ArticleMissionary Life

What Is the Cost?

The joy of following Jesus gives missionaries strength when counting the costs of cross-cultural ministry.
A man was recently getting to know our family and our ministry.

As he asked about our support requirements he posed a common question: “What is the cost?”

Now, we knew from context that he was asking about the monthly budget to make ministry and life possible, but the way in which he posed the question made us hesitate as our minds wandered in a much different direction.

There is a cost much greater than then numbers can ever show. A cost we count often but rarely talk about. It's a painful reality every missionary knows all too well.

Sometimes it is the cost of our physical comforts. The cost of giving up things that though monetarily valueless, hold special memories. Leaving behind wedding albums, dearly worn books, your child’s red wagon or a favorite cast iron pot to save space and weight in your suitcases.

At times the cost is convenience and ease, as you struggle to count out correct currency at the local market. A simple trip to a bank or post office in a foreign country may take hours of your day. And usually does.

The cost is confusion. Sometimes even embarrassment, as you try to learn a new language and traverse the myriad of cultural nuances that you may never fully understand, try as you will.

The cost is relational strain. The daily struggle to break ethnic and linguistic barriers just to make one friend. The constant weight of grief and guilt knowing your loved ones back home are devastated, broken and maybe even angry over you making the choice to move a world away.

The cost is the lack of control. Not knowing when or if you may lose support. Not knowing if your visa will be accepted. Not being able to drive to the hospital to visit a relative who sick or meet the new baby of your best friend. Not knowing where you will stay when you are stateside or for how long or if any place will ever fully feel like "home" to you again.

The cost is community. At times, isolation. And with it, loneliness, depression, doubt. The deep longing for corporate worship in your native tongue. Sleepless nights spent worrying over your children and yourself—can we make it here?

The cost is change. The world back home moves on without you in it. It must, of course, but it feels so strange. The world where you live is full of new things and the way you think and feel is changing as you experience it in this new way. You wonder if anyone outside of your home can really know and understand you anymore.

The cost is holidays, birthdays, and traditions that pale in comparison overseas, try as you may to make them full and bright and alive. The cost is missing Monday coffee hangouts and play dates with familiar faces. Sunday dinners and beach trips with the grandparents. Video calls and text messages take the place of warm embraces from those you love.

The cost is worry about security. Making many decisions based on “what ifs” and “just in case.” Twenty-two digit passwords. Desperately praying for opportunities to share about Jesus and then, with trepidation,​ opening your mouth when he gives them to you.

There are so many costs to count in this work. A hundred more would still not complete the list. And yet, still so many joys!

It is what makes this journey so bittersweet. It is what makes us treasure the Scriptures that highlight the constant love, provision and presence of the lord.

The desperation in which we must cling to Jesus with our longings and heartaches has been amplified. But Jesus understands the complexity of the human heart.

He is near to the broken-hearted. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. And he counted a cost a million times higher than anything we could endure or imagine. And did it for us. So that we would see a life-altering picture of rescue for all of creation. Something worth giving up anything he asks of us so that others may know.

It doesn’t take the pain or the cost of our sacrifices away, but his life and death and sweet words rub a salve into the aching places so that we can continue to count the cost and follow him.

About the Author

The author is an anonymous missionary serving in a restricted-access country. ABWE has more than 100 missionaries serving in a variety of restricted-access countries. Support their ministry.

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