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You Know You’re a Missionary When… (33 ways to know!)

I’m wrote this list for two reasons.

I wrote it for you who are fellow missionaries. There’s something cathartic and encouraging knowing that you’re not the only one with these experiences and feelings.

I wrote it for you, my friends who are not missionaries but you know missionaries, so that you could hopefully have a better understanding of what the life of a missionary is like.

Some of these are unique to our context in Eastern Europe but many of them are much broader than that or they have a parallel in other countries and cultures.

You know you’re a missionary when…

  1. You measure your life in furloughs.
  2. Your kids favorite food includes beets and pickled fish.
  3. You say… “What’s the word for that in English?”
  4. You try to post everything in two languages on Facebook.
  5. You’ve woken up and wondered what country you’re in.
  6. On road trips your kids don’t ask “Are we there yet?” but rather, “What country are we in now?”
  7. You automatically think, “How much would that be in dollars?” before every purchase.
  8. Your kids remember what the play areas are like in different airports.
  9. You get asked, “Is life better in the USA?” regularly.
  10. It’s hard to remember a time when you haven’t had “visa issues”.
  11. You’ve discussed evacuation plans in case of war.
  12. You’ve discussed what to do in a hostage situation.
  13. The question, “Where are you from?” has several answers.
  14. You’ve had to add extra pages to your passport.
  15. Your on first name basis with at least one immigration officer.
  16. Your younger kids are sure Grandma and Grandpa live somewhere inside your computer.
  17. You sometimes root for the team that’s playing against the US team.
  18. Your favorite sport doesn’t exist in the US.
  19. You if you hear a foreign language spoken while you’re in the US you go out of your way to introduce yourself.
  20. You’ve been called in as an expert on something you know little to nothing about just because you’re “American”.
  21. You can’t think of the last time you drove on a road not littered with potholes.
  22. While you’re in the States you ask for a medium anything and they give you an extra-large.
  23. You can’t understand why people in the States don’t dress weather appropriate.
  24. You’ve been to more international potlucks than you care to remember.
  25. Men walking around with machine-guns seem pretty normal to you.
  26. You prefer an outdoor market to Walmart or Costco.
  27. You hate leaving just as much as you love going.
  28. It’s normal to take part in at least 3 worship services every Sunday.
  29. You have to pause to swallow the lump in your throat as you explain to people back home the needs of those you serve.
  30. You wish furloughs lasted a few days instead of a few months so you could get back to your home and ministry sooner.
  31. You feel like you’ve never done enough.
  32. Your greatest joys and deepest pains are wrapped up in the lives of people your friends and family back home will probably never know.
  33. You can’t ever really explain to others the burden and passion God has given you for those you serve.

If you’re a missionary I’d love to hear what you could add to this list!

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Very insightful. I can’t imagine the “normal” of you and your families lives. Thank you for serving God. Praying for you all.

    • I’m not sure there is a “normal” every day is simply another opportunity to serve God!