Missionary Musings: A few things I’ve learned as a missionary

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Well, friends, my stint as a missionary in West Virginia is officially over, and in three days I’ll be heading back to the homeland of Illinois.

*cue all the tears*

It’s difficult to even begin to express how thankful I am for the two years that I spent in West Virginia. I’ve grown as a minister. My relationship with God is in a more profound, secure place than it’s ever been. I could write at length about my journey, but a lot of my posts are pretty reflective of that growth.

So instead of getting all sappy as I get ready to leave this state that has become my home, this post is a mostly light-hearted crossover of my Things I’ve Been Learning Lately and Missionary Musings series (which I haven’t written for in months, oops). Here are some things I’ve learned in my two years as a missionary.

  • Alacrity, a quick and joyful readiness, is key when starting a new job. Especially one you haven’t been fully trained for. Live into it.
  • Camp lingo is a thing and it will totally ruin how you interact with people.
  • West Virginia isn’t as weird of a place as you’ve probably been led to believe. It’s a little weird. But it’ll start to feel like home in no time.
  • Kids of all ages love dogs. If you’re trying to talk to a group of kids and a dog runs up to them, you are no longer the object of their attention.
  • Camp nicknames stick. Last summer, a fellow counselor put me in charge of her group of kids a few times during a session of camp and she told them to address me by a certain nickname. Months later, I saw one of those girls at a school visit and she called me that name instead of my real name. It was precious.
  • Girl-talk and snacks is always a favorite at retreats. Or in any setting, really.
  • After a few weeks of camp, you will start creating any excuse you can to dress up. Camp staff shirts get old fast.
  • Getting a flat tire in the middle of February is a good way to make you hyper-fearful of getting another.
  • When you plant and grow roots in a place and among certain people for two years, certain songs will make you think of that place and those people and then make you emotional.
  • Living in a truly intentional community takes work. It’s a worthy pursuit, but it doesn’t just happen. It requires effort.
  • Not much is more satisfying than thinking you can’t do something and then finishing that something. Even if you didn’t particularly like it. (looking at you, two-night backpacking and camping trip)
  • Good priests are treasures. We need more of them.
  • Cherish your friends. Keep them close. It’s not always easy for quiet folks like me to do that, but friends are an important investment.
  • Accept everything that comes your way as a gift from God. Be grateful for His generosity, even if some of the things He gives aren’t easy to accept.
  • Nothing is more empowering and edifying than being remembered and appreciated. Show people that you appreciate them. You might really make their day.
  • Humans are truly not worthy of the love and companionship of dogs. What did we do to deserve dogs?
  • If you’re in ministry in any capacity, remember: it’s not your job to change a person. Leave that to Jesus. Your job is to plant the seeds; His is to make them grow.
  • If you’re going somewhere far away and have the time and money to drive and stay at hotels, do it. Flying is convenient, but there’s nothing like a road trip.
  • Invest in good outdoor clothing, even if you won’t use it much. Hiking boots, sturdy sandals, rain coats…it’s better than being caught without good shoes when hiking, or in the rain with only a sweatshirt.
  • The saints are true friends and advocates. Learn about them. Pray to them. And if one or two seem to keep popping up in your journey, don’t ignore them. They were probably sent to you by God for a reason!
  • Go to New York City. Even if you’re not a city person. She’s worth seeing.
  • If you spend any time in West Virginia without at least trying a pepperoni roll, you’re doing West Virginia wrong. Buy the gas station pepperoni roll. Just do it.
  • Jesus is so faithful. Watch out for His blessings and His answers to prayers. View everything through the lens of a trusting, childlike faith. You’ll be amazed at how good He is.
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