Prepare the missionary and his family


“Kenny” in Kamala Markandaya’s novel Nectar in a Sieve leads my thoughts to a pastor I visited before my coming to US for seminary study. There’s one thing in common – they both suffered divorce in their cross-cultural ministry.

I will never forget that afternoon in the summer. Pastor X told me his story in his plain living room. He had already got his PhD from a famous seminary in US and came to China several years ago as a missionary. I scheduled to meet him because I want to seek some advice from him before my journey to TEDS. But I think the most important word that was kept in my memory is something he said after telling me his story: “God will also use the 4 years to prepare your wife. This is the most important.” I’m not sure whether it’s the “most” important, but his marriage story really impressed me. His wife, who is a sincere Christian and had a passion for evangelism in China, filed a divorce lawsuit after visiting Beijing with him because she cannot endure a dirty public toilet without a gate, which is quite common in China during the 1980s.

“Kenny” is a humanist and benevolent village doctor. He also suffered broken marriage because his wife cannot understand his passion for Indian. But it is worse for “Kenny” because (1) he does not know Jesus Christ thus what he was doing cannot lead people to the true hope, (2) he personally does not embrace Indian culture and mindset, thus he serves them and in the meanwhile he hates them.

Moreau in his Introducing World Missions introduced many aspects that a missionary must prepare himself[1]. But as Pastor X said, it’s vital to prepare the spouse so that both sides have a solid sense of calling and passion for the field. It’s not one’s business, but the body’s business. Investigation shows that the most common reason expat employees fail to function effectively on an overseas assignments is the inability of the spouse to adjust to the new environment[2], not even to say if he/she can’t find any meaning of the relocation.

[1] Moreau, Introducing World Missions, Chapter 10, Baker Academic 2004

[2] Stoto, The Art of Crossing Cultures, Page 16, Intercultural Press, 2001