About the Code Language You Are Speaking

Three years ago, I challenged you to join our support team. You told me that you would love to support us, but that you had just made a three year commitment to the building fund at your church. I wrote down

“contact in three years” in my notes.

I take notes for these types of things. After all, I have a family to feed, and I raise all of the money necessary to do that.

So, imagine my surprise when I called you yesterday and you got mad at me for challenging you to join our team now that the commitment to the building fund is over.

You’re right. I shouldn’t have taken you at your word. I should have probably read between the lines a bit, and assume that “three years” means “for the rest of eternity.”

Is there a secret code I am unaware of? Oh that’s embarrassing. All this time, people have been saying that they like my ministry and what we do on the college campus, but they’ve been speaking in code. Just like when someone says “bless her heart” when what they really mean is “she’s an idiot” here in the south, you meant “as long as you are in ministry” when you said “three years.”

I’m so sorry for the mistake. As a public service to others, based on our interaction, I have developed a field guide for translating your code. I’ll take it phrase by phrase:

“Thanks so much for calling!” By this you clearly meant “I’m not super thrilled that you called, but we’re gonna have to go with feigned appreciation. Please get this over quickly” Missionary Field Tip: when in doubt, listen for TV in the background or evidence of slip-n-slide.

“I really believe in what you guys are doing” This is where you got really sly. By “you guys” you just meant “I” and “what… are doing” you meant this fun game of string-the-missionary-along. You believe in it with all your heart in the secret code you are using. How could I have missed it? Missionary Field Tip: watch for voice inflection here. It’s tough to discern, but their pitch will increase slightly in the event of a code usage.

“We’d love to support your ministry” This is code for “we have absolutely nothing in common with you on the level of mission, vision, or values. We’d rather give to the North Vietnamese government than to you.” Missionary Field Tip: ignore your training. People don’t actually love giving to anything. It’s like loving the IRS.

“But we’ve just made a commitment to the building fund” Really the only commitment you have made is to the code, to the unswerving, unending quest to speak around others. You don’t even go to church, most likely. Missionary Field Tip: Questions are key here. Ask when the building is scheduled to start, or for GPS coordinates for the groundbreaking ceremony.

“For the next three years” For ever. Ever ever. If I were to call you in 23 years, you’d be committed to the code, and to not giving to our ministry. Missionary Field Tip: Anything over 3 weeks is officially forever. If they want you to call back “next month,” they mean “never.”

I’m learning the code. Rest assured, I won’t be calling back now that I have cracked it.

Has anyone ever used a secret code with you?

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