Guest Post: How Not to be a Missionary

Guest Post: Tricia Bolle

India-villageA few more years ago than I care to think about, I graduated from Stanford University with a degree that put Asia in my path.  At the time, I had a couple good job offers to move back East – something I was very tempted to do.  Yet my experience as a grad student in China and the great need that I saw there among other college students and young adults kept daring to pull me back to Asia.  I had gotten this crazy idea in my head that if I went back to Asia, I could help address the need that I saw there – psychological, emotional, spiritual, sometimes just offering hope and helping people find their way – and really make a difference in people’s lives. 

It wasn’t long before I started an educational nonprofit to do just that.  But I wasn’t a missionary.  On my last few dimes, I would head over to Asia, where I’d spend most of my time giving presentations and workshops helping college students and young adults discover their purpose in life, learn to deal with struggles and hardship, find hope in the midst of despair, and be a source of encouragement and support, offering help where I could.  But I wasn’t a missionary.

015 (1)In going to church I found spiritual sustenance, but found I wasn’t connecting at the level I wanted with the local people.  So I started going to Mass in the local language.  Suddenly, I was meeting people regularly who began to open up their lives to me and share their faith with me as I would with them.  And somewhere along the line, the Holy Spirit would give me the words I needed to offer them strength, hope and wisdom.  But I wasn’t a missionary.

Not long after I started going to Asia, the people I met around me would start inviting me into their homes and their Bible studies and to meals with them and their friends at their favorite local restaurants where we’d talk long into the night about faith and life and where God is leading each of us, before racing to make it home on the last bus or train.  But I wasn’t a missionary.

Pretty soon, people and pastors were asking me to get more involved in teaching and leading activities in faith formation and in learning important life skills.  I even began fielding requests to travel into the countryside to address other great needs there with education and training.  Almost always on a shoestring budget or lack thereof.  I know what it’s like to beg for $1.50 in a foreign tongue just to catch a bus to town and to sleep on a cold cement floor in the middle of winter completely jetlagged after having just come off a plane all because of some greater calling God was leading me to in a foreign culture.  But I wasn’t a missionary.

photoAs a Catholic, Christian missionaries came in three types:  priests, sisters and Protestants.  So I wasn’t a missionary.  Missionaries stand on street corners or soap boxes with a Bible in one hand and a megaphone or sheaf of pamphlets in the other.  So I wasn’t a missionary.  In some of the places I went in Asia, saying the name of God wasn’t even an option.  So I wasn’t a missionary.  I’m just a person God called to Asia to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ with all those I meet in whichever way the Holy Spirit provides.  So I’m just Tricia, a young woman who has opened herself up to God’s will for her life… to be a foreign lay missionary in Asia.

As Christians, we are all called by Jesus to be missionaries of the Gospel.  What kind of missionary are you?

Tricia Bølle is the founder of the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society, dedicated to the formation, sending and support of Catholic lay missionaries to share the love of Jesus Christ with others in Asia.  To support this ministry or learn how to become involved, please visit or contact Tricia at  Thanks and God bless.

Tricia will be presenting on the Church in China on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at the Young Adults Group meeting.

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