Musings of a Misfit Missionary

I don’t suppose I was made to fit in.

From the time I was a child, it seems I was a bit of a misfit. Born to Finnish immigrant parents in New York City, I struggled to bridge the gap between the two worlds between which I navigated. At home, we lived in a little Finnish microcosm (which was wonderful by the way) and outside, a very American life. As the years went by, I learned to move between the two worlds with relative ease. I alternated between speaking Finnish at home, understanding our home culture and speaking English at school, understanding how the rest, what I knew the world to be, lives.

A Finnish Middle Schooler in Revival

I viewed my world through the lens of my faith from early on, coming to Jesus when I was 7. A few years later, as a middle-schooler, I attended some revival meetings with my family. The preacher was well-known in Finland and his messages were amazing. The Finnish community of South Florida (where we had moved by this time) was stirred in a way I have not heard of before or since. The crowds were very large by Finnish standards. Often, there was only  standing room for the latecomers. In those meetings I finally found where I was accepted, where I fit.

My misfit status was sealed when, the day after having attended one of those meetings, I announced to everyone in my 7th grade class that Jesus was wonderful and have you ever heard of Him? I suppose most of the class was in shock. I was usually a wallflower who would sit low in her chair hoping no one would call on her. I wasn’t bothered any longer by my “outer fringe” status.

That’s Just Lea

I did all of the crazy Christian things. I tithed, I was baptized and I was at church whenever the doors were open. I even told anyone who would listen that one day I would be a missionary in Africa. After a while, people just put up with my rantings as “that’s just Lea” and patted me on the back. No, I really didn’t fit in at all. Sometimes I would wonder what was wrong with me, why was it so hard for others to understand me?

My high school and young adult days passed by in much the same way. I was the proverbial “square peg in a round hole.” Thankfully, I met my husband who wasn’t bothered by my mistfit-ness. This is likely because he was just a crazy as I was. We made a very misfit pair: he, the pastor’s son, me the-girl-from-nowhere. I still wonder how that all happened, but, I’m so glad it did. Yes, I’m blessed and nearly 37 years later we are still together, serving God in Africa.

Out With Everything That Is In

I’m comfortable being out of step with everything that is “in.” In fact, I wonder if feeling compelled to be relevant or fit in to what is “normal” or “accepted” is a kind of trap laid for unsuspecting Christians designed to keep them from winning the world around them?

Being a misfit has caused me to develop a tough skin. As an obvious foreigner in Africa (very difficult to hide my misfit-ness here for sure), I’ve often be told “You don’t understand the ways of the culture here.” As an American visiting Stateside, I’m often told, “You wouldn’t understand how things are now in the West because you’ve lived too long overseas.”

Being a misfit is my destiny. I suspect it’s a destiny most of us should share. This world with all of its trappings seeks to hurt, not help us as we journey to our final destination. We are, all of us who bear the name of Christ, foreigners anyway (Hebrews 11). What are we looking for but a way to bring others with us on our journey? If this causes me to be a misfit, well, so be it.

Fitting in is overrated anyway.

6 thoughts on “Musings of a Misfit Missionary”

  1. What a story of perseverance! You are an amazing example of standing firm. The amount of trials I am sure you have faced and yet are still standing, bold as ever, if not more so.
    “Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”
    Rom 5:3-5.
    Keep up all that you! Keep your head high and your knees on the ground!

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement. Our hope is heavenly and our reward eternal; things that don’t translate easily, if at all, here on earth. Keeping our eyes fixed, that’s what we will do! Blessings!

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