Missionaries Ought to Know About ...
What Missionaries Ought to Know about Laughter
Dr. Ronald Koteskey
this as a pdf
Martha first became field director, she had a mixture of emotions toward
Peter. Martha was annoyed when Peter cracked jokes during field
meetings, genuinely liked him because he was so funny, and envied him
because he was so popular among other missionaries.
As time went on she came to really appreciate Peter for what he did.
Martha realized that she was often so intent on getting the job done
that she needed someone like Peter to temper her intensity at times.
She came to value his jokes and no longer envied his popularity.
What Martha did not realize was that Peter and people like him are
more than just a help to leaders in maintaining team unity, they are
valuable in many other ways including physical health, mental health,
and social relationships in general.
People often say that laughter is the best medicine, and that is
often literally the case. Laughter brings healing and renewal
through the following physical changes.
- It relaxes muscles all over the body, and that relaxation may
last for up to an hour.
- It lowers stress hormones which have an effect on the whole
- It releases endorphins which make people feel good and may even
- It boosts the immune system making it less likely that
individuals will become ill.
- Although blood pressure may rise briefly during laughter, such
laughter lowers blood pressure overall.
- It helps people relax and fall asleep.
- It has many of the effects of exercise (although it cannot
Laughter is good for mind as well as body. Here are some mental
- It makes individuals feel good so they can keep an optimistic
- It reduces anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness.
- It helps people relax so they can stay focused to complete
- It allows individuals to see things from a more realistic point
- It creates psychological distance to keep people from feeling
- Social Relationships
Shared laughter is good medicine for social relationships. It
is a requirement for strong relationships and has the following effects.
- It produces positive feelings to strengthen emotional
- It produces a bond which protects against stress and
- It allows individuals to lower their defensiveness so that they
can disregard criticisms and doubts.
- It lowers inhibitions so that people stop holding back and
- It lets individuals be more spontaneous and express their true
In general mutual laughter heals resentments and hurts helping to
unite people during difficult times and see each other’s points of view.
Laughter in the Bible
Not all laughter is good for us. The Bible mentions two kinds.
Basically “laughing at” someone is bad, and “laughing with” someone is
good. Laughing at someone in scorn or ridicule is not good
medicine. Here are some examples.
- They will laugh at him saying… (Psalm 52:6).
- I have become a laughingstock to my friends (Job 12:4).
- But they laughed at him (Matthew 9:24).
Here are some examples of laughter as good medicine.
- He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts
of joy (Job 8:21).
- A feast is made for laughter (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
- Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with shouts of
joy (Psalm 126:2).
The same event may produce both kinds of laughter in the same people
at different times. This was the case with Abraham and Sarah in
events surrounding the birth of Isaac. When God told them they
would have a child, both laughed in derision.
- Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself…
- Sarah laughed to herself as she thought about it (Genesis
- God was not pleased with their laughter and rebuked them—and
then rebuked Sarah’s lie about it (Genesis 18:13-15).
After Isaac was born, Sarah laughed, but this time it was healthy
- Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears
about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).
- At God’s command, Abraham gave the name Isaac (Laughter) to the
son Sarah had borne (Genesis 17:19 and Genesis 21:3).
Who says that God has no sense of humor?
Asking parents to name their child “Laughter” after they laughed in
derision when told they would have a baby shows God’s sense of humor.
Likewise, we find Jesus’ sense of humor as he talked to the two
disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). Here are the events from
their point of view.
- They were walking along the road when a man they did not
recognize joined them (vv15-16).
- Jesus asked them what they were talking about, as if he did not
know (v 17).
- One of them asked Jesus if he knew what had happened in
- Jesus asked, “What things?” as if he did not know (v19).
- They told him about the crucifixion, as well as their dashed
hopes, and confusion (vv19-24).
- Jesus called them foolish, rebuked them, and asked if Christ had
to suffer (vv 25-26).
- Then he explained prophetic Scriptures, still not revealing who
he was (v 27).
- When they neared home, he pretended he was going on, still not
- They urged him to stay with them, so he did, still not telling
- As they ate with him, he gave thanks and broke bread—and
suddenly they recognized him! (vv30-31).
- Then he disappeared! (v31).
Of course, then they remembered cues that should have let them know
who he was. Imagine yourself in Jesus place watching their
puzzlement and laughing inside!
Anyone can get in on laughter which is free, fun, and easy to use.
Living in another culture provides many things to laugh about.
Here are some tips on getting started.
- Count your blessings. It is harder to begin laughing when
thinking about things that make you sad, so literally write down a
list of things you are thankful for, such as medicines that prevent
or cure diseases.
- Smile at people. Like laughter, smiling is contagious in
most cultures. People will often return your smile, and that
may lead to laughter.
- Laugh at yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
Instead of trying to hide your embarrassing moments, share them with
others so that everyone, colleagues, nationals and even you can get
a good laugh.
- Move toward laughter. Sometimes laughter is the result of
an “inside” joke for a small group, but more often it is “public,”
and people enjoy telling it again. If you do not understand,
ask, “What’s so funny?” Not understanding humor often occurs
before you know the culture well.
- Keep things in perspective. We cannot control many things
that happen to us, especially the actions of other people toward us.
Rather than getting angry, laugh about those absurdities in life in
both your passport and host cultures.
- Read the comics. I enjoy “Pickles” because it pokes fun at
people my age. The cover on one of the books of those comic
strips on our table says, “The older I get, the better I was.
- Watch a funny TV show that you like. “Americas Funniest
Videos” makes me laugh out loud, but my wife empathizes with people
who fall down or run into things. DVDs of your favorite funny
shows are probably available.
- Hang out with funny people. Find other missionaries who
can laugh at themselves and at the absurdities of life and can find
humor in a variety of things.
- Spend some time with children. Young TCKs know how to play
and take life lightly. They can laugh at nearly anything.
- Post reminders to “lighten up” on your office wall or screen
saver. How about a picture of yourself with a mustache drawn
on it? How can you take yourself seriously if you see that all
- Do something silly. Help someone wash their car and end up
with spraying each other with water!
- Put on a silly skit for others on your team. Of course, in
the skit, poke fun at your own agency—not malicious fun, but
- Share your language goofs!! Thinking they are talking
about being embarrassed, Americans learning Spanish often tell
people they are pregnant (embarazada). Beware of false
more you laugh, the better it is for you! Have fun laughing at
Member Care Consultant