It is extremely common for many people to have a rise in friend requests, followers, and communications from people back home once they are on the field in missions or hardcore ministry. It's hard to decipher whether people really want to love you and be your friend, or whether they are enamored because you're doing something so unusual, "cool", "amazing", etc....
Once home, people often approach or speak with missionaries as if they are some kind of special big deal. Almost like a person interacts with a celebrity. This is very difficult for several reasons:
1. Just as any "famous" person will tell you, we're just people. We don't have something incredibly amazing about us that makes us any different than you. We just got told to go somewhere else and do something a bit different. And we chose to obey. (Sometimes we didn't even do that but were dragged into it!) That is all. We don't have some magical power or insight. We don't have a super-connection with Jesus that isn't available to you. We often begin to hear things like "You do so many crazy things. I'm just stuck here and don't do anything amazing." Or "I wish I was powerful and had gifts like you do." This is so hard for us to hear, because you don't have to live in Africa or work in a brothel to have your days filled with stories so wild you can't even share them. You don't have to be "specially called" or anything weird to have a connection with Jesus that enables you to see or even be a part of things like prophecy, knowing things you humanly wouldn't be able to, sudden insight into the redemption you have authority to speak onto a person or place, etc......you just need to realize He wants to hand you these things and ask the Holy Spirit to anoint you. Then you need to carefully heed the anointing and walk under it. That's it. Period. We're not special. We just walk with Him. (And really probably because we're desperate for His presence and healing in our lives.)
2. We need healing, not draining. Being immersed in another culture or serving in full-time ministry means we're worn. It means you pour your whole self out every day. It means you get up early to inconveniently be the first one there. It means you stay late and work when nobody realizes how much you have to do. And it means you've had to fight some huge emotional, mental, and spiritual battles on a daily basis. Often for others who don't see or appreciate it. The nature of this work is completely exhausting. (I don't mean to sound negative. I pop out of bed every day giddy like a little child over what I get to do.) Sure, we wouldn't trade it for the world, but we're tired. Often, friends of people in ministry seek to spend time with them because they hope they'll have some kind of deep insight to offer about their life. Some wisdom and help.
But when we're returning from a season of being knee-deep in this stuff, we've just come out of battle. We may have some PTSD. I'm not saying this flippantly. I mean it in all seriousness. We need permission to be a mess as we heal. We need to know it's okay not to be this wise, put-together spiritual guru with deep insight for your lives.
Ways you can be a good friend:
There's some themes here among all the weeks:
1. Protect us. The best way to be a friend is to stand up and protect us from people who may be draining and not quite understanding. Be our advocate.
2. Remind us from time to time that it's okay to need some time of healing. Remind us to be human and not to act as if we're not.
3. Help us plan some fun, refreshing things. Movie nights. Drives. Beaches.
This will help us breath and restore.
Stay tuned for more next week.....