Some interns just returned from spending two days with a missionary family working nearby.  As part of our training we attempt to expose interns to a variety of works and organizations.  When asked, What is this family doing? the interns remarked, “We are not sure, it seems like all they are doing is raising their children overseas.” CS, a friend of mine working in the Arab world who was there commented, They probably are.  For missionaries fall into one of four categories; you see 25% of the missionaries are doing an excellent work, making a good impact.  And 25% are being helpful, supportive, working alongside those who are being effective.  And yes, 25% are simply raising their family overseas; and then 25% are actually making life very difficult for the first 25%.

In nearly 30 years overseas and having traveled and worked with missionaries in over 30 countries, I believe CS’s figures are spot on.  But if that’s true, shouldn’t 50% of the missionary work force be sent home?  Hmm…well, yes.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve written a bit on how missions and missionaries are not living up to real scrutiny and standards.  The bar for most mission work is so low, that you cannot get under it.  I have no clue who the author is, but it’s nice to see another former worker admit the same.  You can read her full article at

Here are some excerpts from a blog she titles “Deciphering Missions” (all emphasis is hers)
We arrived in Costa Rica on a Thursday, and on our very first Sunday in the country El Chupacabra (her husband) was standing in a pool helping baptize some guy we’d never met before.

The Baptism just happened to be occurring on the property where we were staying for a couple of weeks before we started language school. When our family (still wide-eyed in shock after leaving the U.S.) stumbled into the celebration by accident, someone invited El Chupacabra to join right in with the dunking. It seemed like the missionaryish thing to do, so he did.

Our first ever newsletter went out with a picture of my husband up to his chest in pool water with his arm around that guy. Big smiles everywhere. In the letter, we proudly declared that God was already using us in amazing and unexpected ways. We didn’t lie, of course – the newsletter was carefully worded so as not to mislead anyone into thinking we had done more than just arrive, but it was vague enough to still spark interest for would-be investors, and assure supporters that “The Wrights in Costa Rica” were a wise choice. As for the guy? We never saw him again, never knew his name, and, obviously, had nothing at all to do with his journey toward Baptism. But he sure did make great fodder for our newsletter.

… It’s kinda scary when you think about it, but Christian Missions is a billion (that’s BILLION, like, with a B!) dollar industry – with virtually no oversight, no standards of practice, and no hiring requirements. To top it off, it’s shrouded in a cloud of overly spiritualized language, easily manipulated to allow people to believe that more good is coming from their missions dollars than is necessarily true….

…While I was virtually paralyzed by depression and anxiety, I used Missionary Code to turn every innocuous coffee date with a friend into “discipleship time”. Hours spent circling Facebook were important to “support development”, and everyday interactions with grocery store clerks and bank tellers suddenly became meaningful when referred to as “intentional relationships”. Oh, and the things your supporters do in their time off (like running, or taking classes, or hanging out with their kids) are things you get to claim, according to Missionary Code, as work….

… I’m telling you all of this because there is blatant fraud going on in the world of missions and in the name of Jesus.) And that bothers me. If you support a missionary, if you’re a church that supports missionaries, if you’re interested in becoming a missionary, you should be pushing for clarity and transparency from the Missions world. Most missionaries will be able to answer your questions without resorting to evasive language and obscure ideas. But if they can’t? That should be a serious red flag and you should feel emboldened to push back until you clearly understand what they’re doing with their time…

…Sadly, not all missionaries are good missionaries. This is a hard reality for the Church because we are absolutely terrified of hurting anyone’s feelings, and we’re easily held at bay by spiritual double-talk.  But, I’m telling you, this is a BIG problem and it shouldn’t be ignored. Deciphering the code is the first step in helping our missionaries stay functional and accountable.

Missions should not be a mystery.

Again, read the full blog at

PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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