Netflix Is Making It Harder to Be a Missionary

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No matter if it’s streaming sports, TV shows, or family updates—it’s hard to do ministry if you’re still tied to your old life.

For as long as I can remember, the word missionary conjured up a specific, anxiety-inducing image in my mind. A young person felt a burning call to some “dangerous” or “poverty-stricken” nation, said goodbye to the comforts of home and family, and assimilated into a new culture. They suffered, trusted God, bore fruit, raised money. Repeat.

It was this notion that popped into my head when a furloughed missionary asked me on a date, a situation that led me to confront my unease of a prospective life on the mission field. The furloughed missionary was preparing for a five-year commitment to the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in Taipei, Taiwan, and even though I was interested in him, I didn’t think I was built for the anticipated sacrifices. But after visiting him for a few weeks in the summer, I was surprised to find that his life looked nothing like my childhood impression. He studied Mandarin in cafes by day and went to the base’s coffee bar a few nights a week to teach English and the Bible to locals. He lived in a modern apartment with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and satellite TV and most of his furnishings came from the IKEA a few Taipei Metro stops away. Even though he lived thousands of miles from home in North Dakota, he could still watch Vikings football games online and call his family anytime he wanted to.

These modern conveniences would end up making it easier for me (and many others) to say yes to Taiwan. What I didn’t realize was how difficult saying yes would become later on—in the small but crucial moments of transition and incarnation.

High-speed internet, airplanes, and cellphones have given those of us who have left our lives and loved ones behind an unprecedented …

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