Not all people are cut out for mission work in foreign lands, and that is OK. Romans 12:5 says, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” Just as God graces one individual with the gifting to do one thing for his Kingdom, he gifts the other with something else. The Bible has described the church as the Body of Christ. The body is made up of many parts. We are all to work together for one purpose collectively: to advance his Kingdom globally. Also, you may feel called to missions; what does that look like for you? There are thousands of mission organizations people work for and never leave their home country.
Missionaries must have certain qualities within them. Many express the struggles they deal with while on the mission field. The mission life is not for the faint in heart. These individuals are required to have a strong faith and be willing to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God. While on a mission, missionaries often experience physical and emotional challenges that test their strength and faith. However, trials can help them grow and mature as they minister to others with these qualities.
Romans 11:29 “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.”
Before missionaries embark on this life-changing journey, they must be certain that God calls them to do it. They cannot simply assume that they are supposed to go to a different country or culture to fulfill God’s plan for their life; they need to be sure that God is leading them there. It must be that you know that you know. This certainty will give them the determination to stay on the mission field when circumstances are screaming in their faces to quit and go home.
The famous Dr. Lester Sumrall was known for his global outreach for the Gospel; he continuously encouraged people not to quit. He even authored a book, “I Did Not Quit.” Why did he have this mindset? Because he was sure who he was in Christ and the call of God on his life!
INITIATIVE AND SELF-SELF STARTER
Mission work is not about getting rich, but the Bible is truly clear that we need to be profitable in the things of God. The parable of the talents sets an expectation for us believers to multiply the things God has entrusted with us. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels; that only brings non-achievement.
In saying that, Missionaries are not typically given a lot of guidance from their church or sending agency. There will be no one knocking on their door at 8 in the morning to hold their hands throughout the day to ensure they accomplish their tasks. Their given strength and direction come from God through his Holy Spirit, but he will not do it for them. Instead, they are expected to be initiative-takers and figure out what they need to succeed through the Lord’s guidance. This can be difficult for some missionaries, which are not used to being on their own. However, they need to remember that the success of their mission depends on their daily efforts, and no one is going to come and do it for them.
Galatians 6:9 “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Being a missionary requires a great deal of patience and perseverance. It can be challenging to learn the language and culture of the people you are trying to reach, and it can be challenging to see any results from your efforts. But if you are dedicated to serving God and working for His Kingdom, you will be rewarded with a sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you are making a difference in the lives of others.
When the missionary gets to a foreign land, they will find that the Western Christian mentality does not always line up with the culture they are working in. The perseverance will require them to think outside the box. There will be many times when they will have to contextualize the Gospel to fit the perspective of those they are ministering to. Again, this takes perseverance to do so.
James 4:6 “And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Missionaries find out quickly the need to walk in humility, or they will be humbled. Through difficult living conditions, cultural shock, or lack of understanding from those they are trying to help, missionaries expeditiously learn their place in the world and their dependence on God. The last thing they want to bring to the mission field is a sense of superiority from a western mindset. The Indigenous people often see right through it, and it will hinder any work God wants to do through them. So, they need to leave baggage in their home country and pack a good dose of humility before jumping on the plane.
“Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken.”
Missionaries often must face the challenge of adapting to a new culture. This can be difficult, especially if they have not been trained in cultural flexibility. Some things are not flexible, such as core values and beliefs in God’s Word. However, many things can be adapted. Such as how to minister the Gospel while contextualizing it for those hearing it. I have dealt with many power outages, internet disconnects, road blockades, and tropical rainy seasons, which hindered my plans, but I have learned to be flexible. Missionaries who can adapt quickly and efficiently will have a much easier time reaching their goals. Things that are not flexible eventually break!
ABILITY TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Philippians 2:3 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Missionaries must learn how to be a part of a team and work together with other people, not only with fellow ex-pats of the same passport country, but there needs to be a balance of building relations with the nationals. Building and maintaining relationships is crucial. One of the significant reasons missionaries leave their assignments early is a conflict with others.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Work hard to present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”
A missionary needs to have personal spiritual disciplines and the ability to grow in the Lord independently. This is important because it will allow them to be more effective in their ministry. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and studying God’s Word are essential for any Christian, but especially for a missionary. They also need to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives and obey Him without question. This way, they can rely on Him entirely for guidance and direction.
STRONG WORK ETHIC
Colossians 3:23 “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
Missions is not a place for the faint of heart. It takes hard work and dedication to fulfill the mission God has called us to. This means that we cannot be lazy in our efforts but must put all our energy into reaching the people around us for Christ. Too often, people are content to sit back and do nothing, waiting for God to move instead of stepping out in faith themselves. But this is not what God desires from us. Instead, he wants us to be active in our faith, reaching out to those who need Him the most.
“Enjoy the journey and try to get better every day. And don’t lose the passion and the love for what you do.” Nadia Comaneci
When those challenges come for the missionary, they will need more than personal drive and determination. It is going to have to be deep devotedness within themselves. They will need to have a passion for the Kingdom of God and His work; this will get them through these challenging times. Mission work is never about yourself but for God. He will give the missionary the strength and courage they will need to continue.
Many missionaries will discuss burnout, and its realities are genuine. It is something that one must be aware of, but passion from God has its way of keeping our work from taxing us while maintaining a supply of the strength needed for what we are to be doing for him. For me, passion comes through a consistent prayer life, reading his Word, and being thankful. My favorite scripture is Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” The missionary needs to pray for passion; when walking in it, it will foster the desire and power to do what pleases God!
“Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.” Lin Pernille
Being a learner for a missionary is like a job requirement. They go to new and different places from their own culture, so they must have an inner desire to learn all the facets of where God is placing them to minister the Gospel best effectively.
One of the keys to being a learner is to be willing to do so. I must admit, I fell into a trap when first arriving on the mission field. I was immediately bombarded with everything I needed to learn; my mind could not take anymore. So, I shut down for some time. This can be a natural response, but it is not recommended. What I found for myself was to take little bites. It is OK if the missionary does not learn all at once, repetition is good, and soon, it will absorb in overtime.
A final note on being a learner, an open mind is essential. At times, diverse cultures clash, and in some cases, more than not. The missionary is in a host country and being open to new ideas requires them to see things differently. I am not saying to cross lines within the Word of God and compromise. However, there is a way to receive different ideas within cultures and stay true to the Biblical teachings.
Isaiah 41:10 “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.”
Resilience is the ability to recover from and adapt to change, and usually, that change can bring hurt or frustration with it. For example, a different culture can leave a person emotionally racked. They might have to switch to another way of life to keep pace with it. To survive and advance in a new world, they must have the ability to bounce back and invigorate themselves after experiencing a possible radical change. A person with resilience will give them that no quitting sense attitude no matter how difficult things get. They know that setbacks are a part of life, and they are not afraid to face challenges head-on.
Missionaries can be a special breed. They have qualities that help them be all they can be for God on the mission field. These traits push them through tough times while they continue to serve their God-given mission.
If God has called a person to become a missionary, he has also equipped them to do so. From my personal experience, I may not of had all these qualities when entering the mission field, or at least they were not perfected. BUT I can testify today, I have grown a lot over time, and I see these qualities more so today than before.
If you feel God is leading you in this direction, do not hesitate to take him by the hand and obey.
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MISSIONS ON YOUR HEART?
If you are a ministry, minister, or person of God that wants to dive deeper into missions but don't know how that looks for you, feel free to contact me. I would love to explore your heart and see where God leads you. I can share with you all the avenues that I am aware of in the hopes of connecting and plugging you into the right place that God has for you in the world of missions. Reaching lives for Jesus Christ in the international fields requires thoughtful planning. There is a mission pipeline sort of speak that needs to be built out specifically for you. I can help you do that.