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I’m a missionary – get out of my way!

*The Very Worst Missionary is a blog from Jamie Wright, a missionary wife and mom in Costa Rica. Missionaries have a bad brand and Jamie’s wonderful honesty helps update our concept of the modern missionary. Here’s her latest:*   Sometimes, I want to cup my hands to my mouth and s…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
*The Very Worst Missionary
is a blog from Jamie Wright, a missionary wife and mom in Costa Rica. Missionaries have a bad brand and Jamie’s wonderful honesty helps update our concept of the modern missionary. Here’s her latest:*


I want to cup my hands to my mouth and shout, “Let’s get this show on
the road, people!”


I want to tap my foot loudly, with a great
deal of impatience, while the lady in the grocery store, the one who’s
blocking the whole aisle, takes her sweet time to pick juuuust the
loaf of bread, to search out the very fullest bag of
chips, to sniff aaall the soap. every. single. bar.   


If I was in the states, I could start to
gingerly push her cart out of the way so she would see that I was trying
to get past her, then, each apologizing for inconveniencing the other,
we would do-si-do and continue our shopping in an orderly and
efficient manner.  It makes so much sense, right?


Yeah. That’s not how it
works in Costa Rica. 


In Costa Rica, you wait while she
shops.  You just stand there, staring at the toothpaste or the six
million varieties of canned tuna.  You check your phone, bite your
nails, dig around in your purse for a mostly non-fuzzy mint.  You kill
time while the stranger blocking your path agonizes over which brand of
rice to buy.  What you don’t do is try to go around her. You don’t
clear your throat or sigh heavily to announce your presence.  You don’t
roll your eyes and give the people waiting to pass from the other
direction a look that says, “Can you believe this lady?”.  And
for God’s sake, do not lay a hand on her cart…just don’t
Because, if you do any of those things, you will be personally
responsible for perpetuating the stereotype of the cranky, impatient,
unfriendly, self-absorbed, eye-rolling, North American chick with the 24
pack of expensive 2 ply toilet paper in her shopping cart.  Trust me –
that’s not cool. 


The thing is, this waiting deal isn’t
limited to the grocery store. I also wait in the bank while the tellers
chat up what they brought for lunch.  I wait at the gas station while
the attendant runs to buy a popsicle from a guy on a bicycle with a
cooler duct taped to the handle bars.  I wait at the bakery, the
pharmacy, the bus stop.  Everywhere I turn, I’m surrounded by people who
are in way less of a hurry than I am, people who link arms and
walk slowly, impassably, down the sidewalk.  It’s just so…irritating.


All this waiting around makes me crazy. It’s
contrary to my culture.  I want streamlined, efficient, quick.  I
have things to do, and I want you, slowpoke, to get out of my way.  In
case you haven’t heard; I’m on a freakin’ mission from God!  


Sometimes when I’m stuck waiting, I think
of all the ways I would “fix” Costa Rica, ya know, to make it more like
the U.S., to make it “faster”. 


So, the other day, I was reading the Bible
because, well, I’m a missionary, sooo reading the Bible is,
like, my job…so I was working, just zipping through the
book of John (naturally, in a hurry), and I was considering how Jesus
lived.  I was thinking about how much it would suck to walk from
Galilee to Capernum, and then to Jerusalem, and then back to Galilee
through Samaria.  And, honestly, I was like, “Jeez, that is so
dumb. It would have been faster if Jesus had A) ridden a donkey everywhere
and not just that one time for that one thing, and B) organized
his travel better to minimize travel time and maximize time for
ministry. Duh.” 


*sigh* Yes. I am fully aware
that I am a moron. 


And then I was like, “OooOOOooh, I get
.”, because Jesus didn’t choose the fastest mode of transport, he
didn’t even choose the straightest path.  He chose to walk a long,
long way with his disciples, his friends.  He chose to wait by a
well in Sychar.  And, I don’t know for sure, but I just don’t see
Jesus tapping his the back of his wrist at the wedding in Cana, giving
the universal sign for “Let’s get out of here, we got stuff to do.” 


Jesus waited.  Not
because he had to, but because there’s value in walking arm in arm with
another human, even if it’s dreadfully slow.  He waited
because he understood that a single conversation over a bucket of
well-water could change a life that could change a community that could
change the world.  


Costa Rican culture is teaching me to
wait, even though it goes against everything I’ve ever known, every
fiber of my very North American being.  It’s teaching me that
when the guy at the fruit stand takes 11 minutes to complete a
transaction that, in my opinion, should only take, like, 45 seconds,
those aren’t 11 minutes lost, but 11 minutes gained
11 minutes to have the single conversation that could change


Pretty cool, huh.

*See the original post on the Belgexans.

Comments (8)

  • ummm… so I just got a good reminder and a brilliant lesson. Thanks for sharing.
    It’s good to slow down. (Though hard sometimes IN North America, because no one else is slowing down WITH me!! haha)

    hugs and love

  • Haha…I’ve been having the same experience in Virginia. I want to fix the south and make it as time efficient as my Yankee north is. Why does it take twice as long to get anyone to do anything around here!?

    Thanks for the perspective.

  • I stayed in Costa Rica for my last semester of undergrad. Loved it! I wasn’t a missionary, just a student. Yes, the pace was slower. What got to me was when someone would say they’d meet you at 10:00 am and arrive at 10:30. Even with that, now that I’m 43 and have done nothing but enter the North American rat race, I wish I were back appreciating the art of making relationships; taking the time to appreciate the fresh produce and pick the best; learn how to wait not by doing nothing but filling that time with reading, conversations, completing a task and just take it slow. Very slow. Funny, even at their pace in their culture, everything important still gets done on time.

  • I’m a big fan of Jamie – love her honesty and self-effacing humor. Thanks for posting this, Seth.

  • An excellent reminder for all of us! So many of us miss so many opportunities to connect with and engage others in our rush to get from point A to point B. Time to step out of the frenzy of the “Gerbil wheel” and savor time with the Savior and those who intersect our lives.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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