We had been living in Cairo about a year and a half when friends visited from Uganda. We ate at the mall food court when they asked how it has been meeting and making friends with Egyptians. I told them it’s been hard: Where do you meet people you can make friends with?
I mean, you don’t just make friends in the food court.read more
We get it. The journey to overseas missions can feel like you’re trying to build a plane midair. With a root beer can, scotch tape, and a plastic flower. On the hard days, it’s possible you need some unshakable truth as you head overseas.
So today we’ve cobbled together a free printable infographic with some truths to hang your hat on, even if some days it feels like an overlarge sombrero. Post this in a cupboard, on a bathroom mirror, or tucked in all those books you’re reading for your training.
And chew on God’s promises for you in this journey.
You can’t be serious! People don’t even know what Balaam’s donkey is.
That may be true. But I do.
So your favorite Bible character is…a donkey.
Well, I identify with him. And I sympathize with him. And I guess I hope with him.
See, like a donkey, I’m a worker. I love working. I love seeing something productive getting done.
But … I also realize, after all these years, that I am not the greatest, the best, the one with the most potential, the one who will accomplish the most. I’m not some great leader. God made me a manager; an administrator.
Which brings me to the amazing thing about Balaam’s donkey. He was just a donkey. I sympathize with that. But here’s the stunning part of it: God can speak through donkeys!
Isn’t that beyond belief?
That means there is hope for me! God can use me too.
I’ve quit trying to have the wittiest response, the most insightful answer, the commanding presence, the coolest look. Take me, or leave me, but I’m a “me”. A donkey.
And I am convinced that God can, and is, “speaking” through me.
Unimpressive. But Vital
Of course, people aren’t impressed by donkeys. But they are surprised that God can make a donkey talk. And they benefit from the piece God provides through me.
Balaam’s donkey saw things his brilliant leader couldn’t see. And he helped to “avoid” the impending disaster.
Of course, he was rewarded with a beating, but that’s sort of par for the course, too.
And my donkey friend made it into the Bible. Not bad for a day’s work. Along with the prostitute who poured perfume on Jesus feet. That shook a few folks up too.
Then he went back to trudging along with an overweight, money-hungry Balaam sitting on his back. The mundane. The common. Yes. But it needs to be done.
I wonder whether Balaam treated his donkey with a little more respect after that? Or was he nervous to be around a weird donkey?
The Lackluster Plow
Thinking of us missionaries, how many of us “oxen” have plowed fields around the world for years and rarely heard a word of appreciation? We’re often taken for granted.
But the God who created us remembers us. He even gave the oxen and friends a special shout-out in the (quite missional) Jonah 4:11:
And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?
Job and Abraham would have been nobodies without their animals. At least in the eyes of the world.
Balaam’s Donkey, and a (Braying) Message for Missions
If you’re feeling like your gifts or job description or position mean you’re negligible in the missions world–welcome, friend. You’re in good company. Know that we’ve never known the names of some of the greatest in the Kingdom of God.
From my own perspective? Allow me to speak, if you would: It’s not bad being “just” a donkey.
Editor’s note: If you’re wondering about your “small” life, consider camping out in 1 Corinthians 12 this week.
In our efforts at Go. Serve. Love to help you in arriving well overseas, we’re posting from one of our partners, the all-new Mission App–which allows you to search and apply to 30 agencies with one app, and one application.
Check out their thoughts below on how set yourself up for a smashing start overseas.
Is this home now?
Your footprints in the cement of your new host country haven’t even had a chance to dry and the question pops into your mind, “How do I do this well?”
Everything is so new, so unfamiliar, and so important.
Take a deep breath. God has brought you here and will walk with you. Here are a few practical tips to keep in mind.
In arriving well overseas, Relationships are key.
So keep your relationship with the Lord fluid & fresh and He will make your path clear. As you feast on His presence, His life will overflow from you while you dive into your new life and community.
Being genuinely interested, asking tons of questions, and sharing time and simple resources with your neighbors will go a long way in building trust and friendships.
We’re all different in our ways of navigating newness. So there’s no right or wrong way to approach this. But the important thing is to be available, showing interest and care.
Classroom learning is great and helpful, though likely the best times will be over a cup of tea, or a shared meal, the local market shopping experience or as you walk through your neighborhood or village.
Remember your kids are experiencing a big learning curve as well.
Take time to talk about your kids’ concerns, what excites them, what makes them nervous. (It’s important your kids are arriving well overseas, too.)
Encourage them to talk about what’s important to them. Gently share Scriptures that will help them recognize God’s sovereign power, keeping each of you in His loving care (see verse list below).
Share your own experiences and feelings about inadequacy and fears as well. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses and pray through them for each other.
Soak in the truth of God’s Word.
Read and write down or memorize the Scriptures that speak to your own situation as God leads you.
ARRIVING WELL OVERSEAS: A FEW verses TO GET YOU STARTED
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You!”
Psalm 73:23 “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.”
Psalm 91 —The entire Psalm. A favorite is “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”
Matthew 28: 19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Romans 8:26-27 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God!”
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Reach out to someone local, or to a family, to show you the ropes.
Ask them basic questions like:
Where should I do my shopping (if there are choices?!!)– or the proper way to cook/prepare a local food item.
What do you believe about life after death?
How do you dispose of garbage/waste?
What traditions do you have as a family?
Tell me about your family history.
How do you connect or hang out with others in the community?
Where to you go for medical assistance?
How do I locate school supplies or toys for children?
Where do I find garden tools?
Are there things I should avoid or be sure to do when I am out and about in the community?
Often it is the others we serve with that may be the most challenging.
Even though we have the same goals and purpose, we can have very different ways in mind to achieve them and/or our lifestyles and backgrounds prove to be very different.
The Evil One would like nothing better than to get us distracted by our differences and ‘majoring on the minors’ – we must resist this trap of our number-one opposition. Remember, we are in a spiritual battle and the evil one will use all manner of evil against us – but we are overcomers through the Lord Jesus Christ!
I didn’t know exactly how living in a Muslim country would change me.
I thought it would change how I see the world. It would impact how I understood people, I guessed. I hoped it would give me greater understanding for others, their perspectives.
What I didn’t know, or even imagine, is that living in a Muslim country (well, majority-Muslim) would affect how I look at men and myself, literally and metaphorically.
In many Muslim cultures, there is a larger separation between the genders than in typical Western societies. This means men and women generally do not interact as freely or casually.
Some men and women do not even shake hands with the opposite gender. This means that what is seen as socially acceptable, socially respectable, tends to be quite different from what I’m used to. I hail from Texas, a friendly country where everyone smiles and greets each other and hardly anyone is a stranger. Handshakes were a given and hugs were commonplace.
I didn’t know how challenging it would be to welcome people into my home, cook food for them, talk about life and faith, and then send them off with a nod of the head. No handshake, no light punch on the shoulder.
And I certainly didn’t know that it would change how I interact with American men as well. We all want to conduct our interactions in culturally-appropriate ways, so we drop the side-hug and simply wave hello. It feels strange to me.
I didn’t know living in a muslim country would affect how I look at men. literally.
In our Western cultures, eye contact is usually a way we show respect and interest in someone or in what that person is saying. We make eye contact to greet people, eye contact to talk about life, eye contact to show that we see them.
Even if I stop to buy vegetables from a man I don’t know, I will barely look at him and focus my attention, very business-like, on the vegetables. I don’t look down at my feet, but I don’t look in his eyes.
Photo credit: IMB.org
If my husband knows the man and the man knows us all as a family, I might be a little more relaxed in looking at him when we talk, but I will still use a very businesslike tone.
See, respectable women do not chat it up with men on the streets.
Same goes for taxi or uber drivers. They should not be asking my name (more on that later) or asking personal questions. There is no need to carry on a conversation beyond directions to the exact location, if needed.
Back to eye contact. I didn’t realize how I would internalize the rules. How I would struggle when back in Texas to make eye contact with men again.
The Spin Class Story
I can distinctly remember a time when we were back in Texas and I decided to take a spinning class (an indoor bicycle fitness class). Since it was my first time, the instructor, who was a man about 10 years my senior, helped to adjust my bike while I stood nearby.
As he made polite and very reasonable conversation, I found myself looking down at the bike and giving very short answers. I wouldn’t look at him. I was feeling uncomfortable. Then it dawned on me: No one in that room was going to think I was disrespecting my husband by talking with the instructor in this situation.
This interaction was very normal in this setting and even if I had become chatty about all things bicycles, I still would have appeared normal. I had to make myself relax.
I noticed these same tendencies many more times during that stay in Texas. Over the years since that time I have been able to adjust a little better. This often takes a little bit of conscious effort to recognize where I am and to let myself be a little bit Texan.
How Living in a Muslim Country Affects How I Feel about…Myself
I didn’t know how living in a Muslim country–in a culture that is very conservative–would impact how I felt in my own skin.
I tend to stand out among the crowd on the street. My looks aren’t Middle Eastern. I look like a foreign woman and foreign women have a reputation for having loose morals.
This means that I’m often working against the question of “Is she like what we see in movies? Is she a desperate housewife, too?”
Even as the clothing styles are changing here–going back to knee-length skirts in some areas, sport leggings, sleeveless tops–I’m careful about how and where I participate in fashion trends. I already stand out and I don’t desire more attention.
I didn’t know how observant I would become about what other women wear…and about how the West looks from here.
I’m very uncomfortable when I see tourist women wearing clothing that is not conservative. I am uncomfortable for them, recognizing they don’t know the message they are sending.
Watching American movies and TV shows, I think, “Yeah, I wouldn’t want my daughter to grow up in the West if this is really a completely accurate picture.”
I see the casual sex, the friends with benefits, the revealing clothing, and I know that for people who don’t know America, they don’t know that some of that is just Hollywood. Not all college students are crazy drunks who party and sleep around. Not all housewives are looking for a fling on the side.
It’s worth noting here that just as not all Americans hold loose morals, not all Arabs are terrorists and not all Arabs are Muslim and not all people living in the Middle East are Arabs. Let us not fall into the trap of stereotyping, either.
What’s in a Name
I didn’t know that I would sometimes struggle with my own name. In this culture, a woman does not give out her first name.
I have a Middle Eastern friend who has lived in the same building all her life and the doorman there does not know her first name. He simply calls her “Engineer” now that she is an engineer. The produce man calls me by my husband’s name. Yes, that’s correct, he calls me by a man’s first name.
It’s a little awkward at first.
Taxi drivers should not ask for my name, shopkeepers should not ask for my name. But they do sometimes, because they try to push the boundaries of propriety and respect with me because I’m foreign and might be ok with it. I always reply, “My husband’s name is…”.
And then there’s Starbucks (or any other chain coffeeshop) and I get confused at what name I should have on my cup. My name? My husband’s name? When did this become the difficult part about ordering?!
(In actuality, it’s fine for me to use my first name at these venues that are very Western. It has been interesting, however, to see how I stop for a moment and wonder what to say for my name.)
LIVING IN A MUSLIM COUNTRY: Why Following Their Cultural Rules Matters to Me
Photo credit: IMB.org
I didn’t know about these aspects of change and adjustment that I would experience living in a Muslim country. As I live this life out, as I live my life in a way that loves my neighbors and loves the God who loves them enough to send His own Son as a sacrifice, I am willing to adjust and adapt, to be mindful and to change.
Sometimes those adjustments are difficult. They cause me to look inside at how I see myself and how I see others.
All of these cause me to look to God and ask Him to show me what is good and right, what is important and valuable. And being reminded to lean on His ways? That’s always a good thing.
About the author: Sarah has served overseas for nine years.
First, securing personal time with each person or couple you want to invite onto your support team is critical.
After securing the time and place, the priority becomes preparing for that appointment. These six pillars that will serve as the basis for making the most effective support-raising presentation possible.
Read, enjoy, apply!
Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”
Prayer is a powerful weapon we must use when entering support raising. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us,
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Before we even begin to design a support raising presentation, we must acknowledge that all of our appointments are a God ask and not a man ask!
2. Preparing for your support raising presentation
We need to recognize our total dependence on God first. But we also see that he asks us to do our part.
Some entering ministry might have the philosophy, “I signed up to go on my mission, so now I’m just going to sit back and watch the money roll in.”
That kind of faith is lazy, unbiblical, and seldom reaps results.
James 2:26 says,
Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
How much time we spend in thinking through every single detail of our support presentation has a direct effect on the results we get in appointments. Thorough and excellent preparation definitely takes work, but it will be well worth it!
3. the Power of Face-to-Face.
When a man proposes to his future wife, it is done face-to-face. World treaties are negotiated face-to-face. Important people and important topics surely warrant “in-person” appointments.
If the majority of communication is non-verbal, then sitting down across from someone is essential.
Scott Morton, in his book, Funding Your Ministry, includes a survey of 100 Navigator staff who made 7,471 appeals using four different approaches. Catch the percentages of those appeals who said yes to regular giving:
The face-to-face approach not only has the best immediate results, but also the most lasting too.
You might be tempted to take the shortcut and just call, send letters, emails, or texts, but the people who take to time to meet face-to-face are more likely to keep their supporters over the long haul.
Steve Shadrach, author of The God Ask, raised his full support in 6 weeks back in 1986. Thirty years later, close to 90% of those ministry partners he met with in person are still supporting his ministry today.
4. Planning Your support raising presentation Outline
Having a great support raising presentation can dramatically impact the results you receive in your face-to-face appointment.
Don’t miss five crucial components as you outline your plan.
Laying a relational foundation at the beginning of your appointment is very important. Without good rapport, the rest of your time with them can seem disconnected, even awkward.
I love to ask my potential supporter to share with me “their story”. It could be their personal testimony, their work success, or even about their family. This builds a relational bridge for me, too, to understand their own heart for ministry, missions, and the world.
Share your testimony.
Potential ministry partners have many different good causes to which they can give their money. Betty Barnett, YWAM author of Friend Raising, said that “People give to people justified by a cause.”
When you briefly share how you came to Christ and were called into this ministry, it gives your potential supporter the opportunity to believe in you and the work you are asking them to invest in.
Share your ministry vision.
Always lead with vision and not your needs!
Give an example of a life that’s been transformed through your ministry. Highlight the vision, plans, and strategy to which God seems to be directing you–in order to impact even more lives through the power of Jesus Christ.
Transition into The Ask.
Appropriately shifting to your invitation to invest should not be awkward or abrupt.
One way I let a potential supporter know The Ask is coming? I first share the value of our automatic monthly partnership program and the significant impact the monthly partners have on the ministry.
I’m not being presumptuous when I do this. I just want to be positive, as well as let them know a request to partner with me is coming soon!
The main reason why people say they give: They were asked.
A common mistake many make is to not have a clear ask that includes a specific amount or range. Some do ask, but then keep talking and never give the potential supporter a chance to respond.
Be sure to make a clear ask—and then zip the lip. Give them enough honor and dignity to allow them to respond!
5. Practice your support raising presentation.
Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
The more you practice your presentation the more natural it will be. Grab your spouse, best friend, co-worker (even your dad!) and go through multiple mock appointments with them, until it flows naturally from you with conviction and passion.
I remember my first support raising presentation appointment role play at an SRS Bootcamp in 2010. Even though I am typically a very enthusiastic person, my evaluator told me that I needed more passion as I progressed through the appointment.
Remember this: Having an average support raising presentation with passion is always better than having a great presentation without passion!
Conveying to your potential supporter just how deeply you feel about the calling and ministry God has given you will be the main reason they choose to partner with you.
But from the beginning of time, God has already preparing his field, his connections, his ways–so you arrive at just the right time, to share the hope you have with the people he’s planned. You’re part of the Body of Christ not just in this moment, but in history as God’s Gospel sweeps the globe.
And in tandem with the Holy Spirit, your personal work in this common mission can begin far before you set foot in a nation–if you set foot in it at all.
Right this minute, how can you pray for your mission field? How might God respond
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
May God multiply His willing response as you pray for your mission field.
Editor’s note: We’re pulling this post from the archives to answer a key recurring question: Does Christianity destroy culture? Are you importing Western culture when you bring the Gospel? We weigh in.
If you’ve ever stood in the middle of African worship, it’s…well, it’s pretty hard to stand still.
Gotta admit. At a refugee-center staff retreat, I started as a mild observer. I marveled at the literal full-bodied movement and vocalization: music that took over my heart, my body. I was, um, really dancing (don’t necessarily try to picture it…) to worship for the first time. Moisture leaked from the corners of my eyes.
Perhaps you can see what I’m talking about:
After a rousing snippet of this kind of worship in staff devotions the week before, I’d told the teachers, this is just a sliver of what the African church offers the world. Every culture has its own strengths, its own vibrant display of the image of God.
And when Jesus comes, I will have watched so many cultures become the truest version of themselves.
The sun beat down on the back of my neck as I struggled to will each step forward.
I looked up to see our guide Mamoudou (Mah-mu-doo) just ahead of me. Our group had been walking for what seemed like miles down a long, dusty road, greeted only by the occasional motorcyclist. It was already well over a hundred degrees, even though it had not yet reached midday–and I was low on water and motivation.
A Muslim shepherd had asked us to teach in a nearby settlement of nomadic Fulani shepherds. We excitedly accepted the invitation, but I secretly doubted anything would come of it.
Finally, Mamoudou pointed across the fields to a cluster of huts.
As we approached, two children emerged, wearing traditional braids, coins, and vibrant garb. Seeing our strange group, they quickly disappeared shouting.
Moments later, two women approached us, hesitatingly greeting us and asking questions. Mamoudou explained that we had been invited by the old Fulani shepherd.
But our joy quickly faded as we learned that the shepherd was not home; we had just missed him. Discouraged and exhausted, we asked if we could briefly rest in the shade before heading back to our village. It felt like a wasted day, and we didn’t have very many left in Africa.
As we rested, several curious children stood at a distance to watch us. Soon they were joined by herdsmen who had come in from the fields. Before long, a crowd of nearly thirty Fulani were standing around us, awkwardly observing.
“Trust and Obey” Looks Like This
Seeing an opportunity, Mamoudou pulled out the picture book that we used to tell the story from creation to Christ. As we started to teach, more gathered to listen.
We told about the Creator and his perfect design for the world, we told them about our sin which separates us from him, we told them about the Savior who died and rose again, and we told them about the imminent return of the Lord to judge all the earth according to his righteousness.
When we finished, the shepherds eagerly invited us to come back. We joyfully set out, exulting in the goodness of God!
After all, this mission is His.
Mamoudou told us this was the first time these shepherds had ever heard about Jesus. We rejoiced even more knowing that we were fulfilling the command to preach the gospel to all creation (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15).
Two years have passed since that visit, but I still think back on it often. I learned two lessons that I won’t easily forget.
1. THIS MISSION IS HIS. Followers are called to obey, regardless of the outcome.
The Fusion creed, a concise statement about the life of a believer, declares,
As a follower of Christ, I am called not to comfort or success but to obedience.
When I woke up that morning, walking out to the Fulani settlement was the last thing I wanted to do. And after learning that we had missed the old shepherd, I was quick to label our morning a failure.
But I am called not to comfort or success, but to obedience. And this mission is His.
And Christ commands us as followers, with no exemptions, to
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Obeying this command is rarely comfortable or successful by the world’s standards, but we who proclaim Christ as Lord are called to obey nonetheless.
2. THIS MISSION IS HIS. Followers are called to trust, regardless of the circumstances.
Jesus bookends the Great Commission with two statements in Matthew 28.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]
… Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Despite difficult circumstances, followers of Christ trust in him, knowing that the mission belongs to him.
My teammates and I never imagined so many would hear the gospel for the first time. In my discouragement, I failed to understand that our day was not wasted.
I did not consider that the One who created all things, who knows the name of every Fulani shepherd, and who cares for them far more than I ever could, had a much better plan in store.
The aim of missions is to glorify God. But it’s easy to lose this vision when we make things about us.
We experience the true joy of being gospel witnesses when we trust and obey Him, regardless of the outcome or expense. May our hearts be humbled to understand our smallness, may our minds confidently trust in our Father, and may our feet be quick to obey him.