The Common Coffin Consolation

When missionaries gather we console each other. We encourage each other. We laugh together. We gripe together. We solve problems together. A particular consolation comes up frequently in my corner of the world. When things get hard or lonely we say,

“At least we didn’t have to pack our stuff in a coffin.”

Some missionaries a long time back would pack their stuff in a simple wooden coffin instead of suitcases. The regions God called them to commonly did not participate in the practice of burying their dead. Often the trip was one-way because of cost and the extensive time to arrive. Aside from sporadic posts the people who sent the missionary away rarely heard from them again.

My have times changed!

Missionaries now use tools like airplanes and the internet. We can call our loved ones in our passport countries with relative ease. Even those working in rural regions, cut off from communication methods, can hop in a motor vehicle to get to an urban city pretty quickly.

So we tell each other in short, “Things could be worse. Things have been worse. Be grateful.”

Maybe one day way far off in the future missionaries will console each other by saying,

“At least we don’t have to travel in clunky old airplanes now that teletransporters exist.”

Could happen.

4 thoughts on “The Common Coffin Consolation

  1. Yes, things are better now… in some ways. In some ways, they are also more difficult. No, we don’t have to pack our belongings in a coffin. Yes, we have more technology and ways to communicate. But with those opportunities come more expectations. Our supporters expect to hear from us more often than once every couple of years. We don’t just serve the people in the country where we’re living, but are also expected to maintain relationships with our supporters, friends, and family back home. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just more difficult now. Yes, it’s made possible because of the technology, but it also makes our lives more busy and complicated!

  2. Oh my! I just had this conversation with someone the other day during our break between classes here at The Spanish Language institute. Funny how we all use the coffin thing! I am amazed at what has changed just in 10 years! When I was in Bolivia in 2003 to do my student teaching, there wasn’t anything like magic jack or skype. We did have IM which my then fiance (now my husband) and I used almost every night, but a phone call happened only every so often. Now, it’s not big deal! And yes, airplanes are so much better than banana boats!

  3. I was raised a missionary kid, when we said goodbye to our friends it was usually forever and I am only 33 years old, it’s not like we are talking about the 1800’s. My husband and I are now raising four missionary kids of our own and it is such a different experience for them. The are able to message back and forth with their friends, call and talk to each other for hours. Mail usually travels a lot faster now, too. It used to take months and months for packages to arrive. No we can order from places like Amazon, etc and stuff arrives in just weeks. It has been easier for my kids, some days life as an MK can be pretty tough all on its own and it makes me so happy that technology can help ease that burden for them a little!!

  4. I LOVED this post. So true that “things aren’t as hard as they could be, as they have been,” but I do think the other commenter was right in that the ease of technology does increase the demand to use it. We do feel a pressure to skype and email videos, etc, b/c we CAN, and seeing all the pics on facebook of my friends together without me, is sometimes harder than easier, ya know?

    But, hey, I am alllll about a time warp thing!! Love from here, L

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