I recently spoke with a woman who, after returning from a yearlong mission trip, was ready to turn around and head right back to the mission field. She was transitioning between college and career, her job in the States wasn’t what she wanted to do forever and, most of all, she genuinely felt called to be a missionary. So, what’s the holdup? Time to pack the bags and go!
Well, not quite yet.
Pausing Can Be Part of the Plan
First, we had to ask some pretty key questions:
- Is her desired ministry area in a place to accept new missionaries?
- Is there a job for her overseas using her degree?
- What missions agency is a fit for her and vice versa?
- Where will the money come from?
And when these are resolved, there is the language barrier. Many missionaries spend the first two years on the field not in ministry but in intensive language and cultural study.
In short, the list of things to consider before serving overseas is not so short after all.
It took a few months, but over time, my friend found that this unwished-for season of waiting was actually purposeful in pursuing her long-term goals. This wasn’t an end to the dream but in fact a key part in making that dream a reality. Sometimes nurturing your call to missions and following your call to missions is all part of the same plan.
How to Wait Well
So, what has you “not yet” on the field? A few more years left in school? A baby on the way? Your house taking longer to sell than expected?
Or maybe you’re like my friend, and you’re realizing that you just need more practical development before you can buy that plane ticket out of the country. Whatever it is, know that this time matters. This time can actually be one of the most rewarding times in your ministry overseas if you truly use it to cultivate the call God has put inside you.
Here are some effective ways you can be nurturing your call to missions even when it isn’t happening right this second:
Keep talking about your heart for missions.
Continue talking with your missions pastor, missions coach or other missionaries you know. Nothing fuels a fire for missions more than sharing it with other missions-minded people. Continue developing your heart for the nations by learning from others who can mentor you in the process. Maybe they have stories to share or insight to give or helpful studies you can be working on while you wait. Try setting up a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with them to continue that mentorship.
Pray for missions and ask for prayer.
This may be a given, but sometimes it’s easy to feel called and leave it at that. Continue to seek God’s purpose for your life in regard to missions. Be intentional. Pray for all parts of the world, not just where you would like to serve. Ask God to bring new connections in your life with people who share a passion for missions. Study what Scripture says about ministry and missions, and pray it over yourself.
Ask for prayer as well. Have people close to you — like your small group, best friends or family — pray over you and your desire to go. Send them monthly or weekly prayer requests so they can know your specific needs.
Be an active learner.
There is no limit to the amount of missions resources at our disposal. While you can check out books, follow blogs or listen to podcasts, it also might be worth looking into classes and conferences near you. Perspectives is a semester-long course devoted to missions training. There are also conferences such as the Global Missions Health Conference (GMHC), Urbana and other globally-focused conferences hosted by universities and churches. See what may be available to you in the next year.
Write your story, and share it.
A great way to nurture your call and remind yourself of this calling is to share your story. Maybe start a blog that details all you are learning through waiting or gives friends information on how they can be involved. Maybe your church will let you speak to the congregation or small groups.
If you don’t have an audience, journal it and just keep track of all God is doing in this season of waiting. No doubt you’ll be thankful you have a record of his faithfulness.
Embrace and trust the process.
The list doesn’t end there. Listen to worship songs that give you a mindset for the global church. Make meals from different countries to bring different cultures into your life. Start a Pinterest board of all things missions.
Whatever it is you choose to do, know that the choice itself is a part of the process. You’re a missionary now, whether overseas or not, because of how your heart is committed to the call. This waiting time has purpose. So remain faithful and trust that “he has made everything beautiful in its time.”1