The Missionary Family
14 Aug 2017
It was a huge decision for Simon and Annie* to move their family of five to the Middle East. But the heart-wrenching seemed even greater when they found themselves needing to resettle back in Australia, much sooner than they had ever expected. This week, in our series on Life After Missions, we check in with these former Pioneers missionaries who are using their unique experiences in the Middle East to serve in the middle of Melbourne.
We asked Simon for his reflections on this major life change:
What did missions look like for you?
We were in the Middle East for a couple of years, living amongst an unreached people group. Our team was in the early stages of sowing seeds. And so a lot of what we did (outside the “day” job) was just visiting friends and neighbours, who would ask lots of questions because they generally hadn’t met Christians before.
What does life look like now?
Nearly five years on, we are back in Melbourne, pastoring a local church. We’re in a really multicultural area, with lots of new migrants. Many of the things we learnt overseas have been invaluable for welcoming people into our church (e.g. understanding what it’s like to be in a new country, being able to communicate in easy English, learning how to be hospitable to people from the Middle East). One of the challenges is that while there are so many opportunities for the gospel, life is so busy here that a “missionary lifestyle” can easily get crowded out by all the tasks.
What was your transition like?
Quite difficult. When we came home, it was intended to be a home assignment**, not a long term stay in Australia. And so there was lots of disappointment and frustration to deal with. After trying so hard to take on another culture, we had to learn how to love Aussies again. But our home church was a great support, and in our weakest moments God used us for his kingdom in ways that surprised us.
What has stayed with you from your overseas culture?
Where we lived they often ate fish for lunch, then burned frankincense in the afternoons to take away the smell. Our kids are not so keen on fish these days, but when visitors are coming over we often “freshen up the house” by burning frankincense. I think some people find this a bit weird!
How do you think God used your missions experience to help shape who you are?
It has shaped us profoundly. I think having seen people in dire poverty, who have no knowledge of the gospel at all, we’ve become less fussed about the “cosmetic” things of church, and more focused on the basics of evangelism and mercy (though we do still get distracted). Also, I think the stresses of living in another culture have taught us to more gentle with people who are different to us. And the tough times have certainly taught us more about what it means to trust God.
The Great Commission is all about going. Going where God leads us, to all people in all places. But sometimes obeying God’s call is about going back to the country we came from, going home. We can best serve God if we are in the place he wants us to be. Which leads to the question; where does God want you to be, and will you go?
*Names changed for privacy.
**A period of time, normally 3 or 4 months, that missionaries spend in their home country to reconnect with family, friends, and supporters before returning to the place they serve overseas.