Mrs. Samita was one my least favorite teachers of all-time. She taught algebra, geometry and necromancy. I suspected her of having bizarre hobbies, like beating puppies with kittens and quietly following along behind paranoid schizophrenics in her car with the headlights off. All that aside, she taught me the meaning of the concept of axiom. An axiom is something that is so true it does not require proof. Gravity, for example, would be axiomatic. Arrogance in the NY Yankees would qualify as well.
So with that definition in mind, I invite you to peruse this list of missionary axioms, aspects of missionary life that are so true they seemingly do not require proof. (If the intro about Mrs. Samita hasn’t tipped you off yet, this is not exactly the most serious post. Take it as it’s meant.)
1. If you gather a group of missionaries together for socializing, eventually the conversation will turn to food, travel experiences, or bathroom difficulties. Sometimes, you’ll get all three in the same story.
“So there we were, on the 13-hour express bus between Buenos Aires and Mendoza eating figs and goat livers while sitting on the toilet…”
2. All missionaries worry about their children when they go on stateside assignment. As a general rule, the areas of concern break down like this:
Children 2-6 years old: Will my kids urinate in public while we are on stateside? (Answer: absolutely, on a weekly basis)
Children 6-18 years old: Will my kids commit some horrible social gaffe at church or in public school? (Answer: Yes, to the degree that you’ll need to prep some stock answers for the authorities.)
Children 18-22: Will my kids spend more money than I earn because they can’t figure the exchange rate? (Answer: depends on the exchange rate)
3. The number one topic of mockery among MKs: stupid questions people in the US ask them. A sampling:
You live in South America, right? I guess you eat a lot of Mexican food, huh?
(Snarky answer: Sure, cuz everything south of the Rio Grande is Mexico)
You live in Africa? Can you speak African?
(Snarky answer: I don’t know…do you speak North American?)
Do you have electricity there?
(Snarky answer: I just told you that I do have a Facebook account, so….)
Where you live, they consider 5th grade to be high school, right?
(Snarky answer: Yes, and we mainly count using an abacus.)
So…you live in Germany. Do you have, like, Christmas trees and stuff?
(Snarky answer: Nope. Saint Nicolas originated in the US, you see….)
According to my sons, MKs do not sit around and mock their parents’ language skill because, apparently, some things just don’t need to be said.
4. All missionaries have the ability to consume their weight, in a single sitting, in at least one American food item that they cannot purchase in their field of service. For me, that’s Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta cheese, mixed and heated in the microwave. For Stacy, it is either Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts or Snickers Ice Cream. For my son Preston, it’s Dr. Pepper. For our pal Di, I think it is the entire menu at Pei Wei Restaurant. For my buddy Chris, beef jerky.
5. All missionaries ultimately feel conflicted about the place the mission field holds in their hearts, especially in relationship to the way they feel about their birth country (usually the US). They feel guilty leaving family and friends in the US, but they feel badly about abandoning their national friends. Here are some questions/statements that often help clarify their feelings…
–I would love to go back to the field after stateside, but I just don’t love Jesus enough.
–Should I stay here and lovingly care for my aging parents, or should I go to the field and let Mom and Dad die all alone in some smelly institute cared for by strangers who have tattoos, piercings, and sealed juvie records?
–Has the statute of limitations expired or do I need to leave again?
6. Missionaries and MKs alike confuse their birth language and the local language. The result is a hodge-podge of bad grammar, mis-spellings, and mixed idoms. As well, there’s a tendency to bring interesting phrases from some local languages directly into English without thinking it through.
–We had the greatest party last weekend! Threw the house right out the window! (Translation: it was wild and crazy.)
–I’ve warned my kids about jumping off the conclusion. (Translation: jumping the gun or jumping to conclusions)
–Daddy! Leave me alone! Stop molesting me! (Problem: in Spanish, “molestar” means to bother. In English, to molest has other implications)
–My son found his half an orange. (Translation: soul mate)
–Don’t put all your apples in the same basket or they’ll hatch before you count them. (Translation: Ummm….dunno.)
–Turn on the hot AC, please. (Translation: heater)
7. As a general rule, a group of MKs can hang out and do nothing, but end up having a fabulous time with just about anything.
Bobby: “Hey Samuel…grab your guitar! Eddie, Alyse, Nathan, and Joel are outside under the big tree with some pizza and an iguana.”
Samuel: “An iguana and a pizza?? Now it’s a party!”
8. MKs never know where they are from. Rather, they know where they are from, but their answer to the question of origin depends on who is asking and how long the MK is likely to relate to the questioner. Formula for answering the question “Where are you from?” adjusted for identity of questioner:
Guy You’ll Never See Again: My folks live here in (insert state).
Sunday School teacher in your Stateside church: We’re new here.
Cute girl/guy you hope to spend time with: I’m from (insert far-off country in order to pique their interest)
Now that you know, you’ll surely have a happier New Year.