Earlier in my development as a career missionary, I had sundry philosophical and sociological objections to the regular practice of short-term missions on the spiritual formation of nascent believers among various unreached or least-reached peoples. Now, my qualms are only two-fold: Short-term missionaries are too skinny and too energetic.
I’ll start with the skinniness.
Short-term missionaries—often young and blessed with higher metabolisms—have time for sunset jogs through the African wilderness and when you combine that fervent exercise with the rampant diarrhea they enjoy in the foreign culture, it’s easy to see how they can keep the pounds off.
As a long-term missionary, I start with good intentions for exercise, but then there is a stack of term papers that keeps me up late or a sick child whose earache causes us to watch the dark hours tick off the clock. Or the local rooster greeting the dawn.. Or the bush baby crying in a tree. Or the hyrax screaming at the wind. And so I live out my career missionary life with a few extra pounds and a couple of inches of squishiness, longing for the luxuries of short-termers.
If short-term missionaries would just be less disciplined and less skinny, I think I’d get along better with them.
Secondly, short-term missionaries have so much energy. It’s annoying. One guy smiled for 43 hours straight once. How do I know this? I glowered at him all night long while I was grading papers and listening to the neighbor’s dog barking. He was so tired from all of his sunset running that he slept right through that, of course.
I had energy once too. That first month on the mission field was awesome. But then the adrenaline wore off, and I had to actually start living with people day in and day out. I had to get beyond theological accuracy and get down to living out Christianity in the applicable sense. It was such a drag.
I had so much energy that I’d even talk about Jesus and faith with every single person I came across. That’s something short-term missionaries are good at, too. Man, that bugs me. Don’t they have more important things to do, like put away laundry and read books to their children and change lightbulbs and write witty blogs?
I just want one—one!—short-term missionary to come in so tired and fat that I look skinny and energetic by comparison. If you think you might fit that description, your welcome to visit our ministry anytime and we’ll be happy to provide you our couch to lounge on. Otherwise, stay away, all you anorexic, Red Bull-drinking youth!