Living in Community (Part 1)

by mendibpng

We might think of missionaries being heroes. And some are. But most of us are normal, sinful people. I remember hearing that the top reason missionaries leave the field is the conflicts they have with other missionaries!  I heard this as a Missionary Kid and have heard it to this day. I hope I am not stepping on a sacred cow because I don’t handle conflict very well. If this post is a little too gut wrenching, please feel free to come back tomorrow when I will post a contrasting article on why I LOVE living in community.

Here are a few questions I would have for my mission community if I were ever brave enough to ask them:

What makes it okay to speak harshly, either verbally or in an e-mail? Is it okay to say what you really feel regardless of how it will affect the other person? Why is it so easy to judge someone in the name of ‘godly concern?’ Why is it so hard to let people make their own choices of how to live? (I am speaking about how we spend our money, time and how we parent our children) How do you help people who are in the midst of conflict and who are forced to interact with each other often? These are all things I’ve encountered or battled in my own heart since coming here to PNG. I think these questions come up everywhere in all kinds of relationships but when you live so closely, a small thing can get blown out of proportion in no time. You know the phrase “it only takes a spark to get a fire going,” well, I think that is certainly true here. I noticed this especially when people were dealing with grief and transition due to many of their friends leaving for good or going on furlough. Raw emotions lead to some extreme tensions over some fairly minor (in my opinion) issues!

I have noticed that when you live in a small community, it becomes easy to get enmeshed into everybody else’s business. This makes gossiping easier. It makes judging easier. False guilt can ruthlessly permeate relationships. For someone like me, it can be easy to get caught up in demands of well meaning people. All it takes is one insecure or unhappy person to say something to another person and it can affect a great number of people.

Speaking the truth in love begins with acknowledging the truth in my heart first. Most of the time I cannot bear to look at it, or at myself because I don’t like to admit that I have a problem. I’m‘supposed’ to be a missionary after all! Sometimes taking a step back from things helps me realize the problem is in my own heart, and it isn’t necessary to put a burden on someone else. But other times, I feel free to talk with those friends who are safe.

The people I feel safest with here are the ones who don’t feel the need to ‘fix’ me when things are rough. I don’t feel judged by them, and I am free to be myself, all the ugly bits included. Sometimes the most help we can be to each other is to listen and offer to pray and then leave it up to God to do the ‘fixing.’

For my PNG friends, please don’t read into this post–I actually wrote it about 3-4 months ago without any specific examples in mind. 🙂

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