The responsibility of those who go

I just had a meeting with my support group/sending team from my church tonight and again I'm blown away. I can't believe how intentional and involved they are. I'm only going away for 10 months; it doesn't seem like such a huge deal to me but they are so excited for me, so encouraging, so eager to be of help, and so full of wisdom.

A significant portion of my church are former missionaries, a number of them to places in Africa, so there's a good deal of experience backing up their words, and I'm sure their input will be invaluable when I return and am all messed up and unable to cope with Canadian life.

Actually, everyone I've told about my plans seems to be really excited for me. When I think about it like that, I realize I have a responsibility to those people.

One thing I've always struggled with in regards to shorter term cross-cultural missions is that by the time you've worked through all the cultural, practical, linguistic, and logistic issues you're already home. The benefits you take back with you far outweigh whatever meagre, inconsequential contribution you managed to make "in the field." But one redeeming factor--I guess it's still fairly small, but it's something--is that you become an ambassador for the people you met, the experiences you had, and the lessons you learned.

I think I've always discounted that part because I assumed that everyone would do something like this. But apparently it's not so. (My roommate keeps on pointing out to me that I have a rather skewed perception of myself despite my claims of being analytical and objective.) I've never thought of myself as particularly adventurous because there were always those who were infinitely more thrill-seeking and risk-taking than me. But I do have an irrepressible wanderslust not shared by everyone which leads me to go places and meet people, heedess of "risks." So while I daresay everyone *can* go out and see the world through another culture's perspective, not everyone *wants* to -- and that's okay.

All this to say that I accept my responsibility as a "goer" (this time around, anyway) to not only do what I can to serve out there, but to bring home my experiences and the lessons I've learned, and to share them with those who have stayed at home and supported me. In this way, my efforts at "missions" are about more than me and the wonderful, hard, challenging, perspective-altering time I had. Supported by a community while I am gone, my experience becomes part of the community when I return.

It sounds rather lofty and perhaps I'm expecting too much of myself now, but I like thinking about it in these terms. I mostly fail to exemplify these convictions, but I do believe very strongly in community; that God has created us to be in relationships with each other, and that living, working, and celebrating together is what we were created to do.

I'll tie it off with that. I didn't expect this post to go here when I started writing.


lasselanta said…
I want to say something profound in response, but I think you said it already. :-) Seriously, what you've said rings so very true. The process of describing and communicating also helps as you try to live in that "in-between place"-- not at home in one country nor in the other.

I will definitely be reading your blog absorbedly in the coming months!
Rebs said…
excellent. I'm glad you've moved to this acceptance - though it does sound idealistic perhaps, it doesn't make it any less true. so we will strive to be a part of your experience too - cool how the responsibility for it goes both ways.
kar0ling said…
Sharon! Welcome here. Your input will always be appreciated.
Rebs said…
warning: apparently I'm in a chatty mood today.

I disagree that everyone can "see the world through another culture's perspective". I think there are many people that can't. at all.
we've met many missionaries, and heard tales of more, that were incapable of that very thing - read The Poisonwood Bible for a fairly common example.
So the fact that you have this gift - something that you've had put to the test in the Netherlands and in Ukraine - is not something to shrug off or take too lightly.

perhaps partly because our church is so full of ex-missionaries and active missionaries, it's easy to see that gift as a norm for us, but I think we've got unusual percentages compared to the wider body.

one more thing: there's also huge value in your representing the North American church to our brothers and sisters in Cameroon. so exciting!

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