The McDonalds Experience


March 2007,

My heart stopped for a moment while answering the phone call that had been expected for three days.  Trying to use my most confident voice I informed the person I was indeed John Wilburn and then heard the greatest four words of my life…”the house is yours.”  The fact that this was only a rental property didn’t keep me from running around the house shouting excitedly “I got it!  I got it!”  Because it wasn’t just my first home in Melbourne, it was freedom and independence.

I was extremely grateful for the love and support given by the Missionary Couple who allowed him to stay with them but after six weeks they were very interested in me having my “freedom” as well.

A few days later after moving in and buying essentials (fridge, washer, grill, the biggest TV  in the store) I was officially ready to survive in the Australian culture.  Part of me did worry about becoming lonely since family and friends have surrounded me most of my life but that concern was quickly drowned out by the joy of being on my own.

After about three weeks of freedom however being on my own became a little boring, and no amount of cable, Internet, video games, comfort food (I bought so many bags of Mcain’s Spicy Wedges they should give me stock in the company), or DVD’s could keep that boredom from becoming loneliness. Thankfully the loneliness wasn’t overwhelming and the Lord provided opportunities to communicate with loved ones like Skype chats twice a week with my parents.  However talking on video is a poor substitute for face-to-face conversation, and soon after those conversations the loneliness would come back stronger than ever.

A few weeks later after going to see a Rugby game with friends, a friend offered to drive me home since I had come in on the train.  We hadn’t gone far when he asked for some relationship advice since a girl he was really interested in had turned him down (For future reference this is not a proper  conversation subject following a Rugby game; sports, cage fighting, or action movies are acceptable.)  The rest of the way home I gave some thoughts on how to deal with rejection (most coming from personal experience) and by the time we were at my place he felt a lot better.

It was surprising to get a text from my friend the next week asking me to meet him at McDonald’s but after clearing time from my incredibly busy social calendar (You can go ahead and laugh, I did) I met him there and we talked a bit more about the girl who had rejected him.

Slowly this became a weekly occurrence were over burgers, French Fries, and Milkshakes we discussed the deep issues of life such and shared our struggles with one another.  Over time this became incredibly therapeutic and to this day the smell of a Big Mac makes me want to spill my guts.

The McDonald’s Therapy experience taught me a deep dark secret about Missionaries…they get lonely.  “All of us have an idea of what missionaries are like.  They have to be fearless adventurers patterned after Indiana Jones complete with cool hat and whip.  They must speak at least three languages, and have experiences involving headhunters, snakes, or the Amazon rainforest. Missionaries should be able to tell stories so emotional that the only sound being heard over the crying is checks being ripped out of the checkbook.”  (Taken from

This perception of what a Missionary should be like causes many problems because not all of us are the Indiana Jones type, and there are times when we will feel emotions like discouragement, fear, or anxiety.

After the first two weeks of excitement over freedom when the boredom and loneliness began to sit in it frightened me because I didn’t think Missionaries got lonely.  That fear eventually led me to medicate my loneliness with everything from video games to comfort food so that nobody would find out I was struggling emotionally.  However soon I learned what each one of us find out eventually, there is absolutely no substitute for human interaction…oh and adding hot french fries makes the experience better.

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John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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