“So what brought you to Zambia?” is a very common question we get asked here, seeing as how there a so many people from so many different backgrounds living here, to which I usually respond, “We’re missionaries.” Then I go into my whole spiel about how as a teacher I can’t even begin to tickle the amount of debt to pay off my husbands loans and yada yada… Which if you know me is a pretty typical response for me to make a joke out of my situation because I’m not a serious person.
This response usually brings more questions such as,
“Oh, so do you preach?” -No
“Do you run a church here?” -No
“Do you live in the bush?” -No
“Are you helping run an orphanage or clinic?” -No, not really.
So, I guess that means we aren’t your typical missionaries of the ye old days…Nor do we fit the bill for other people’s current ideas of a missionary apparently.
This all spurned because during our time here we have met countless amazing people from all backgrounds, other missionaries, embassy workers or not. But this last weekend we met an awesome couple from Australia who moved here to Zambia 6 years ago to start an orphanage in the bush. I mean how cool and amazing is that?! To top it off, they are the most humble people, who have two adorable children (whom I’ve adopted as my niece and nephew) and not to mention, they make the best honey in Zambia. After having spent the evening with them, doing the mandated introductory stories of how we ended up here, on our way home from Riverside Farms Wes asked me, “Why are we here?”
Now, I was taken aback because I feel like this is a question was out of character for Wes. He’s been a solid rock from the beginning about coming here and never wavered on our decision where as I was as shaky as Jonah going to Nineveh. (I have since been convinced and am loving being here, for the record.)
“What do you mean?” I asked him. To which he responded that after hearing my joking answer to the question several times over the past few months, he wondered if we truly were here to simply pay off his loans or to do God’s work. Now granted, God’s work is everywhere but looking at the wonderful couple we’d just met who gave up the comfort of their home and uprooted themselves indefinitely to start their orphanage, seemed like much more of a sacrifice than what we were doing. I mean, shoot, I’m working at a top international school, surrounded by people with loads of money and comfort. So for me, my life isn’t bad at all, whereas Wes does have the more typical missionary position as a dentist serving people of all backgrounds. Still, he’s got an awesome clinic that runs well here in Zambia.
So which one of the two of us couples is more of a missionary? To answer this, we must ask ourselves, what makes a missionary? The sacrifice? The struggle? The demographic we serve? Giving sermons at our churches? Living in a mud hut? Playing the piano for sabbath school? Partaking in Bible studies? Because if that’s the case, heck, we only check off two, maybe three. Does that mean we should be doing more or that we aren’t missionaries? I struggle with this because do we change who we are because we need to fit the mold that is “the Missionary” or do we simply continue our journey here and show the love of God through our actions rather than our preaching words.
The answer is, I still don’t know, honestly, I don’t know. I could argue both sides. God didn’t put a definition of missionary in the Bible…well maybe He did but it isn’t nicely splayed out like Webster’s, so I can’t find it. What I do know is that God and many disciples met the people where they were at and simply were. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for God, I tend to push back on social norms, so for now I don’t fit the typical missionary bill and I might never, or I might conform to meet the people or I might just convince those around me that wearing pants to church isn’t the worst thing afterall… We’ll see.