Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ugly Missionary #5: Secrets and Shame

I’m sorry for posting about ugliness here at the Koffi House. I do it for a purpose, however. I write these stories so that we will see what we should not be; how we should not think; and what we should not do. There aren’t any “old scores” I’m trying to settle. (Some of these stories will include my own actions.) Rather, I want us to evaluate and adjust, consider and repent, so that we will be effective missionaries wherever we are.

Ben is a loner. Perhaps that is his problem. He is the husband of a beautiful wife and three children, but he doesn’t like to spend a lot of time around his family. He loves them, but they cause too much commotion for him. He lets his wife take care of the children and Ben keeps working. His wife doesn’t seem to mind—most of the time. She still wishes Ben would spend more time around them. But when Ben is home he gets frustrated because he can’t think or read. There is too much noise. When he complains about it an argument ensues. So Ben has become rather detached.

Ben is not like many missionaries and ministers who put their flock before their family. No, The People stress Ben out, too. When a national comes to visit Ben at his office, he quickly finds ways to get them to leave. If they don’t seem to be moving along very fast he sometimes says something rude. If they don’t have any business then they don’t need to come by! Ben prefers his solitude. The People seem to always interfere with it.

Ben also doesn’t like to spend time with the expatriate community. They feel so self-righteous and super-spiritual to him. He feels they look down on him, too. They make too many negative comments and Ben takes these personally. So Ben has isolated himself from almost everyone.

Ben also has a problem with anger. Nothing ticks him off more than irresponsible and chaotic driving in The Location. When someone cuts him off he honks his horn. When someone on a motorcycle doesn’t let him pass, he races past them at the first opportunity he gets creating a cloud of dust for them to breathe. When someone makes a traffic violation Ben angrily waves his arms and yells at them out the window. Ben drives very fast and doesn’t like anything to slow him down. Hitting a chicken or a duck never fazes him. “Serves them right. It’s a road, not a chicken coop!”

Stress is killing Ben. He needs to get away. He dreams of spending his time alone at a resort hotel outside of town. Just for a few days. Ben talks his wife into letting him get away for a while. She cares for him and is worried about the effect the stress of living cross-culturally and running a project is having on him. So she lets him go away… alone.

Ben enjoys the tranquility of his secret retreat. But his body is so tired from the previous week’s work. He decides to have a massage at the resort. A young lady comes to his room. However, she gives more than just a massage.

Ben’s problems have just multiplied. He knows what he did was wrong, but can’t bear to tell anyone. They will simply judge him and he’ll have to stop being a missionary. He couldn’t bear the shame. So he decides to keep his actions a secret. He also decides he will never do that again.

Two months later Ben does it again. He is so wracked with grief. It isn’t long before he starts taking drinks from the bottles of whiskey in his hotel rooms—just to settle down from all the stress and grief about his own sin. It seems to help if he doesn’t drink too much at once.

Ben had never drunk alcohol before coming to the mission field. He always thought it was something Christians should never do. But after seeing so many other missionaries drinking at local weddings in The Location, and the ensuing discussions about alcohol, Ben agreed that it wasn’t wrong for Christians to drink. This opened the door for him to try it out. The only problem was that Ben enjoyed the buzz.

It wasn’t long before he started getting drunk. First it was about once a month. Then it progressed to weekly. There were more retreats, more girls, and more problems.

Ben couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. His wife and friends saw that he was falling apart. Finally, they confronted him. Ben confessed it all with much shame and many tears. He promised he would never do it again—just don’t tell his supporters. Ben didn’t want to stop being a missionary. They agreed to keep it a secret as long as Ben would give all those things up for good.

But Ben never could give it up. Even after quitting the mission field. Even after losing his wife in divorce. That’s when the drugs started. They ate him up. Now Ben couldn’t even keep a job. One day, when Ben was mowing grass to make a little money, he had a heart attack.

Ben is now dead.

This story makes me very sad. Why didn’t Ben reach out for help sooner? Why didn’t people give him better help? Perhaps this is “ugly,” but to me it is heart-breaking.


  1. The tragedy of this story is that it is all too common. We all need accountability. It is so heartbreaking to see people in ministry lose everything because they didn't reach out to someone before the mole hill became a mountain. I sometimes think confronting sins of the flesh with people in ministry is more difficult because they are believed to be above the fray. I know of so many pastors that have lost their jobs, their families and had their faith rocked because they thought, "that would never happend to me." We are all human. We need to be accountable to God, and we need at least one or two folks who can help us do that.