When heading into the mission field, it is so easy to get excited and want to jump right in. However, there are five questions that are extremely important before heading into the mission field.
1. Why are you going?
If you have any answer besides “Because God said so,” you should reconsider.
If you think it will be an adventure, you owe it to society, you want to know what it’s like, you enjoy other cultures, etc. – you may find this all true. However, if God did not say go – to this place, in this time – you will find yourself suffering for it. Going into the mission field because you have something to offer is not the right reason. You cannot simply go somewhere to help and to change something. Unless God stirs in you that it is you, at this time, for this place, you really should not go. Too many people jump into the mission field for the wrong reason – do not be one of them!
2. How does your receiving organization/church take care of their missionaries?
There should be a clear plan for how the receiver will take care of your needs upon arrival and throughout your stay. This varies from basic needs to spiritual needs to emotional support, and maybe even counseling. If the receiver does not have a clear plan on how to take care of you, reconsider! If you feel God is still saying go, then talk openly with the receiver about this concern, and help them come up with a plan to change it (when appropriate). Do not just go and assume it will change – there has to be a good plan in place!
3. How does your sending organization/church take care of their missionaries?
Your well-being is in the hands of your receiving organization, and your sending organization. While you may have many supporters, one should be your “sender.” This is usually an organization whom you “work for,” or your home church. Ask specifically what they are going to do to take care of you. What are their plans? How will they encourage you and pray for you? Do they expect you to be the sole source of information and the initiator of all communication? If so, you may want to ask them to consider adding a group of encouragers who can initiate communication to help you. It is vital that your sender has an equally good plan as your receiver, if not better.
4. How will you take care of yourself (and your family) on the mission field?
If you are not in the habit of taking time out every day to refresh yourself in the Word and through prayer, you really need to change this. You absolutely cannot thrive on the mission field if you are in a place of need. If you do not know how to feed yourself spiritually, to meet you needs through Christ, to monitor your health, and assess your stress level and well-being, you need a new plan. Whether you simply survive or thrive on the mission field is dependent on 3 groups: you, your receiver, and your sender. If these 3 are not working together, you will hopefully survive…but you will not thrive. There is a common misnomer that missions is sacrifice, and therefore the missionary should be prepared to suffer. In reality, if these 3 groups work together, the missionary should thrive on being in God’s perfect will. Does this mean there will not be difficulty? spiritual attack? persecution? hardship? Absolutely not! However, it means that you will be covered in prayer, and encouraged regularly, and taken care of in order to meet your needs. In this way, you can walk through anything and will be held in God’s hand – you can thrive!
“Whether you simply survive or thrive on the mission field is dependent on 3 groups: you, your receiver, and your sender.”
5. Who will you be working with and what are they like?
If you are heading out on your own, you need to assess this. Are you one who struggles without regular interaction? How will you ensure this is not a burden that distracts you from ministry while you are serving alone?
If you are heading to join multiple missionaries, you need to get to know them. Learn their spiritual gifts, strengths and weaknesses, personality type, pet-peeves, communication style, and spiritual maturity. Determine if they work well with others, how they interact with others, and if they are open to new people joining them. Remember that a person’s strength is often their weakness in regards to relationships. Someone who is very outspoken can really empower others and help keep everyone motivated. They can also really hurt people, speak out of turn, or offend easily. If you know people’s strength, usually you will know their weakness too. The people you serve with can make or break your time on the mission field. Do not under-estimate the importance of truly knowing each person and family you will be serving with! You could end up joining a mess…and that may not be worth it in the long run. If relationships are strained to the point of distracting from ministry, then what is the point in being in missions?
While this is definitely not an exhaustive list, it can really help you if you are looking at missions. There are so many stressors in the mission field – these should not be one of them! Unforeseen things will happen, but you can plan ahead for these 5. So, take each one seriously. Spend a great deal of time praying over them and considering them before you make a commitment.
Like many, maybe it is too late for you – maybe you already made the commitment and now you wish you had heard this earlier. If that is the case, talk to your sender and receiver. Create a plan to improve the situation. First, start taking your well-being and stress-level seriously. Take care of yourself so that you can serve out of the overflow of all that is inside you. Then talk to your sender and receiver, and come up with a plan on how they can help you. Work to improve relationships where you are. If you are in solitude and feel like you are suffering for it, seek God in this. Through it all, seek God. He wants your health more than you want it, so He will show you the way!
May you be blessed!