You know the traditional missionary stereotype, don’t you? Cue the slideshows, the table of artifacts, the altar call.
To be the missionary you’ve heard about, you might go to seminary, then Africa, then preach to people in the jungle.
Or maybe he’s a linguistic nerd who sits in a hut learning a weird language, then translates the Bible into that weird language.
Don’t get me wrong. Both are awesome! But you can be a missionary without that.
And here’s the great news no one told you – you can be involved in what God is doing around the world without being that guy (or that girl).
Over the last 40 years, the missions world has changed drastically–like a door swinging on its hinges, opening to a whole new set of possibilities. And even shutting off some traditional ones.
Most countries where you can obtain a missionary or religious-worker visa or now have churches and they are reaching out on their own. The job isn’t finished there, but there are now nationals capable of continuing to reach their country.
And the countries that don’t issue religious worker visas? Well…they don’t issue religious worker visas! In fact, some of them don’t even issue tourist visas to people like you and me.
So how are they going to hear about Jesus without A traditional missionarY?
Well, there are options. Consider the following possibilities:
1. Take a job in one of those countries.
I worked at a dry cleaning shop in high school. The first time I heard the owner tell me that he’d run a dry cleaning business in Saudia Arabia for several years I thought, “Really? You can do that? …But why would you?”
I think a little differently now.
Are you an engineer? Is your degree in marketing? Education? There are real job offers available today for you.
And as you get to know people in the country where you go to work, you can answer their questions, though you may have to be cautious and wise in doing so.
If you have a degree in International Business. you might already know what your calling is. ‘Nuff said.
How about teaching English at a foreign University, or Western History? Those options exist! I’ve even heard of a person teaching a course in Christianity at the University level in a closed country.
These jobs don’t pay the greatest, but what an opportunity to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
2. Provide services that country desperately needs.
Serve with a medical NGO or a “justice” NGO* or agricultural agency or a disaster and relief organization. These nations see and feel the reality of suffering and pain and injustice.
Experiencing their pain first hand helps you to better understand their daily reality–as well as what really helps and what’s merely a Band-Aid to a deeper problem and cause. And you’ll have opportunities to share your life and hope for living and serving.
*Oh, sorry. NGO means “non-governmental organization”. So it’s a category people use to distinguish groups and who they are associated with–and generally is used synonymously with “non-profit”.
Ex-pat is another word you will hear. It means “ex-patriate” or “a person who lives outside their native country”.
If you live in a larger city in another country you’ll get acquainted with the other ex pats. They will be part of your support group because they understand parts of you that nationals won’t. And they will share some of your concerns and values concerning family, holidays–you get the idea.
3. Go with a government agency.
Granted, you won’t have the same freedom to share openly since you also represent a governmental function. But you will be a missionary associating with nationals of equal status and influence in their countries and many will want to develop friendships with you so as to advance their own position professionally. You will be interacting with decision makers.
I have several friends involved this way–and God is creative in making “divine appointments” for them. Hopefully you will also benefit their nations in the process.
4. start a business.
I’m told about 30% of small business start ups with employees survive through a 10 year period in the US. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true in other countries.
But with some good advice, planning, preparation and support you can increase those odds in your favor. (Check out organizations like MDE to help your business succeed!)
And while you run your business you will naturally be rubbing shoulders with a bunch of people who often have never known a believer in Jesus. They will be watching your life with caution and curiosity.
As you consider ways to be a missionary, there are actually several flavors of “starting a business”. Check out these posts for details:
- Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur in BAM?
- Marketplace Myth #1: “Missions” is for missionaries (FREE assessment!)
- Meet an Agency: MDE
You can even start a branch of an international restaurant or coffee chain overseas. To do that you will want to immerse yourself in that company and its international side of things for starters.
Today you have to think about creative ways of getting to where many cannot go. “Creative access” is a phrase often used to describe some of these. You are only limited by your imagination!
Be you. How could “you” go where others fear to tread? Don’t settle for the common. Create a way you can go!
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