When life gets hard, or the ol' lady is driving you nuts, or ALL your kids just up and decide to boycott their school work, you need someone to dump on. Someone that doesn't judge, someone that doesn't one-up, someone that just listens.
A lightning rod.
I want to tell you that I came up with that little nugget all by myself, but I heard it from some speaker at some conference. While the name of the guy has slipped my mind, the idea has become part of me.
Its easy to be the storm, to find someone and unleash a steady stream of hate-filled verbal diarrhea. Seriously, its part of our nature to bitch and moan. The only concern is finding someone safe who won't sell you out for their own 30 pieces. Being the lightning rod, that’s hard.
You have to keep your ears open and your mouth shut. You have to be concerned, but not preachy. And perhaps most importantly, you have to be available, but somewhat distant.
I would like to say I possess some superhuman ability to listen and comfort those in need. An ability that brings folks from all over the globe to my virtual doorstep to vent. I would like to think that I am created to be a lightning rod, but its most likely due to my distance, actual physical distance, that makes me a safe bet. Regardless, I have become a lightning rod to many.
Last week one of these storms rolled my way. A missionary working for another organization called me up to tell me about some marital issues he is experiencing. Before he even starts talking about the stresses, frustrations, and fights they are dealing with, he tells me that nobody knows.
This guy is working for a missions agency and has a church back home. How is it possible that he has never told anyone? So I start asking him some questions about his church and his organization to see whats up.
Is someone from his church or his organization caring for him and his family while they are in the field?
No! They say they are there for me, but they don't listen to what I am saying.
Is there someone, a pastor, a person, anyone to care for them?
Yes! That is the most frustrating part. They have people to care for me, but I never hear from them.
Has this person ever contacted them in the field?
Yes, but its superficial. They send me emails, but no one ever really talks to me unless they want something from me.
Has anyone organization ever asked him about their marriage?
No! Not even once. To be honest with you, I don't think they want to know.
Has he told this person about their marital issues?
No, I don't trust them.
He doesn't trust them?!
Why should he. No one is taking the time to get to know him, to build a relationship, to be his friend. He is alone in a foreign country and everyone is waiting for someone else to step up and take care of him. The family is waiting on the church, the church on the organization, and this guy is just waiting!
I don't want to be the lightning rod to all the world's missionaries. I don't have the time. I don't have the emotional energy. I don't even like people all that much, even missionaries. Anyway...
ITS NOT MY JOB!
Cold, maybe. Heartless, NO!
Its not my job because its your job!
So here is what you are going to do.
If you are a average everyday person that calls themselves a follower of Christ:
Read John 17 and pray for us like Jesus prayed for the disciples. Pray for our protection. Pray for our ministries. Pray for those who will carry on the work because of us. After your done praying for missionaries in general, pray specifically for the missionaries you know. Seriously, pray for them, by name.
When you get done praying, contact them and get to know them. You want to get a conversation started, ask them about their ministries and where they see God moving. Build a relationship. Build confidence. Build safety. If you are safe, and they need to vent, they'll seek you out as a lightening rod.
If you are a missions pastor or a member care professional for a missions agency:
First and foremost, I want to say this with as much dignity and professionalism as I can muster,
Get off your ass and do your job!
You are there to care for missionaries, so do it! You may be the only connection they have with their home country in days, weeks, months, maybe even years. It is inexcusable to NOT contact your missionaries from time to time, to NOT send them a card on their birthday, anniversary, or just because, to NOT contact them unless you need to tell them they are running in the red or you want some pictures for a brochure.
If you are already doing this, great, I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU! However, if you have maybe been a bit lazy on connecting with your missionaries, here is a little nudge to get you back on track.
I have never asked for this, and to be honest I feel a little weird, but please share this. Not for me, and not because this is a particularly eloquent dissertation on the subject, but because we, the collective Church, have sent out these people.
Don't forget them.