Recently, while checking my mail before bed, I got a reply from a friend who will be shortly leaving for the one of the first steps of on-field missionary life: language school. At the end of it, she mentioned that she wanted to “glean from your missionary-ness”.
I clicked my phone off and pulled the covers over, smiling at the message. A number of things flew through my mind of things I’d say… things that were said to me as well. So, without further ado, friend, here are some gleanings.
-Sometimes God will ask you to do things that make no sense. None whatsoever. After all, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. Joshua to march around walls and use trumpets. Moses to hit a rock to make water come out. Gideon to reduce his army to 300. Peter to eat foods he considered as unclean. I felt like God had me move to Mexico to go through missionary training and then I moved to Japan. People wondered about that one for a long time… until I married a Hispanic. Don’t worry about it, just obey.
-Goodbyes do and don’t get easier. Rather, you get used to them. And the last few days with your loved ones will always be leaded with that heavy weight that soon you’ll be saying goodbye. Sometimes you’ll get off a Skype call with them to cry, before moving on to go through your day. But the great comfort is that Christ’s reward for obedience is great. They will have their reward for letting you go. His grace is and will be enough… not just for you, but for your family too.
-Pray and fast. Make fasting a regular in your devotional life, if it isn’t already. There are a lot of pressures, there are a lot of new things you’ll encounter, decisions you’ll have to make… and there are spiritual realities that you’ll be contending with– but He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world. I’ve heard that Martin Luther prayed for several hours every morning. When he was asked about the days he was busy, he said that he got up even earlier to pray. We need it, the people we serve need it.
-Don’t let money trap you. I still remember standing in Walmart in Mexico stressing over spending so much money to buy furnishings for my apartment (I laugh now that I live in Japan and truly understand expenses). My wonderful senior missionary Vonda told me that this was my salary, and that I shouldn’t think of it as other people’s money. Of course, we must be good stewards, but the Lord had provided this for me. Last year around this time, I heard from another single missionary who was struggling in very serious ways because certain people were making snide remarks about the amount of her rent and about her furnishings and food she bought, just because they judged it from a different perspective. She lived on bare bones, was very careful in everything and felt like she had to justify buying basic things. I shared this same message I had heard, and wrote her a note later with a small gift, no questions asked, to be used personally. She later said she cried and cried when she read it, and that she felt so much freedom . Apparently it’s something we all need to hear.
-Budget in a small amount for personal spending. Life isn’t all work. And just like everyone else, you have a right to relax and not feel guilty for taking a day off or enjoying a special treat now and then.
-People will look at you differently. Some will put you on a new pedestal, even if they’ve known you for years. Some won’t know how to talk to you. Some will avoid you thinking that you’re only looking for money. It’s all ok, just be gracious. Endeavor to be natural, never approach anyone with ulterior motives and you’ll be ok.
-You’ll join a new family. In your circles of fellow missionaries (for us it’s WIM and the missionaries from our home church), it’s a new circle of people who will get it. We are in it together, from our different locations, languages, heartbeats and callings…. So, you’re not alone. You’ve got people linking arms across oceans, borders and difficulties.
-Remember that he who plants is nothing and he who waters is nothing. It is God who gives the growth. We are only servants and what matters is obedience and faithfulness.
-Our God seems to like impossible situations, because He does things beyond what we could have asked or imagined. So get used to it.
-Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to step outside of the box of what’s already been done or what everyone else does.
-Listen fully. In any culture, this is key. Let them talk more than you talk and you’ll open many doors.
-Invest time right now in a Care Team. I’ve been on the field with and without a care team and the difference is vast. They will be your ambassadors and will keep you and others connected. Yes, it’s another thing to oversee and you’ll have a 7 course meal of things to oversee soon. But this one is vital and a great chance to minister and be ministered too.
-It’s all worth it. They all say that a new mom quickly forgets the last few hours of pain and that last few months of discomfort. So all the birthing pains of seeing Christ known and formed in the lives of those you serve will be worth it. So lace up your boots, grab some humor for the road, dig in and grunt your way through the challenges, knowing that He is with you!
And really, that’s what you need to know. 🙂