Q How long have you been serving as a missionary?
Three years in the Philippines, four in Nigeria and about 18 years in Cameroon. I’ve served with NAB throughout my life although I’ve been asked by many other missions to join them.
Q What surprised you the most once you began your work? What did you wish you knew beforehand?
It surprised me how some missionaries seem to actually avoid the national people and bury themselves in paper work and other missionaries. I wish I had known (and put the effort into) the importance of learning a bit of the local language.
Q What initial fears/concerns did you have about serving as a missionary overseas?
I thought I might be lonely and a failure (a disappointment to God) but God has always provided what I needed (especially friends) and even in our failures, God never stops loving us, cheering for us and encouraging us to try again.
Q What has been the most challenging aspect to your work?
Prioritizing my time! The urgent seems so…well, urgent. There’s always someone with a need at the door (maybe they’re a God-given interruption or are they a Satan-distraction?) or the rain is coming or the deadline is approaching. It’s hard to know what God’s priorities are and what are other people’s priorities (or mine). Finding time with God is a constant struggle.
Q What are some of the ways you have been affirmed in following God’s leading?
Oh my. I keep asking God if I should change direction and He keeps closing doors. I’ve had so many exciting possibilities come my way, but they are always for a season and then the door closes. It’s weird, but true.
Q What is something that would surprise others about mission work or the people you are called to serve?
People in Cameroon are just people. They are busy, have enough friends and have things to do. They don’t need you. They think all white people are rich (after all they have connections), don’t do manual labor and have few troubles. Because this is a communal society where people help each other (well, that’s the theory), if they become your friend you will help them. To become your friend, they will try to please you and tell you what you want to hear (and leave out the part that might be disturbing). Peace and brotherhood is a much higher value than truth and fact among Christians and non-Christians alike. You think you are communicating because you’re speaking English, but you mean different things. My value of truth and fact (often spoken without love) has caused an equal amount of trouble and damaged relationships. Communication is harder than it looks and requires a great deal of grace, understanding and forgiveness.
Q What advice would you give to those considering overseas missions?
- Make sure that your relationship with God is between you and Him, not you and the worship time at church, you and your small group, you and your Christian radio station, you and your Ipod, etc. Pull out the crutches and make sure it’s between you and God.
- Make a friend that is not like you – different background, different values, different customs, maybe even a different way of communicating. Don’t patronize them or make them into a “project”. Become a friend.
Q How can people pray for you?
- My job involves travel which in every third world country is dangerous and living in different places make you vulnerable to illnesses in the area. I’m serious when I ask people to pray for safety and health.
- As I said earlier, I struggle with the tyranny of the urgent. I would value prayer that my walk with God be a priority.
- My job means that I often see people in a vulnerable place. Pray for wisdom, discernment and discretion. May I be an encouragement.