Hey folks! Welcome to another installment of our Five Question interviews with IMB-type people. I’m sorry for the extended delay, but I’ve been busy making people angry and burning my bridges and generally making a nuisance of myself. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a partial lobotomy and have turned over a new leaf long enough to lure in another unsuspecting interview subject.
Our guest today is Edneena Goitenflasshen. Mrs. Goitenflasshen has been with the IMB for many years, working in both rural and urban areas. She and her husband, Junger, have raised children and dogs on the field, all of which were messy. We caught up with Edneena as she was maxing out her credit card on Dallas Cowboys caps and jackets.
As usual, the intro is largely blather designed to hook you, the reader, into the conversation, while the people, questions, and answers are completely real.
1. You’ve recently stumbled into a rather distressing personal situation, one that requires you to step back from the field for an indefinite length of time. For some of us in the IMB, a fairly large portion of our identities are wrapped up in our missionary life; how do you get through this temporary loss of your role?
Perhaps the biggest challenge that comes with an unexpected situation like an illness is the indefinite nature of everything. Plans that have been in place for months get completely interrupted, and you’re really not sure how long the “interruption” is going to continue. Personally, my bigger struggle was not in any loss – temporary or otherwise – of identity as a missionary. Instead, it was difficult to have to cancel events that I had already invested in – in terms of planning, preparation, and just pure anticipatory joy. I also felt a heavy responsibility to take full advantage of all God was teaching throughout this period and to communicate those experiences to others as he led me.
2. As you and your family have dealt with all of this, what is the most surprising response that you’ve gotten from your IMB friends and family?
I have been absolutely floored at the incredible outpouring of love and support from our IMB family. I understand the need to emphasize “the company” these days, but I have felt very reminded that we’re more than just fellow employees. We as IMB missionaries really are a part of a true community – people with all kinds of backgrounds and personalities who have been called by God to live cross-culturally and be lights in many dark places in the world. I believe that is an incredible privilege, and I’ve been humbled at how many have prayed for me and my family.
3. You arrived on the field with small children, and now your kids have left home. How did your role and identity as a missionary change as your nest got emptier?
A very wise “old” missionary (she was probably the age I am right now!) gave me very good counsel during my first term on the field. She said that there are seasons of ministry as missionary women. Instead of wishing you were constantly in a different season, we should embrace the season we’re in and do everything in each season to proclaim the Gospel according to the ways God leads us. As our kids left home, it always felt like a part of us was being ripped apart, and things could never be the same. And things weren’t the same. But that didn’t make them worse. As MK’s become adults, there are new challenges to being their parents from afar. It continues to be one of my biggest blessings to be a Mom, but the fact that my responsibilities at home have greatly lessened (I no longer have to constantly wash basketball uniforms and other incredibly sweaty, smelly attire!) frees me up for all kinds of other ministries.
4. You’ve obviously been on the field many years, and have gone through many different supervisors and bosses. As you look back at your husband’s supervisors and at your supervisors while your kids were home and your supervisors after your kids left, what sort of characteristics did the best supervisors have? That is, based on your observations, what would you say makes a great supervisor in the IMB?
In my mind, the best supervision involves a trust relationship. If I know my supervisor loves the Lord and is following his leading, I’ll follow him/her anywhere. We’ve had some supervisors with personalities different from ours who might have a slightly different take on what we view as our missionary task, but I’ve always been convinced that those supervisors are godly people who are open to our input and ultimately want to bring glory to God. When I’m convinced of my supervisor’s heart, it’s not hard to follow him/her. Disagreements – from petty to significant – are always going to be present, but when I trust that my supervisor has a walk with the Lord, I am better able to relax and know that we’re both on the same team with the same goal – reaching a lost and dying world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s a comforting thing to focus upon.
5. As you look at some of the younger folks entering the IMB – family people 20 years younger than you, youngsters with their plans all laid out for their IMB lives – what items of really really practical advice would you love to give them?
I love the passion and energy of the young people joining the IMB! Here’s a non-exhaustive list of my counsel (right off the top of my head):
a. Be in love with Jesus! That may not be terribly “practical,” but I believe it’s the essential element of successful missions service. We can’t love cross-culturally OR within our IMB teams without first loving Jesus with all our hearts, souls, and minds.
b. Ask lots of questions and learn from others with experience. Don’t negate the experiences of older missionaries just because it’s been 25 years since they learned a language or experienced the things you’re experiencing.
c. In the words of Jim Elliott, wherever you are, be all there. Your kids will follow your lead. If you look for the great things about where you’re living (and let’s face it – you might have to REALLY look hard!), your kids will notice those things too. Our candidate consultant (that’s what they called those guys way back in the day…) had great advice when he said to be careful about comparing the absolute best of your home country with the absolute worst of your new country.
d. Whether you’re great at your new language or you stink, speak it! Some of us are afraid to speak until we can say everything perfectly. Relationships are more important than using the subjunctive correctly! The more you speak, the more you’ll learn, the better you’ll speak, the more you’ll be understood.
e. Figure out how to get regular exercise. Stress is a huge part of any first term experience, and one of the greatest stress relievers in my life has always been exercise.
f. Laugh! Keeping a good sense of humor will help get you through frustrating days. At an FPO a few years back, one of the more serious new missionary women told me that she was committed to learning to laugh at herself and not be such a rigid perfectionist. A day or two later, we were sitting in a group of ladies, and they were sharing their goals for the first few months on the field. One of her goals was to practice Spanish with her empleada, but instead of saying “empleada” (employee), she used the word “empanada” (stuffed bread or pastry). It was a good opportunity to learn to laugh at herself….
g. Don’t count on the Dallas Cowboys making the Super Bowl. I start out every single football season with hope in my eyes and lightness in my step. Keep expectations low… Then again, could this be Tony Romo’s year?!