Over the last few weeks I have been writing articles to help you evaluate if you are prepared for the mission field or not. I would like to encourage you to go back and read each article. This one, obviously, follows all the others so please go back and read.
I state once again that the desire here is not to discourage you from going to the field but to get you to prepare to go to the field. I, also, would have no desire for the person on the field to leave after reading this material. I would like to encourage you to work at getting this preparation in the best and most timely manner.
Now on to a few questions to consider in this article:
1.How much overseas experience and or cross cultural experience do you have?
Living overseas is far different than you might imagine. It is not like moving to another state in the United States. It is a different country. The culture is different. The people are people but they are different. The way people think and work their way through thoughts and actions is different. There is nothing wrong with this but it is something to get an idea about before you end up in the middle of something you were totally unprepared for and not expecting.
It is not unusual to see a missionary get to the field. That means that he raised his support. They even get through language school. Then when it comes time to start their ministry something snaps. They can’t handle it. They are unprepared.
They leave the field. After all those years of preparation, deputation, language learning, etc they are unable to stay. They are back in their home country and can’t really explain why. They are not bad people. They were not trying to deceive anyone they were simply unprepared.
I grew up in the country. My nearest neighbor lived about a half mile from my house. The closest neighbor my age lived over two miles away. So what I am about to say is not meant to hurt you but to help you realize that you need to prepare.
Some people have never lived outside of one context in their lives. They have lived rural or urban lifestyles. They have never lived in a city. They are used to people very much like themselves.
All of a sudden they are planted in the middle of something totally new to them. It is like something out of the movies. There are people every where. They are speaking a funny language. They are doing things that you have never seen before. Things are so wildly different that you do not know how to react.
You can live for a while on adrenaline. You can live for a while on excitement and knowing that God sent you there but you will have to adapt. The trouble is that we have never had to adapt before. Everyone else was so much like us that we fit in. Everything was normal. There might have been a few weird people but not many. Weird meaning that they did things differently.
Now you are living in the middle of everything weird. It will be much harder to adapt than you think. That little two week mission trip you took could never prepare you for this. You had a flight out. Anyone can deal with just about anything for a short enough time. But now you can’t send the end. It will be a long time before you leave. Can you handle that?
I would like to suggest that you get some overseas experience. I suggest at least 6 months living in a context totally foreign to your own. The more you are alone swimming in the middle of crazy, wild, weird, different stuff the better.
This will give you a chance to see if you can handle it. If you are single then your spouse needs some of that same experience.
By the way, just because you have a certain nationality or heritage doesn’t mean that the other country is home to you. You may be Colombian but if you have not lived there in several years then it will be different for you.
Get out and into another country. Cross town and find people that are different from you. Learn about them. Spend time with them. Learn to interact successfully with them. All of this will help prepare you for the ministry that God has for you.
2.Have you ever worked with anyone that was of a different race or language in a church or soul winning setting?
This question is obviously following the previous line of reasoning but is important to consider. I grew up in the hills of Tennessee. I honestly didn’t know anyone that was different. There was one family of African Americans. They were popular and very accepted in our school. Everyone spoke English. Everyone was basically just like everyone else.
Then a Cuban arrived at our school. His last name rhymed with nitro so that became his nickname. He was small. He was strong. He fought all the time to prove himself. He usually won any fight he got into.
I never had any real dealings with him. He was differnt. The African American family was different. I saw all of them from a distance but I didn’t really know them. I had no real interactions with them. I never had any long, heart to heart conversations with them.
I am saying this to my shame. I had simply never been around anyone that was not just like me. Basically, a farmer, or a city dweller (meaning a town of less than 2,000). We were all country people. We all lived basically on the same level. We spoke the same language. We were just like everyone around us.
Now, if you are to go over seas you will be dealing with people that are very different from you. They are people and people are people. I have said for many years that if you peal a person we all look alike. That means that under the surface we are just people. We are all alike.
That is true in many ways but it is also not true. Different languages, different culture, different dress, a different history, a different world view do make bigger differences than you might be prepared for.
As you think about going to the mission field could I encourage you to consider finding people that are different and getting to know them. Try to learn how they think. Learn their language if necessary. Learn their thought patterns.
Try to talk to them about spiritual things. Try to learn how they understand eternity, God, religion, etc.
When you go over seas you will find people worshipping God differently than your all white, middle class, suburban, English speaking, southern church. The differences will shock you.
Wouldn’t it be better to get prepared for that before you go over seas? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to at least know what to expect? Get out of your comfort zone. Go where you have never gone before. Learn how other people live. Get prepared to go over seas.
3.Have you made overseas trips if so to where and what did you do there?
So here is where you write down your overseas experiences. We are not discussing traveling to a tourist destination with just a little bit of different but still American like. We are talking of what you have seen, what you have experienced that might help prepare you for the work that God has for you.
Did you go where you had to adapt? Did you have to adapt a great deal? Some people spend their entire trip overseas complaining about everything that is not right, is different, doesn’t work, etc. Have you learned to adapt, to be flexible, to be fluid if needed to accomplish your purpose on the trip.
Mission’s trips are good and can get a small glimpse into how you will react but they are not enough. As long as you have an exit already planned you might just make it. Everyone can hold their breathe for a certain amount of time.
On that trip did you find yourself hiding from things that were different? Did you seek out your comforts and complain if something wasn’t exactly like you wanted it?
Did you rush into the different so you could experience it but really just to prove you could? Some people may handle the trip well but it is just a game to them. They are just proving that they can do the exotic. It is one thing to play a game and quite another to have this become your lifestyle?
Are you ready to live overseas?
Here are a couple of books that I strongly recommend that you read:
As always I invite you to go to Our Generation Publishing to see the latest books and materials that we have prepared for you!
So get with it. Start studying and preparing now! Don’t become a casuality. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Please consider what you see here and see if there is anything that might help you!