Living a Missionary Lifestyle

Posted By: | Culture, Faith, Nicaragua

Over the past few months, I’ve been uniquely challenged by what I have read both online and off. Whether it was from fiction, David Platt’s Radical, my friends, pastors, or just through Scripture, I’ve been given a lot to think about.

I must admit: it was pretty tough to click the Publish button on this post because it feels like I am bearing my soul a bit more than usual. In fact, I actually started writing this two months ago, but couldn’t publish it. I don’t know exactly what this all means for my life, but I know it is changing me

Before you leave this page completely confused, let me explain. (Those red shopping carts do fit into this post at some point.)

When we returned from our third family mission trip to Nicaragua in December, I came across a friend-of-a-friend who had just moved with her husband and three kids from Delaware to Nicaragua. I was immediately drawn to Bethany’s story, and pretty much stalked her blog for a couple of days while I digested everything she had written about why they moved and how it was affecting their family. Along the way I found we actually had a lot in common… such as our mutual love of writing, Butterscotch Krimpets, and Beverly Lewis’ tales of Amish life, just to name a few :).

And to top it all off… she’s doing something I want to do: serving in Nicaragua for more than a week or two at a time.

But at one point during my stalking exploration of her blog, I was so challenged I actually had to stop reading and step away from the computer. Her husband, Jeff, wrote about something he heard from an organization that helps send doctors into the mission field. This organization – MedSend – requires all applicants to live a “missionary lifestyle,” even when they are not serving overseas.

You know that feeling when you read something and immediately wish you hadn’t because the words are forever emblazoned in your brain and you can’t get rid of them even if you try? That’s what happened when I read MedSend’s definition of a missionary lifestyle:

  1. Missionaries buy what they need, not what they want. They “want what they have.” Missionaries can’t afford everything they want, but they can afford what they need.
  2. Missionaries use things up, wear things out, make things do, or do without.
  3. Missionaries have a conserver mentality rather than a consumer mentality.
  4. Missionaries don’tย shop. They buy with a list of needs and donโ€™t buy on impulse. Shopping leads to buying things you don’t really need.
  5. Missionaries always maintain the spiritual discipline of giving to God, but not with borrowed money. Sometimes they can only give by self-denial.

Ouch. That’s pretty un-American, isn’t it?

So maybe I don’t really want to be a missionary, after all.

But the definition of “missionary” is one who is sent on a mission. If I call myself a Christian, I can’t ignore that God has sent me on a mission, be it in the US, Nicaragua, or wherever I go (Matthew 28:16-20).

And I can’t really argue with any of those five points, even though I might wish I had remained oblivious to them.ย  I mean, it’s not really about whether or not I have the money to buy another pair of shoes, but rather whether that is the best use of that money. *sigh*

Have I mentioned how much I love Target? And Amazon? And Target?

I just keep telling myself to take baby steps. And I *am* making progress. I have been to Target only twice in the last three weeks, spending a total of $120 between the two trips (that is a big improvement given I didn’t make it out of there under $100 in any of the previous six visits). One of the girls went with me and actually noticed a change, saying, “Hey, it’s no fun shopping with you anymore because you’re not letting me toss extra stuff into the cart.” No, I’m not.

I’m trying to buy only what we need, not what I want. (Gulp, I really love buying shoes!)

I’m trying to use things up before buying more. (I found three half-used sets of shampoo and conditioner in the closet, each one discarded before it was empty because I simply grew tired of it. I’ve now vowed not to buy any more until all three have been squeezed completely empty.)

I’m trying not to go to the store just because I need to get out of the house. That only leads to buying things I don’t need. And besides, the kids much prefer it when I take a walk with them instead.

And I’m using the extra cash to give back to God. After all, it’s not really *mine* anyway and I’m sure His plans for it are way better than mine (shoes)…

So, I’m trying to live a missionary lifestyle. Here. Now.

I’m still a work in progress. ๐Ÿ™‚ Aren’t we all?


  1. Hear, hear! This will become a challenge for Matthew and I in the next year as we make the change from budgeting our scholarship to actually making TWO salaries… I can already feel the money monster welling up, thinking of the things we could do (spend)… I’ll have to print this out and paste it on our debit card! ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I love the prior comment about the money monster – true, so true. The hubby is the big spender, and reigning him in is difficult. I try to buy what we need, but temptation is all around. I, too, am a Target shopper, but I find myself buying clothes for the kids, not myself!! Today is a rainy day on Spring Break and we have resisted the shopping bug…think I’ll go take a run While there’s a break in the rain. And I’ll share this with David – it will likely get the same response that my idea of giving up tv for lent got!!


  3. So I just found your blog one year later because my husband and I are exploring how to lead a missionary lifestyle and I’m wondering how you are doing one year later with these goals? I know, totally random huh?


    • Rachel – I know you have read Jen Hatmaker’s 7, and I can honestly say her book seemed like a natural progression for us, given that we had already started down this path a year ago. We have made significant changes in terms of our spending habits. And I actually have what I can only describe as somewhat of a “disdain” for the type of shopping I used to do on a regular basis. In fact, I think I should write another post as a follow up to explain further. So stay tuned ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Pingback: Moving to Central America?

Post a Comment


Please fill all required areas: Name, E-Mail, Comment