What Mindset Helps You Stay Overseas?

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You’re no doubt burning a lot of fuel, so to speak, to get overseas. Considering the 4.13 billion unreached, you know the needs are critical.

But what if getting there isn’t the only hard part?

What does it take to stay there?

For example, Thrive Ministry reports that approximately 31,000 North American women serve as global workers. Of those, about 4,000 women leave the field yearly for potentially preventable reasons. (See related survey results on missionary attrition here.)

What mindsets can help you stay onfield?

MINDSET 1: I will listen to my body, my family, and my long-term capacity.

The heroism regularly bestowed on overseas missions may cause you to think building God’s Kingdom is worth the subtle destruction of one member of the Kingdom for the rest–i.e., you. Your marriage. Your kids.

This doesn’t mean missions doesn’t demand self-sacrifice. Or that we don’t follow Jesus in carrying his cross.

But is our compelling message that Jesus is most pleased with burnout, lack of rest, and internal denial?

Courtney Doctor writes in her book Identity Theft of lies that tempt us from our core identity as children of God:

The lie of the slave says you have to work and work hard, to secure and sustain the Lord’s love…your worth is tied to your ability to produce and behave.

….The lie of the orphan says you’ve been abandoned and are all alone. No one really cares about you, provides for you, protects you, or loves you.

Remember our chief end as people: not just to glorify God, but enjoy him. 

Check out more at Never Forget: You are More than What You Do for God.

MINDSET 2: I will seek out mutual relationships encouraging grace and vulnerability.

Constantly in “helper” mode, it’s critical you also seek out relationships that are mutual: that demonstrate to you, too, over and over, God’s care for you apart from what you do for him. That show God as a strong tower for you–a refuge, a place where you can be upheld and refreshed. A place where you can seek counsel and encouragement.

Paul speaks frequently about how he’s encouraged by other believers, like in Romans 12: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

If you don’t have this overseas, perhaps you look for it by video conferencing regularly with a counselor or trusted friend who will ask you good questions, pray for you, and tell you the truth.

MINDSET 3: I will seek out members of the Body of Christ to participate with me.

Remember: Jesus sent his disciples in twos. It’s ideal that people would glimpse not just one person made in God’s image, but interact with his Body: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

And check out 1 Corinthians 12:21: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’”

If you’re not already going with an organization, don’t miss the important tips in He Said/She Said/You Say? Should I Go Overseas with an Organization? The “Nope” Side.

If you’re seeking a team that best works with you, your gifting, your personality, and your personal sense of mission, check out MEET AN AGENCY: A Series to Help You Find a Great Fit.

Mindset 4: “Need” does not equal “called”.

Needs will be everywhere when you go overseas. The problem will likely not be “I hope I can find something useful for my time.”

It will much more likely be, “There is so much devastating need. How do I know what to say ‘yes’ to?”

While there is something truly beautiful and faith-filled in spontaneously helping–Here am I! Send me!–there is also great beauty in wise, well-considered steps of faith.

Yet, as I discovered when my husband and I considered adopting overseas, there is a sizeable gap between the person I want to be and the person I have capacity to be.

My dreams, I told my husband, will probably always surpass what I am actually able to do.

Acting solely based on need, rather than considering whether or not I actually have the capacity, can actually reveal my unbelief.

It’s as if God desperately needs me, and only me. It’s as if the Body of Christ–and God’s ability to provide–are not to be trusted.

Rather than working from peace, occasionally I work out of fear, wringing my hands over problems–rather than out of faith and deep joy. I think more highly of myself than I ought (Romans 12:3).

At times it can be a large view of myself, and small view of God.

Mindset 5: I will choose to resolve conflicts biblically, humbly–replaying what Jesus did for me.

Don’t miss 10 Ways to Make Sure Conflict Pulls You off the Field.

Mindset 6: success may not look like i saw it going in my head.

I once spoke to a woman whose parents, for four generations, were missionaries in Japan and China. It took 20 years before they saw their first convert.

If I remember correctly–sadly, this occured during a time of famine and drought, when the missionaries helped build a well. (Most of us don’t think, “Oh, goody! A famine!”–nor should we.)

As you’ve probably discovered with a God whose great success plan, the Cross, looked like a total failure–his ways are simply different. And higher. And more mysterious.

Thomas Merton writes in his “Letter to a Young Activist”,

Do not depend on hope of results. When…doing…essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no results at all, if not perhaps results opposite …

The big results are not in your hands or mine.…

All the good that you will do will not come from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love.

Mindset 7: I will be all in.

What’s this look like? Learning the language. Making a home. Building relationships like you’re staying indefinitely. Finding ways to deal constructively with your very real cultural frustrations, rather than pressure building indefinitely, or just venting with other disgruntled missionaries.

After all: You’re no longer on a short-term trip. You’re here, like Jesus, to move into the neighborhood; to dwell among them (see John 1:14).

Get ready to stay there, and be truly present, as long as God has you there.ou’re burning a lot of fuel, so to speak, to get overseas. But what if that’s not the only hard part? What does mindset does it take to stay there?

Time to hear from you!
What mindset has been helpful as you prepare to go overseas–
or if you’ve already been, to stay there?
Join the conversation in the comment section.

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