There is definitely a romantic view of overseas missions. People may think it’s nice to live in a beautiful, tropical foreign country. People may think it’s nice to have money sent to you by supportive people and churches. People may think it’s nice to run your own organization. Don’t get me wrong, there are most definitely nice things about overseas missions. It is an amazing call from God to leave your home and move to a foreign place to walk with the people there. It is an honorable calling. It’s also a hard calling. We could argue there are harder callings or that all callings are hard in their own way. I agree. Today, however, I specifically want to talk about one of the difficulties that comes from answering the call to overseas missions.
Reality of Overseas Missions
The reality is it’s lonely as an overseas missionary. Overseas missionaries live in a constant state of transition as they welcome people in then watch them leave shortly after. They have to form thick skin so as not to allow every goodbye to break them apart, but then they have to be soft enough to allow new people in. It’s an exhausting cycle, but it’s part of the job.
I think the loneliness of an overseas missionary comes mainly from the lack of steady, deep friendships. Life is lonely without deep friendships, deep community. As a full-time missionary in a foreign country, it is extremely hard to find community for various reasons such as language barriers, age gaps, and differences in mission strategy. It is more likely that once an overseas missionary develops a solid friendship, that friend leaves soon after.
I can’t say I experienced much loneliness during my time as a missionary in Honduras. I can’t say that because I walked into a ministry with Lead Missionaries who pursued a relationship with me and helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus. I’m speaking of the Lead Missionaries of 61 Isaiah Ministries, Shannon and Kristi Hopkins. Those two people are ordained by God to be missionaries here in Honduras. They love like Jesus, truly like Jesus. They let people into their lives over and over and over, then say goodbye to them all. You may have moved around a lot as a kid and experienced the need to put up walls in order to protect yourself from difficult goodbyes. Think about being the one that never moved but instead watched everyone else move on. Not only have Shannon and Kristi done this for 10 years here on the field, but so have their kids. Through the constant change, they remain obedient to the call God placed on their life. Thank you to the Hopkins family and to other overseas missionaries who remain obedient to the call, even through the loneliness.
Overseas Missions Is a Commitment
Not everyone is cut out for the role of overseas missionary. It is a commitment to serve God without familiarity and without steady, deep community. It is a commitment to raise others up only to watch them leave again and again. If you know an overseas missionary, reach out to them. Check in on them often. Go see them! You may think they’re too busy and they probably are, but keep trying. Lessen the loneliness.