Missionary Diary: What is a missionary?

Bridget is a missionary with SIM, serving in South Africa, her home country. She studied at SMBC (2010-2012) in Sydney, Australia, before returning home. She serves as a women’s worker at Holy Trinity, Gardens, Cape Town. 

What is a missionary? I recently read a biography on Elizabeth Elliot, Becoming Elizabeth Elliot and was encouraged to see that she asked this question in the middle of her time serving in the jungles of Ecuador in the 1960s. She was a linguist and spent her time trying to decipher the Waodani language (feeling like she was getting nowhere), delivering babies, homeschooling her daughter Val and trying to manage a difficult relationship with another missionary on the field. I highly recommend this book, which gives such a down-to-earth account of this very famous missionary’s life.

I, too, have thought about this question, particularly over the holiday season. Sometimes on holidays, I find myself more ‘on duty’, wishing like the early missionaries in India that I could retreat to the mountains in the hotter months. But did those missionaries actually get proper time off in the mountains or were they also confronted with yet more work (either by themselves or as they worked through relationship issues with each other)?

In the holidays or at Christmas you may spend more time with unbelieving family and friends and find yourself more at work on holidays than you were in the term. The enemy also takes the opportunity to sow discord and strife, and you can find yourself forgetting about Ephesians 6 (which reminds us to “put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”). Instead, we can feel disappointed and surprised that things are hard.

In term time you can … wonder “Lord, is this work?”

In term time you can be frolicking in the sea with your group of three ladies that meet to read the Bible and pray, and wonder “Lord, is this work?” On the other hand, on holiday you can meet up with fellow missionaries who are going through cancer and moving countries, you can bear each other’s burdens and feel the weight of life this side of heaven.

In the end, as our Bible college lecturer once said, “You dance to an audience of one” – the One, who wants us to find our rest in him and not in holidays or seaside retreats. The One who wants us to know that it is him who is working in people in term time and holiday time, and not us in our own strength. Perhaps there can be a golden line of rest that runs through holiday and term time and that gives balance to both, no matter what we are doing. How I pray for more trust and rest in him!

On another note, Tammy who I wrote about in Eternity in July, is one of the ladies I went swimming in the sea with. We have been reading the Book of Mark since July, and Tammy has been coming to church for the past three weeks. My husband and I are starting a Bible study in our home this week, which Tammy said she would come to. It is difficult to know where she is at – on one hand, she wants to bring others to this Bible study and on the other hand, she has deep questions about forgiveness and God as a good Father. Overall, it is encouraging though. Please continue to pray.