I've had some adventures, to be sure. I've climbed a lot of mountains and taken more modes of transportation than I could name, and I'm grateful for the beauty that comes along with the job. Most beautiful, of course, is the image of God reflected in so many cultures, the opportunities to connect and share the Story of a redemption big enough to extend to everyone, everywhere.
But that's not the whole of it, by any means. In my daily routine, I stare at lots of spreadsheets. I sit through countless meetings, many of which could have been emails. I create schedules, register grades, proofread, make lists. In other words, some days my job is just as boring as yours.
I don't know what people picture when I tell them I'm a missionary. But here's what I do know: this life, it isn't glamorous.
Take my recent trip to Nicaragua. All told, I spent about four hours actually ministering to Nicaraguans. I spent far more time waiting in emergency rooms. I spent the most time having tough conversations with people on my team.
Seriously, check out some of the privileges that come with the title "outreach leader."
I held a girl's hair while she puked by the side of the road (she was apologizing the whole time, poor kid).
I looked young guys in the eye and demanded details about their bowel movements, because I couldn't tell if they were actually healthy or trying to power through the 24-hour bug that hit most of our team.
I drove someone's stool sample to the hospital for testing. ("Thanks for carrying my poop to the lab," she said. "Well, part of being a leader is dealing with people's crap.")
I met with a local guy and carefully explained why he won't be able to work with us anymore.
While my team was out visiting people in their homes and offering Bibles to people who don't have any, I was out buying cupcakes, or making another trip to the pharmacy, or crunching numbers to make sure we hadn't blown the budget on cupcakes and pharmaceuticals.
And there were several late-night, messy talks, or talks about messy talks, or messy prayers about messy talks, and ultimately, we had to send one of our team members home early. There's only way to describe arriving at that kind of decision: it sucks.
My most interesting task was probably buying piñatas. We went to the market (not the souvenir market for tourists, the actual market where locals shop), and I threaded my way through tiny bustling cafes, stands of shoes, juice bars, and bulk spices, until I got to the piñata booth and bought four, weaving back to the van with a cluster of piñatas held high above my head. I was a walking birthday party. I delivered piñatas and cupcakes to the team, who went to the city dump and threw a "birthday party" for about 100 kids whose families live off of whatever they can scrounge. It sounded like a great time showing those kids that they matter, but I wasn't there to see it -- I was back at the hotel getting Gatorade and soda crackers for sick people.
And don't get me wrong -- I'm not complaining. I love my unconventional, unglamorous life. I think I have the best job on earth.
I have to chuckle to myself, though, thinking how some people want the opportunity to lead. There's not a lot of glory. There's just a whole lot of messy. It's a brokenness, a burdened heart. It's weeping with those who weep, and sometimes, it's weeping for those who should weep but don't. It's loving people enough to let them break your heart, and sometimes, they do.
And I've failed in it, so many times. Impatient words, a critical heart, a hasty decision, a forgotten detail. I'm so thankful for a broken, unglamorous Savior, so thankful that he leads the way, loves through me, and never fails, not even once, to step into our mess and make things new.