an extrovert in the mission field

100.  That was my score.

Before our mission team moved to Tanzania, we did some relatively extensive psychological testing in attempts to explore both individual health and team dynamics.  [Someone once told me these tests are developed not to tell you if you’re crazy, but rather to tell you what kind of crazy you are…]

There were a number of tests and just as many scores.  But only one score stood out to me; and it’s the only one I remember today.  On the test assessing extroversion (a scale of 0 – 100), I scored 100.  And that is not my score rounded to the nearest ’10.’  I don’t have even one introverted bone in my body.  All 206 of them are outgoing and sociable… to a fault, perhaps.

But I don’t want to talk about the dangers of extroversion — though there are many, to be sure.


In 1997 I transferred from Auburn University (25,000 undergrads?) to Lipscomb University (2,500?).  I remember, a couple of months into school, glancing around the student center where I was sitting.  I said to myself, “Yep, this is all of us.  I’ve likely met everyone already.  Every friend I’ll have for the next two years is in this room.  I’ll never sit next to a stranger in class again.

To some of you, that would be a dream come true — never sitting next to a stranger, I mean.  To me, though, it felt like the walls were closing in and I’d soon begin the slow process of death by suffocation.

Two years later, I graduated from Lipscomb University.  I made a lot of good friends during my time there.  I’m sure the “Class of 1999” 20-year reunion will be awesome.  If all ten of us show, we’ll be able to divide up and play a game of basketball.


Life in Geita seems compact.  I pass thousands of people on the street everyday, but my circle of friends (applying a western concept of friendship) is small.

But I’m not writing this blog post to complain.  Extreme extroversion notwithstanding, I am thankful.  I am so thankful that God has blessed me with:

  • incredible relationships here in Tanzania.  If it weren’t for my teammates (and our nearby missionary neighbors in Mwanza), I’m sure I would actually go crazy.  […scoring 100 on numerous psychological tests.]
  • family and friends who are supportive of our work in Tanzania and keep in touch with us via email and Skype.
  • a sending church who remains in contact, always offering conversation, encouragement, advice, and prayers.
  • a blog that allows me to talk and talk (and talk some more) — but better yet, that has connected me to a community of people willing to offer discussion and friendship over the internet.  And a limitless possibility of new friends.
  • Google Reader, which daily feeds me a mass of dialogue and conversations (from which I can at any time, without being rude, take my leave if I lose interest).

God is good. Even to this excessively extroverted missionary living in small town Africa.




Filed under living in africa

13 responses to “an extrovert in the mission field

  1. Aloha Brett!

    I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed it even before I knew you are AU Alumni! War Eagle!! I am from Maui, Hawaii, and found myself in that beautiful city of Auburn, Alabama because of my boyfriend, and I am so fortunate for the time I spent there before he graduated.

    I particularly appreciate this post because I love meeting new people, too, and I wouldnʻt be surprised if I am 100% extrovert as well? ..Being from an Island, I pretty much know everyone (which is great!) but it makes me appreciate meeting new people all the more. So, consider me a new friend–all the way in Hawaiʻi, while youʻre serving in Tanzania:)

    Iʻm looking forward to catching up on your blog posts!

    • welcome, jenn. all the way from hawaii. i dream of visiting there. though it might be best that i not visit — or i’d try to find a way to stay.

      and war eagle. welcome to the blog. thanks for taking the time to stop by, and to say hello.

  2. 2500 people? Try 250. That is what was the total of my school when I first went there. I think when I graduated it was closer to 400 maybe. I believe I would score the 100 as well. When I happen to go to a conference by myself, I look around for someone to sit or talk with. I feel alone if I don’t. Yeah, an extrovert. Good to hear from you again Brett. Hope all is going well. you sound refreshed after the break away.

    • small school, eh? thanks for the words, bill. i am refreshed. the break was good for me.

      and i’ve already said a prayer this morning for your upcoming sermon — and the whole “in the world, not of it” conversation. may God bless your words.

  3. didn’t know that about you. I could definitely see how living in a village (where you are still mastering the language) would be difficult for you. I won’t make any statements on whether or not you are crazy.

  4. Recently I was sharing that I am a solid introvert (not quite as extreme as Brett). Some folks that I had recently met looked at me like I had two martian heads. “But we thought you said you were a preacher?” one questioned me. To which I replied, “Yes, I am.” “How can you be a preacher and be an introvert?” she asked. “I view preaching as though I am talking with one or two at a time. I see individuals and couples in the audience, not the whole crowd. Besides that, most of my week is spent alone with the Word or in small group settings,” I noted.

    Extraverts draw energy from crowds–the more people the better they like it. Introverts draw energy from time alone. If we venture into a large party setting we will be standing around the edges with one or two good friends, watching the Bretts working the crowd.

    Extraverts can introvert and introverts can extravert, but always at a price. We were created by God with these preferences just as surely as we were born right-handed or left-handed. But with some effort we can learn to function the other way, if we will care for our preference, too. I have to rest up before big group activities and schedule recovery time afterwards, too.

    Brett blogs for many. I blog for the few. Together we are a testimony to God’s vastness. Just think, after Jesus returns there will be a place for every one of us! God is good!

    • john, i’ve often considered how difficult it must be for introverts to be preachers. for me, preaching on a sunday is really tiring. a half-hour sermon feels about the same as 3-4 hours of other work. and i really like being up in front of people talking. [a swahili sermon feels to me like an 8-hour work day…]

      is that just the nature of preaching? or is it more tiring to me because i’m not used to doing it every sunday? is it even more tiring for introverts?

      • Brett, I think it is tiring because of the spiritual/emotional weight. To think about standing between God and humanity, representing both to the other is a big responsibility. But then again, that is the role each of us fills as the “priesthood of believers.”

  5. John Kenneth King, I love your post!

    Sometimes I envy all the Bretts especially at social gatherings, but i am a total introvert – and love it! 🙂

    • Thanks, Isla. I have found the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) very useful in providing non-judgmental language to describe some of our differences. Our diversity is remarkable!

  6. Jen

    I googled :100% extrovert” and that is how I landed on your page. I myself is 95%-100% extroverted, in other words, I am extremely extroverted. The reason that I am googling this is because I dislike being this extroverted.

    1. ALWAYS need people, not just the same 3-5 friends and buddies that most people are content with, but large groups of friends, preferably NEW friends as well.

    2. Extroverts talk to think, so without people to talk to, my thoughts go crazy and I go crazy from suffocation.

    I wish I can somehow become less extroverted. A 100% extroverted person is actually quite vulnerable when alone.

    • you dislike being extroverted, jen? i love it.

      however, i think i’ve dealt with some of what you’re talking about. i moved to china for 3 years in 2001 to teach english and — not that i recommend this method of working through over-extroversion, but — being there somehow broke me of so much NEED for other people. i still really like being around people, large groups, meeting new people, etc. but i don’t need it anymore; i just prefer it. i guess it was that in china i was simply forced to be alone some of the time — even if it was only late at night, while sleeping, and in the early morning. [china was the first time i ever lived by myself.] i spent a lot more time drinking coffee and listening to music and writing.

      that’s the other thing: writing. i also talk to think. but now i write to think — which you’ll figure out if you even browse just a few of my blog posts. i live in africa now, and don’t have very many friends here (at least not friends in western terms of friendship). so i decided writing a blog is my best option — and it works awesome. i write my thoughts instead of saying them and a lot of the time i even get feedback from friends in the states and other readers. definitely having a blog helps me live in africa as an extrovert.

      but what do you mean by vulnerable when alone?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s