02 March 2012

How I didn't help

My heart is heavy. It's heavy, and I'm not sure how to explain it well...so if I fail, please give me grace. Be aware that this is not a guilt trip. And if you're one of the missionaries or former missionaries referred to in this post, let me say this up front: I love you and I respect your decision. I know it wasn't an easy one to make. This isn't meant as a critique or a criticism.

But I am noticing a trend that I need to share. I ran into a friend in the grocery store last week, and the sadness in her voice almost brought me to tears. "Everyone's leaving," she said. "We went on furlough, and we came back to find so many friends leaving the field." The names she listed off surprised me; it was more than I'd realized.

Of the four other couples we went through MAF candidacy with, two are still serving overseas. Another couple we're friends with from our Moody days went to Africa with MAF. They moved overseas after we did; now they've left again. In January, one of the families we serve with here in Haiti announced that they wouldn't be coming back after their furlough. And last night, I read that another couple who's still raising their support will be leaving MAF in March...they never even got to take the big airplane ride.

The epidemic isn't limited to MAF. Friends we knew at Moody are still trying to get the experience and acceptance with a mission organization needed to go overseas...and we graduated five years ago. Haiti missionaries I've come to know and love here with many organizations are dropping like flies. Elsewhere in the world, we knew a gal with Frontiers who never made it out of language school. Another one had to leave the field to raise funds again after less than a year because her financial support was so low.

I know what you're probably thinking, but it's no fault of their own, in my opinion. I know each of these people well enough to say that they didn't enter into their commitments lightly. It's not as if they weren't dedicated to the task. They have a heart for the countries they served. They love God. I never would have guessed that they'd leave the field so soon--they weren't the type.

I know many organizations experience high turnover. I know that. And I know that in some cases, God is leading them to a new adventure, and I'm glad for that. But I can't help but feel that there's something else happening here.

Many missionary wives I know have serious health problems. They're experiencing depression. Their marriages need improvement. They're frustrated by the corruption of government officials or frustrated with their coworkers. They're concerned about money. Their children are sick or not adjusting well. They miss their families. They can't find a niche. They feel incompetent. They're tired of the political insecurity, the death threats, the "fishbowl-like" living situation. But they're still here.

Faced with the same odds, the same problems, why do some leave and some stay? Are they truly led by God away from the field, or are we failing them somehow? Without fail, I encouraged them. I wrote to them. I counseled them. But they still left.

Here's the question that keeps coming back to me: "Did I fail to pray for them?"

And as brokenhearted as I am to admit it, the answer is yes. Samuel actually goes so far as to call it sin, and at this moment, I am positive he is right. I prayed for them occasionally...but only when they asked. Only when a problem had already come up. Only when they sent an email to remind me. Only when their blog post started with "I'm frustrated" or "I'm not sure I can do this..."

I have long been convicted that one of the only reasons that we are still here is because you pray for us. I have no doubt about that, and yet, I haven't done the same thing for others. I didn't help.

So in that conviction, I'd like to start helping. Today, I made a list of the missionaries that I will pray for. It is long. I may not get to each one every day...but I will get to them, on a regular basis, before they ask. And I'll tell you how God's encouraging me to pray. As needs arise here, for myself or other missionaries, I will tell you about them in a series called "Without Ceasing," so we can lift them up together.

Thanks for being the ones who "hold the rope" for us...please pray that I'd have the courage and the self-control to do the same.


  1. Thanks for sharing, Christine. I'm right there with you!

  2. steve and barb tessitoreFri Mar 02, 06:38:00 PM EST

    thanks for the insight, christine...we need to hear this, too

  3. Christine, thank you for the honesty and encouragement. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood..." My biggest challenge is that I just don't like to wrestle, period. Thankfully, there is One in heaven who ever lives to make intercession for us - and He never fails!
    You and David are doing a good work there. The Lord is doing a good work in you and through you. You both are greatly loved and appreciated by so many people here!