5 Things Missionaries Wish You Knew

April 28, 2023 Erin Mackenzie

Pssssst. C’mere.


I’m gonna let you in on a not-so-secret secret.

Five, actually: five things missionaries wish you knew.

The dozen or so other Dominican Republic (DR)-based LCMS missionaries are the family I share inside jokes, holidays, and basically everything but DNA with. Together with teammates throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and counterparts in Africa, Asia, and Eurasia, we have a shared understanding of this beautiful, messy, colorful, frustrating, exciting, challenging overseas life. Even cross-denominationally, missionaries get one another. Talk to any of us, and you’ll likely hear some rendition of the following:

  1. We’re human.

Not superheroes. No, you couldn’t do what I do—and I couldn’t do what you do—because God designed His Church that way (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). Even a job I was seemingly created for, though, comes with new levels of exhaustion, say, traveling for twenty-seven straight hours or going to the store when it’s so hot your thighs stick to your [fabric] car seats. Rest—adaptations of pastimes I’ve long enjoyed, vacation, and fellowship with fellow missionaries—fills me, like you, with stamina to pour into others.

  1. We’re not all pastors.

Don’t hear me saying LAC could fulfill its core competencies—spreading the Gospel, planting Lutheran churches, and showing mercy—without pastors. All church plants demand called and ordained servants of Christ—and many deaconesses, DCEs, and teachers. But those front-line servants necessitate a behind-the-scenes ops team of mobilized laity. A missionary businessperson to wrangle a multi-million-dollar budget. A missionary photojournalist to document the mundane and the magnificent. A missionary volunteer coordinator (hi, it’s me!) to sustainably engage the sending church in God’s mission internationally. A missionary nurse to advocate for the holistic health of a far-flung, cross-cultural team. A missionary . . .

  1. We have no such thing as a normal day.

So don’t ask. My schedule variably sees me taking a short-term mission team to the airport at 3:00 a.m., climbing a bookshelf “tree” while dressed as Zacchaeus, and in more meetings than the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. My “office” can be anything from an empty classroom at Concordia the Reformer Seminary to Gate D29 at MIA (perk: across from the empanada place) to the parking lot of the public beach ninety minutes from my house. To avoid a cop-out answer, ask this instead: What did you do yesterday? Does your work follow a cyclical pattern over time?

  1. We’re guests here too.

I don’t know what kind of tree that is, what the name of that dry cleaner means, or what the president’s dog’s name is (does he have a dog?). I’m a perpetual learner everywhere I go. Culture is an iceberg with depths that remain veiled to me as a rubia, so I seize every opportunity to uphold my oh-so-gracious hosts as subject matter experts and learn from them. Meanwhile, I’m an open book with what I do know about life and Lutheranism across two continents.

  1. We don’t serve in a vacuum.

I’m a cog in the DR wheel. The DR is one of twenty-plus countries in the LAC region. LAC is one of four regions around the world. It’s a big machine, but one that’s had a strategic path forward since our predecessors first sailed for India in 1894. Even knowing we won’t see the outcomes of the tactics in play at present, we heed the Lord’s call: “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7). After all, it’s what we’re sent to do. LCMS missionaries are sent by . . . the LCMS Corporate Synod . . . and you. Yes, you. And we need you! You live out your role in the Body of Christ and enable us to do likewise when you pray for us, financially support us, advocate for us, give us an audience within your local congregation, and invite us into your homes and lives.

Got all that? It’s not really a secret because it’s the opposite: an exposé. Spill the beans (habichuelas here, not frijoles) if you wish; you’re helping peel back the curtain on a church work vocation that God may be calling you or someone you know to, and we’d love nothing more than to welcome you into the club. And in LAC at least, we have T-shirts.

Scripture: ESV®.

Support missionaries by sending books and other Christ-centered resources as they spread the Gospel around the globe with Concordia Gospel Outreach.

Donate Today


Previous Article
An Invitation to Pray The Lord's Prayer: National Day of Prayer
An Invitation to Pray The Lord's Prayer: National Day of Prayer

Prayer. This gift from God is a beautiful and blissful reminder that He wants to have a conversatio...

Next Article
Fruit of the Spirit: Joy Overflows
Fruit of the Spirit: Joy Overflows

The organ notes sounded like dancing. I already knew that the guest organist for the noon Lenten s...