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Published on December 14th, 2016 | by Discussion Questions

How can I prepare for long-term missions?





ANONYMOUS WRITES: I believe I am called to the mission field. I haven’t had a vision or anything, but Jesus says to go in his word and that’s enough (it holds more authority that way anyway). So I’m sure as heck going to try.

So, how do I get there? I’m hoping to go long term, but I’m not sure what kind of skills I’ll need, how to bring it up to my church, how to pay for it, ect. Any suggestions would be helpful, especially if any of y’all are either planning to go, or already have. Stories are even better.

Thank you so much!

P.S. I realize missions often puts people in dangerous situations, so if you can’t share certain things on here safely, please don’t. I totally get it.


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  • Cool! That’s great that you want to serve God on the mission field! I think the most stable choice would be to get involved in a missions organization. They provide support big time. Most organizations require extensive training, though, and lots of the time you still end up having to raise your own funds. So, there are benefits either way. In fact, some of the most well known missionaries were rejected by the missions organizations! I think it’s really important to pray at this point, research the options, and GO.

  • Heather C.

    What a great question!!! I assume you’re talking overseas, third-world missions in the future.
    Oh, I could talk for hours… I was an MK in Papua New Guinea at a remote hospital for several years.
    The most important thing you can possibly do to prepare is to become faithful in Bible reading and prayer, relying on God in every situation.
    The next step, I would say, is to determine what “sort” of missionary you’ll be. What skill will you use to tell people about Christ? Will you be a school teacher, teach English, build needed facilities, give healthcare, help people earn a living, or simply preach? All of these are great, provided that you keep in mind that meeting physical needs is a bridge to meeting more important spiritual needs!

    A few other lessons would be:

    -don’t be self-conscious! Depending on where you are, you might be the centre of attention, laughed at for white skin, constantly followed by little kids, sometimes toddlers might cry in fear!

    -on the other side of the coin, cultivate humility. Work really hard on this one! You will be seen as special and “honoured” in your home country and perhaps respected in a way in your serving country, but keep in mind that everyone serves in their own way. It is very easy to be puffed up with pride. Guard against it!! It’s easy to build your own kingdom instead of God’s without even realizing it. You may pour heart and soul into your wonderful project, but without Godly motivation, you’ll destroy yourself and not please God.

    -hold your life loosely. You know where you’re going if you die, but you have to keep that mindset. I was not in a country hostile to Christianity, but there were still several dangerous incidents.

    -be prepared to let go and say goodbye. You will leave the life you know. You may love your serving country very, very deeply (like I did), and prefer it over you native country, but there will still be constant goodbyes! You will be torn! Here’s a quote I love by a lady named Miriam Adeney: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” It’s so true. It hurts very deeply, and it changes you.

    -be willing to sacrifice privacy and be flexible with other people. Give up your own rights for the sake of unity!

    -be adaptable and willing to laugh at yourself and try new foods and cultural practices. The willingness to just get in there with the people really helped me settle in.

    One mission that I really admire (and understand the value of since they served the hospital where I was) is MAF–Mission Aviation Fellowship. They fly planes to service local people and missionaries. They do medevacs (as they did from nearby healthcentres to the hospital where I was), fly missionaries in and out, deliver health and building supplies (it would have been several days walk up and down mountains to get building supplies to the health centres with no roads), and also subsidize Bibles. Their work is amazing, desperately needed, and a wonderful balance of physical and spiritual help. Here’s an article I wrote about them a couple of years ago http://therebelution.com/blog/2014/11/join-the-missionary-aviation-fellowship-prayer-marathon/

    If you don’t yet know what field of work God would have you in, I highly recommend MAF! They are very understaffed and underfunded.

    And if you have any specific questions about any of this or anything else, I’m happy to share stories or more information! It’s not safety-sensitive in any way, so ask anything you want! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I have some friends from MAF!

      • Heather C.

        Really? What country do they serve in?

        • Cameroon, or some country near it.

          • Heather C.

            Oh, ok, neat! I only knew people in PNG, but their work all over the world is so valuable!

    • Okie Gal

      This is really helpful, and challenging. Thanks Heather!

      • Heather C.

        Glad it was helpful to you Okie Gal! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • My best non-exhaustive advice is to keep doing what you’re doing by reaching out with this DQ.

    Listen.

    When missionaries come to your church or you’re visiting any sort of conference or camp, engage them in conversations and such. They are usually happy to share their unique experiences, and the information they have is so incredibly valuable.

  • Ok, here I go:
    I’m a former MK, my parents were in Spain for 12 years. We are currently back in the States where my dad pastors a church.

    There are a lot of options for those who want to go into international ministry. For starters, you probably want to decide what you want to do in ministry. Do you want to be a pastor? Teacher? Medical professional? Counselor? You can even go into business administration if you want to. Your work will determine where you will be end up going.
    I would recommend going to a Christian University, as they can help counsel you and direct you towards Missions.

    Next, I would suggest you talk to your church’s pastor and see what mission organizations they work with and what missionaries they support (talk to those guys, they’ll have invaluable information). There are a lot, There’s the Alliance, Crossworld (that was ours), Compassion, and many others. The mission organization you go with will determine where you will go. You can then contact the organization you have done research on and ask them your questions and receive their encouragement.
    You should also determine where you want to go in Missions. It’s not like the Military where they tell you where to go, rather, you determine your destination. Do you want to work in a third world country? Europe? a country under persecution? Those are all things you should pray about.
    Ultimately, let God lead you. Ask Him to show you where to go, open the right doors, and close the wrong ones. if this is truly what He has in store for you, He will show you where He wants you.
    I hope this helps and if you want to contact me further you can shoot me a message at [email protected]
    Or, if you are on Revive, you are more than welcome to PM me on there.
    ~L

    • Once an MK, always an MK

      • That is SO true!! It’s definitely something you never leave behind.

        • Piragi

          Yep, but you can even be a MT(Missionary Teen). I kind of made it up. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • KatelynS

    Wow! I think it’s amazing that you are planning to go into missions! I have not had any personal experience with long term missions, but I do have a cousin who is in the process to become a missionary pilot. It takes a LOT of work/time/energy to get through all the requirements and certifications, but at this point I would encourage you to pray about it – a lot! Get some close family members and friends to pray for you. Mission work is hard, it forces you to get completely out of your comfort zone! Pray for guidance, strength and wisdom. Like I said, I don’t have experience in this subject, but prayer is a valuable tool in any circumstance!
    I wish you all the best in your journey!

  • Olivia W.

    You should check out the International Missions Board and imbStudents. They might be helpful.
    https://www.imb.org/
    http://www.imbstudents.org/

  • Well hello, anony-moose! So cool that you want to go into long term missions!! I too feel that call very strongly and have for years. As far as preparing, I don’t really have a ton of experience. I’m 16 and have never left the states. My best advice is to decide on a career. A lot of times you need a cover to get into some countries and a teacher, Doctor, dentist, businessman is a great in. Identify a passion or gift that you have i.e. kids, teaching, medical, serving, ect. I love kids and teaching so I plan to pursue a degree in education.
    As far as paying goes, your home church and other churches may be willing to sponsor you. There are also tons of organizations that would. Does your church place much emphasis on missions?
    Hope some of this helps!!

  • Lydia Graham

    Hi anonymous, me and my family are missionaries here in South Africa. I was actually born here in the SA. I think it it GREAT that you want to go into missions. And let me tell you, your life will be a non-stop adventure. Even though I have been here my whole life, accept furloughs, someone could do exactly what I do {with a few exceptions} , but just be in America, or wherever you live. You can be a missionary wherever you are. Some people God has being missionaries in their home, others He has in other countries. I think that the key to being a missionary is, being prepared to share the gospel where ever you are. And if He wants you to be in another country, be prepared to deal with some changes, and trials. Like I said, life on the mission fields is a non-stop adventure. We used to every two years renew our visas here in the SA, and then one year a week before it expired we went to the office to renew, and they told us some shocking news. They had changed the rules and you had to go back to your home country to renew. That meant that we had one week to find a pastor for three months, make flight arrangements, pack up the house, and anything else that you generally need to do when leaving the country for several months. LOL our house the next few days was like a ant hill. I hope that things start going smoothly, and be prepared to follow God no-matter-what. I will be praying for you.
    “Go unto the world and preach ye the gospel unto every nation”

  • Piragi

    Well, you don’t need a vision to know where to start missions, God can tell you however He likes, Mostly it’s a whisper in your heart deep inside, but you can start anywhere you like(Hope you don’t mind if I said partly what you said Lydia), my best advice for you is PRAY, pray that the Lord will show you where to start.

  • Okie Gal

    I dont have much advice, but I want to try to encourage you ton risk it all.

    The need is huge! America is only 4% of the population and we have so much gospel, but there are 3 billion people in places where literally no one knows what Jesus has done for us.

    Could locals do a better job? Heck, yes. But there are no locals (or there’s only like 20 believers and they need help), so we have to GO.

    God has chosen people from every tribe. He’s drawing them to himself, and he let’s us in it! So let’s go with the gospel to the places where it hasn’t been (Kurdistan, North Sudan, ect.). God is good, and if you’re killed for this mission, it will be worth it.

    Go for the globe, and get some of them for Jesus.

  • Lydia Graham

    P.S. Even if you have to stay where you are for a little while, you can always start praying for different people groups. My family uses the “Joshua project” it is an app that lists a new people group every day that are considered unreached. It has a picture of them, and lists how many people they are aprox. and where in the world they are, and some interesting facts. Sometimes they give some background history too, it is really a Great app.

  • Hannah
  • DanE

    I am going to look at this very closely, especially since I am going on a short missions trip in 9 days and probably will want to do long term after.

  • Hi there Anonymous!! =D I’m currently an MK (or MT as someone said below. ;D) in Zambia, Africa. I’ve lived here for nearly two years and I LOVE it! Not to say it’s always easy or there are no challenges… there certainly are! BUt I still know this is where GOd has called me to be for now and He has given me the heart for here. =)

    Hmm….Advice…Others have said a LOT of great things!!

    Let me think on this and come back…I realize you’re anonymous; but if you know me and have a way to contact me and want to, feel free! If not, but want to talk I can try to find a way for us to exchange info. =)

    I’ll be back. ;D

    • Okie Gal

      Come baaaaaack!

  • Missions is difficult thing. I’m no missionary kid, but like you, I have a big heart for all nations and all people. Specifically for the marginalized people of Syria and the Lebanese Church. I went to Lebanon for 2 weeks last summer and it was the first time I’ve seen first hand what it takes to be on the mission field.
    First, understand and expand on the meaning of the verse where Jesus says in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the World and preach the Gospel to all creation.”I think that the North American Church has strictly interpreted that as going to all nations and preaching and proclaiming the Gospel with our mouths. But there is so much more to that verse. Am I saying that it’s wrong for you to be a pastor to a foreign people group? absolutely not! But I am saying, explore different options and expand your understanding of the Great Commission. I went to Lebanon this summer, and I witnessed one of our students that we support from ABTS (Arab Baptist Theological Seminary) graduate! I never understood why our partnership with ABTS was so important until I realized something. ABTS is fostering long-term discipleship. Meaning that instead of having an American pastor minister a congregation with a completely different culture, language and understanding of the Gospel, you can train a native pastor who already understands the culture, language and its indigenous people and preach the Gospel to them the way that they can understand it!
    Second, learn to invest time, love and interest in *individuals* and not groups of people. Better before bigger. Value relationships with individuals over hyper-efficiency. Often you can get so overwhelmed with the suffering and great need that you forget to invest quality time with individuals. You’ll try to do everything and fix everything, instead of loving people.
    Third, justice and beauty are integral parts the mission field. Evangelism is more than proclaiming with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Evangelism is justice. Evangelism is living Christ with our actions and proclaiming His highest with our lives. Break bread and be in fellowship with those who you are ministering to, think of them as friends and not as your personal evangelism projects to check off on your to-do list. Cry with them. Be transparent. Be vulnerable. Be open to learning from them just as much, or even more as they learn from you. Listen more than speak. Be filled with His spirit and grace.
    Hope this helped and I’ll be praying for you Anonymous! Missions are difficult endeavors, pray that God, everyday will stretch your heart a little bigger to be the size of His. There is joy and great love, you’ll feel filled with His grace! But there is also great pain. Pain that you’ll feel from the suffering of others. Pain from rejection and failures. Pain from coming to terms with your inadequacy and humaness. And in all of that He is there. Be willing to be shaped, to be changed, by God and by the people you are ministering to :)

    • Also I’ve read these books and they really helped me understand missions a whole lot better!
      “Cross Cultural Servanthood” by Duane Elmer
      “He Walks Among Us” by Renee and Richard Stearns
      “Toxic Charity” by Robert Lupton and “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert

      • Okie Gal

        Hey I’m going to start deletin these comments since you’ve already seen them, and they have a lot of information to be on a public site. Just so you know what’s up.

    • Okie Gal

      Ahh, this is so good! Thank you.

      • No problem. Where are you thinking of going for long-term missions? Urban? Overseas? Discipleship training? Art missions? What’s your passion @disqus_inEHyzWSo4:disqus?

        • Okie Gal

          Um, I’m not really sure, thats why I was reading this. I have a couple people from my church supporting me, but they all want me to do different things, (working with kids, teaching English), and I thought about medical. I would like to work with refugees coming out of Syria or ISIS-held areas, but it’s hard to make plans because the need will be so different by the time I get trained.

          • O my gosh! Are you serious?! Hit me up my dude, we can talk about Lebanon and Syrian refugees and I can give you some stuff to read on the Middle East!!

          • Okie Gal

            That’d be awesome! Have you ever heard of Frontier Alliance International (FAI)? They’re doing amazing work right outside of Mosul, and I just started watching their videos. They’re super helpful and kind of make me want to buy a one way ticket on the spot.

          • That’s really cool! I’ve never heard of them though. Is that a medical program? I worked with Heart for Lebanon which is an organization that works with refugees living in camps all over Lebanon they have a Hope Center and a school in the Bekaa Valley. Heart for Lebanon are caring for the whole person, meaning that they desire to care for the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the people. If you end up going to the Middle East, be prepared to have your Western/American mindset be totally transformed. The UN has valued efficiency and numbers over individuals. They make it a big deal to say things like “OMG we registered 3 million refugees this year!!” And I’m just like, “yeah, and how many names do you remember in that 3 million?” They desire the highest good for the most amount of people (which is a Western utilitarian idea), and they end up dehumanizing the Syrian refugees. So be prepared to scrap your Western mindset, and just be present with the people. Listen to their stories. Pray with them. Love them. Share food and be willing to be served by them just as much as you serve them. Heart for Lebanon doesn’t throw food at people and move to the next camp. They only have 100 families in their program. A lot of our time was spent just sitting and listening to people’s stories. Their ministry is so cool, and I think that would be a thing to look into!

          • Okie Gal

            This is awesome, I will definitely check them out. What do you think were the biggest things you learned while you were there? Oh, and FAI is medical and descipleship, they go our in mixed teams so they can do both.

          • Okie Gal

            Also, I think I’m going to start deleting these comments since you’ve already seen them, and that’s a lot of personal info for a public site. That’s another thing about this stuff, I’m never sure how much to say.

          • One of the biggest takeaways from that trip was seeing firsthand what it takes to be in ministry. It helped open my eyes to His vision for the Middle East and how the Lebanese Church can be part of Hs reconciling work. He showed me the power of forgiveness. The power of silence. The power of abandoning yourself in the face of persecution for the call of His kingdom.
            I know this will sound funny. But I didn’t “do” a lot while I was there. And I mean the word “do” in the context of the way our American culture defines that word.
            A lot of our time was spent listening and being present with Syrian refugees. One afternoon after packing food sacks, we sat and ate lunch with the other people at the Heart for Lebanon staff. I remember sitting there with the table littered with falafel wraps and garlic yogurt wondering when we would get back to work. But instead, we sat and had intense fellowship with the staff. We asked each other about families, stories and hobbies. We laughed, talked and just got to know them. And that is a huge part of their culture and ministry that we, as Westerners just don’t understand.
            Too often, we are concerned with getting stuff done and following protocol and schedules. We don’t value meals and fellowship the way that the Middle Eastern cultures do.
            I’ll come back… just gimme a sec haha ๐Ÿ˜€

          • Okie Gal

            That’s so cool! I’ve been on a few trips like that but only to Mexico. Still, the different culture makes for a heck of a wake-up call.

          • Haha yeah. I came back and a lot of people wanted me to show them pictures and stuff and I realized that I didn’t really take any…I guess I didn’t really feel comfortable taking pictures of people like I was on some poverty tourist trip. Idk, God taught me that there’s a lot more to this world than just physical, temporal reminders of people…we can have the experiences we had with them last forever in our memory. So even if you don’t take pictures with someone to remember them by, there will be images that will be eternal, as they play over and over again in your mind. Don’t let any of them go :) Hold onto them, good and bad; joyful and painful. Constantly talk about them, whether you keep a journal or find a person/companion to put up with your jumbled thoughts and images ๐Ÿ˜‰
            This last Christmas I really connected with my uncle through conversation about my trip to Lebanon. We rarely talk when the holidays come around, but man this time, he initiated a conversation with me and I was surprised. My Dad was too. He told me on the way home that he had never seen my uncle initiate a conversation before. My Dad has always initiated it, and then my uncle will talk. I told my Dad that talking to him was a really good thing for me. I mean, whenever I share about my time in Lebanon, it’s a beautiful reminder that the feelings I felt and the love that I have for the Syrian people is real…that my trip to Lebanon wasn’t a dream. My life was changed and I’ve had terrible nightmares that I never went. I wake up in cold sweats, trying to reassure myself that my experience did really happen. But when I talk to people…man, God just knows when to send people, like my uncle to open up and ask me about the trip. It’s a good feeling, and I’m praying, Okie Gal, that God will give you those people post-trip to just process with :)

          • “Still, the different culture makes for a heck of a wake-up call.” ^^ true that. There are definitely elements of Lebanese culture that I think the North American Church should have :) Like wow, there are so many things we can learn from them, if we just listened and watched. What were you in Mexico for? I’d love to hear about your trips :)

          • Okie Gal

            My church supports a bible school in southern MX, in an area that has its own culture and languages, (different from the rest of Mexico). And one of our guys is a missionary who teaches music there. Anyway, every year or so we send a team to go hang out with and encourage the students, plus staff and their families. So I go as often as I can, (twice so far).

            One of the things that always hits me is how gracious and hospitable people are. I know a lot of that is because I’m mostly around believers while I’m there, but that shows I need to work on it in my own life too. And the unity we have in Christ, I never understood what unity meant until I was in a room full of people who could barely talk, and don’t have much alike, but still loved each other just because because serve the same God.

            Was it hard for you not being able to talk? My Spanish is hard to understand and usually whoever I was talking to didn’t have time to figure out all the jumbled phrases. It’s the worst. Makes for good stories though.

            One of the hardest things coming back is always that I want to make everyone Mexican. It’s probably good to see a different perspective and notice problems in my own culture, but I have to remember that they have problems too and the gospel is the thing that will fix us both.

          • Wow. that’s a cool place where God is moving :)
            And I definitely feel you on getting surprised by people’s overwhelming love, generosity and hospitality. When we went to the Bekaa Valley, where many of the tent camps were, the Syrian refugees offered us mint tea and rich, bitter Arabian coffee. They never apologized for the chipped glass cups or the dirt floor, they didn’t need to.Their faces and stories of hope were more than enough to make me want to stay in their home over any mansion or 5-star dining restaurant.
            At my home church, we have a Spanish service that I’ll occasionally go to and am always warmly welcomed (even for a hearty lunch afterwards…beats jello salad and deviled eggs any day of the week:D)
            I know that you asked this question as an anonymous, but I wanted to ask how you felt about being a man or a woman in the culture that you were in, because it was a interesting experience for me…

          • Okie Gal

            Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t even have to wear a skirt most ofamous the time. The only thing was that you always had to wear long jeans even if it’s hot, just their idea of modesty. Us girls were pretty separate from the guys on our team just because we were doing different work, but we got to catch up at meals and it wasn’t considered inappropriate at all. I imagine it would be a completely different story in an Islamic country.

  • Jalen Barbour

    My family has been in full time ministry for about 6 years. We moved about a year ago to join an organization that trains missionaries. My family and I now live in an area of the US that is said to be the most diverse square mile in the country. It truly is. I live right smack-dab in the middle of refugees from all over, including from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and many others! I get to spend time drinking Arabic coffee and tea in their homes, and sharing the gospel and love of Jesus with Arabs from all over, every single day! Every night I get to walk over to my Syrian and Iraqi friends houses and talk until the wee hours of the morning. I have realized, that I am so, so very blessed. As a teenager, I have already had a life so, so abundant! We are not promised tomorrow, but even if I died tomorrow, I have had such a full and beautiful life.

    But I will say his. If there is anything you can do to prepare for mission work later, be fully present in the right now. You will never know how many opportunities God has for you right now. Start in your own home. If you can’t love those around you, you most certainly cannot go out into the mission field and love others. It is so easy to get caught up in our future and what we want to do later. And even if those are really good desires, don’t let your heart be discontented with where God has you right now.

    Lastly, build up your relationship with Jesus. I am telling you from experience that mission work is hard. If you are not being filled up, you can’t pour out. And if you aren’t in love with Jesus, you have no reason to give your life for ministry. He should be your ONLY reason for mission work. Not because you feel like you should. Not just because you love A certain people group. Your purpose should be to glorify God in every aspect of your life.

    Whew, sorry, that was long!!!:)

    • DanE

      Don’t be sorry that was long, that was cool!

  • Kyrie Nielsen

    This might not help you, but I’d like to add that in my church we go on eighteen-month to 2 year long missions. When young men are eighteen and women nineteen they are given the opportunity to be given a mission call, go to the Missionary Training Center (MTC), and then go out to serve. Men are generally expected to go, while for women they have no obligation or pressure (for lack of a better word).

  • DanE

    Don’t know if this will help because this is from an small week long missions trip. But what I have is that the normal things that happen in US can be the abnormal stuff where you go. Always expect the unexpected. Always prepare yourself for something bad to happen. Never forget that everything that happens is in God’s plan. And also, don’t focus always on the bad that is happening where you are. I was in Haiti last week on a missions trip and if you look up Haiti on Google then go to images, it just shows the poverty in Port-au-Prince. But if you look past the poverty, the trash fires, the destruction, Haiti is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. So don’t forget that.

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