10. You’ll get to try new things, like typhoid fever and amoebas.
No worries. Even if you’re the most vaccinated person you know, you just might get sick. On the bright side, most of the time your illnesses will sound cool. And cool illnesses make people pray more.
But note: ulcers are not cool. If you get an ulcer, don’t tell anyone. Ulcers are too American.
Oh, and make sure your kids know how great all these new things are too. I was hanging out at an international high school once and overheard a kid say something about a student who was absent. He nonchalantly said, “Oh, he’s not here; he has an amoeba.” I wanted to grab the kid by the collar and say, “You know that’s not a normal sentence, right?”
9. Your kids will have friends from countries you didn’t know existed.
And they’ll speak like them too. Our little girl loves the story of the “Ten Leopards.” You know, the one where Jesus healed ten leopards, but only one came back to say “thank you”? Thank you, you wonderful world of missions, for giving our children such a linguistic advantage and wide worldview. A worldview in which Jesus cares so much about jungle animals, he sometimes heals ten at a time.
8. Your driving skills will “improve.”
Lights on for safety, or lights off to keep the evil spirits from seeing you? Even at night? Or lights on during the day because you really were wanting to impersonate a VIP and get pulled over by the police?
I mean, who knew driving 20mph (or 32kph for those of you who don’t know how to measure stuff correctly) could be so exhilarating. And when the door falls off of your ancient Toyota, just hold on to it and keep moving. And sometimes, cars on the mission field actually get younger, with fewer miles on them than when they were imported. What a cool perk.
7. You’ll learn to be grateful for the little things, like cheese and toilet paper.
Despite YouTube tutorials aplenty, how exactly billions of people lived (and still live) without toilet paper remains a mystery. Be grateful, people.
Older missionaries in my part of the world remember when cheese came to town. Cheese and stop lights apparently arrived at the same time. So if you’re in a part of the world without cheese, extra points for you. And may I recommend you start praying for a stop light?
(I was going to include bacon in this section, but then I remembered we were talking about “the little things.”)
6. Your bargaining skills will improve…with the police.
This becomes necessary if #4 doesn’t work. Life’s simpler here, really. The police don’t want to write you a ticket, and you don’t really want to pay a ticket. And everyone knows you didn’t really violate a law anyway. Some officers are harder than others, requiring rare delicacies from the West. One time, a pot-bellied officer demanded beer money. I offered Twizzlers. He pondered for a second and counter-offered with four fingers. I complied and drove off. In my rearview mirror I saw him and three buddies chowing down. Apparently, Twizzlers make mouths (and cops) happy.
5. Your children will learn how to whine in multiple languages.
The ability to whine, out loud, in front of other people, without them knowing, is the gift of a lifetime. Just be sure to teach your kids to do a quick perimeter check for possible same-language listeners within earshot.
A hotel worker didn’t do a proper perimeter check once, and I clearly heard him complaining about some rude tourists, “Sure, why don’t they just go sunbathe by the pool. I hope a massive rock falls off the building and smashes their heads.” Oops. I made a mental note to self: speak extra nice to that employee.
Your new language will also allow your family to share bodily function jokes all throughout furlough. Very bonding, really. And if your kids aren’t learning the local language, may I at least suggest your family learns the words and/or euphemisms for passing gas. Especially if you have boys. Their childhood will be grossly enhanced.
4. You’ll always be able to use the excuse, “I’m not from around here.”
When you need to explain why your family wears clothes, or why you don’t really care much for fried spiders or bony duck embryos, simply state “I’m not from around here.”
Really though, this one’s most useful during furlough. Can’t figure out the ATM? or the drive through? or Wal-Mart? Just smile, mumble something in another language about massive rocks smashing things, and say “I’m not from around here.” But don’t forget your perimeter check.
3. Fashion rules will no longer apply.
You ever seen a missionary? Yeah.
2. You’ll get to report to hundreds of people, every month, details about your work, your family, and how you spend your money.
Who needs Dave Ramsey when you have the entire deacon board of multiple churches analyzing your finances? It’s accountability on huge quantities of steroids.
They may ask why you need so much, or why you have to pay for your kids’ education, or why you save for retirement, but at the end of the day, they are paying you to do this thing we call missions. It’s an honor to serve, even when the reports are due, the power’s out, it’s hot season, the spreadsheet’s rebelling, and you can’t figure out how to get that docx into a pdf into an html into a mobile-friendly, print-friendly, e-mail-friendly format. But hey, at least you don’t have to use envelopes.
1. You’ll get to experience the raw joy of crossing language barriers, cultural barriers, time zones and comfort zones, simply to invite someone to follow Jesus.
Maybe you preach the gospel straight up, street-corner style. Maybe you serve the sickest and the poorest, touching the folks no one else wants to touch. Maybe you teach English or a vocation, aiming to empower. Maybe you do a thousand things for economies or community health or justice. But there is one Love that draws us together and pushes us out the door. Every day.
His name is Jesus, and at the end of the day, He is worth.it.all.
An updated version of this article appeared on A Life Overseas in May 2014.
If you liked this, check out More Reasons You Should Be a Missionary.