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Missionary Sundays

Adrian Patenaude

I wrote this slam poem for my poetry class this semester. It's about what it's like for a missionary kid to return "home" to the States and a critique of the disconnect between missionaries and churches. It's a harsh truth, both for the church and for myself. Everything in this poem is true to feelings I have struggled with in the past. But thanks to the kindness of the Lord and a loving Stateside church family, I have moved past these resentments. A big thank you to all those who have prayed and cared for my family over the years. And thank you, Lord, for teaching me what it means to be a faithful member of the "home team."

Missionary Sundays

You think I don’t see your boredom, but I do.
Your uncomprehending stare, muffled yawn,
your relief when my dad clicks to the last slide of the presentation.
You’re not supposed to groan on Missionary Sunday, but you do.

I hate it just as much as you. Probably more.
Every four years, we pack up our house in Thailand and fly for 30 hours
so we can trek across the Bible Belt in a borrowed car for six months.
I hate it. Everything about it.
The conversations in youth group that fizzle out and die when I say I’m from Thailand.
The woman avoiding eye contact in line at the potluck because it’s too much effort to engage.
The guy who thanks us for our service as if by going we exempt him from the draft of the Great Commission.

You just don’t get that we were once like you. We had educations and paychecks and a house in the suburbs. We had a stressed-out poodle named Cc.
I know we’re weird and out of touch and wear ugly clothes and sometimes slip a foreign word into conversation out of habit, but we are still like you.

We are lonely.
And all we need is someone to pray.
Someone to care.

But you don’t understand and you don’t care enough to try.
So I learn to hate your indifference.

Years later, I’m living with you, going to your churches.
I’m in college, learning to love the Bible Belt, casseroles and all.
And for the first time in my life, I’m something other than the missionary kid.

On Sundays I Skype my parents in Thailand.
I listen to their stories, struggles, the stubbornness of the people.
They cry, hearts bloodied for the millionth time in 18 years.
They ask me to pray.
But this time I’ve changed.
And I find myself… bored.

Do they see it?
My uncomprehending stare, my muffled yawn,
my look of relief when my dad moves to click off the computer?

I’m uncomfortable, even angry, that they would burden me with their “problems.”
Cause I like my life and I’m happy,
heart unbloodied by the fate of the stubborn.
Here in the Bible Belt,
the Great Commission seems such a faraway mission.

Why do I have to care?
Caring is hard. Ugly. Messy. Excruciating. And exhausting.
Why would I choose that pain?

I don’t understand and I don’t care enough to try.
So I’ve learned to hate my indifference.

I’ve learned to hate my indifference
as much as yours.