The Very Worst Missionary, The Very Best Blog

I’ve often written about the importance of good communication from the mission field. You’d be surprised, though, how many missionaries I meet that don’t even know what a blog is. Many of those who do have blogs are forced, fake and over-spiritualized. I won’t name any names here, but I could.

Let me point you to Steve and Jamie Wright, or, as they’re known in the blogosphere, El Chupacabra and The Very Worst Missionary. Theirs are perhaps the best examples of missionary blog anywhere. Really. They write regularly about their daily lives in Costa Rica, turning the mundane into witty, fun-to-read insight into the lives of the missionary. They use healthy doses of unsettling candor, biting sarcasm, earnest confession, and self-deprecating humor that make readers feel as though we’re right there with them, caring for kids in poverty, struggling with Spanish, and not flushing toilet paper down the toilet.

If more missionaries wrote like this, we’d have more and better missionaries on the field. Seriously. Everyone would have a more realistic understanding of what a missionary is and what life on the field looks like on a daily basis. The horror stories would weed out the tourists. The full disclosure would demystify the role while making it attractive to accessible, creative, brave, and interesting people.

The best thing is about the Wrights is that they’re interesting. These are blogs you want to read. People you want to know. They point you to Jesus and make you want to be in community with believers like them.

Steve and Jamie, thank you for writing. Thanks for opening a window into your lives, and for being obedient to what God has told you to do.

Be sure to bookmark/RSS both blogs. Also, you can follow Steve and Jamie on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “The Very Worst Missionary, The Very Best Blog

  1. “If more missionaries wrote like this, we’d have more and better missionaries on the field.” …and they would be struggling even more to raise financial support.

    You’re right, missionaries do need to be frank about ALL the aspects of mission life, not just the romantic (read: fake) angle. But why do I write under a fake name? Why are you not really “Ernest Goodman”? Because of what Jamie herself writes on 19 July: “I get hate mail.” Because if my circle of friends and supporters knew about what I wrote in my blog, they’d say I wasn’t a “good” missionary. Because supporters, especially financial ones, at this point don’t get it about the reality of mission life.

    I’ve believed for a long time that there needs to be a serious re-education in missions amongst American Christians, and while candid discussion is a good start, it’s not very advisable when you’re a fundraised missionary. I’m not even sure if I was agency funded I’d want to attract direct attention. So I still tell my stories, but the names and places are changed to protect the guilty. I guess they’re stronger than I am.

    Thanks for directing us to the blogs; they’re going on my feed list.

  2. C. Holland,
    You’re right- Jamie and Steve’s openness and honesty work against them if they’re going for the financial support of more traditionally-minded people. But I think that the days of supporters looking for the missionaries who’ve got it all together are ending. People in the pews realize (more and more) that they don’t want to give to impersonal programs of people who only tell the stories that make them look good. They’re excited to participate with real people who can communicate in refreshingly creative ways. So Jamie does get hate mail (some from her sending organization!), but she also had this happen when her family had to leave the country due to unexpected visa issues:

    I feel weird about saying this because I’m really bad at talking about money, but I’m gonna do it anyway because this needs to be said. While we were there, and even before we left, people started clicking on that little Paypal button over there ——–> and giving us money to help with the unexpected expense of this trip. I cannot even begin to say how incredibly grateful we are for each of those gifts. And we want to offer a heartfelt thank you to each of you that gave simply because you saw a need that you could help meet. That kind of selflessness truly does inspire me. Sooooo….Thanks!! both for the gift and for the inspiration!

    I think that in the changing world we live in, the Wrights are going to be the only missionaries that anyone really cares about. If money’s tight, someone will skip the “sending organization” altogether and send money to keep this family in (maybe secondhand) skinny jeans and on the mission field. I’d bet that the people who are giving through PayPal aren’t doing that instead of giving to the agency. The people who identify with (and enjoy) Steve and Jamie’s writing are people who would never give to a faceless institution. Partnerships will develop because they will have readers who are routinely delighted by these blogs and genuinely want to spend time in ministry alongside the Wrights.

    If their organization had a clue, they’d pay Steve and Jamie to train all their people how to blog with personality and forthrightness. They’d see them as a huge asset rather than a potential offense to the few remaining legalists who write checks every month. They’d make them spokesbloggers and the faces of their organization to a younger audience.

    So to your point- you’re right. The world of missions is a competitive one, where money doesn’t always go where it should. As you mention, a re-education is necessary. I happen to think that El Chupacabra and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary are just the people to do that.

  3. jamie says what everybody else is thinking, but is too ‘proper’ to say. she will challenge your comfort zone. but she always delivers it in a charming ‘we all have to laugh at the human condition’ kind of way. and then she artfully brings you round to her point, making even us cynics think about her story several times afterwards.

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