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: This piece originally appeared on Rebecca Hopkins’ blog, “Borneo Wife,” when she and her husband served in Indonesia. She now blogs from her new American home at rebeccahopkins.org .
It’s almost like the deep, dark secret of overseas work. That confession, usually made by a woman, sometimes with reasons, other times with self-chastisement hanging onto the words.
“I wasn’t ‘called’ to be here.”
She’s just along for the ride, supporting her husband, her kids, she says. And I cringe if I hear the next words. “I don’t matter here. I don’t make a difference.”
But I sit amazed at her dedication and sacrifice, despite what she believes is a lack of a Word from Above to come here. She came anyway, even though she wasn’t so sure if her role matters, if she is special, if she was “called.”
I call that faith.
“am I called? not YET”
I read recently on a blog about a woman waiting to hear her call to this work, asking God to give it to her. She wants to do it. Her boyfriend wants to go. But she waits anyway.
I have some honest questions about this.
Are we supposed to be waiting for specific directions from God Himself? Does God want to use our desires, our dreams, our gifts? Does He instead call us into things we would never choose on our own? What freedoms does He give us in how to engage our world?
Of course, when asking “Am I Called?”, there are important things for which to wait.
Even when an opportunity presents itself, we still need training, funding, logistics and a plan that will honor local voices. We need to learn what it means to help as part of a community, but not become outsider “white saviors” who may actually harm. We need to make sure we’ve thoughts through risks for our family, gathered some resources for our kids.
But should we also be waiting for an audible answer to our desire to go, serve, and love?
MY OWN “CALLING”
My own experience is somewhere in the middle on this. For years, I’d wanted to do this overseas thing, with or without a husband.
But I received no big magic words, no moment of heavenly insight, no signs, no deep voice in the night calling my name. Just a gradual awakening in my heart to the beauty of entering other communities in an intentional way.
My husband Brad’s story, on the other hand, includes moments of divine clarification, wisdom from above, even, I suppose you could term it, “a calling” to be in Indonesia.
He wanted to be there, too—his own desires part of the equation, too. But once upon a time, he wanted other things, things he had to give up to follow this dream.
CALLING, VERSION 2.0
And when we arrived, living the challenges of this life, we both struggled with other versions of “Am I called?”
Why do we feel so inadequate for this? Why is it so hard to do something good? Where is God in all the mess of serving? Why don’t we just go home?
I’ve heard, too, people (back in our passport nation) say they could never do this. This overseas thing. This work. This killing-of-shrews, power-outages, pregnancies-in-tropical-heat, far-away-from-family thing.
Amen to that. I don’t think I can do it either.
I’ve seen, too, the passions—you could even call them “callings”–without the “going overseas.” I cyber-met a woman this week who lives in the States, but started a nonprofit to help fund care for vulnerable children Indonesia.
She’s never been here. She’s a busy mom. But she’s doing what she can to answer that tug in her heart to do more. And her dedication to a people she’s never met…amazes me.
Though she isn’t “going anywhere,” she is definitely going places.
Am I “Called”?
So, what about you? Do you feel “called?”
Do you wish you were “called,” and feel like you aren’t? Maybe you feel like you missed it, maybe weren’t listening close enough. Do you think someone else more capable should have been “called” to your life?
Or maybe you think the answer to “Am I called?” came years ago. You’re sure you fulfilled your calling, to motherhood, to overseas work, to your job, years ago. And now you feel like you have nothing.
Wherever you are in the world or in your journey or with your questions, may you know there’s room in God’s invitation for us all.
In our efforts at Go. Serve. Love to help you look overseas with eyes wide open, we actually like posting your “wish someone had told me about missions” stories. They help the rest of us, y’know, adjust expectations and avoid our own train wrecks.
Today 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.
Then, don’t miss our links below for other wise, cautionary tales.
wish someone had told me…You don’t have to carry the pressure of needing to be the hero.
In fact, if you go to another culture with the attitude that you will help the poor humanity there who will then be grateful for you, you are missing the point. Remember God is already at work wherever you may travel.
People in your new host country live there and have a way they already do things. They may not even want the help you offer.
In fact, you may find you are the one that needs help learning how to settle into this new environment. You do, however have the good news about Jesus to share!
So… spend time listening to people’s stories. Share your own.
And as you share your lives, share Jesus’ story. He’s the real Hero, after all.
Don’t think you’ll always agree with your team members.
Missionaries are just people sharing Jesus with others. I wish someone had told me missionaries are just people who may have experienced loss, who may have strong opinions, who can get tired, or discouraged or happy or sad or frustrated or jealous – just like you. Do your best not to compare, or judge.
This is where it’s essential to know how to find your identity in Jesus yourself and to trust other team members to do the same.
You won’t always think they are right. You may start to wonder if you are.
Remember: Grace, truth, and love … always. That other team member is one of God’s favorites too.
Sharing the good news of Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll do nothing else.
Shopping for groceries, cleaning the house, fixing your car, organizing your tasks, heading for work – all these everyday life things still happen when you are a missionary.
I don’t know what you’re good at, but you will likely be doing that thing in whatever culture you end up living in.
So if you’re a great teacher: teach well and share Jesus. If you’re a great mechanic? fix things and share Jesus. If you’re a great mom, raise kids and share Jesus.
Don’t start to resent these tasks thinking they get in the way of your real work of sharing Jesus.
Do your “real” work while doing your everyday tasks best you can.
And when there’s no one near you to share with, do your everyday tasks for and with Jesus. He’ll lead you to the next opportunity to share. He’s already got someone in mind.
Poverty looks different to different people.
If you’re going on a mission trip so you can see real poverty and realize how great you have it in your home country… please pause.
As important as learning to be grateful is, it’s not the right reason to go into missions.
First of all, the people that you think look poor may not regard themselves that way at all. They might, for example, think of poverty in terms of lack of good relationships or status.
Secondly, if you do meet someone who finds themselves in a difficult situation, it’s unlikely they’ll want you to define them by it. After all, you don’t like to be defined by your hard times.
So don’t take a picture of someone who is wearing their poverty on the outside so you can show people back home that you are making a difference.
Instead, capture a moment that fills your heart with wonder because of Jesus.
Find the gifts – the tea sipped, the laughter shared, the hope renewed. Record moments rich in grace.
Sometimes you might feel like you’re not making a difference at all.
Just because you are a missionary and your vocation is defined as “life-changing” doesn’t mean you’ll always feel like that is the case.
I wish someone had told me I might feel like I’m not doing enough to earn the support of the church(es) that sent me.
You, too, might start to count successes and losses and determine that if bearing fruit is what defines a follower of Jesus, you may not be one.
Don’t get discouraged.
Make sure your heart is drawing its life from Jesus. Abide in Him like a branch in the vine. Then it’s all about trust and obedience.
Say ‘yes’ in every moment He gives you and let Him decide when the leaf will sprout, or a root will grow deeper or a blossom form. If you are given the added gift of seeing the fruit, that’s something to celebrate, too.
But your vocation won’t define you. Your daily abiding in Jesus will make you who you are.
Ready for other “wish someone had told me” missions stories?
They’ve developed this free webinar to help you sort out the call…and whether you have it.
By way of introduction, they ask,
How does God extend the call to missionaries? What influences does He often use to speak to those He’s calling to the mission field?
Mobilizers, missionaries, pastors, youth leaders, and teachers are invited to join Dave Jacob, founder and director of the Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention, as he discusses the important factors that influence the missionary call.
As always, we love it when you join the dialogue, creating community with others in the Body of Christ around the world exploring some of the same life-altering, Kingdom-powered questions.
Tell us about the call in your comments below:
How have you begun to discern God’s will in your own life?
What can be confused with the call?
What’s clear about calling–and what isn’t?
What keeps people from discerning God’s will for their lives about missions?
What events, people, resources, questions, etc. have helped in your own examination of whether or not to go overseas?
Raising financial support can mess with your head.
Yes, it can feel a little…naked. Yes, it can be awkward and revealing and exhausting.
But would you believe us if we said it’s actually a tremendous gift–and not just to you?
When I was trained in raising financial support–which we’ve been on for sixteen years, in which time we’ve added four kids to our posse–there was a passage that stuck with me. Someone pointed out the story of a widow in 1 Kings 17.
You’ve probably heard it, about this woman in famine who’s going to go home and use her last flour, her last oil, to make some bread for her and her son. Then they’re going to go home, she says, and die.
Sometimes I wonder about Elijah’s manners–but he actually asks the widow, a stranger, to first make a cake for him, then make one for her and her son. He makes her an odd promise that ends up coming true: Keep making cakes for both of us. The bread and the oil won’t run out until the famine’s over.
Get this: God uses the widow’s support of Elijah to keep her alive in famine.
Is Money the Goal in Raising financial support?
To be clear, do not use Elijah’s technique word-for-word in raising financial support (if you know people dying of hunger, perhaps take some Chik-fil-A or a Hungry Man dinner rather than your support-raising binder?).
I don’t know that “bake me bread and you’ll never run out of flour as long as I’m overseas” is the exact takeaway. But don’t miss this: Your fundraising ain’t just about you.
Over and over in the Bible, we see this theme of givers being blessed. God wants to do something in both sides of things in the journey that takes you overseas. Weird questions and fears will bubble to the surface as this process stirs them up.
Because the goal of raising financial support? It’s far from just money.
Maybe you’re just dipping your big toe in this frigid support-raising water to see if the goosebumps involved in raising support could, as you suspect, drive you away, arms pinwheeling.
Or maybe your knuckles are grazing the ground after duking it out for this dream of going overseas–which you were pretty durn sure was from God, but now is feeling kind of hazy and hard.
Flipping Over the Rocks
Imagine yourself before a bed of river rock. Beneath it, someone’s placed red swipes of paint totaling the monthly amounts you’ll need to finally go overseas; to do this vital work so many people need (remember Paul’s vision [Acts 16:9] of the Macedonian crying out to come help them?).
All you have to do is to turn over the rocks to find the right paint strokes you need. Some of the big rocks you’ve counted on yield nothing. Other small rocks feature much larger marks than you could have ever anticipated. Some are clustered together. Some are spaced out, and you’re turning over 23 blank rocks in between those that spread a smile on your face.
Getting the drift? God knows exactly where your funding will come from. Um, assuming you’re not being socially awkward, your rejections aren’t really about you as much as they’re God getting the right people on your team.
Raising Financial support: The Articles
These articles may not make this path easy. But they may make it easier–and eliminate some of the pitfalls.
First, don’t miss Go. Serve. Love’s own posts on raising financial support:
So many factors, really, had sifted out what felt like the remaining solution: It was time to leave.
Among the factors: My husband’s job (he was moved to leadership, and had effectively mentored a national to take over his position). My kids’ education. Other family factors we batted back and forth, scouring for solutions until it seemed this was really the only way to love well.
And in many ways, the poor and this work God had been doing in our midst would be better served as my husband performed his leadership role from headquarters in Colorado.
Colorado! I should’ve been thrilled, right?!
I was heartbroken.
Not Here, Not Now
Maybe you’re dealing with your own closed door; your own “not here, not now”.
That country making your heart beat a new way now won’t give you a visa. Or the political climate has become too dangerous. Or support-raising has dragged on for years, and your agency indicates it might be time to move on.
You could be asking, Did I even hear God right? If I was so willing to make sacrifices…weren’t they meaningful?
I’ve bled all over this for so long. (And why does so-and-so get to go?)
What do I do with a “no”?
Paul’s Closed Door
Did you know Paul got a “not here, not now”?
Check out Acts 16:6-10. As you read, note the five places Paul and Timothy went–and the two places they didn’t.
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Y’know what’s also interesting? God would eventually send Paul to both places he’d forbidden.
This doesn’t mean “When God says no, he means later.” But sometimes a “no” is a “not now.”
Why Did I Get A No?
Earlier in Acts, in chapter 12, we see another cryptic act of God. We read that Herod
killed James the brother of John with the sword…he proceeded to arrest Peter also…and when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
After this, you might remember God rescues Peter in dramatic fashion via a personal appearance by an angel.
Why Peter and not James? you might wonder.
Why does one of us get a painful no, and one a radiant, supernatural yes?
Why did God answer this prayer, but not that one for all those people to come to Christ? Could you explain why my evangelistic event was rained out? Why was that girl we wanted to help stopped by her alcoholic parents?
“No Graven Image”
I am still riveted by Keller’s account of an Elisabeth Elliot novel written in the 60’s, No Graven Image.
Elliot spins the tale of Margaret, a missionary translating the Bible for unreached South American tribes.
One day, she’s walking to the home of Pedro, her translator, the sole translation link between her and the unreached tribe.
She’s thanking God for the gift of Pedro; for the elaborate set of circumstances and support and training that have brought her to this point. She’s imagining bringing the Bible to a million people in this region.
But when she arrives at his home, Pedro is suffering from a severe leg infection. Having been trained in medicine, Margaret has penicillin with her, which Pedro requests.
Unfortunately, Pedro has an anaphylactic allergic reaction. His family gathers as he seizes. His wife is saying, “You killed him.”
Margaret cries out to God. But Pedro perishes. And her work is over.
Keller reports that Elliot, when he heard her speak, pointed to the last page:
“God, if He was merely my accomplice, had betrayed me. If, on the other hand, He was God, He had freed me.” She went on to explain to us that the graven image, the idol of the title, was a God who always acted the way we thought he should…That is a God of our own creation, a counterfeit god. Such a god is really just a projection of our own wisdom, of our own self.
….Many readers wrote Elliot and protested vehemently that God would never allow such a thing to happen to a woman who has so prayerfully dedicated her life to his cause.
….However, Elisabeth told us, her own actual life experience had run almost exactly parallel to this novel–and actually had been even worse.
….She warned against trying to “find a silver lining” that would justify what happened.
….She wrote, “…There is unbelief, there is even rebellion, in the attitude that says, ‘God has no right to do this…unless…”*
Elliot warns me–warns us–against spiritual entitlement. Against assuming that If I __, God commits to __.
Your Journey is Also Your Destination
When first raising support, a couple who’d been raising alongside us wasn’t able to complete their support. I wondered for days about how God would call them–or was it the impression of a call?–and not fulfill that.
Or was I reading it all wrong? Had God called them not to a destination, but a life-altering journey?
Did God’s call equal us being Teflon, where nothing bad sticks? I looked at John the Baptist–or any of the other disciples, like James above, whose “calling” ended in what the world might have considered failure.
But which heaven likely considered a resounding success.
What if his call is not to earthly success, but faithfulness?
God’s “no” is always a “yes” to the good works he prepares in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). He channels our hearts–and our support, visas, political climates–like a watercourse. A no to our plans is a yes to his. A yes to his honor.
So perhaps your “no” isn’t as personal as the love he extends–in directing you only to his best.
At Go. Serve. Love, we chat not only about the glimmering side of overseas missions–but also seek to help you toward honest conversations and expectations, hopefully toward the end of emotionally healthy missions. Check out
Ever heart of Global Trellis? They explain, “This doesn’t have to be you: More than 62% of cross-cultural workers report high tension between tending to their soul (being) and the work that they do (doing).” Global Trellis develops your soul and skills through articles, challenges, and workshops.
Check them out so that from the beginning, you’re wholehearted and pursuing integrity–a oneness of substance–in your work.
It’s a powerful thing to give someone the gift of reading–and even more powerful using Bible-based resources.
Literacy International says of their work, “Share the gift of reading and the gospel by teaching people how to read and write in their mother tongue using Bible-based materials in 260+ languages. Teacher-training classes are taught in English by live instructors using video calls and an online classroom.” Scholarships are available, too. (Source: Brigada.com)
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?
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!’”
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–