Many more years ago than I would like to think, I spent two years in Guatemala teaching at a school for missionary kids. (See? Here I am in Guatemala with cute little Kirsten – who, after this photo was taken, went ahead and grew up… but still cute.)
While I was there I wrote the following little essay – from which we get the name of this blog. I have reproduced it faithfully, even though there are a few lines that now embarrass me.
Confessions of a Fake Missionary
When I first signed on, I have to admit, I thought I was really going to be a missionary. I know it sounds kind of crazy, but I really had that desire. I thought that I was sincere. I didn’t know just how wrong I was.
What does it mean to be a missionary? Everybody knows the missionary requirements. I knew them myself.
- Go overseas.
- Leave your family.
- Leave your friends. (In other words, suffer on alone.)
- Leave your home. (Literally: Live in a hut.)
- No telephone.
- Mail comes every couple of months when the plane drops supplies.
- Ride a mule.
- Prepare to be devoured by swarms of bugs.
- You will have to wear long sleeves and high necks, or typical clothing in unbearably hot weather.
- Expect no diversions.
- Communication will be a barrier.
- Take lots of slide film.
*Note: Single, female missionaries earn more jewels than any other kind. Especially if they are ugly.
It seems simple enough. A truly dedicated missionary should have no problem dealing with these few simple, guidelines. To obey may be better than sacrifice, but to obey AND sacrifice is to be truly holy.
With this inspiring image before me, I set forth with a firm desire to suffer in the ends of the earth. Can I be blamed that God is gracious and merciful? How was I to foresee that my plans for martyrdom were inconsequential in His greater plan for my life?
So begins my tale of woe. A tale of one woman’s descent from potential missionary heroine, to a missionary fraud.
The first condition, of course, is to go oversees. And there, ironically enough, I encountered my first failure. It all seems so ridiculous now. I don’t know why I didn’t see it at the time. I believed that a Latin American country would count. They speak a different language, the people struggle with poverty and unjust governments – it seemed the right thing. I overlooked the key word: American. It wasn’t overseas at all! On the contrary, it is nothing more than a little jump south of my home in California. I might as well have gone to San Diego.
The next three requirements I thought I had under control. I left my mother crying at the airport in Los Angeles. And, forsaking all others, I flew all night to arrive in Guatemala City at 5:30 AM. I was alone. My living situation was unknown. Yet, not only was I met by friends at the airport, I soon made new friends. To top it all off, two months later my sister and her family returned to Guatemala to live within miles of me, and I have since been visited by every other member of my family. The house I moved into was not only furnished, but had a phone (requirement #5) and hot water.
The mail comes three times a week, and I have a car. Though at first there were savage gnats whose bites left sores that remained for two weeks, they have disappeared with the season. At times it seems we are overrun by cockroaches, but my niece takes pleasure in stomping on them. The weather is strangely akin to that of Southern California, and no one expects me to wear long sleeves (Though when I go into the country I am expected to where a skirt, and little make-up or jewelry.).
Often times I catch myself having fun.
One consolation: The language does remain something of a barrier, though even there I am making strides. Yet, bitterly enough, my teaching is done in English (which continues to be my first language). And while I remain single, I am certain that I am not quite ugly enough to make up for all these other shortcomings.
I have taken no slides.
How much more obvious can it be that I am not really a missionary at all? We can only continue to hope that God will be able to use me in spite of myself. Is anything impossible with God?