Marriage: The Memorable Impact of Missions on Marriage
Dave: We are writing this from Guam, just a speck of an island in the middle of the South Pacific.
Donalyn: We are finishing our 6th week on a South East Asia mission’s trip. We served 2 weeks in Indonesia and 2 weeks in Thailand before coming here.
Dave: This is my 27th ministry trip overseas and Donalyn has joined me for over 20 of them. What a privilege to share the Good News of Jesus Christ cross-culturally and to help people build their families around God’s blueprint for life and marriage.
Donalyn: We want to share with you some of our experiences – lots of stories – both crazy and moving. We are so thankful to the Lord for all we have experienced while serving beyond the borders of our fair country.
Dave: We also want to speak into what mission trips have done for our marriage – good and bad, awesome and stretching.
Donalyn: We’ll try to explore how couples can grow closer to each other and the Lord in the act of going outside their world and ministering to the needs of others.
Dave: Know that we have served in the countries of Kenya, Saipan, Brazil, Philippines, Thailand, Ireland, Mexico, Indonesia, Russia, Haiti, Slovakia, Guam, USA, England, China, Hong Kong, and Pohnpei.
THE STRESSES EXPERIENCED ON MISSION TRIPS
Donalyn: Sometimes the tension between us comes from the different ways we face the new challenges overseas. To be fair, Dave embraces most of the stretching things in trips better than I do – except for food. I am more adventurous there.
Dave: Hold it. I have eaten water buffalo, octopus, fish brains, snails, stingray, pork fat, chicken feet, squid and more in the last 6 weeks. I think that’s proof I can really suck it up when needed.
Donalyn: Not bad for a meat and potatoes kind of guy. We need to be thankful for what’s put in front of us as a courtesy. They are usually serving us their very best, like we are special guests, so prepare yourself.
Dave: In some cases with extreme foods I pray during meals to not embarrass myself and I always have water close by to wash things down.
Donalyn: Then there is the scheduling issue. I can be more laid back. You need to be flexible on mission trips. Dave gets a little “wired” with delays or changes in schedules.
Dave: Okay. So I like having a game plan and sticking to it. It’s true. You have to kill the side of you that has to be ‘on time’.
Donalyn: On overseas missions trips, you need to be accommodating to what is asked of you. Dave is too good at saying yes to anything, though. On this trip the diversity was wild; he taught at a seminary, spoke at a kid’s club, shoveled 5 yards of gravel and taught at a middle school. In Indonesia, he spoke 53 times in 11 days!
Dave: You are there to serve, I say. Just be ready to share as well as you can whenever you can. Whether it’s an hour late starting and then the meeting goes 2-3 hours or things getting cancelled for a new time or another event, you have to go with the flow.
Donalyn: Most developing countries are not driven by our time frames. That’s hard to adjust to.
Dave: I can admit it. That’s why on one trip to Mexico I invented the line “trabajar vamos con esso” which is my rough attempt in Spanish to say – “Let’s work with it”. The team loved it.
Donalyn: Grueling travel can be a real factor. You can pretty much expect anything. If the long flights, the time zone changes and the jet lag don’t get you, it could be the novel ways of getting around in each new country.
Dave: It’s like the movie “planes, trains and automobiles” on steroids getting from A to B. We have experienced 12 riding in a taxi in Mexico not counting the chickens, 14 in the back of a pickup truck in Brazil with film and sound gear too, 5 on a motorcycle in Indonesia, walking for miles down mud roads in Kenya to get to church or sitting on a cramped Russian commuter plane with wooden trays!
Donalyn: How about the subway in Mexico City where you got targeted and pick-pocketed.
Dave: That’s another story. But the wildest ride might have been bouncing down African dirt roads in a 5-ton German lorry (big army truck) with 12-14 of us riding in the back with gear, food, backpacks, water barrels, live chickens (future meals we called lunch and dinner) and more. The suspension was so stiff that you’d seriously have to hang on or you’d be launched 3-4 feet into the air when the truck hit a crater. It was exhausting.
Donalyn: Then there was the bus with the hole in the floorboards where you could watch the road beneath your feet, or the potholes so big, you could only see the taillights of the vehicle that went in them – really, just the taillights!
Dave: Better still – try driving overseas! You use your horn more than your brakes in Haiti, drive on the burm (grassy shoulder) to avoid collisions in Ireland, fly at 160 km/hour just to stay with traffic in Mexico and that’s nothing said about the many countries that you have to drive on the opposite side of the road?! Wild!
Donalyn: It was very scary traffic in Indonesia with lanes as narrow as parking stalls. It was awful. I thought I was going to die many times on this trip. There seem to be no rules on the road. On some of the head-on close calls, I screamed. Fearless Dave even screamed.
Dave: Just a little.
Donalyn: After that, I had to quit looking and just pray.
Dave: Where you end up sleeping for the night can be testing too. Uncomfortable beds with no pillows or sheets are a gift after you have slept for nights on concrete or wooden benches with only a blanket over you. We’ve used our towels to pad our hips and a sweatshirt for a pillow.
Donalyn: Then there was the “Doom” in Kenya. It was my night of panic, as I don’t do well sleeping with bugs. Dave and I and our two youngest kids (then 14 & 12) were billeted in a grass hut.
Dave: The room was really small, only as wide as the four of us sleeping shoulder to shoulder. We were on a wooden frame 8 inches up and the kids on grass mats right on the dirt floor. The kids were bagged from two travel nights on the plane and went off to bed ahead of us. That’s when the “Doom” happened.
Donalyn: You see, in Kenya, Doom is a treasured thing and like Raid, is a type of bug killer used to spray in your sleeping area to protect you from mosquitoes and dissuade other crawling critters from joining you in bed.
Dave: Our kids got a little eager with the spray trying to kill the wasps flying into a nest in the thatched roof about 6 feet overhead. Problem.
Donalyn: Serious problem. They had kept spraying and spraying only to realize that thatched roofs are FULL of all kinds of bugs. 100’s of them – like earwigs. Well, when we came in, our kids were bouncing off the walls – half because of the fumes and half because of the steady rain of semi-dead bugs. It was a nightmare!
Dave: We went to bed praying, asking for grace that we’d fall asleep fast in spite of the constant falling of bugs. Donalyn was so brave.
Donalyn: I am glad it is only a memory now but seeing many dead critters in our bed in the morning was a little much. I shiver at the thought.
Dave: Bugs rule overseas. Weird ones. Try cockroaches that fly (seriously), moths the size of a man’s hand, beetles the size of golf balls, red fire ants that make you bleed, and geckos appearing everywhere. That list of critters is just from this trip!
Donalyn: Jesus had to deliver me time and time again.
Dave: And I remain her hero as number 1 bug killer!
Donalyn: My hero…
Dave: There will also be times of spiritual opposition where you serve. We had frequent Voodoo worship around our compound in Port Au Prince, Haiti and a car with loudspeakers driving through the streets in Los Aguilas, Mexico announcing that our team was photographing children to later steal and sell them. Remember that God is bigger than any challenge or oppression you’ll face.
Donalyn: Other challenges include changes in diet having adverse affects to your health. Be cautious of the water or prepare to face “Montezuma’s revenge”.
Dave: Learning to work with translators is challenging especially as fast as I speak.
Donalyn: Showering with a bucket in your hand, with unknown creatures on the walls, cold water and little privacy keeps the showers short.
Dave: Having no relief from the heat and humidity will test and drain you.
Donalyn: Try the quad muscle workout when you have to squat over a hole in the ground to relieve yourself with no handles and only bamboo poles around you. Bring your own toilet paper for sure. There may not be any.
Dave: The tension between you as a couple can rise when you are trying to encourage each other to hang in there through these stresses or in my case, just chill!
Donalyn: Privately, we’re not always “happy campers”. It’s good to vent with each other though, pray together and then move forward with grace.
Dave: Yet, as hard as any of these inconveniences might seem, it really is a matter of perspective. Whining about a lame bed, a few bugs or how late an event starts seem pretty shallow when you are talking to people who this is their daily experience or to those who have spent a few years in crowded jail hellholes because of their faith in Christ.
Donalyn: The blessings outnumber the stresses. Seeing how God works in the lives of the people motivates us to quit whining about perceived inconveniences…no, it makes them virtually insignificant.
Dave: I never get tired of having front row seats to seeing lives changed, seeds planted, and truth received. I love it when I see the lights go on spiritually. It’s such a blessing to witness eternal transformation.
Donalyn: You are making history together as a couple. You leave your
mark in this world for Him. Beyond the thrill in seeing God work, you develop lasting memories of funny moments, shared challenges and treasured events. These trips become part of the fabric of your marriage.
Dave: There is something powerful about serving together. I love seeing Donalyn speak, counsel or pray with someone. I appreciate her every step of faith like recently when she agreed to speak to an Indonesian High School sharing her story and then spent part of the next two days counseling girls who had faced similar abuse hurdles. No one can take greater pride in your spouse’s effort and service than you.
Donalyn: Then there’s the amazing kinship of connecting with Christian’s from all over the globe. To pray together in different languages is an amazing experience.
Dave: This is a big one for me. When I sing and worship side-by-side others praising God in their own language but with the same faith and hope I have, I get overwhelmed. I picture heaven with people from every tribe and nation raising our voices as one to the Lord of all.
Donalyn: There’s the joy of seeing people with you grow, too. Whether it’s the team you lead or your family, it’s a huge delight in seeing steps of faith and obedience taken.
Dave: Every trip has highlights like that. I remember big Mike on the Kenya trip. He had been with me on 3 other trips but had never personally prayed with someone to receive Christ. He told me that was his specific prayer for this trip. Within the first hour of our ministry starting, big Mike had the big smile. He went on to lead many people to Jesus.
Donalyn: That happened with our own kids on the same trip. Each of them between the ages of 12 & 20 had many opportunities to see God use them to lead others to Jesus. That is life-changing!
Dave: I love the undeniable divine appointments. One farmer in Kenya after hearing about Jesus numerous times had decided that the next person that walked up his path and told him about the Lord, he would respond. At the end of a long day of hut-to-hut witnessing, God prompted me to share His Good News with just one more person (almost didn’t) while waiting for our team to gather. I interrupted him tilling his tomato plants. God had brought me from Canada to be that next one. He accepted the Lord with a hoe in his hand.
Donalyn: The blessings you will experience are countless. I love the big smiles and the laughter of children.
Dave: I love the fun and challenge of trying to learn each other’s languages.
Donalyn: The magic and intrigue of the different cultures.
Dave: The richness of the body of Christ – the diversity of Christians all over the world.
Donalyn: My own faith being chal
lenged and humbled by seeing theirs.
Dave: The understanding and appreciative tears of gratitude as His love is shared.
Donalyn: The sense of overcoming your own fears is huge. When you risk, like I did sharing my story of abuse as a child for the first time on Guam, you see God’s purpose and strengthening in no other way.
Dave: These steps of faith are big. God used my story as hard as it was to share. Remember He doesn’t waste pain.
Donalyn: He uses you as you are and because of who you are if you trust Him.
Dave: It’s laying up treasures in Heaven that won’t rust or fade away.
Donalyn: You learn to live on
less and be fine with it.
Dave: The spiritual richness is huge but certainly not the only blessing. You see so much of the world together – far more than the five star hotels, golf courses and beaches.
Donalyn: We’ve seen some of the most beautiful places in the World; Iguassu Falls in Brazil, the Rift Valley in Kenya, Lake Toba in Indonesia, Buckingham Palace in London, riding an elephant in Thailand, the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and the Aztec pyramid in Mexico to name a few.
Dave: You can’t out give God.
GETTING THE MOST OF YOUR MISSION’S SERVICE TOGETHER
Here are our tips for an enriching mission’s trip as a couple:
- Go to serve the Lord, the people and each other. Nothing is beneath you. Make the most of every opportunity. Volunteer freely being willing to do anything.
- Serve in a culturally sensitive and relevant way. Accommodate different styles, levels of dress, customs, forms of ministry and whatever else comes your way. Remember, Christ is cross-cultural; don’t deliver a Western Jesus.
- Don’t compare cultures. Your way will seem better to you. Enjoy and experience the differences. Risk by trying new things. Learn a bit of the language. Laugh about the differences privately.
- Plans will change. Be flexible and patient. Don’t lose your sanctification over not following the schedule and the time line. Chill, then keep serving.
- Be an over-comer. Take stresses in stride. Don’t complain. Appreciate their hospitality even if it’s below your norm. Adapt to their customs. Be gracious through the struggles and learn all you can.
- Pray together every night. Debrief. Talk about your highlights and frustrations. Enjoy each day’s opportunities and experiences. Prepare your heart for the next day.
- Let God transform and deepen your faith and understanding of Him. You’ll see many things differently overseas. Rethink your priorities and Kingdom values.
Dave: This trip finished with a bang! God touched many hearts this morning as 65-70 people responded to the message and knelt in prayer at the altar for recommitment to God and His plan for their marriages. This is why we started our ministry Doing Family Right.
Donalyn: I love the growth that these trips bring in my faith and in our marriage.
Dave: It’s an honor to serve our Lord and make a difference in some way.
Donalyn: So when will you go as a couple to serve overseas on a mission’s trip?
Dave: There will be no regrets.
Donalyn: One of the greatest losses will be coming home and not being changed. You’ll find this inconsistency gnawing at your soul. What difference does God want me to make once I get home?
Dave: For me, it’s about how has the trip been able to deepen my faith and my Kingdom perspectives. I like to share with others what I have experienced and what God is teaching me. It reinforces my new lessons.
Donalyn: Why don’t you take the challenge this next year to go serve together.
Dave: Share with us your missions and marriage journey. We’d love to hear from you.
© Dr. Dave & Donalyn Currie – February 2013