I am back at Dave’s house in Alabama. I got here this morning just in time for church. This was great, because I got to meet many of Dave’s hometown supporters (both prayer and financial) for his mission trips. After church, Dave invited me to come along to lunch with some people from his youth group. Once upon a time, I might have wondered if I would find a welcome among them because I am clearly older than them and even older than some of their parents. But I have learned to get over myself. I’m glad that I did go along because one girl in particular sought Dave and me out to come sit with us and to ask us for advice about how to go about becoming a missionary.
Among her concerns:
- Do I need to be a member of a missions organization?
- Where will I go?
- What will I do as a missionary?
Dave and I explained that it’s not a bad idea to be a member of a missions organization. But many missionaries have gone into the mission field as independent missionaries. Independence actually has some advantages, but also some challenges. Some of the advantages of being part of an organization are:
- Help in fundraising.
- Help in getting a visa.
- Help getting started in ministry.
- Guidance when you run into problems.
Some of the disadvantages of being part of an organization are:
- Fundraising is high among missionary concerns. But you don’t necessarily need an organization to help you do it. An advantage of being part of an organization is that you can offer donors a tax exemption on their donation. But I have found that for every donor that wants that tax exemption, there is one that doesn’t want their “left hand to know what their right had is doing,” desiring God’s blessing more than a tax exemption. It is possible that your home church would be willing to provide tax exemptions to your donors. It never hurts to ask.
It also never hurts to ask everyone you know if they can contribute (one-time or monthly support). And by everyone, I mean everyone. Even unbelievers and people who don’t look like they can afford to contribute may want to contribute. Don’t deprive anyone of the opportunity to sow into God’s Kingdom. Their contribution may be the very thing that opens the right door for them to receive salvation or a financial blessing. You never know, but God does.
Fundraising can be easily accomplished through several websites, like www.gofundme.com, www.youcaring.com, or www.giveforward.com, for example. And there are many other sites like www.rafflecopter.com or www.zazzle.com that have fun and creative fundraising ideas.
Most missions organizations require that you have all your funding in place before you go into the mission field. This reduces or sometimes eliminates the faith factor for God’s provision—no wonder people that have faith for all sorts of miracles sometimes still struggle to find faith for finances. Faith is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to grow bigger and stronger. If God is calling you to the mission field, He will provide.
- Depending on the country, it is possible and sometimes actually easier to get a visa on your own. If you need to learn the language, then the obvious first visa can be a student visa.
Some missionaries I know have only a 90 day tourist visa. They exit the country for a period of time (laws vary), and then re-enter, having had their passport stamped in another country. This method is great for its simplicity and for the built-in vacation time. Travel doesn’t necessarily need to be a great distance, so it can even be inexpensive.
- The first place to go for help getting started in ministry is straight to the Boss. Again and again God’s Word encourages us to ask for wisdom. So ask God how He wants you to get started in ministry. If He’s calling you, then He will give you the instruction and guidance you need. And remember, you don’t have to know all the steps, just be obedient to this first step. When it’s time, He will show you the next one.
Beware of making assumptions. I knew that I was called as a missionary when I was a teenager. I assumed that going into missions meant living in a hut in some bug- and snake-infested jungle. I ran the other way. When I finally did enter the mission field, it was in the middle of a big, modern city: Milan, in a country I love, Italy. Wherever He is calling you, and whatever He is calling you to do will be a perfect fit. It will be something you love doing in a place you love to be. So search your heart. My favorite Bible verse is Psalm 37:4:
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, (emphasis mine).
That highlighted phrase can have two meanings: the obvious one is that God will give us something that we want and desire. The more subtle one behind it is that God will implant a desire into our heart. Then, of course, He will give it to us because that was the whole idea behind putting the desire into your heart. I believe both meanings are true. But the key is first and foremost to delight yourself in the Lord. Love Him, put Him first in your life, and then He will give you the desires of your heart.
To find some great independent missions opportunities in Europe, you can go to GoMissions and register for free. You can go for as long as you want, and know that you’re helping a ministry in Europe that really need you.
Finally, look into your heart for guidance. The skills that the world gives little value to can be extremely useful in ministry—especially the creative arts. What is it that you really like to do? Where do you see yourself doing it? How can you use this gift for sharing Jesus? The answers go back to Psalm 37:4, and the desires of your heart. God gave you these particular gifts, skills, talents, and abilities for a purpose and a reason. He will guide you to your niche, and it will be a perfect fit.
- Some missions organizations are very good at member care. They may even offer periodic counseling or life coaching. But again, if you’re looking to God alone as your Source, He will provide you with people who will counsel or coach you.
Be careful not to go into missions for the wrong reasons. Do not go into missions to run away from your life at home. Do not go into missions because your life is boring and you need adventure. Do not go into missions to look for a mate. The only reason to go into missions is because you’re called. The mission field is fraught with danger (not always life-threatening), pitfalls, and problems you could never have anticipated. Your relationship with God needs to be close and not superficial.
Either through a missions organization or independently, stepping out as a missionary is going to require some effort on your part. The organization can give you structure, but the legwork is still going to have to be yours.
Later on, for the first time in my life, Dave invited me to a Young Adult worship service at another church. He had never gone to that church, either, so both of us were newcomers. Again, I could have felt awkward being so much older than the crowd, but happily, I have gotten over myself and I thoroughly enjoyed the service.
After great worship and a great message, a young woman approached me and Dave to ask us about ourselves. When we told her that we’re missionaries, she began to ask us some of the same questions as the girl at lunch. So again, we encouraged her to explore many options. Like the girl at lunch, this one was very encouraged by what we had told her. Of course Dave and I were encouraged, too. Encouragement works both ways, and we returned home high on encouragement. Dave’s mom had made us chicken soup and an apple upside-down cake, which was delicious. God is good!
 That’s “when” not “if” because the mission field, whether near or far, will present problems, many of which could not have been predicted.
 Matthew 6:3.