So You Want to Be a Missionary…

So You Want to Be a MissionaryIf you have been a Christian for any length of time, you probably have heard of incredible, inspiring stories of missionaries who have sacrificed the comforts of their homeland for a life overseas being Jesus’ hands and feet. They share of God’s miraculous working power, testimonies of people coming to Christ, financial breakthroughs and more. Their stories stir and captivate all who listen, and may have even caused you to ponder the idea of becoming a missionary in some foreign land yourself. If that is you, here are six tips to finishing your long-term missionary journey successfully.

You must be called
“One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.’ So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way” (Acts 13:2-3)

Becoming a missionary is a calling from God, not just a good idea someone has. Paul and Barnabas were set apart as missionaries by God himself. God empowered them for the journey to accomplish his purpose in the midst of dangers, persecutions, difficulties, loneliness, sickness and more. We are no exception; we must let God direct our steps too. Sadly, studies show that up to half of all new missionaries do not last beyond their first term on the mission field. Let God direct your steps; let him resource you, fight for you, encourage you and blaze a trail for you to follow. When he calls you, he equips you!

Develop a good support base
One of the biggest challenges long-term missionaries face is developing a strong financial support system that will last. They usually start out with a steady stream of income, but over time through various reasons, many have to return home prematurely because their support has dwindled or dried up completely. One key to keeping the money flowing is to keep people informed. People want to hear what is going on; they want to feel connected to the ministry and feel like their contribution is making a difference. So let people know your successes and challenges; give them something to pray about on your behalf. In today’s technologically advanced world, people can be in the know at the click of a button, so use it to your advantage. Create a blog, send out a newsletter, post on Facebook, or produce short videos. It is so easy. When people feel a part of your ministry, it will make them want to partner with you for the long haul. Remember, people give to things they believe in, things that move them to action. Give them a reason to join your team through thick and thin!

Learn the language
One of the most fruitful things you can do when moving overseas is to learn the language of the people you will be ministering to. Nothing seems to build a connection more than trying to speak the language of the residents, even if you make tons of mistakes. What you are communicating when you try is that you care. In essence, you are saying you value them enough to learn their language. On top of that, being able to speak to people on a deep, meaningful level is invaluable to building strong, healthy relationships and in sharing the gospel. Knowing the language is also helpful in navigating around the community, buying groceries, making business deals, and much more. So take the time to learn the language; it will be worth it in the end.

Understand the culture
Not everyone thinks like you, believes like you, or grew up in an environment like you. Not everyone has the same political perspective, the same views on family or on money. This is even more apparent when living in a foreign land. The more you can understand this new culture, the easier time you will have in connecting and building relationships with the locals and winning their trust. And, Lord willing, lead them to Christ.

Deal with conflict well
As a missionary, you may prepare yourself for challenges when dealing with foreigners, but you may overlook the stresses of difficult people on your own mission team. In fact, it may come as a complete surprise. Just remember, as long as you work with people, you will deal with differing opinions, perspectives, and how people process information. Some people are all about the details, while others see the big picture. Conflict is not inherently bad; more times than not, conflict can help people work towards a solution that is best for everyone. So do not run from difficult issues; embrace them and let God sharpen you in the process.

Don’t get discouraged
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

It is no easy task to leave the comforts of family, friends, and familiar surroundings. It is even more challenging to enter a whole new culture, learn a new language, eat new types of foods, develop new friends, and work in a foreign place. At times, it can be downright overwhelming. One may even feel discouraged, especially if things are not going the way you think they should go, in the timeframe you believe they should happen in. Remember, God is with you and is directing your steps. He is the one that will ultimately produce the fruit in and through you. So just relax. Trust God by faith and keep believing that he has a good plan. His purpose for you will be accomplished in his perfect timing. He will open doors that no man can shut. The harvest can only happen after much plowing, watering, and hard work, so do not quit or give up. Lean on God and in due season and at the appointed time, you will reap the fruit of your labor!

Though this is not an exhaustive list, these six simple points will help anyone live out his or her long-term missionary journey more successfully. Keep fighting the good fight of faith and step into all the great things God has for you while living abroad.

Cory Nickols is a freelance writer, and serves full-time with Destiny Rescue in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Cory can be reached at [email protected].

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