Have We Lost Something? Missionary Wives Speak.

Do you ever wonder if we have lost something as American Christians?

Have we lost perspective? Focus? Are our eyes on the right goals?

We live in the wealthiest country in the whole world in a continual state of relative ease and comfort.

One of my favorite pictures of my friend Toni Hafler teaching children in Zambia.

Being a Christian in America doesn’t cost us anything. Not really. Sure, we might get disapproving looks from friends and family, but “looks” don’t really count as sacrifice, do they?

Not when you hear of Christians in Sudan who are being gunned down because they hold to the name of Jesus. Little girls. Walking to Sunday School. Or of North Korean Christians who are persecuted more than in any other country.

Do we care enough about the gospel to suffer? Or are we so soft that we consider sitting in an un-airconditioned building suffering?

Do we really care about Christ? Yes, I know we use His name. But what is He worth to us?

We drive to church in air conditioned cars, arrive carrying hundreds of dollars of electronics on our person, and sit in our climate controlled buildings. We get ancy when the pastor goes overtime, because, you know, we have things to do! We are busy. We come to church to “worship”, but only on our very slim timetables, thank you very much.

I am afraid that we have lost something.

I think we’ve lost our first love and turned our eyes onto something else:  ease, excess and entertainment.

We’ve been anesthetized by the luxe of our country. And I fear we don’t even know it. (click to tweet this)

I asked a few missionary wives what they thought. I wanted to see through their eyes, fearing my own vision might be blurred.

I wanted to know what they see when they re-enter the United States. I was surprised by some of their answers. (Reverse Culture Shock, they called it.)

I hope their answers will prove to be helpful to you as they were for me, and might help us all to re-examine our own spiritual state.

Sweet Toni and her happy little girl, in their cottage where they stayed for a 6 month intensive Swahili language program in Limuru, Kenya.

Question 1. What do you notice upon re-entry into the US that shocks you most? 

“How easy life is here…there seems to be a gadget/gizmo for almost anything you would even dream of needing.” Heidi Seawright, Cambodia

“Being overwhelmed by choices. Standing in the cereal aisle, frozen, and overwhelmed at how many brands there were. I finally just reached for Raisin Bran.” -anon.

“Materialism, that everyone is constantly using some form of media {iphone, computer, cell} – Joy F., Indonesia

“We saw how busy people are–even with good things (sports, music lessons, church activities)–so that time together as a family is really unusual. Our American children might be really well-rounded, but possibly at the expense of losing their hearts.

Even though people seemed busier, some people seemed less
interested in regular church services (especially Sunday PM and
Wednesday pm). Church bodies seem to be together so little for
corporate worship, prayer, and Bible study.  Dinners and activities
were still well-attended, though.”– Susan Knipe, South Africa

“Immodesty, religious freedoms lost, disrespect towards adults, a love for the latest, love of the world and it’s entertainment. A seeming indifference to sin. A poor knowledge of scripture and knowing how to apply its truths.

Ladies having to keep up with the fashions, pedicures, etc. but not having time for serving in the church. No time for Bible reading.  The constant running of kids to their next activity.

I am surprised that in a country where we know how to read and we have so much out there to help us in our spiritual walk that still few read for that purpose. In Africa my friends there would read if they knew how and if they could get their hands on a good book.

Many times Americans can sound ungrateful for what they have in life. It really stands out to me when we are fresh back from Africa. I’m not saying the places we served didn’t have these issues. What stood out to me was how quick the decline was from our furlough to furlough.”–Toni Hafler, Zambia

“Nearly everything seems to be obtained instantly. Even memory making things are pre-packaged so you don’t have to put much work into things–for 4th of July I saw packaged cookies at the Wal-mart with sugar cookies, frosting, and sprinkles all ready to be decorated.” Heidi Seawright, Cambodia

“Everyone is interacting with phones/ipads/computers/TVs all the time! Even 2 year olds on the flights yesterday were glued to their screens!”

“What surprised me on my first visit back to the States after moving to Argentina was the cleanliness, comforts and all the conveniences.

I was floored by all the stores that catered to the shopper and how everything is available 24/7. And what’s more, everyone expects that kind of service! I don’t know about other countries, but that doesn’t happen here. –Jennifer Smith, Argentina

“Apathy – not using the overabundance of resources God has given, specifically spiritual. ”  Amy Greenwood, Buenos Aires

“We noticed people’s obsession with their pets!”

“My first shock was how many people are so disconnected from everyone around them. Cell phones in everybody’s hands. Go to a restaurant, and people even sitting at the table together are on their phones instead of talking. This really shocked me.” -Althea N., Brazil

” It did amaze me at how many people I saw one furlough looking, acting, listening to and reading things that we both thought were wrong. We’d then to go back on another furlough and they are using whatever translation, listening to “christian” rock and their girls are wearing things that do not make them look different from the world. It’s not just one family, but even whole churches. It’s very discouraging.” -anon

“It really saddened me and actually bewildered me, how many [ladies] were not modest in general. I have often wondered what caused them to change in this area. I have not had the courage to ask anybody.” anon

 

These types of responses make me think: Am I living a life of ease and complaining about it? Am I apathetic? Discontent? Using what I have for God’s glory or to indulge my own flesh.

In other words, Is Jesus Christ really all I am seeking? Is He enough?

What about you? What are your thoughts?

PART TWO  Here

LINKED TO COURTNEY

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18 comments

  1. Renee Watson says:

    Hi Sarah,Thank you for your blog. I recently subscribed and not only is it inspiring me in my blog but I am learning so much from you spiritually. My husband is a missionary and he often goes into Islamic countries to support the Christians there who are suffering. Currently he is in Nigeria where the Christians are currently suffering heavily under Muslim persecution.
    Your post today has touched on something that has brought much concern to us as well. Christians are so comfortable in America and other wealthy countries like England, some of Europe and even South Africa, that they forget that as Christians God called us to suffer. Even in today’s POP Gospel they proclaim that if you are a Christian you should be wealthy and healthy but I wish they could take a look at Scripture in context for a change. Jesus suffered leaving us an example to follow in his footsteps… Jesus called us to follow him and to suffer for him.
    Phil 1:29 For to you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your thoughts. God bless you

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Renee, thank you for visiting. I will pray for you and your husband. My daughter is on a missions trip in Germany and recently reported that she witnessed to two Muslim men. I have to tell you that my heart dropped, and I wondered why she would put herself in that position!? That is how spiritual I am, and THAT is how unconcerned with souls I am. I realized after wrestling with those feelings that I really care about safety over souls. This article was timely for ME. I was moved by these dear womens’ input and am thankful for it!

  2. Very insightful, and convicting post.

  3. Some hard truths here. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I am glad it was helpful. I cried at some of the responses from missionary wives who shared that when they visited supporting churches, nobody knew them, the pastor nor his wife were no where to be seen and people didn’t really seem to care about missions. Hard to hear. Hard to believe that goes on, especially after being brought up in a small New England Church. :)

  4. Debbie Smith says:

    I have noticed and been frustrated by just about all of the same things mentioned by the missionaries in your post, and I am not a missionary on a foreign field! I have been saying for many years that there is way more acceptance of the world’s philosophies, thinking, activities, dress, music, etc in what we would consider “good” Christians than they realize. What does it mean to be “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:14,16,18) or to “come out from among them and be ye separate” (II Cor.6:17) or “to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27) or to “be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2)?? This is an area where, I believe, many Christians need to do some self-evaluation and make changes.

  5. Lindsey says:

    Mmmm! Thank you for this post. I served as a short term missionary in Africa (with a family that were team members of the Halfers…the Haflers left about 2 weeks after I arrived). But this post is near and dear to my heart. As always, it’s a good reminder because despite my awareness and detestation of the materialistic, consumer driven culture I live in, I’m still a partaker of it in some sense. I encourage anyone to read “Radical” by David Platt. It talks so much to the point you are making here. I just bought his sequel “Radical Together” and will start reading it shortly. Most of all, I just wanted to say thank you for putting words to what I’ve seen and heard with American society today. And thank you for indirectly encouraging me to think of ways that I can combat this cultural decay. I pray that God will show me what He expects of me day by day, and that I’ll have the grace to carry that out. Thanks for letting me share =)

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Yes, I have Radical and it makes some very good points. I think the problem comes when we love and expect the material goods that we have and fail to share them. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it and the things it can buy. Materialism creeps in slowly and and can take hold of us. Glad you visited!

  6. Catherine V. says:

    My husband grew up in Africa as a child of missionaries. My in-loves were missionaries in Africa for 27 years and now are missionaries in France. These answers are what I have heard from them many times and each time, it saddens my heart. Great post – thank you!!

  7. Amy says:

    Sarah, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post! =)

    As I read through your summary, many of the responses many seem superficial, like cereal choices, for example. But, when you think through the ramifications of each one there is an underlying issue the missionaries are referring to. Cereal choices are a great thing, but where it leads when we are not thankful for the God’s super abundant blessing on the United States is you forget that Americans are richer than 98% of the rest of the human population. And then, you forget that God uses the prosperity of others to be a channel of blessing and supply a need for others (2 Cor. 8:14 – “But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality.”)

    We had a American visitor recently who watched our church people travel to church an hour on a bus or a family of 4 on a motorcycle and then how they sat attentively through the hour-long preaching, and then stayed to fellowship with one another for another hour. He almost cried as he thought of them and then reflected on the apathy of many in his own church back home. Yes, the best way to get a burden for missions is to pray for laborers, give sacrificially, and go and see for yourself what God is doing in other countries!

    Yes, there is a reverse culture shock, but we are also so eternally grateful for those who have a true burden and passion for missions back in the States. For those who stay behind and “hold the ropes” for us in prayer. Without them, we would not be serving here on the foreign field today and only when we get to heaven will we know how God answered their prayers to protect, sustain, and bless the our family and His work here.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Many women mentioned that they felt unsupported and scared when they returned to “supporting” churches and nobody knew who they were. They felt as though they perhaps overestimated the prayer support they believed they had. I am sure I would be rebuked in my own heart by seeing how some people in foreign lands treasure God’s word. I fear it is so commonplace here, that I don’t treasure it as I should. Thank you for contributing!! Hugs!

  8. Kim says:

    Thanks for compiling this! I really appreciated reading all the wives had to say. So how can we overcome this apathetic, comfortable Christianity? That’s the question I’m asking myself all the time.

    On another note, here’s a great message about sharing the gospel with Muslims and others from a recent womens’ conference from The Gospel Coalition: http://thegospelcoalition.org/resources/a/abayas_and_burqas_gospel_outreach_to_muslims_and_others_who_dont_look_

  9. Tim Hatch says:

    Just returned from five years in Cambodia with family of five. I’m amazed at the overweight of so many, especially at Wall Mart at 10:00pm. I’m shocked by the grumbles and complaints I hear when minor inconveniences hamper desired outcomes, such as when electricity is off or water is cold or when it rains. The size and the upkeep of churches is beyond reason as well as the elaborate cars and fashions…. Just a few observations….

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Several women mentioned that same thing: over weight people was on the rise. I think you are right about complaining about minor inconveniences…and I may or may not be guilty as charged. Thanks for your input!

  10. Sarah, I totally agree with many of the observations that they made. We all feel we are entitled to a life of ease, to conveniences, and I think we have gotten soft.
    I think about my time in Jamaica with a missions team- I had never seen poverty like that- nor the chaos.
    We were there during the elections- the policemen wore bullet proof vests and face shields and were carrying these huge guns (not for sure what they were).
    I know I even take my own safety for granted here. And so many other things.
    Thank you for this reminder- I pray that God will wake us up and revival with sweep through our nation.

  11. I’m not sure I’m allowed to comment, since I’m not a missionary, but I am a pastor’s wife.

    I think that because I’ve only been to visit the mission field and never lived there that my views are a bit different. However, more than anything, I am distressed about this on the “foreign mission field” (since you all are speaking about what you’re concerned with back here.)

    I am distressed that people send their children (teens) on ‘missions’ trips to various parts of the world/country, and appease their conscience that they are helping, yet the missionaries never have these guests once do a single thing to directly give out the gospel. I realize that building a building is useful, but without the Gospel, are we doing anything better than being “good social” creatures? Don’t secular social organizations pass out clothes, feed the poor and tend to the needy? I contend that every single solitary person who goes on a Missions’ trip should be directly involved in some way with Gospel outreach, even if it’s just setting up chairs for an outdoor church service in the outback of Africa.. not hiding away, fixing meals for the workers who are building a closet for a church for use in a year.

    We do NOT get a burden for the lost if we are not around them. I went to Moldova and fell in love with those people because I was directly involved with sharing the gospel. Yes, through the use of an interpreter, but I wasn’t passing out medications or cleaning a building, I was sharing the gospel, hearing burdens and caring directly. (Not that the other things aren’t important or needed, either.)

    I don’t think that we give our American teens ENOUGH direct connection with the unsaved when we send them off on missions’ trips and they never need to dig out a Bible to share the Gospel with anyone, even through the use of an interpreter. I think we’re doing a disservice to call it missions. I think we could call it social work if Christ is left out. (EVEN if it’s for a Christian missionary.)

    After all, going to a church and raking up leaves is good, but honestly (we could far more cheaply) give our plane fare to the host missionary, and he or she could hire a local for less and get more “social or yard work” done with the same money. If we’re not going to directly get our American people to touch the lives of the unreached on your soil, I believe, we’re really losing out.

    My husband pastors a tiny church, and I am NOT in any way slamming our missionaries. Ours are doing a great job. I just hope and pray that as each of you reads this, that you will, whenever you find a guest in your home or a work team comes to your place of ministry, that you will find a way to get them DIRECTLY in contact with people, where they can talk, share, laugh and learn about the people.

    My sister, a missionary, in Poland, set up an “English speakers’ fellowship” for us when we came. It was great fun. I felt right at home and the nationals loved to practice their English. I was reminded to speak more slowly.. .but it went well. I could have gone and worked on their basement or their church building and never even connected with their people, and yes, it would have been a HUGE help to them, to help them continue the work, but it surely wouldn’t have given me the burden that I do have now.

    I realize that this doesn’t have a thing to do with your culture and your problems that you’re addressing that you see in our churches, but since no one has given me a spot where I can share, I thought I’d post it here.

    Time after I time, I hear about teens going on missions’ trips and I ask what they did, and they are doing STRICTLY social work. It bothers me immensely.

    Get them to give out the gospel, via tract, via Bible Club, via support while you “do visitation”.. something, just to involve guests with the people.

    Please? I’ve grown a bit disillusioned with supporting too many more children or teens to go on missions’ trips, because they seem more like fun trips to go sight seeing, rather than developing a burden for the lost.

    And yes, they might be support staff, but can’t even support staff give out the gospel? I say ‘yes’ and you, as their hosts, might have to be the ones to push them to do it. At least provide them with the opportunity.

    –Rachael Woodard,
    pastor’s wife in Florida.

  12. Thank you for sharing this! I can completely relate to the “reverse culture shock” these missionaries talk about. What makes it worse, is I’ve readjusted since being overseas! I’m not any better than the average American consumer or the unenthusiastic Christian. But I want to be. I want to consume less and give more, and follow Christ more actively in my everyday. Thank you for this reminder to do so.