For years, the missions community has talked about how the world is globalizing. We’ve told you it’s easier than ever to go abroad and live a life of cross-cultural service for God. But these days, travel isn’t so easy.
If you had dreams of becoming a missionary before COVID-19, you might be wondering:
- Should I just wait to pursue missions until COVID-19 is over?
- What if I raise support and then have to cancel my short-term mission trip?
- What if the country I want to serve won’t let me in because of COVID-19 safeguards?
They’re all reasonable concerns. Yet, God is still calling believers to become missionaries — and as a Christian missions agency, TEAM is still working to help people like you fulfill that calling. Here are three reasons you can confidently pursue missions during COVID-19.
1. Should I wait to pursue missions until COVID-19 is over?
None of us knows when travel restrictions will be lifted, and each country is going to operate on its own timeframe. So, why not wait to pursue Christian missions until you know exactly when you can go abroad?
Simply put, becoming a missionary takes longer than most people realize.
First, you have the application and interview process. At TEAM, we want to talk with you, your church and others who know your spiritual giftings. We want to know you have a strong relationship with God and history of making disciples. Determining all this (and more) takes time and intentional conversations.
After TEAM appoints you as a missionary, we’ll guide you through mission field preparation, as well as raising support.
All told, it generally takes a short-term missionary up to eight months to reach the field, after they begin the application process. A long-term missionary can take one to two years to get to the mission field.
If you begin pursuing missions right now, the world will likely look different by the time you need to leave. But if you wait until things are certain, you won’t be ready to go when the doors reopen.
During TEAM’s 130 years of existence, we’ve walked with missionaries through numerous pandemics, economic crises and wars. We’ve grieved with missionaries as they were forced out of countries — or simply told they would never be allowed in.
But here’s what we’ve also seen: God always reopens the door for His name to be made known. No crisis has ever stopped God’s mission of bringing all nations to Him. No crisis ever will.
So if God is calling you to the mission field, listen to His voice. Obey however you can right now, and trust Him to guide you.
2. What if I raise support and have to cancel my short-term mission trip?
This year, we had to delay a number of short-term trips. However, our goal is always to find a way to reschedule short-term mission trips, not cancel them entirely. Many of our short-term missionaries have simply postponed their trips until next summer. Until then, we are holding their funds for them.
The good news is that we are already working on sending short-term missionaries later this year. And if your trip is delayed, we will hold onto your funds, as long as you can go on another TEAM trip within three years.
If you can’t go on a trip within three years, our legal status as a nonprofit doesn’t allow us to refund any funds raised. However, we can direct them to another part of TEAM’s ministry. In that way, you will still play a critical role in bringing people to Christ.
3. What if the country I want to serve in won’t let me in because of COVID-19 safeguards?
The question of access has challenged missionaries since long before COVID-19. Yet, we still see God faithfully working to bring all nations to Himself.
In the late 80s, TEAM missionaries Kathy and David North had their hearts set on serving in a specific Asian country. TEAM had missionaries already serving in this country. But when the Norths applied for visas, they were denied. In fact, no new TEAM missionaries were able to get into the country for years.
But instead of letting their gifts go to waste, TEAM asked the Norths and other missionaries to consider serving in the Philippines.
“We would have never chosen the Philippines because we had heard the Philippines was a Christian nation,” Kathy says. But when the Norths arrived, they realized many people there thought the Bible was true, but they had no idea what it said.
The Norths began ministry in the Philippines. In 30 years, they planted five churches and trained local believers to continue the work.
Another missionary couple in the same boat started in the Philippines and then moved to Russia. They spent 18 years there, planting churches and training leaders.
Still others held out for entrance to the closed country. Eventually that country opened its doors, and these missionaries got to walk in boldly, sharing the Gospel with whoever would hear.
If your desired host country closes its doors, we can’t tell you what will happen next. But we can say with confidence that God will direct your steps for His glory. He alone sees the whole picture, and we can trust Him with our lives and our ministries.
Uncertainty — the Missionary’s Companion
The phrase “uncertain times” has become the drumbeat of this season. It can easily trick us into thinking life was a sure thing before COVID-19 — that we were ever able to plan all our days with certainty.
But as Christians, we know the truth: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV).
The truth is, missionary life — any life at all — will always carry uncertainty. But our hope as believers doesn’t come from current events. Our hope is rooted in the One who establishes our steps, even when chaos seems to rule the day.
Is God leading you to pursue missions during COVID-19? If you’re a committed believer who is active in ministry, we want to help you explore missions with TEAM. Talk with a TEAM missions coach today to learn how God is still working through people like you.