Dear North American Director

.... this is what every missionary on the field wants to tell you (or maybe it's just me).

We. are. working. our. butts. off.

Please recognize this. Please don't pretend you understand, because you don't. Until you live here for more than a week, 2 weeks, or a month at a time, don't pretend like you know what it's like here.

When starting a conversation, start with encouragement! We likely don't live in encouraging cultures, cultures that understand our culture and give us a pat on the back. In fact, it can be pretty thankless work. We may never know if we're doing enough or how we should handle the new situation that's cropping up every day. It's hard to find the support needed because people back home don't get it and it's often just exhausting to try to explain it (this is not always the case, and good listeners are miracles in our lives).
Start off by praising something.... anything!

Please try to remember that likely in the culture we live in, things move extremely slowly and inefficiently. Every day can be exhausting here, filled with unexpected events, tragedies, traumas, tears and laughs in the same day, and a lot of things we can't quite explain, but truly take up time-- like cleaning the house without modern amenities, cooking every single meal from scratch, driving an hour to the grocery store, spending 3x as much on groceries, and getting stuck in a horrible traffic jam on the way back while the groceries go bad in the back seat. Sounds simple and no we're not saying it's harder than your life in the 1st world, but it is different, and different in itself is pretty stinking hard day in and day out.

Please try to have our back. If you have our back, vouch for us, protect us, support us, we will fly to the moon and back for you.

Be a safe person. If you are safe, non-judgemental, and do your best to try to understand my life here, I will be honest with you. When we can be honest and share our shame, fears, trials, successes, and heartache, this relationship will go so much better and be much more successful.

Please don't pretend like you've got this whole thing figured out. I've seen stateside directors that either have missionaries on the field for the first time or have had so many missionaries on the field that they've completely lost touch with what it's actually like. I've seen directors that haven't managed to keep their missionaries on the field for more than 6 months without them fleeing the scene because of the level of crazy. It's different every time. Each family is different, each situation is different. Take the time to learn with us. We're learning. Ask questions. Listen whole-heartedly. Seek compromise.

Please respect boundaries. Maybe you like to work ALL. THE. TIME. and think it's great to have a Skype call at 9:00pm but that's not normal. You see, I've got to find some sort of normal here. I've got to figure out self-care here. Maybe you have a great balance and self-care routine or maybe you don't, but we've likely lived through burnout/compassion fatigue and we don't want to go back. Self-care is about a million times harder because most of our normal coping mechanisms are not available here, so we're trying to figure it out and it's hard. Please set a good example for us by respecting boundaries, encouraging self-care, supporting our families, and being our cheerleaders.

Lastly, we need you. We really do need you. We want you to be involved. We want you to understand. We want you to have our back. We want you to advocate for the cause. We want you to see all the miracles we get to see in this culture and the way God moves here. We want to thank you for raising funds and awareness and for doing everything you do stateside that we can't see.

Let's try to open our eyes and hearts and really see each other... because we have so much to learn from one another.

The end.


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