Why I don't need to go on a mission trip

This morning I was working from my living room, because Bossy McBosspants is in Boston doing his “talking about social media” thing at MIT. I was almost impressed that MIT wanted him to speak, but then I remembered last week he got interviewed by a radio station about Taylor Swift’s use of Twitter. The spotlight giveth dignity, and the spotlight taketh dignity away.

I had the news on for background noise, and there was a story about a huge drug bust in Harrison County, where I live.

In fact, at one time, Harrison County had more meth labs per capita than any county in Indiana. More than Marion County/Indianapolis. More than “scary Gary.” We have a small police force with an unfortunate history of corruption. Even with our dedicated and honest police officers, we have more remote, empty wooded areas than they can monitor. We have an economy that is in the middle of a lot of upheaval. Traditionally, our economy has been agricultural and industrial: mostly farm and factory jobs. Those jobs are leaving, and while tourism, retail and other sources of jobs are slowly filling the gap, there’s a lot of unskilled or semi-skilled workers who have turned to the drug trade.

It sucks. There’s a reason Frank Bill was able to set a whole book of gritty, noir-style crime stories in southern Indiana realistically. There’s a reason that local author Red Tash’s book Troll or Derby starts out with a meth lab explosion in a rural trailer. The fiction is not far from the fact. (Well, the “prolific drug trade” part. I’m fairly convinced we don’t actually have roller-derby playing fairies and trolls. I’ve been wrong before.)

My high school friend Libby is now our chief of police in Palmyra (I’m not sure that’s the actual title, but it’s the role). I’ve always respected Libby as a straightforward, no-nonsense woman of faith. She’s one of the rare people I know who is equally capable making a quilt and firing an automatic weapon with accuracy. She’s doing the best she can, but Palmyra can only afford a part-time police force. And we have a lot of residents who don’t want to acknowledge that our town isn’t the Mayberry they’d like to believe it is. It’s not as if drug dealers in 2012 look like the background dancers in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video. They mostly just look like your neighbors.

Earlier this week, I read a post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about “Jesus in Cougar Town.” It sort of broke my heart, but she made a really compelling point:

Being an agent for Love and Grace in a place where people truly don’t recognize their own need is really tough.

It was a very similar experience in Japan, one of the few places where the gulf between people’s material wealth and their spiritual poverty rivals ours here in America.

Our church is pretty faithful about recruiting workers to go on international missions, both short term and long term. Chris LeBouef of Dauenhauer Plumbing, one of my favorite clients at my previous job, shared some really wonderful stories of his mission trip experiences in India. Some part of me thinks that Chris and I would be a good fit for that kind of ministry, after our years in the military. Maybe after the kids are grown, which seems like it gets closer every day.

But then I think about where I actually am right now. I don’t have to go to the third world to see poverty and the darkness of the drug and sex trade. I don’t have to go to Europe to see comfortably affluent people blind to their spiritual need and jaded about Jesus. I’m kind of already in the middle of both of those mission fields.

The only real question is do I have the courage and wisdom to engage people, and the conviction to live into my beliefs authentically in front of them? The only real question is, am I capable of doing any good where I am?

Which is a silly question. Of course I’m not. But Jesus has a habit of using me anyways.


  1. ·

    So true, Kat. I’ve been on a short-term mission trip, and it really does shake up your preconceived ideas about Christian service, but the home mission field is just as, if not more, important. When I go back home to the specific area where I grew up in the Caribbean, I see the real mission field. Like you, I’m forced to question whether I’m being useful to them. That kick in the pants question normally translates into action. God will use us as we agree to allow Him access to what He’s deposited in us.

  2. Kat French

    “God will use us as we agree to allow Him access to what He’s deposited in us.” I like that perspective. It’s still giving credit to the right Source, but it acknowledges our participation in what God is doing. Thanks!


  3. ·

    Hey, thanks for the mention.

    My husband and I were out house-hunting yesterday, and one of the properties was in rural North Harrison Co. As we neared a nearby mess of a place littered with burned out/rusted campers, an illegal junkyard, and tons of just full-on “ugly”, I looked at him and said “Tell me those people aren’t cooking meth. You know they were probably the first to Google the recipe.”

    There are just so many rural poor who will go to any lengths for a leg up. I had a close relative who was seriously in danger of going that route before meth was “a thing.” When I watched Winter’s Bone, it so reminded me of him. He lived in rural Orange Co. & dealt pot.

    Tough stuff.

    Hey! How’s writing going?

  4. Kat French

    Yeah. There’s a lot of ugly. And a lot of meth. That’s why we took a $20k loss on a house, rather than continue to try to rent it out. Some acquaintances of ours ended up spending more than that on the required cleanup of a rental property when the renters were busted for making meth in the basement. And that’s in a situation where they *didn’t* blow up the place.

    But there’s a lot of beauty, too. I’ll say one thing about where I live: it’s not a homogenized suburb, that’s for sure. One of our close neighbors threatens the town with a brownout every holiday with their impressively over-the-top lawn displays.

    Good luck with the house hunting.

    The writing is never going as well as I think it should be. Whenever I manage to short-circuit my inner critic about the quality of my writing, s/he manages to beat me up about the quantity and frequency. But I look back over the last two years and realize I’ve probably FINISHED more pieces than I have ever before, even while my other career is going full throttle. And a few of the stories are pretty darn good, in addition to the novella that’s getting published.

    By the way, I *love* your wizard stories, especially The Wizard Takes a Holiday. At Fandomfest, I sat in on a panel talking about humor in speculative fiction. Laura Resnick, who writes the Esther Diamond books, was talking about how so much urban/contemporary fantasy is so dead serious. I love how playful your Wizard stuff is. 🙂 We need more of that.

    Plus, you know, trolls at the Georgetown Drive-in…which I always suspected.

  5. Kim Steadman

    Kat: I am absolutely amazed about how much you have published in the last year or so! I know you may not feel like it at times but I am completely envious of your skill of creative writing. You have a gift! I sat down to write a blog yesterday for work and it literally took me 5 hours! Yes, you read that right… 5 hours!

    I agree 100% with your assessment of the mission field. We are in the mission field every day and every moment of our lives. God invites us to live out our lives for Him and they will come. Be intentional about neighbors or taking the extra time to listen to someone in the store or restaurant or just on the street. It ceases to amaze me who God brings across your path. Even if it doesn’t seem like anything substantial to you, there might be one little thing that you say that will penetrate that persons heart! Don’t hold back, you keep going girl. So amazed about how much God is using you and your family for his glory.

    Many blessings,


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