For the past 10 years Edgar and I have been missionaries with Youth With A Mission. Over the years we have learned a few, meaning a lot, of things about missions. I wanted to compile a list of the top things that we have learned – one for each year as a missionary. No in any particular order.
- It is hard – Yep, I said it. Being a missionary is not easy. Missionaries tend to only share the positive side. It is exciting at the beginning just like a short-term missions trip. You get this high, you’re excited, you see God and then you see the ugly and hard stuff. The enemy has ambushes everywhere. Gossip, jealousy, anger, misunderstandings, the weather, sickness, loneliness, and indifference of the people. There are so many things. Ugh, the enemy will attack. There is no way around it. But that is when we know we are doing God’s work.
- It is a Presure Cooker– You come face to face with your inadequacies and weaknesses. As humans we tend to listen and seek out God when we things get tough. And it gets tough like I said already. It is when we are constantly hearing God’s voice. We’ve realized how much we actually need to depend on God. God to provide for us, to guide us, and to use us. God uses our weaknesses. For me, funny as it may be is language. I am horrible at english. Yet I worked in Mexico for 7 years speaking SPANISH. Some how, I learned another language. Plus, I am married to a Mexican where we speak spanish all the time. I teach english to speakers of another language from time to time. I am writing…if you haven’t notice my grammar is horrible. God is always calling us to grow in our weakness but also to use our strengths. My husband is very relational and God definitely uses that gifting.
- Relax & Refresh yourself – You need to rest. It is so important. It is easy to get caught up in doing and doing and never make time for yourself. For some of us, the rest is one day a week and for others its a week after months of working. Whatever it is, missionaries just like anyone else need to find time to rest. It is important to relax, laugh, and be joyful. And give it all over to God. Let Him handle it. Refresh you body. It is okay to take a day off. In doing so, you will be better thus allowing God to work through you.
- Faith – We need to have faith that God is going to provide what we need at the exact moment that we need it. We need to trust that God will provide supporters for our ministry. It is not easy to ask. We need faith that people will allow us to come into their life. We need to have faith that God will perform miracles. We need to have faith that our prayers matter. Prayer makes all the difference. It is what fuels the ministry.
- Flexibility – Things are always changing. Many times you need to give a teaching on the spot or need it to go longer or shorter than expected. The ministry that was planned for the day you can no longer do due to the weather. Community events come up or someone drops by. The ministry contact is sick or unreliable. Almost nothing goes exactly as planned. It is actually very shocking and pleasant when it does.
- Intercultural – You need to learn the culture of the place you are working. You need to understand it. Some times it doesn’t even make sense and it might seem ridiculous. Learn how to live there, love the people how God loves them. There will be things of your culture that will stick with you but you will also adopt new things from the culture you are living in.
- Relationship is Key – in order to make God known you need to speak and interact with other people. Simple as that. Know their language.
- Communication is very important – you need to learn how to communicate with other missionaries, ministries, and churches. Also to those whom you are ministering too. It is easy to assume things. Many things can get lost between language and culture. Understanding the way the people communicate and knowing how to correctly communicate with them. Not just with our words but also our actions.
- Be humble and teachable – our actitud can make a world of difference. We are called to serve. The best thing is to ask why? Why do they believe what they believe. Why they do things that way. It doesn’t mean we have to accept them. When we are humble and admit that our way doesn’t have to be the only way we open the door for the Holy Spirit to move. What worked once might not work again.
- Keep learning – It is very important to continual grow and know God more. God doesn’t want us to stay the same. He wants us to grow. For me, it mostly means reading my Bible. And I mean really digging into it. It is easy to read scripture without engaging in it. Once I do, God reveals so many things to me. For my husband, it is books and conference and things of that nature. Learning about their worldview.
These 10 things might be different for another missionary. I probably could have added on another 10. But that would make for a long post.