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
The accident with the motorcycle left me shaky, anxious, and worried.
Besides my husband, the person I wanted to talk with was my closest Egyptian friend. I wanted her to help me process through what I could have done differently, what I was supposed to do after, how I could ever drive again.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.
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!
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.
Maybe you’ve wondered about the level of importance you should place on training to be a missionary. Is “training” more of a modern or even Western invention? Isn’t the Great Commission something to do whether you’re formally trained or not?
Yes and no. Yes, you can share Jesus without taking a class first. But remember–even Jesus’ disciples had spent three years being disciples. The concept of equipping and being trained isn’t foreign to the Bible.
Unfortunately, a lack of comprehensive training to be a missionary can result in the lack of skills empowering that global worker to stay. It could also mean that in a lack of cross-cultural knowledge, the missionary actually does damage to the Church’s work overseas–driving people away from the Gospel rather than toward it.
(Yes, it’s possible to bungle missions.)
Today, we let Global Frontier Missions take the mic to make their case for intentional preparation for the mission field.
Did you know most missionaries only last about two years on the field?
Statistics show that proper cross-cultural training to be a missionary greatly increases your chances of being more effective–and staying on the mission field longer.
We are passionate about equipping healthy, long-term disciple-makers–and not just in theology. We feel acutely the need for head knowledge, character qualities, and hands-on skills. It’s critical our missionaries have a sustainable and impactful ministry among the least-reached peoples.
So take a minute to check out the following videos. And catch the vision for why training can prepare you for the mission field to which God’s calling you!
TRAINING TO BE A MISSIONARY: THE PRACTICAL ANGLE
Almost every profession requires classroom and on-the-job training. Why not cross-cultural ministry?
Mission Prep: Holistic
Yes, here in the West, we often emphasize head knowledge as the all-important piece in education. But how effective is that actually in preparing someone to be a missionary?
MISSIONS PREp: THE BIBLICAL ANGLE
If we take a look at the Bible, we see many examples of God’s people going through seasons of preparation and waiting. It’s not an optional appendix in the story of God’s people. Preparation and waiting are a necessary chapter we all walk through.
training to be a missionary: the Strategic side of things
We may be quick to applaud the individuals full of passion and energy that head to the mission field, but what’s really needed are faithful, steady, consistent laborers that are in it for the long haul.
Wondering where to go from here?
Editor’s note: So maybe we’ve sold you on the need for thoughtful, strategic training before you head overseas. Wondering what to do with that conviction?
Or you might consider experiences that offer fully interactive training to be a missionary while helping you discern God’s direction. We’ve got a healthy handful on our Hands-On Training tab here on Go. Serve. Love.
Wondering what goes into a missionary budget (which, when you’re raising support, can feel overwhelming)? We let you peek behind the curtain with some opinions of other global workers.
“A missionary Budget may cover all the costs of sending the missionary, not just what YOU need to live.”
A missionary budget may include all the expenses of fielding the missionary. Besides a salary, budget categories might include
health and life insurance
travel expenses (including cost of home assignments)
administrative expenses (including the costs of communicating with supporters, and often a certain percentage that supports the mission agency’s home office)
training costs (e.g. language school)
purchase or rental of property
purchase and maintenance of a vehicle.
It’s also wise to include some kind of surplus account, or perhaps a 5% buffer built right into the budget in anticipation of
lost support, cost of living increases
changing exchange rates
an emergency fund and/or insurance that covers medical evacuation
All this can add up to a daunting amount.
But trust me: Cutting corners is not worth the savings.
Being well prepared will help you and your family avoid some of the stress of arriving on the field and not having what you need.
Most mission agencies include some kind of “admin fee.” What these fees cover varies considerably. A high admin fee may include some of the expenses listed above. A low one may suggest these items are listed elsewhere in your budget.
Answer from Marti, who’s served as a mission mobilizer since 1995, including more than ten years with Pioneers.
“If married, both should get a salary.”
A missionary candidate recently asked me if I thought it was better for a married couple to both be counted as legal employees. Should just the serving member of the couple be paid, to simplify payroll even if both are working as missionaries?
Our organization issues W-2’s to my wife and I with half of our total income per year. I think it’s more respectful of our partnership to do it that way and honor my spouse’s major contributions to the work. That was our original reason.
We’ve discovered strong financial reasons along the way too.
When you are negotiating your budget with your agency and others, it’s to your advantage to present the full force of your contribution i.e. two full-time workers. Although people might remember there are two of us, it is to your financial advantage to remind them of the income you both are earning together.
Many missionaries, even if they start under the traditional model of only one marriage partner as the breadwinner, evolve eventually to give both spouses a significant responsibility in the work. There can be a tendency for some to forget that you are working not just 40 hours but 80+ hours as two workers.
Employing both partners accrues Social Security credits for that partner, too. I’m not sure, but I believe this means she’d have higher income in retirement than if she wasn’t an official employee.
Consider, too, that liability insurance and taxation “safe harbor laws” (allowing return to your home state for a number of days without being taxed) likely don’t extend to a non-employee legally.
“your MISSIONARY budget is hopefully designed for your longevity on the field, from veterans who’ve realistically counted the cost.”
Raising an amount so much higher than a salary may surprise you. Why’s this necessary? You may be raising the actual costs it takes a business to employ a person (which can be an additional 100-180% of a salary)–plus costs intrinsic to being a successful global worker.
These expenses may include costs like
overhead for project costs for your ministry. For example, if you hope to run a supply distribution for at-risk children, you may be raising costs to maintain that programming. The more independent your project is from your sending organization, the more likely you may need to raise those project costs.
your computer, software, internet, desk, chair, phone, office space, etc. Some agencies don’t already provide these.
Obviously, lower administrative fees in a missionary budget help reduce your overall budget. But typically,more moderate to high admin fees include more benefits and services that help keep you going on the mission field.
Other thoughts to keep in mind:
Different sending organizations have very different philosophies of budget-setting (ranging from frugal to robust, job-based or needs-based). They also have varying levels of control over budget-setting.
Ask your organization about categories or aspects of a budget you don’t understand.
Keep in mind that the amount may seem overwhelming when you’re raising a high support goal. But your budget is hopefully designed for your longevity on the field, from veterans who’ve realistically counted the cost.
It’s also far easier to raise support before your first departure–and much harder to raise from the field and even during travel back to your passport culture. So go well-funded from the start!
Editor’s note: For this perennial topic, we’re pulling some tips from the archive for all you spouses wrestling through what do to when your spouse is all-in, sign-me-up, let’s-do-this -thing-for-Jesus! But you don’t feel as “called.”
Hey. Every situation is different, I know. But I’ve talked to a few of you.
I’ve seen the look on your face—not just the usual culture shock or pre-departure if-this-country-doesn’t-kill-me-packing-for-it-might expression. There’s a nearly imperceptible tightness in your smile.
Because you signed up for this. But at the same time, didn’t.
You signed up to follow Jesus, your name on the dotted line beneath the great Commission. And the ring on your finger keeps reminding you of unending constancy; faithfulness.
(But did that mean my spouse’s dreams? You wonder every now and then.)
Or maybe your brain has signed up, knowing God doesn’t just call one of you. (Right? you ask me.) Knowing he asks a whole family to go or to stay.
But your heart signing up? That part could take awhile. And unfortunately, with the lack of medical care for your kids and the size of the reptiles, it could take longer than you planned.
I’m obeying you, Lord. This is my choice. (Write this down—I made the right choice when it killed me, and took me away from my mom living right down the street to help with the kids.)
I don’t know if you’ve already made your decision, or are waffling a little as the gravity of this choice starts to show like the hem of a slip.
(Spoiler alert: At the end of this post, you will still not know exactly what to do.)
I can only tell you what I know.
own your decision. 100%. Even if you don’t feel as called
This decision is hard enough when you feel completely called and feel zero hesitation.
But what’s not okay, even when you don’t feel as called? Choosing to be powerless.
When it was time for us to head back from Africa, that’s the time I felt the least “called” anywhere. It felt like a perfect storm of circumstances were grounding us from flying into Uganda—and what had become like home.
During that tumultuous home assignment, we were straddling two continents and homes. And that included, what? At least three evaporating sources of identity for me. (Missionary. Teacher of refugees. Educator of my kids.)
I remember words my husband spoke to me as we wound our way over a New Mexico highway. He cautioned me, encouraging me to dig into my confusion, my low-burning anger.
He said something like,
Why? Because your life is about to change just as much.
And the demands and required teamwork of overseas living require more buy-in from a spouse than simply submitting to another’s passion.
I have seen this subtle, underground division work its way into the cracks of a marriage’s foundation like ivy, spreading slowly in a thick blanket. They’re so subtle, a person may hardly notice until it’s nearly too late.
There’s such wisdom in the words of 1 Peter: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
That verse ratchets things to a whole new level, right? It’s not just unity of action. It’s my mind as one flesh with yours.
It’s a working out of what would be our own alabaster box, our own act of beautiful, sacrificial worship, to a God worthy of every loss.
But Jeremiah, Jonah, even Jesus? They had words with God about their calling.
What about when your spouse’s desires are different? When you just don’t feel as called?
Desires are not just something to steamroll over as an act of faith. Trying to rid yourself of desire is actually more…Buddhist. We see Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane of total honesty with his desire, yet total surrender.
In case you missed it, allow me to say it openly: God accepts you fully whether you go overseas or not.
Whether or not this is an “obedience” issue for you isn’t something our blog can weigh in on. But do the hard work of exploring your call together, knowing your particular application of the Great Commission is your joyful choice.
Should I submit to my spouse when i don’t feel as called?
Side note: Depending on your theology, you may feel that this is an area where you need to submit to your spouse. That may be the case.
But let us encourage you that–as demonstrated in Esther or Ruth or Proverbs 31–submission does not mean silence. (Jesus shows this in his submission to the Father in Gethsemane.)
Like I mentioned in the beginning–I promise you no easy answers.
This is your time as a couple to be transparent, to think deeply and broadly (and Scripturally) about what is right and good for your marriage, your family. It’s time to seek God’s face together, for what you can willingly, open-handedly give him.
Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.
Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House) releases October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.
One morning in Guatemala, I walked into our office and found sitting around the table the regional leadership of a group of churches we were working with. They were visiting politely with Melvin, a national pastor we worked with.
I greeted them and visited a moment and then excused myself and made my way to my office.
Of course I was curious what was happening. Still, I said nothing until they had left.
Why were they there? Why were they meeting with Melvin? What were they discussing? (That was only my beginning list.)
When Nothing’s Making Sense
Allow me to pause and ask: What keeps you going when nothing else is making sense?
When you live and work in a country and a culture you didn’t grow up in, but have adopted? When everything is hard to understand? When you aren’t sure you are communicating? When the cost/benefit ratio of missions feels fuzzy or downright disappointing?
Missionaries wrestle with that question somewhat regularly. I wrestle with that regularly.
The Background Story
I found out more of the story after the regional leaders left. But you need the background to the story to understand his answer–and understand what keeps me going.
Our small team had been working with these rural pastors and lay leaders for a couple of years, attempting to bring them resources and training that would help them serve their people and teach their congregations to walk as Jesus would want them to walk.
Periodically in this ministry, we welcomed groups of youth and adults who came down from supporting churches in the U.S. to spend a week. It took a lot of thinking and planning to create a situation which we felt would be a blessing to the churches we worked with and to the group coming down.
so here’s the plan
The groups completed work projects for four hours each morning, then showed the JESUS film each evening in a meadow in a location where our churches were trying to plant a Bible study or home church.
The churches were moderately interested: Maybe it would be worth doing. The JESUS film project offered the use of one of their staffers, along with a projector and screen. We took care of him and covered his costs; he showed the JESUS film in the crowds’ Mayan language and preached a short message and gave an invitation in that same local language. And it multiplied the churches’ reach at no cost to them!
Our group of American gringos, frankly, were the bait to draw a crowd.
Each night we had a good turnout. Some people walked three miles to attend. They seemed interested and somewhat responsive. The church elders stood around watching the crowd and conversing with those who came.
We completed the same routine for four nights in different locations. Then, the group headed home.
The idea: Church leaders would try to follow up with the people they saw at the film-showing over the next 10 days, visiting them in their fields or homes.
Two weeks later we repeated the process with a second national church group and four more locations, showing the JESUS film in a language none of us knew.
“Was it worth it?”
And then we all went home and I asked “Was it worth it?”
I wanted it to be worth the month we had spent with those two groups helping them see what we did there in the mountains. I wanted it to be worth it for both the wide-eyed group from Texas and the collection of churches we had tried to serve.
And then about a month later I walked into the office and some of those same church leaders were there.
I’d had no idea they were coming. But they seemed to have a good meeting.
It turns out they had indeed followed up with the people who they had seen at the showings of the Jesus film. And at each location they’d added 3 or 4 families to the Bible studies or home churches they were trying to start!
They had come to visit with my national teammate, Melvin, to find out how they could arrange to do the same thing all year long on their own.
What Keeps YOU Going
Yes, that made my day. That’s what keeps me going; it’s why I came. So what if they hadn’t talked to me about it?
Their question verified that the new untried evangelism event we had put together actually helped them. It apparently had turned out to be more productive than any “outreach program” they had tried.
We’d ensured all costs of the group would be covered–and the churches had experienced a new tool for growing their churches. And now they wanted to make it their own!
God had obviously showed up. Now, decades later, it’s an event I hang my hat on after all the mysteries of missions: Is what I’m doing working? Are there results to show from all I’m giving up?
When you get to see results that clearly, it keeps you going for a good long while. It did for me!
And even today when I think back over that and other events, unique though each one was, it is a constant encouragement. God calls us to serve him and others, and he is the one who creatively weaves the threads of ministry to produce what he calls success.
It’s well worth remembering those times when you got to see his fingers weaving success into what he’s called you to do.