I have noticed it since I arrived, but it came up in conversation today, and I was a little frustrated. It seems, that there are expectations that go along with the "M" word.
It seems, that when you use the "M" word, they automatically think of someone who has it all together, who knows it all, who has it all figured out. They think that Missionaries, have all the answers, are prude, boring, no fun, and well, lets just say it's not a good picture.
I have noticed this in a few circumstances since arriving in Arusha. At first when I would meet a western non-Christian worker here, they would ask what I do and I would tell them I was a missionary with CMF, working in the slums of Arusha. There was an inevitable response, "oh." and then it was as if I had told them I was a leper or something because they would become disinterested in further conversation.
So after a few instances of this sort of interaction, I used new words. I am working to help nationals transform their lives and their neighborhoods with a community health education program (the non-Christian lingo for CHE used in closed access countries). They would become interested and we would continue conversation about life, the specifics of my job. The door folks, remained open. We would get to talk about family, music, movies, etc. Later on, they would ask who I worked for, and I would say CMF. "What's that," was always the next question. My response, "Christian Missionary Fellowship."
"What? You are a missionary?" "really?" uh-oh. here it comes. the door tries to close, but at this point, they know enough that it doesn't completely slam shut.
Now folks, what is wrong with this picture? Since when are missionaries perfect, unapproachable, unfriendly, or no fun to be around? I have a new mission (not to abuse the "m" word). To change the perceived image of missionaries around here.
Cause really, I will be the first missionary to admit that I don't have it all figured out, that I don't know it all, that yes, even me the missionary, still has to work hard at hearing God's voice, that I am FAR from perfect, that I have bad days, and yes, (but don't tell anyone) I sometimes think of saying things I know I shouldn't! GASP! The list goes on my friends. I am human, I am a real person, and well, I don't deserve a pedastal, and I know a bunch of other missionaries who would agree. We are people. We like to have fun. We love Jesus, and we too, are in desperate need of those mercies that are new every morning.