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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

9 Things I’m thankful for about being a missionary

I’ve seen a lot of posts from fellow missionaries describing the difficulties of being a missionary, the challenges they face, how misunderstood they feel at times, and how things are never the same once you move to another country.

Much of what they say has some truth, and a part of me wants to click “like” and share it with everyone so they will feel my pain. On the other hand, when I stop to think about the things I love about being a missionary and count my blessings, I find that the list outweighs the difficulties.

So here are a few of the things I am thankful about what I do.

I Get to See the World

Travel! We get to travel! Traveling is one of the top things people regret not doing enough of in life. As a missionary, I get to do that all the time. Part of the reason is where we live, Guatemala, and the fact that we have six kids and often limited resources, so when we return to the U.S. to visit family, speak at churches, and raise support for our ministries, we drive.

I tell my kids we don’t take trips. We take adventures. A trip is when you know where you are going, how you will get there, have your transportation set, know who you will see, and everything is set. An adventure is when you know where you are headed. Still, how it will all play out is a little fuzzy. Yet, we head out anyway, trying to see all the amazing sights along the way and what a beautiful place the world is.

Traveling has taught me and my children to value experiences over things. Going places has so much more value than the material possessions we don’t have. When we spend a long time in one place, we can often fail to see its beauty and cease to be amazed by it. But visiting new places helps us appreciate the beauty in the world.

My children get a global view of other people and cultures

The world and its people are immensely diverse. Even within the same country, the way people live from city to town to village often varies. Yet, behind the color of their skin, food, and the clothes they wear, we have learned to see that though people are different from us, they have the same hopes, dreams, and fears.

They have learned to relate to people from diverse cultures and walks of life and have escaped the echo chamber that is so common these days, where everything someone believes about life is reinforced by the town, city, or state they grew up in, and everything else is foreign.

My children are bi-lingual

We get to learn other languages. Okay, even after 15 years in Guatemala, I still struggle a bit. But my kids… they speak Spanish fluently, speaking it like a “Chapin” (a Nickname for Guatemalans). These benefits are huge, giving them access to communicate, work, or live in many other countries.

I get to see God do miracles

I can’t even count the times God has come through for me in unique ways. When people live in a country where things just “work”, it’s easy to find rational normal explanations for things working out. But when you live in a developing country where often there really is no logical way for things to work out, when you see an endless series of “coincidences ” fall into place for something to work out, you realize that what you are seeing is God at work. From our car breaking down in the middle of the desert to getting stranded in the mountains, from having a gun put to my head during a robbery and surviving to escaping attempted kidnappings, from meeting a stranger at a wood mill who helps launch our woodworking, carpentry, and engineering programs, to meeting someone whose passport was stolen, sat next to me at the U.S. embassy and decided to fund our mission work in a big way. God is at work, and I get to see it happen.

I’m not limited by what’s “possible.”

The conviction in my heart that I am following where God has called me gives me the faith to do what sometimes seem like crazy things, even when the circumstances aren’t ideal.

I’ve never had the funds, resources, or knowledge to do anything I’ve done. I have had a conviction that if God has called me to do something, he will provide.

Setting up community centers, woodworking, and engineering workshops, starting computer training programs, teaching programming, leading mission teams, organizing summer camps, and vacation Bible studies. I didn’t have the training to do any of those things. Yet I saw the need and was persuaded that if God loved the orphans and vulnerable children he had placed before me, he would provide the wisdom, ability, and means to serve them with excellence. And he has! Time and time again, as I have stepped out in faith and started programs, He has come along and provided the means to make it happen.

I get to share my passion with people

I not only get to do what I love, but I also get to share it with others. Often in life, we have to do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do, but for me, they are one and the same. Not just do I get to do what I love, but I constantly get to talk about it with interested people. When people ask me what I do, telling them that I’m a missionary opens the door to sharing more than just the logistics of what I do, it gives me the opportunity to share my faith in God.

I get to see people’s lives changed

I get to see the gospel at work! I get to see God’s Kingdom coming here on earth, child by child, family by family, and community by community. His truth changes the world, and I get to be a part of it. As I impart the truth of God’s word and see it come alive in people’s lives, I learn what is authentic, valuable, and of eternal consequence. I get to see the gospel at work, and it is truly amazing.

I’ve learned to be thankful for everything

Gratitude, even for the simple things. Life in most Western countries just works; in the rest of the world, it often doesn’t. Driving laws, government business, legal stuff or even getting your car fixed-everything takes longer, and doesn’t always happen the way it should. So when it does, you learn to give thanks to God.

Home is where the heart is

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Matthew 6:21. As we have moved from house to house over our 15 years in Guatemala, it has made me place a higher value on my family, my kids, my wife, and my relatives. It has made me see home as any place that we are together. It has made me strive for what binds us together instead of what tears us apart.

Ultimately, as Christians, we know that this world is not our home. We are just passing through, becoming disconnected from the place we were raised. When life there moves on without us, and we find ourselves no longer part of where we were “from,” it’s not bad. Ultimately, it can help us accept the reality that we are pilgrims and strangers on this earth, and our true home is that heavenly place whose builder and maker is God.

For these things, and many more, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Tim and Sharie Martiny

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