Sometimes, Being Independent Sucks

If you didn't know by now, Becky and I are kind of independent people.

We dance to a different rhythm.

We value different things.

We have different ambitions.

And this has been going on for decades.

Independent Missionaries


Becky and the kids hiked to the top of a hill where this cross overlooks the orphanage. Our first job is to clean up the trash on the path up this hill.



If you haven't caught on by now, we are followers of Jesus. Not Christians per se. Just people who try to live under the principles that Jesus taught.

We do not require everyone around us to be a Christian or a follower of Jesus, and we actually hold a different standard than most Christians. (for example going to church is not part of the teachings of Jesus, and taking one or two verses out of context to say it is ... well that's just wrong)

What we try to do is live a life of giving. To stumble and get back up, to love and share. To humbly admit that we don't know all the answers and we weren't created to know all the answers.

We also believe that no matter where we live, in the woods in Michigan or on the beach in Bali, or the mountains in Mexico we're trying to live like Jesus and encourage others to do the same. To that end we're not missionaries like you normally think of the word. However we are missionaries in that we try to love people like Jesus taught us.

Part of that life of giving has led us down various paths.

The major one for this post is The Learning Journey. Some of you followed us along on our year overseas in 2004. Since then we've met many more people made more friends and had kids etc. So for those of you that don't know about The Learning Journey let me set the stage:

  • Paul and Becky met and graduated from a Bible College in Michigan
  • Becky felt called to visit missionaries around the world giving of her time and talents
  • Paul and Becky fell in love, decided to get married and go on this trip together.

Because we left 3 months after getting married people thought The Learning Journey was a glorified honeymoon.

Let me tell you it was NOT. We had taken a honeymoon to Riveria Maya Mexico (we'll be near there in 4 or 5 months!) But this trip, this Journey was not about us.

It was about giving.

However, we were not part of a missionary organization. We were not part of a church group. We were not part of a short term mission project.

We were independent.

Visiting folks who were giving and seeing how we could come alongside and give with them, give to them or just help them give.

It brought us to South Africa and Kazakhstan, where we made life long friends.

But it also taught us that the system is not set up for independent folks. Independent missionaries. The two places we were involved in SA and KZ were great and we helped, and gave. But other places we had intended on going didn't know what to do with us so we returned to the states early because we didn't have a place to give.

Fast Forward to Today

We're struggling with some similar problems.

We're at an orphanage.

We want to give.

But we know we're only here for a relatively short time (10 days) . We know that this orphanage is a system, it's running and it doesn't need us. But we assume that there are things we can do to be of help.

However those are hard to find.

You see, the kids here (there aren't any babies) are used to volunteer groups coming and going often. They're not even interested in playing with our kids because they know we'll leave and we're not part of the family here.

We love this orphanage and think they are doing an amazing job at everything. This is not saying they are doing anything wrong.


They're so cool that they even make kid-sized doors in the houses.


They have a full bakery just for baking birthday cakes. This is not your "typical" orphanage.

Instead being a short term volunteer without our own supplies and without a work force of people to build things etc. There doesn't seem to be an easy place for us to fit in, to give, to help.

This is so very true of so many places. If you're not there long term or with a crew there's very little you can do to help.


Finding things to do: The boys are debating over how long each gets with the hatchet to "hatch" the logs.


Finding things to do: We had an awesome campfire in a fire pit built for 30 people :)

Giving Without Giving

And in reflection I realized we feel bad, like we're not being helpful. We are almost in need of the endorphins that are released when you know you've been helpful. But the thing is, if you give to feel better then how is that Jesus-like giving?

If we're to truly give, to be a blessing to someone, should we constantly pull them off of their job to tell us what to do, knowing that we may do it wrong and they'd need to come behind and fix whatever we did? What if we're here for a different reason, one we don't know about yet.

What if we're here to spread the word about this incredible orphanage (I've never seen an orphanage like this before!) to you, so that you can give in a more long term/sustainable way?

Often times we don't know our purpose for what we're doing, even when it's all done.

I just wanted to share some of the mental struggles one goes through while trying to live like Jesus, trying to give. It isn't what you think of, like build a new room and go home satisfied that more kids can sleep at the orphanage in spacious bedrooms. Nope. It's not always like that.


Check it out, the young boys have a slide INSIDE their house.




Sometimes being Independent sucks.

We feel like we cannot help, cannot give, cannot invest.

But should we trust our feelings? Should we change things dramatically (like leave and find a different orphanage who needs us more)? Or should we rest, take off our American "must always be doing something" mindset and trust that our being here, our doing small things will help. Should we trust that the feeling of being helpful is not to be sought after. Should we rest that this is the negative side of being independent?

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Paul Kortman

Dad of 4, husband, blogger, digital marketer, follower of Jesus. I podcast at and own We're on this crazy journey to travel the world as a lifestyle. Looking for help in how to live as a digital nomad family? Join this Facebook Group!

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  1. K

    I vote for trust. It always works out. A lot of people don’t understand that “faith” isn’t a set of things you believe, it’s how you live. Falling backwards, always, with the rational understanding that there is nothing physical behind you to catch you, but doing it anyway – that’s faith. And it’s a wild ride. And it’s a joy. So … from one independent whose been on this journey before to you all … solidarity is often more important than “helping.” Your presence, curiosity, and lived-faith is more important than whether or not they have something for you to do. No more with this obsessive Calvinistic/Weberian need to work all the time crap! You are where you are supposed to be. Perhaps being “ambassadors” is something you may consider as you think through these Jesus ideas. A lot of people in other countries look at the US and think we’re nuts… mass shootings, bloviated politicians with even more bloviated followers, obsessed with sex and guns and a very unhealthy idea of Christianity… perhaps, just perhaps, your being called right now to just bear witness, and love. :-) Love and prayers, my friends, love and prayers.

    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks for your love and prayers and encouraging words.

      This is a wild ride, and we don’t know the answers… but you’re right, we’re called to love. (which itself is very very hard and doesn’t have a defined
      “do this, don’t do that”).

      As the male, provider, white, entrepreneur, raised in a calvinistic work ethic community, dad/husband. I find it VERY VERY hard to not work. to just be.

      That is something I need to learn.

    • Luna Lou

      Paul, been following your blog/fb page for awhile now. Love your adventures, your family! Your current post made me wonder if you have ever heard of Restore Elikia (which means hope in their native language) Look them up on FB. Not part of any church, just like you,and want to make a difference. And b/c they aren’t part of a church, they are extremely resourceful in what they have and are accomplishing. Restore Elikia was started by a husband and wife from Ohio. Will and Nicole O’Brien and their two small children. They are making a difference in the lives of many orphans, widows, and natives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  2. Dan Dailey

    Jesus’ KISS (keep it simple, stupid) message: “Love your Heavenly Father, love your neighbor as yourself”. That’s it.

    It’s too simple, really. It carries with it no overtones of accomplishment, no room for bragging rights, and no demand for mission statements. Worse yet, it has no metric for ascertaining efficacy or year over year growth.

    But this is because it’s a relationship, not a mission. LOVE. Actions are a product and indicator of the presence of love, but they are not proof thereof and certainly not means of manufacturing it if it isn’t there.

    If you love someone, and from that love drives your actions (the form thereof is irrelevant), then… mission accomplished! Rest in knowing that God is directing the appointments, and the apparent success/failure of a thing is not to your credit. You simply show up and live as Christ. Sometimes that means seeing the crowds he saw, sometimes it means relative obscurity, and sometimes it means you’re ran out of town. Neither success or failure are an indication that you are doing “good enough”.

    Just be. Know that you’re his, and that’s enough.

    “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galations 2:20

    It is not WE who live, but him through us. It’s not our work, our job, our plans, our anything; it’s him. We no more need to perform for him than our kids do for us. There are things that improve or breakdown communication and relationship, but my kids will always be my kids. Their “performance” is not a factor at all.

    Trust me, Paul… you’re enough. You guys are awesome! Keep trucking’ ;)

    • Paul Kortman

      This is so very very hard for me to do.

      >> “Just be. Know that you’re his, and that’s enough.”


      It may take a century or two for me to let that sink it… I’m not to the point where I can say that. Yet.

      • Dan Dailey

        Admittedly, it’s a tough truth to understand, and even harder to accept. I only started getting it in the last couple years, and it took some pretty severe beatings to even begin seeing it. There is no need to qualify yourself, either to God or anybody else! It is precisely our inadequacies that allow God’s glory to be shown all the brighter! One of my favorite verses, lately:

        “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

        I’ve always seen that verse as a statement; we are frail vessels filled with an amazing treasure. Only recently, however, have I realized it is an explanation; WHY is this incredible treasure placed in vessels made of mud? To highlight the contrast! To drive home the point that the value is the content, not the vessel. I would pay a handsome sum for the most grotesque container when it’s filled with a priceless treasure.

        God is a huge fan of using the things which are weak and foolish to shame that which is thought to be strong and wise. He does this to humiliate and confound our “wisdom”. This is not to say the value is in being foolish, our value is in being his. That is our truest purpose, and our ONLY value!

        Paul (the Bible guy, not the RV guy) illustrated this principal at work in our very salvation:

        “… the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more …” – Romans 5:20

        Paul speaks in MANY places that the whole point of the law was expressly to point out our failure and inability to keep it. It was not to make us righteous, it was to highlight our failure and amplify our view of HIS righteousness, especially when compared to our failure. Our failure, therefore, is one of God’s many ways of bringing himself glory! His point, of course is not that we seek to fail (Rom 6:1-2); we do our best to love him in faithful service to him, but we can rest in knowing that even our failure serves a purpose. The Bible itself is replete with examples of God using (or arguably designing) human failure for his plan to bring himself glory.

        Still, this is completely divorced from his affection for his children. We are his… period.

        Ack! I’m getting preachy now. Sorry about that! I’ll move aside for all the other commenters…

  3. Garry Gregorius

    I know all of these post are running late. But, when do you plan on being in Puerto Vallarta area? I can put you in touch with Missionary friends of ours who work with the poor and abandoned children of that area. You can see there FB page at His will His way ministries. Dennis and Faye are wonderful people. Just let them know we referred you if you contact them. We will be in Puerto Vallarta first week of March.

    • Paul Kortman

      Garry, We’re still in the Baja as of this month, we plan to get to the mainland by March, and will head down to PV from there. So it could be as early as February or as late as the middle of March. We’d love to be put in touch with your contacts there. Feel free to connect us via!


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