MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

Archive for July, 2011

New Thoughts: Whether You Like it or Not, You’re a Missionary

I don’t like calling myself a missionary because that makes it weird for everyone else. 

I may live in a country that’s foreign to me (Mexico), receive monthly financial support from a generous group of friends and donors, and send out a monthly newsletter update– but that doesn’t make me a missionary.

In fact, I rather hate calling myself a missionary. Some people like it and love including that title in their introductions to strangers.  In my humble opinion, you might as well say “Hi, I am going to convert you.  Want to be my friend?” or imagine an undercover cop who finally reaches the mafia kingpin only to ruin everything by saying “Hi, I’m an undercover cop.  Kill me now.”

I don’t like calling myself a missionary because that makes it weird for everyone else. 

What about the person who wants to make movies but can’t because of a major lack of resources?  What about the girl who has a dream to become a dancer and train under one of the best instructors in Europe, but needs a little communal boost to get there?  What about the dude with a great, game-changing business idea that could really benefit from seed money?  What about you?  Could you use some help right now?

I don’t like calling myself a missionary because somehow that implies that what I am doing and what I want to do is more important and more “sacred” than what you are doing or pursuing.

Well, the truth is that whether you like it or not, you’re a missionary. 

It’s because you have a purpose in life and you have dreams.  You’re supposed to do all that you can to fulfill that very thing on your heart and contribute your version of beauty to this broken world.

You have a mission.

You’re a missionary.

Entonces . . . You should be supported in the ways that I am right now.  You should be validated and affirmed in ways that only a dedicated community of believers (in you) can.  The church missionary budget should allocate some funds to you.  You should have access to a list of supporters who have committed themselves to journey with you on your mission and ensure that you reach your God-given pursuit.

“But aren’t missionaries supposed to evangelize and win souls for Jesus?”

I think Jesus was a better friend than he was an “evangelist”.  That was His mission. “Winning souls” has very little to do with talk and more to do with being the best, most honest version of you intersecting with that person who simply wants to be whole.

“Missionaries are also the ones who are supposed to be compassionate and help people and villages in need. . . “

. . . and so is every one else.  Don’t be dumping the burden (and privilege) of simple care on someone who moves to a different country.

At the end of the day, the term “missionary” is just a label.  Maybe it helps some to carry that label to feel distinguished or focused.  For others, it helps them to give generously since their money is going towards “holy” work.  Still others out there enjoy the fact that they don’t carry such a title since it lets them off the hook.

Well, everything we do is holy and sacred.  Every one of us has a responsibility to our fellow man.  We all have dreams in and for the world.  We’re all “missionaries” because we all have something that we’re supposed to carry out with all our mind, heart, and soul.

Whether you like it or not, you’re a missionary. . . and you need to be supported like one. 

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What’s in a Name?

When I was a freshman at the what is widely considered to be the Harvard of the West Coast I checked out this campus organization and got into a rather lengthy conversation with one of the leaders.  He was a cool enough guy and I thought that if I were to return to the group, I’d have a friend who could help me ease into the cliques and feel at home . . . so that I could eventually form my own clique.  You know how that works right?

The following week, I went back and was happy to see my new buddy.  I said, “Hey ——!  What’s up?”

His response: “Oh… hey!  Oh man, what was your name again?”

Me: “I thought we were friends!  We talked for a while last week.  Remember that?  I practically poured out my heart in those 10 minutes.  OK, maybe I didn’t but at least I cared enough to remember your name.  Forget this, I’m outta here, fool!”

I really said that to him.  In my mind.  In any case, I never returned to that group.

I don’t know why it’s such a big deal to me but it drives a stake in my heart whenever a person forgets my name, especially after we have any sort of meaningful conversation or interaction.

Let me be the first to say, however, that I’m not much better myself.  I have introduced myself to people in the past who have politely (and sometimes angrily) informed me that this is the 3rd time I’m meeting them.  Ouch.

There’s this somewhat influential leader that I have met about 5 times (no exaggeration).  Each time he smiles and tells me “nice to meet you, DK.”  Well, obviously it’s not nice enough since it’s about the millionth time we’re meeting, jerk.  (Just kidding. I would never say this.  I would only think it.)  Seriously though, he has no recollection of our meeting, ever.  50 first dates style.  Maybe it’s because all Asian DK’s look the same. 

I’ve been thinking about this lately and I’m sharing this with you now because I realized that a friendship doesn’t really start until you know (and remember) a person’s name.  Why?  It’s because everything and everyone we value has a name.

We choose to remember a person’s name because we see or choose to see value in that person. .  . or sometimes they have a name like Gunther and it’s pretty dang hard to forget.

When was the last time you cared to know the name of a person who had nothing to offer you except their friendship?