Webster’s dictionary defines paradox as “a statement or proposition seemingly self-contradictory or absurd, and yet expressing a truth.” Much of life is filled with paradox and this is certainly true in missionary life.
Member Health at World Gospel Mission assists missionaries in expressing the seemingly contradictory realities of what they have faced as missionaries serving in a foreign country. When they return to the United States for homeland ministry assignment, we offer a Renewal Retreat during which we encourage missionaries to speak to us “in paradox.” Transitioning to serve in their host country often comes with a reality that what they may have expected is different from the reality that they have actually experienced.
Marlene and I went to Ecuador with the idea of serving as pastors to missionaries in that part of the world. First, we went to language school for eight months in Costa Rica prior to moving to Ecuador. As we wrestled with learning Spanish, I remember saying, “At least we are going as pastors to missionaries and not planting a church.”
God moved during our term in Ecuador and, yes, we did do pastoral ministry in 12 countries. But God also showed up in unexpected ways, and He planted a church in our own home. Preaching all those sermons in Spanish was one of the hardest challenges I’d ever faced. But we rejoice today, knowing that God had a plan for a church in the heart of the Andes Mountains.
The reality of paradox is sometimes much greater and much more positive than what may be expected, and sometimes it is far different or much harder than what was expected. Renewal Retreat at WGM is an opportunity to allow our missionaries to explain their experience in a way that enables them to stay on both sides at the same time. We work with our missionaries to allow them to voice seemingly contradictory statements about their transition experiences without weakening one or the other. Our MKs receive this same opportunity as they use a “Yay Duck” and a “Yuck Duck” (Get it? A pair of ducks!) to tell what their experience was like as they transition back to their home country.
You have probably experienced some transitions with paradox for sure. Share with a pastor, a friend, or a coworker your “Yay” experiences and your “Yuck” experiences. It will equip you to move forward in the work God has called you to do.
It’s time to set up your “Yay Duck” and “Yuck Duck” meeting with a friend or spiritual mentor. Grab the phone and your calendar and set up a coffee date for this month.