An introvert: a person who is energized by spending time alone, draws strength from quieter or more isolated environments or one-on-one social interactions, a person who is drained by loud or highly stimulating environments.
Does introversion fly in the face of traditional missionary work (global work)?
As a family, we chose to sell all our belongings, set aside our language and our culture, and do our best to assume a new one. The entire process of culture change, starting over and learning a new way of life, forces the introvert to be at conflict within themselves.
With each daily, weekly, or monthly decision made, comes the need to be VERY intentional about being in social situations and highly stimulating environments. In order to learn, this is a must.
So how does a natural introvert do missions?
Well? It has to look a little different. Not bad, but different.
We arrived in Bangkok, Thailand in September 2016 and for the first few months, the majority of people in Ella’s life were friendly and familiar. Although we were living in a new place, with a new language, life was comfortable for her.
In January 2017, Ella started kindergarten. She transitioned from the majority of her days being with family, to her days filled with 100s of new faces, an extremely stimulating environment, and constant questions and new activities.
At home, Ella is generally kind, outgoing, active, cheerful and always up for adventure and excitement. She knows herself well. She is wise beyond her years and knows how to calm herself down before letting her emotions overwhelm her. She loves playing with her friends and family but she also enjoys her quiet time. Like any child (or adult for that matter), she doesn’t do this perfectly, she has her bad moments or days.
Unfortunately, at school, she does not feel comfortable allowing teachers or students into her fun and loving personality. They see her withdrawn, unwilling to participate in normal activities and wanting to spend all her time alone. She protects herself, hiding her fear of social situations, by withdrawing into her own thoughts and ideas, the ones she knows and is comfortable with.
So what has God been doing in and through our work in Thailand? What is He teaching Ella and our family?
The number one lesson, as gut-wrenching and difficult as it is, is that God loves each one of us, JUST THE WAY WE ARE.
He doesn’t care if we are extroverts or introverts, incredible public speakers, eloquent writers, pastors, engineers, athletes, managers, secretaries, or stay at home moms or dads! What He cares about, is that each one of us learn to appreciate our own unique gifts and qualities AND that we are willing to use our uniqueness for God.
There are many INCREDIBLE ways an introverted child (or adult) can participate in global work. This is a work in progress for Ella, but here’s what we’ve learned so far!
1. SLOW DOWN!
Allow yourself and your child to experience your new culture in a safe and stress-free way. Your host-country will still be there if you don’t explore everything in 1 day, learn the language with-in 6 months, or host 100s of people each week in your home. There is no shame in slowing down
2. SCHEDULE YOUR ALONE TIME!
In order to get to know Thailand, we MUST spend time with Thai people, take our language classes and engage with Thai culture. But for us introverts, it’s also important to schedule our re-energizing alone time.
3. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR EXTROVERTED FRIENDS.
Luckily for Ella (and myself), we’re surrounded by extroverted family and friends. This means that after our scheduled alone time, pushing our boundaries comes easily, following the ‘social’ lead of others takes some of the pressure off.
4. CELEBRATE THE STRENGTH OF THE INTROVERT.
It’s easy to idolize extroverts, life can seem more easy-going and fun for them. But introverts have many strengths as well: they are often good thinkers, they focus on the depth of encounters and not the breadth, they are good listeners and they are creative.
5. APPRECIATE THE DIFFERENCES IN PEOPLE.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and isn’t this the point of living in community? Our differences make us stronger together.
- Zach & Megan Wylie. global workers in Thailand