Questions you always wanted to ask a missionary
Just what do we do as missionaries?
Some of you know us well, some of you don’t. Some of you have never even met us, and yet you support us as missionaries, the work we do and are a part of something bigger than either of us. For that, we are extremely grateful.
While I try and do a good job communicating what we do as missionaries in Guatemala, I have found that sometimes I fail to clearly articulate the work we do or how it has grown and evolved over the 16 years that we have served here.
I thought it would be wise to take time to do a Q&A about our work, ministry, life, and family.
Since the day we set foot in Guatemala in 2002, it was clear in our hearts and minds that our calling was to serve the orphaned, vulnerable and disabled, to love the least of these, to life up the down trodden, to disciple and develop people in their life and walk as followers of Jesus, and to share the good news of salvation through Christ our savior.
While the particular programs we have been involved in have looked different from time to time, the heart of our calling has stayed the same.
The longer we have served here, the more we have learned and, hopefully, the better understanding we have of what we do. We want to serve but serve well. Good intentions are not enough, we strive for excellence in what we do and continuously evaluate not just what we are doing, but how we are doing it.
Where we serve:
For the first few years in Guatemala, we working inside and alongside orphanages teaching, training, discipling and developing broken children and helping them equip them for a brighter future.
We have never had, an orphanage or run an orphanage, but have partnered with existing organizations to help them better serve the kids who lived there.
Some time ago we began to realize that the overwhelming majority of children in orphanages were not orphans, but had been placed there for their protection because of abuse, negligence, and mistreatment.
This led us to evaluate the work we were doing and the programs we were running to see if there was a better way to serve them.
This led us to start working in the communities where these children come from, with the hope and belief that if we could serve these children at home, we could see more of them staying with their families and thriving in their neighborhoods instead of being placed in institutions.
A fence at the top of the hill vs. an orphanage at the bottom so to speak.
Cadanino Community Centers
Our journey to serve well started as simple Bible classes for students at a school in one of the infamous “Red Zones” of Guatemala and grew into a community center that provides afterschool programs to vulnerable kids and their families.
Students come in for three hours a day three times a week for an hour of Bible classes, an hour of computer classes and an hour of educational reinforcement. Through Bible studies and meetings with the parents, we are working towards bringing lasting change to the hearts and lives of those we serve.
How are you supported?
Through donations from people like you. We have a few churches that send a monthly gift, some donors who give monthly and many people who support us when they can. Our support varies widely from month to month, but somehow, God always manages to bring in what we need to do the work he has called us to do.
Would we like to have a more regular source of income? Absolutely, but not having it has not kept us from doing the task God has put in front of us.
Do you have a home church?
Yes, and no. because of the unique way that we came to Guatemala, a three month mission trip that turned into a lifetime of service and the fact that we had moved from another state shortly before coming to Guatemala and hadn’t connected with a church before doing so, we found ourselves “churchless”.
Several years into our stay in Guatemala we found Casa de Libertad, a local church that has been key in providing the spiritual support, community and covering that we needed to stay here for so many years.
While we do have several churches who support us, who we dearly love and for whom we are incredibly grateful, when I think about “my home church”, it is the place that we’ve been a part of for the past 10 years, where we attend service every week and where my daughters have been baptized.
Perhaps not having a “home church” made it easier for us to fully integrate into a local church as part of the bride of Christ not as missionaries from another country or church, but as fellow believers.
Do you want your kids to be missionaries?
It seems like there is a certain expectation that children of pastors or missionaries are automatically expected to be pastors and missionaries as well.
Perhaps overall in society, we find higher probability in general of children following in their parents' footsteps, children of doctors, lawyers and carpenters becoming doctors, lawyers and carpenters simply because that is what they are exposed to and children often look up to their parents.
But it seems that with children of missionaries, the expectations are even higher. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been asked: “do you want your children to become missionaries as well?”
It’s something that we have given a lot of thought to, and at the end of the day, I’m not terribly concerned if my children become missionaries or not.
Here is what I do want for my kids, and I tell them this all the time.
I want them to believe and embrace the values and faith that I have, not because they are my kids, but because as a father whose responsibility it is to teach, train and prepare my children for life, I believe I have found a worldview based on my faith in the Bible, the acceptance of Jesus as my personal savior and an understanding the price that he paid that I might be saved that makes what he has to say worth reading, understanding and living.
I want them to develop the gifts, talents, abilities, and interests that God has given them to their greatest potential and use them in a way that glorifies God. If they want to be an engineer, be the best engineer you can be, if they're going to be a carpenter, then do that with all their might, if they are a stay at home mother to the children that God chooses to bless them with, then do the best job raising those kids.
But in all those things, I want them to live a life of service and love towards others, to be known as a Christian by their words and deeds.
All believers have a calling to share the Gospel with people, and if my children feel that calling is leading them towards fulltime mission work, then praise God, I will be thrilled, but just as excited as if they discover their calling in another line of work, yet live a missional life.
What has been the hardest thing for you as missionaries?
There have been many difficulties and challenges that we have faced over the years in choosing to come to Guatemala and serve as missionaries’ fulltime.
Over the past 16 years, my answer would have been different at different times. Financial hardship, separation from family, learning a new language, trying to figure out how things work, illnesses and near death experiences.
All of those were pretty tough to deal with at the moment. Yet at this point in time, I would say the hardest part of being a missionary, what really hurt to the depths of my soul, was when my oldest daughter graduated from high school and left for college in the U.S.
Yes, I know, many kids go off to college but throw a few thousand miles and a couple of countries in between and it gets harder.
Not being able to be there for her, to help her, support her and see her make her way through life, has been hard.
Realizing that our job here is not done yet and that we will go through this five more times, has been even harder. Knowing that we are called to a missionary life of service that will likely keep us serving in a foreign country, while our children go back to the U.S., attend college, graduate, marry and build new lives, while we miss out on a lot of it, is a lot to bear.
But when you put that up against what Jesus did for us, saving us from an eternity of hell, and the responsibility that he has given us to share that Good News with others so that they might be reunited with God forever, and it’s a small price to pay.