Being Disappointed When Missionaries Don’t Look Like Indiana Jones. – By Adam Stuck
I think many of us secretly expect missionaries to look like Indiana Jones: leather jackets, dusty fedoras and ragged pants, with maybe a pistol or at least a whip—and, of course, a battered Bible with two or three bullet holes. It can’t be coincidence that missionary and mercenary sound almost exactly alike.
It’s sort of a disappointment when missionaries turn out to be normal people.
My parents are missionaries. My father often wears a leather jacket, but he doesn’t look like Indiana Jones. He’s a little stout—he prefers to call himself comfortably well-padded—and more than a little bald. My mother doesn’t look like Indiana Jones either. (That would be really weird, now that I think about it.)
My parents have visited lots of American churches in their twenty-something years of ministry in Ecuador and Uruguay. Being their son for almost all of those twenty-something years, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe how folks react when missionaries appear suddenly in church to share about their work.
There are basically four kinds of churches, as far as visiting missionaries are concerned.
1. The Puzzled Church
This is the church that isn’t sure what to do with the strange guests in their midst. Last-minute questions multiply: Maybe we should give them fifteen minutes to share during the service? Why don’t we let them preach? What if we put them in charge of Sunday School? Will we give them our usual offering or take up an additional donation? Where were they from again? Why don’t they look like Indiana Jones?
2. The Excitable Church
This church is fascinated by the novelty of meeting missionaries and their offspring. People from these churches asked me questions like, “Have you been bitten by a snake?” and “Have you ever been robbed?” (The answer to both questions is technically yes; I was nipped by my cousin’s pet boa and lost about ten cents to a pickpocket on a bus.) I typically answered with an impressive, “Of course,” sending my listeners into an awed silence. Strangely enough, those listeners were never awed into silence when my parents shared about their ministry.
3. The Irritable Church
This church is pretty rare, I’m glad to say. It’s the sort of church in which people suppress their grumbling behind stony faces when missionaries come to visit. It’s pretty easy to guess what’s going on inside their heads: Oh drat, I forgot it was Missionary Sunday. These missionaries sweep in like locusts, hijack the service, force us to look at photos, demand our money, and try to get us to say unpronounceable words in some native language. Darned missionaries.
4. The Rockin’ Awesome Church
Thank God, there are still lots of these churches in America. They welcome missionaries with warm smiles and cups of coffee, ask intelligent questions, listen when missionaries share about their ministry, take up missionary offerings cheerfully, throw in a meal at the pastor’s house, pray for missionaries, and put up prayer letters on bulletin boards. Whether they’re made up of 4,000 hip young people or two dozen old folks, these churches are awesome.
So, American churchgoers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love, hospitality, coffee, prayers and financial support you give missionaries like my family, even though we don’t look like Indiana Jones. We appreciate it more than you know.
(For more great stuff from Adam, check out his blog!)