Next month Byron and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage of which 26 have been in full-time missionary service - 4 years of deputation and 22 years on the field in Brazil. Over the course of all those years it seems we have seen more people leave the field than come while we just keep on staying. Some left because it was just not their cup of tea - missionary life. Some retired. Some were called to other places or ministries. Older missionaries have gone on to glory. And yet here we are. Is it because we are some sort of super saintly missionaries? Nah, it must be something else. But what? How is it that some people live out their adult lives on a foreign mission field where some many others have come and mostly gone?
Here's a few things that may have made the difference for our stickability...
HAVING FAMILY PETS
Yes, having pets kept me from thinking about leaving the mission field time time and again, because what would we ever do with them. Taking them to the States would have been out of our price range and finding a great family to take them in would have been hard as well.
LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS
We've always lived simply, every since we got married. We most likely have the lowest support level of any missionary in our region, but we've rarely worried about money. We always have enough to eat and I don't think we'd ever leave the field for a lack of money. We've worked outside jobs. We scrimp and save. And somehow God rewards.
LEARNING THE LANGUAGE WELL
Byron might laugh if he ever reads this post! He is an excellent language learner. He basically taught himself Portuguese as a MK teen. He arrived in Brazil when he was about 15. When he came back after college in the States to be a missionary, he breezed through language school in a few short months. I have a high vocabulary and a good understanding of grammar, but my accent is bad and I make frequent errors - but I'm always learning and not afraid to just speak up. I think many missionaries never get to a happy place with a foreign language. Hence they feel stressed and unable to communicate.
We also worked super hard to make sure all of our boys spoke well and could read and write in Portuguese. William even took the Brazilian college board exam - all in Portuguese - and did just great!
MAKING NATIONAL FRIENDS
Hardly a day goes by that one of our neighbors doesn't pass by the house and sit for a bit or help with a project and vice versa. Below is Byron with our nearest and dearest neighbor on the right and a man he met from the far side of our neighborhood because of the old car seen below.
Once an American student visiting in our city while working on a research project questioned whether anyone in our city really knew who we were. She stated rather publicly that we isolated ourselves from Brazilians and were unknown in our town.
We don't know everyone, but we have worked hard to get out and about and make friends, contacts and oh yeah - disciples!
EXPLORING OUR SURROUNDINGS
Especially when the boys were small, we took them to all kinds of places to see and enjoy the beauty of Brazil. As young homeschoolers we studied some of the history of Brazil together. My boys have been all over the valley in which we live and seen more history and geography than their neighbor counterparts.
Yeah, we still look like Americans but we work hard to fit in!
HAVING FAMILY SUPPORT
Having the emotional support of our extended family has been a big blessing to us over the years adding to the staying factor. Between my parents and Byron's mother and my brother our boys got to see in real life some real blood relative every year. I think that made a big difference in feeling we were loved and appreciated even from afar.
All of these great factors neglect one other more important item - the wonderful grace of a Great God who has pulled us along, given us peace, and kept us pressing on for His Glory... pray for us as we consider the next 30 years!
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Philippians 3:13-15