Last week, my fellow missionary friend, David, and I were sitting outside discussing my recent trip to the states. I shared the joys of visiting family and friends, but I also shared the difficulties that were involved. He took his turn and did the same about the times when they visit the states. It's always rewarding, but it's not necessarily a break one would expect when visiting “home home”. We often come back more tired than before we left, and we're not always encouraged to come back “home”. (SIDE NOTE: We missionaries no longer really refer to our home country as being home. When we move out of the country we literally change where we call home. For our heart's sake, it's a must.) We also know our visits are often unfair to those we visit, and hard at times for so many others involved. So please, accept our letters below.
I am sorry that "keeping in touch" has resorted to Facebook reactions and Christmas cards. I'm sorry I can't just pick up the phone and ask how your day went. I can't even keep up with current events, and though the internet has helped, my television is in Spanish so by the time I am able to sit down and watch it, my brain no longer wants to interpret. I'm also sorry that our kids won't have the opportunity to grow up together and to do everything like we did, side-by-side.
I am sorry that it seems like the only time I call you is to ask for money. Your friendship means more than that to me. I'm sorry that we really only know each other from our once-a-year coffee shop meetups. And, I'm sorry that when we do have plans to sit down, I'm often running late from a previous meeting, and I look like a zombie that just ran a marathon. Support raising can be tiring.
Dear Anyone Whose Asked Me What I Do,
I'm sorry my response to your very polite question included a PowerPoint presentation and handouts.
I am so sorry that I eat all of the food in your house, and that even asking me to pitch in for groceries makes you feel like a bad person. I'm sorry that I spend more time outside of the house in meetings than I do in it with you. I wish my schedule didn't have to be full when I'm at “home home” visiting you. I truly love you and I desire to spend that quality time with you. I am sorry I'm so far away when you need a shoulder to cry on, or somebody to laugh with. It hurts my heart as much as it hurts yours.
Dear Instagram Followers,
I'm sorry, but...my photos aren't telling the whole truth. Life here can be much more difficult than I've lead you to believe, but those kinds of photos don't always get the most likes, so I stopped posting them.
Dear Mom & Dad,
I am sorry that you only get to see your grandkids once a year and that you've had to sing them Happy Birthday and wish them Merry Christmas through a computer screen. I am sorry they look different every time you see them because time doesn't stand still when they are away from you. I want for them to go fishing with you and I want you to teach them to cook. I am sorry my kids don't always run to you with open arms that first time they see you after a long stretch. I promise I talk about you to them regularly.
I'm sorry you have to repeat yourself so often during our conversations. I'm trying to keep up the best I can. I am sorry that sometimes I take pictures of you without asking. I think you really are beautiful and I want the world to see. I'm sorry for assuming at first that my way was the right way. Thank you for your grace and patience. And on top of that, I am sorry that I can't always give you what you need. The fine line between helping or hurting is something I struggle with daily.
I am sorry you don't get to grow up with a front or backyard. I know how precious grass is. I am sorry that your favorite cartoon shows aren't always available. I am sorry that sometimes it may look like I care more about them than I care about you. You will always be first in my heart. I am sorry that you often don't know which language to speak, and that sometimes it may be too much for your little brain to handle. I am sorry that you are awoken at all hours of the night by loud fireworks or barking dogs. And, I'm sorry that despite where we go, you don't feel like you belong and that you hate the question "Where are you from?"
Dear Missionary Self,
I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry you gave up your new pickup and potential job promotion. I'm not sorry you had to leave the comforts of the back pew for the ever uncomfortable role of full-time ministry. I'm not sorry the lines of work, family and recreation are always blurred, or that you had to miss the last big football game for a ministry activity. I'm not sorry that on the hard days you wonder why you ever left. I'm not sorry because you're obeying the will and commandment of God, and there's nothing to be sorry about when you're abiding in his will.
Dear everyone listed above,
A Missionary (or two)