What comes to your mind when you hear the word "missionary?" Perhaps things you can't relate to, but many of those perceptions aren't true, or at least not fully true, writes an author from International Mission Board, listing and describing five such false notions.
About two decades ago, Samantha Conners, who serves in Europe with her family, pictured a missionary as "a modern-day John the Baptist," she writes on the IMB's website. But today, she herself is a missionary, and "when I compare myself to the stereotypical missionary I pictured when I was a kid, I don't come close to filling the part — thankfully, honestly."
Here are the five misconceptions she says people have about missionaries.
1. Missionaries are all the same, and I'm not like them
The truth, however, as she realized, is that missionaries are a diverse crowd. "Some are older, some were football stars in high school, and some are hipsters. They are as diverse as the countries to which God sends them." And "God loves diversity," she adds.
2. Missionaries have to homeschool their children
Conners shares that her children attend a public school. "Some missionary kids attend international schools, others have teachers come to their homes, and some moms teach their children in their homes. Every family is different." However, one thing that is true is this, she adds: "The missionary kid that I grew up stereotyping does not necessarily reflect reality. No matter how they are schooled, many missionary kids' life experiences and the things they've seen God do have molded them into culturally-relevant, well-grounded, faith-confident people."
3. Missionaries mourn the life they had back home in the U.S.
Contrary to this notion, most missionaries love their lives in both the U.S. and the country they are serving in, be it Europe or anywhere else, the author says. "Although it may be incredibly difficult, by the power of the Spirit, it's also a joy to be where God wants you. God graciously changes your heart so that you love what He loves and want what He wants."
4. Missionaries all live in huts
There are places in the world where people live in huts and on mountains but there are also big cities, and God wants the whole world to know Him, she says. "Unfortunately, some people treat missionaries like they shouldn't have any comforts at all. In fact, one missionary friend of mine received a Facebook message that scolded her for posting pictures of her family enjoying time together. What?! Missionaries should have fun too," she writes.
5. Missionaries are spiritual heroes
The truth is, missionaries are "normal Christians," she writes. "They struggle, they forget to spend daily time with God, they get irritated, and they aren't always nice. Missionaries are just like you."
She concludes, "Let's ignore the lies we've believed about missionaries and start believing that God can use us all to accomplish His purposes."