Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stuff American Missionaries Do

1. Hoarde the Advil

Those little green gel-filled bits of heaven are like gold overseas. They cure everything. Jet lag? Advil. Feeling sick after that 2 hour ride in a 7 passenger van with 20 other people? Advil. Major headache after vomiting all night because of some dirty water? Advil. Feeling feverish from malaria again? Advil. OK, just kidding about that last one. But, yeah, Advil is precious over here, and when that giant Costco bottle runs low, we definitely start to ration it.

2. Stuff our suitcases with peanut butter

Peanut butter is the ultimate comfort food when you're stuck in a foreign country without any familiar grub. It doesn't need refrigeration and can be eaten with all manner of foods and any time of day. All you need is some bread and a knife and you're set! Heck, you don't even really need bread. I can distinctly remember some desperate nights in the bush bush with a spoon and a jar of JIF when I simply couldn't stomach another meal of ugali.

3. Blow out electric boxes with hair dryers

Ladies, we've all done this at least once. Just admit it. You were the one who blew the power generator in the village and left everyone in the dark with your all consuming need to dry your hair at 9:00 o clock at night in the middle of the bush. Yep, that's the Americans. There should be a missionary manual somewhere that says, "Don't take your hair dryer!"

4. Arrive at the airport in our pajamas

People-watching is a favorite airport pastime when you've got insanely long layovers. After a short time of people-watching, you will quickly discover that while most of the world dresses up to travel in their best heels and nicest pants, Americans dress down. And while most of the world generally wears subdued shades of black and brown and grey, Americans like color and lots of it. Yep, it's easy to pick them out in their bright plaid pajama bottoms and collegiate hoodies and New York Yankees caps. Or maybe it's hot pink sweatpants with "Juicy" or "Pink" across their butts. If it's summer they're probably the only ones in the airport in shorts and tank tops, and if it's winter they've always got their Uggs. Yep, those are the Americans. But hey, who can blame them? Who wants to travel 14 hours on a plane in a suit?! I say, be comfortable!

5. Feed the animals

We Americans love our animals. Animals to us are like children. In fact you might get a little confused in the USA when you see puppies in baby carriers on their owners' stomachs and little children tied to leashes in the park. Don't get me wrong, I love animals too. My puppy sleeps on my pillow next to me in the USA. But it behooves me how in the midst of poverty stricken areas of the world you will find the Americans going crazy over the starving dogs and cats and impervious to the starving child beside them. ???

6. Get scammed

At the end of a long ferry ride I took from Dar Es Salam to Zanzibar in Tanzania, all the locals disembarked quickly and easily while the ferry drivers held the foreigners' luggage hostage at the top of the boat until they were paid a ransom. There were all the Americans standing on the dock looking up at the boat and begging for their luggage. Seriously? It's like when people see us coming, they see the easiest money they ever made. Somewhere on our foreheads I'm convinced there's a sign that says "Scam me".

7. Play games

Wherever you find American missionaries, you will find boardgames. UNO, Phase 10, Monopoly, or even just a deck of cards. We are crazy about our games! We work hard during the day, but when it's time to relax we play hard too. Boardgames are our language of fellowship. Where most cultures gather around a table of food, Americans gather around a table of cards.

8. Tell people what to do

We Americans naturally have big mouths. We're the first to raise our hand in a multi-cultured group and the first to start telling everyone what to do. It just happens. We are raised to speak our mind, to have our own opinion about things, and to believe in ourselves. So when there is disorder or chaos, you will surely find an American quickly jumping to the front to start telling people what to do. It's part of our DNA. Listening? Not so much.

9. "Fix" the world's problems

I guess this pretty much goes hand-in-hand with number 8. Along with our propensity to tell others what to do, comes our belief in the fact that we have the answer to all the world's problems. Within two minutes of touching down in a foreign country, we will have figured out exactly what needs "fixing" and how to "fix" it and why our "fix" is better than those of all the hard-working missionaries who have been pioneering in said country for years and years. The problem is that Africa alone is full of broken-down, discarded, failed "fixes" albeit from well-intentioned Americans.

10. Go where no one else will

Despite number 8 and number 9 and the problems they sometimes bring along, you have to give some credit for the fact that Americans are the ones who will go where no one else will go. Heck, there's even a Star Spangled Banner on the moon! Maybe it's our hard-working, self-sufficient, immigrant influence or maybe our legacy of pioneering across our own great land, but Americans have built-in them the strength and tenacity to go-it-alone in the tough and rough places of the world where no one else dares to go and to stick it out to the end. I'm pretty sure that of all the crazy stuff Americans do this is what makes us pretty great missionaries in the end. And this is why in fact the world needs us Americans to do our part in helping finish the Great Commission. There's still much to be done, America! So pack the Advil and the board games, throw in a few jars of peanut butter, put on your best pajamas, and let's get to it!

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