There is one thing I want you to know before we jump too far into a conversation about global missions: being a missionary is NOT romantic.

As I mentioned before, I grew up reading missionary biographies — and from a young age I dreamed to become a missionary in Africa. In my imagination, Africa was a perfect paradise. It’s the continent with the nicest shape of land, the coolest animals, and the most enticing red soil. But more than that, it’s a country full of beautiful, colourful people who move with rhythm and live with joy. African people always look SO good, and so — in my missionary dreams, I would move to Africa and spend my life ministering to a whole lot of easy-to-love people.

But now, after spending over six months in the country of Rwanda, I’ve finally come to understand that Africa is just another continent, and it’s people are just another people. Joyful, rhythmic, beautiful people, yes; but people who are difficult to love, just like the difficult-to-love people we’re surrounded by every day in Canada.

On my most recent trip to Rwanda, Jordan and I threw a party at our house for a bunch of street kids. We bought them Fanta, made them meat soup, brought out soccer balls to play with in our yard, and — to the surprise of our naive, Africa-adoring selves, we watched as the kids behaved exactly how any group of North American youth would behave if they were at an exciting party: they were wild and loud and slightly rude. They were difficult to love.

In fact, I found difficult-to-love people all over Rwanda: the men who whispered and laughed about ‘a muzungu’ when I walked by, the street kids that were annoying clingy, and the adults at the church who criticized me for getting married too young. One night at the bus stop I broke down in tears because everyone kept pushing me out of the way so they could get on the bus first!

What I’m mostly trying to say is that the mission of loving and serving people abroad is surprisingly similar to the mission of serving people in our regular lives at home. It’s not always what you want to do, and when you get involved it usually comes with a set of challenges and drudgeries that take incredible endurance to overcome.

So as we begin this journey together, be forewarned — becoming a global missionary from home is not glamorous or straight-forward. It’s not something we do because it involves more adventure and excitement than sharing the gospel with our neighbours. It’s a calling for which we need to rely on the “strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11), because just like every day, we can’t do it on our own.

Have you ever romanticized about serving in another country? Been on a short-term missions trip and experienced a ‘honeymoon’ with another culture? Have you ever stayed long enough to have your initial perceptions shattered? How can we change our expectations about what global service should look like? Please keep the conversation going below with your own questions and insights.