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The Battlefield Scars, the Dirt, and the Messiness of Missionaries

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

...How best can the Church receive them back as they trudge off the field, often covered in the messiness of the battle?

So often when we view medieval battle scenes on television, we see amidst the mud and the fallen left on the field, the victors tiredly walking off with dazed looks on their faces from the fight. In reality, the strength of wielding heavy swords throughout those medieval battles must have taken immense stamina and fortitude. As we watch on our screens at home, great emotion is portrayed to us, as the warriors realize the gravity of what has just occurred in their battle and the immense thankfulness that is expressed that they are still standing and able to stagger off the field alive.

With this visual portrayal in our minds, if we were then to shift to the topic of the Church, might there be elements of the battle scene that would correlate to that of our returning missionaries from their own battlefields of life? And if so, how best can the Church receive them back as they trudge off the field, often covered in the messiness of the battle? I would like to propose a few thoughts to ponder and hopefully implement as you welcome “home” those dirt-covered, weary warriors that you encounter in your own church communities.

  • Remember that these tired workers have just come off the field from immense fighting which often requires most of their strength just to spiritually survive, let alone thrive. Guard your own expectations of them and don’t require them to now minister to you. The fight has been real and now they need time to rest and to heal, rather than continuing to be expected to raise the battle cry off the field, as well as on the field. Rather, welcome them “home” and just allow them to sit and to rest. They need to see love and empathy in the eyes of their cheerers, instead of feeling a possible expectation to continue to rally the troops for the next battle ahead.

  • As with all battlefield scenes, the warriors return back with scars, sweat and often tears - Don’t be afraid to come close to the mess of your missionary. Often I fear we expect them to present to us a spruced-up image of the battle. When in fact, spiritual warfare, especially in another country other than your own, is messy. Your returning missionary comes back to you loaded with dirt, wounds and weariness that often is not beautifully packaged like so often we expect to see. Keep in mind, there is a stark difference between the excited, hope-filled missionary your church sent off to this new country and the weary, mud-covered one now returning. Be willing to get close to the mess and the smell from the battle. Who knows, maybe God has placed you there for “such a time as this.”

  • As your missionary returns to his home country, be willing to put on the robe of a servant. Be willing to come alongside this smelly, weary warrior and welcome them in to a place of rest. Don’t be afraid of viewing the struggle that might occur as you get close to the mess of this precious warrior. Your steady, gentle hand of love coupled with an unhurried, listening ear can in fact, produce a much needed strengthening that will then allow your determined warrior to return back to the field equipped, strengthened and washed for a new round of gospel-wielding fighting.

God, through the Apostle Paul, refers to the Church in several different ways. One being that He describes His Church as the Body of Christ. What a beautifully, profound picture God paints of us! Concerning the aspect of your returning missionaries, my encouragement would be to keep this image in view as you welcome these precious one’s off the field. God has given the Church the extreme privilege of being His hands and feet to these one’s who have willing given up family, friends and homeland to serve the Lord in bringing the nations to God’s Throne. We serve together in this fight and what an opportunity the Church has to provide a safe place for any needed healing and strength-building it’s foreign warriors might require for the battles ahead!

We jointly partner together, all for His Kingdom’s glory … and nothing more.

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