Missions is a desert, in that it sometimes feels dry (tradition). Missions can also be like the ocean, a lot of water (people) but nowhere to quench your thirst (friendship). What about comparing it to a mountain trail (uncertainty), a city intersection (confusing), or even to the launch of a rocket ship (anticipation, success, and then silence). In any comparison, we all have to navigate our calling to local missions or world missions with wisdom.
Here are a few tips that I have learned…
Learning Is Winning
Find books about missionaries who have experience on the mission field. Their stories of how they mapped out their strategy, what they prayed for, and how they worked with other leaders can be a great help to you. Also, communicating with missionaries that are now on location will help you learn new things.
Expect the Unexpected
Growing up on the mission field, I seemed to have this innate desire to know what I would be doing the next day… or rather what did my parents have planned for me to do the next day. This led to many late night questions like these,
“Mom, when we arrive in the village tomorrow and go to visit Sis. Mary, will she make us eat those nasty cabbage rolls?”
“Dad, when we arrive at the hotel, will me and Kay (my sister) get our own room?”
Most of the time they did not know the answer, and most of the time it did not work out according to our plans. In many cultures, meeting on time simply means meeting within two or three hours of the time agreed. To “expect the unexpected” may sound like an oxymoron and the advice may be easily dismissed, but I strongly believe that many failed mission trips are crushed on the rocks of inflexible expectations.
You may go prepared to preach a conference, and when you arrive you are asked to clean the toilets. You may go prepared to clean toilets, and when you arrive you are asked to preach the conference. Of course, those examples are extreme but every mission field is different, and you will most definitely encounter unexpected things.
Pick up Yourself, Not Stones
1 Samuel 30:6
And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
There are many stones lying around on the mission field. Frustration with the struggle to learn a new language, or with the people in their acceptance of the Gospel, can quickly turn into stones. You are not on the mission field to attack others or be attacked by others. When either of those options seems tempting, remember to be like David: encourage yourself, pursue your calling, and watch God restore you (1 Samuel 30:8, 19).
God called, equipped, and sent you to that desert, ocean, mountain trail, or whatever you want to call it for a reason.
“Let the Journey Begin”
-U.S. Navy Recruiting Slogan (1996-2000)