heather.

    Thank you for your blog. The picture of you and your husband is what caught my eye. You guys look like people we would like to befriend! Loved this post!
    My family of four is getting ready to train for the mission field. My husband Matt is 46, I’m 50 and our kids, Lewis will be 14 in March and our daughter Grace is 12. We decided to sell everything, so that we wouldn’t have any thing pulling us back. We start our training on April 5 in Mexico. Selling our house and raising more funds are our last two things we are working on. And it’s been a frustrating month for us, here in Michigan! With it being a “seller’s market”, we thought our home would have sold shortly after putting it on the market….. We know if God is calling us, He will provide. Some days I need to be reminded of that more than others!
    Mary Beth

    1. Hi Mary Beth, thanks so much for writing to me! I really really really appreciate it! I smiled when I saw your statement that you guys are in the middle of a seller’s market – but your house hasn’t sold yet. That was us! Thirteen years ago, we felt the same way you do now. It was a seller’s market, but our house sat and sat and sat. It turned out to be God’s great care of us. Our house finally sold. We moved into my parents’ place for one week only and then boarded a plane for South Africa to start our life there. I just share this as a word of encouragement that what we thought would be good timing, our Lord put an even better time plan in place. I don’t know what He shall do for you, but I do know that He is faithful, just, and good and will make a way for you!!! Hang in there!

      How are your kids feeling about this big change? Does your mission provide member care for you guys? I pray they do! And if you ever need someone who’s been where you are now, just shout. I’d love to support you guys in prayer. With love, heather

  5. Hi Heather!

    We are so thrilled to have another Prayer Warrior on our side! Thank You! Lewis (13) and Grace (12) are looking forward to the change. I always explain it as Lewis is really excited….He’s been past where we will be, so a lot of the mystery is gone, and sometimes just knowing what to expect takes the pressure / worry away. Grace hasn’t been by the area so there is still the mystery for her. We have hundreds of people we will miss, but she is miss social butterfly. She has thousands of people to miss!!! So she is a little more nervous than the rest of us, but her positive attitude is winning.

    Yesterday, we finally got an offer on our house, and we counter offered and they accepted! Now we just need the inspector to come and look at it and let us know what needs to be “fixed”. We are hoping that will go smooth and be “easy-fixes”. The final price is quite a bit lower than our original asking price, but Matt and I agree that it is the perfect price / profit for what God has planned for our next step! AND we also sold one of our vans on the same day! Matt said he knows God is always faithful. This is just His way of putting an exclamation mark on it!

    I hope today is full of unexpected blessings for you and your husband!
    ~Mary Beth

    1. Hi Mary Beth, wow! That’s great about your house offer and the van sale. I will pray that the ‘easy-fixes’ are just that!

      I’m glad to hear that your children are excited about entering this new venture. It’s going to be a faith-stretching experience for them. One word I would give you is that the evil one will use every possible measure at his disposal to discourage you. One of these areas has been to attack our children and that has probably been one of the most difficult things for John and me on the mission field. We chose this career path – our kids did not (one of our children wasn’t yet born when we signed up for mission work). All that to say, the Lord has been incredibly faithful to our kids in these times. We have trusted the Lord to work through our kids, care and protect our kids, and help them forward in their faith development as the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives just as He is in ours. Since your children are older than ours were when they arrived on the field, they will be processing more and experiencing more all at once. I encourage you to be available to listen, to love, and to be ready for what they will need from you. There may be a honeymoon period – or there may not. We’ve seen a lot of our team kids go though a variety of experiences.

      Anyway, I feel led to share this with you – not to scare you or anything like that – but to understand the spiritual dynamics at play now more than ever as you embark on this amazing life we call mission.

      With grace, love and respect,

      1. Hi Heather!
        I welcome your advice! Thank you for taking the time to share what you’ve experienced and have seen. Matt and I have been talking about that lately. A lot. We’ve been praying for God to give our kids a heart for His will for their lives.
        I appreciate that you are willing to be that honest and not beating around the bush! That is wonderful!
        Thankful I’ve been blessed with our new friendship!

        Mary Beth

      2. Thank you for your gracious reply. Hey, if this would help in the future, our mission is BIG into membercare. I serve as our team’s AGAPE coordinator (assisting new teammates in their transition to our country and mission life). Anyway, if you have an email, I could send you one of the modules I put together that is on soul care (it is applicable to most parts of the world, I would think). The other modules I’ve put together are South Africa specific. But one thing we have all learned is that you must care for your soul and find ways to feed yourself spiritually on the field. If, after you’ve settled, and you want it, I can send it your way. No worries either way. I just know you guys are heading into both wonder and mystery, joy and loss, expectations fulfilled and expectations dashed. You can write me anytime. Okay? Blessings, heather

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