Sixteen years ago, my husband and I were all of 24 years old when we arrived in Tanzania for our first term. We had only been married nine months, and we were passionate and dedicated, but incredibly naïve. We had absolutely no idea what we were in for.
We were working in youth ministry in a local church plant, and my husband was coaching sports as a way to get to know young people. One young man came into our lives with a real interest in the gospel. He was earnest and really seemed sincere, and it wasn’t long before he made a profession of faith. Since he was from a religion that is usually opposed to Christianity, we were thrilled.
Over the next year and a half, this young man dominated our time and our prayer updates. He was in our home almost every day.
Then, six weeks before we left the country, we found out he had been regularly stealing money from us.
We returned to the States utterly shattered. For many other reasons, it had been an extremely difficult two years. This young man had been a bright spot, and when that blew up, we were completely demoralized and totally disillusioned.
By the grace of God, a couple years later we were back in Tanzania, older, wiser, and a lot more wary. Yet even the loss of our naiveté didn’t really prepare us for everything we would see and experience over the next ten years. Like the ugly split of the indigenous church we attended. Or the married missionary of multiple children who ran off with a woman from the village where he was church planting. Or that time when the national leader who was raised up and supported by missionaries ended up being a narcissist who abused his team. And the worst? A local pastor—discipled, installed, and supported by missionaries for over ten years—was discovered to have an incestuous relationship with his adult daughter.
Boom. And just like that, everything worked for, everything believed in, goes up in flames.
Though we weren’t intimately involved in any of those situations, we were close enough to feel the shockwaves. And they shook us to our core.
Disbelief. Despair. Disillusionment. We can handle the loneliness, the inconveniences, and the bugs that come with missionary life, but not this. Not this. Many missionaries would say that they would rather be persecuted or deported than have their ministry blow up. How could this have happened? Where we did go wrong? Why are we even here? What are we possibly going to tell our supporters?
Read the rest of this post over at A Life Overseas. Don't worry--there's hope at the end!