Questions for Missionaries

By Jon Eide

Q – Do you enjoy the exotic life you have?

As it turns out, “exotic” is relative. For most folks, “exotic” means anything out of the ordinary. In Ukraine, milk comes in a tetra-pac box, all the money is different colors and sizes, and it’s rare to get a seat on the bus. All of those are different, but not necessarily exotic. Milk out of a box becomes ordinary after a few months; after a few overpayments, the money sorts itself out; and crowded buses get very old very quickly. This also speaks to those who say they could never become a missionary because they aren’t cut out for all those “differences.” The truth is that you can get used to milk in huge plastic jugs (why so big? What is a “gallon” anyway?), all dollars looking the same (why not different colors and bigger sizes as the bills get bigger, like the rest of the world?), and driving everywhere (can you imagine a public bus system that would take your kids to soccer practice…or anywhere?). Exotic is relative, and you can get used to most stuff.

Q – What questions should I ask missionaries?

Missionaries and mourners have a lot in common. The one thing you don’t want to do to both groups is avoid them for fear of not knowing what to ask or what to say. Those who suffer and those who serve have lots to say, have seen the kingdom in a much different way, and have had their faith changed. The best thing is to be curious about both the temporal and the eternal. Ask what the roads are like (bad), then also ask what his or her road has been like. Ask what mustard comes in (tube), but also ask what influence the world church has had on them…and their children. It’s easy to be so intimidated by all of their “experience” not to know where to start, but love typically takes the form of interest. Watch a documentary on Kenya and ask those who have been there. Or in my case, watch a spy thriller and ask about Harrison Ford’s Russian (see comment on the roads).

Q – Do you have airline preferences?

Most missionaries have seen the spectrum. I am no exception. I’ve been upgraded to business class (once) and I’ve also flown on a prop plane with the folks in front of me smoking. Yes, we have preferences, but we try to put the reason for the flight above the entertainment selection.