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.
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.
Editor’s note: Anyone serving overseas can relate to the truism of the post below: The life of an expatriate–missionary life included–is filled with farewells. “Goodbye” doesn’t just launch a life overseas. It defines part of this new, transitory existence.
My friend looks at me, her face stoic, almost nonchalant and it’s hard to know if I’m doing this right.
I should be better at this. How many times have I said “goodbye” over the years?
There were the zillions of moves I made as both a kid and an adult. And here in Indonesia, expats come and go and goodbyes are anticipated or very sudden. But they happen all the time.
I’m moving to another part of Indonesia in a few weeks. And I’m saying goodbye a lot like I’ve lived life here over the years—sitting on the floor of a friend’s house, bouncing back and forth between awkward small talk and serious heart stuff, my kids fighting for space on my lap, knocking over glasses of hot tea onto the wooden planked floor, a light morning rain tapping on the metal roof.
Throughout ten years of visits with friends, I always feel both totally out of my comfort zone and completely in my element.
I guess you could say the same thing about my relationship with moving. Somehow I feel very at home with packing up and starting over. And yet it also makes me feel lost every time I do it.
I wish I could say there is more “good” in all of my goodbyes here. But just like daily life here, they’re a bit messy, confusing, and almost always sweaty.
I go, intending to say the right word of thanks, and hope for some kind of satisfying closure, but usually, it feels like we’re being interrupted. Maybe the friend is in a crisis and I’m not really sure it’ll end up okay. Or I’m still learning how to love well in this culture, in my second language, and I’m pretty sure I’ve left behind a long list of misunderstandings and offenses.
Then I wonder about the stoicism I see. Does the goodbye matter? Do I?
I bet I look stoic sometimes, too. But really, I’m distracted…by my kids hiding in my shoulder so they don’t have their picture taken again, by the sound of the mosque’s call to prayer, or by my own desire to just have this goodbye over with so I can go home and hide, too.
Sometimes I get a text later with more honest feelings and that should feel better. But that just makes me feel sad, too.
That “Lost” Period
I know it’s going to be okay. The next place is exciting and the people are great and the work there is amazing and I need to just get there and move forward and grow roots and a bunch of other cliches that do actually work.
But still…right now I’m in that “lost” period. And I’m wondering if anyone else out there is here with me, too?
One small decision this week helps me. I plan to cut a branch off my plumeria tree—the one my husband gave me for my birthday a few years ago—and take it with me on the plane ride. Then I’ll plant it at my next home.
It seems a little silly and indulgent, especially because the next yard has its own plumeria trees already. But then I remembered how my mom would pack up all her plants and stick them in the back of our station wagon and take them to the next Army post.
Like she knew, too, that taking living things from your last home would help you figure out life in the next one.
Sometimes I need to remember life doesn’t end just because your time in the last place does.
What about here?
But what of my work? I set a date for myself when I’d force myself to pull out of everything. The orphanage. The hospital visits. The neighbor in crisis. And then I keep extending it…then moving it up.
Can’t decide if it’s better to put it off until I’m neck-deep in boxes, for one more visit while I’m just down the road, or just rip off the band-aid. Both sound bad.
And what about my fears? There are people who are coming after us who will never know me here in this place, on this team. What happens to the place I had in this place?
It’s small, I know. I’m small. This island is small. But me, here in this place for this time, mattered to me.
All the adventure and growth and friendships and faith and pregnancies and flights and prayers and disappointments and doubts and grace—they all mattered to me. What happens to all that?
I know. Some of it goes with me. It changed me, after all, broke me to pieces then healed into something new.
And some of this place will remain. This has been the hardest part for me to believe. But in case you’re going through your own goodbye or bad-bye, I want to remind us both. Just as the relationships matter to us, we mattered to friends, too.
The Hello-Goodbye Circle
One of my childhood tricks for coping with moves was to sagely remind myself that every tear-filled goodbye started with a scared, hope-filled hello and many hellos end up in teary goodbyes.
That sounds like a lot of tears. But the point is, those goodbyes have to happen so the next hellos can happen so the next goodbyes can happen and I’m starting to wonder how I ever found this comforting.
It seems I’m not in the mood tonight for my own pep talks. But I’ll finish this by asking this: Is there anyone out there saying goodbye, too?
I thought so. Then let’s be a little bit lost in all the goodbyes and hellos together.
Rebecca Hopkins (www.rebeccahopkins.org) wants to help people feel heard, seen and welcome. She spent the first half of her life moving around as an Army kid and the past 14 years trying to grow roots on three different Indonesian islands while her husband took to the skies as a pilot.
She now works in Colorado for Paraclete Mission Group and writes about issues related to non-profit and cross-cultural work. Trained a journalist and shaped by the rich diversity of Indonesia, she loves dialogue, understanding and truths that last longer than her latest address.
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!
My niche, my place, my way to reach out and bring others in while living overseas. I was a young mom of a two-year-old, a four-year-old, and a newborn. At the preschool of my four-year-old, I was getting to know other moms.
I had a growing relationship with a young mom of a toddler who was soaking up our friendship and appreciative of the care and support I was giving her. She was introducing me to her friends who’d ask me questions about babies and parenting and marriage.
Reflecting on encouragement received as part of a mother’s group back in the U.S., I thought I could offer the same to these precious women: a mom’s group where I could encourage them, share truth and love, share hard-won wisdom from experience.
I could do this with my kids, not leaving them behind in the name of my ministry plans.
It seemed perfect.
I told my friend about my idea. She agreed this was needed. Her friends were lonely; they weren’t thriving as moms. She loved my perspective on motherhood and knew it would encourage these women. She would talk to her friends.
I started a private Facebook page to share thoughts and Scripture. Prepared short messages to share with them when they came to my home. Made coffee and tea and cookies and prepared my living room.
And the entire thing fizzled.
MINISTRY PLANS: The Beginning of the End
We tried it for a few weeks. One or two would come. Their kids would cry and scream. One even threw up on our bean bag chair.
The children frazzled their moms. I offered encouragement with a side of coffee. They were too embarrassed by their children’s behavior to hear me.
My friend and I talked about what was going on. She said they needed this type of group. She knew that they needed support and a change of perspective.
But they didn’t want to sit around talking about being a mom. They wanted to escape from thinking about this.
Basically, they didn’t want what I was offering.
When Your Ministry Plans are a No-Go
I felt discouraged. I thought I had found the perfect situation to use my passion and stage of life to encourage others, invite them into my home, and speak to their hearts. Wasn’t I meant to do this?
Disappointed and sad, I wondered if I even had a place. I wanted so much to see why God had called me here, uprooted me from my home country to figure out life in a huge city in a different language.
If I could just have a ministry, then I could see how it is all worth it.
There was nothing wrong with trying this, but God quickly closed the door.
What didn’t happen
I’d like to tell you that a new door opened immediately, a wide-open door I was able to sail effortlessly through into a lovely field of “productive ministry.”
I wish that were so.
My calling has not panned out quite like that. I think that my life on the field has been one of being faithful with the small things before me.
When the group failed, I had a choice to make.
I could keep trying for what I was passionate to do and what I thought was “just perfect,” or I could let it go and focus on what God was bringing to me. I took my eyes off my project and looked at what was before me.
Two women continued to seek me out. I chose to invest in those two. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time and effort that sometimes I didn’t want to do.
Then there were other relationships, one here, one there. Different faces, different needs, similar efforts.
Over the years there have been various opportunities, unique projects, long-term and short-term relationships. Sometimes I wish there was a certain “something” I could point to, a specific something with a name and a box it goes in. Something that’s easy to understand or write about in a newsletter.
The unfortunate fizzle
Dear reader, it’s possible that your ministry plans will fizzle, too. I don’t wish that disappointment on anyone who has left home and father and mother to follow a calling from the Father.
I think these experiences can cause some of us to doubt if we’ve heard our “assignment” correctly. We can wonder if we are even supposed to be overseas at all.
Should you find yourself in this place, on this path I walked, I pray for you to have the eyes to see when it is time to give that plan up to make room for whatever else might come.
What comes is not always pretty and not everyone will understand. But if we’re made open for what God will do next, the stripping of our ministry plans is a mercy.
Sometimes the next step is small
And sometimes the “next” is small. Sometimes the “next” doesn’t seem like much at all.
Do it faithfully.
We are not good judges of what makes something “worth it.” How do you even measure that accurately? I am not able to measure this because I don’t know the entire plan. I don’t know the steps God needs to reach the ultimate goal of His glory in this country.
To say what God has called me to do is insignificant is to say that those lives are insignificant. And I can’t do that.
I had a few different ideas when I set out to make this country my home. (Vision is good to have!) And I built a few different ministry plans as I tried settling in.
But ultimately, I want to do what God sets before me. He gets to assign the jobs. I’m a part of His kingdom, after all.
Sarah has served in the Middle East with her family for over 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.
Editor’s note: Glen and Geraldine are what you might call old-school missionaries. They arrived in Ukraine in 1994, back when big bangs were cool and the Iron Curtain had recently fallen hard across Europe–and the dust was still settling. (Would you believe these two briefly tangled with the Ukrainian mafia?)
We asked Geraldine what she’d tell a young missionary over coffee–because though a lot has changed since perms were hot, we can gain so much wisdom through ministry vets. Here’s what Geraldine had to say.
Be 100% CONFIDENT OF your “why”.
First of all, for the prospective missionary, I would definitely recommend that he or she is completely confident in God’s power and Great Commission. There are many adversaries or even those who are against foreign missions.
For example, we had friends who were missionaries to the Jewish people who actually tried to dissuade us from coming to Ukraine. We should consider, they said, the language barrier, the difficult cultural differences, and the anti-American sentiment.
Be confident of what God’s called you to–because you’ll inevitably withstand times of significant obstacles, fear, pain–and yes, questioning if you’re in the right place: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Keep your lifestyle/housing simple or consistent with the people you serve.
We rented a Ukrainian house and didn’t furnish it with anything American. We wanted Ukrainians to feel comfortable around us.
Of course, there were a few things that I personally brought for myself: books, devotionals, recipes for our favorite foods.
Here’s the advice for a young missionary which someone gave me: Bring essential items for your kids–certain games, movies, and toys so that they would feel more at home. For children, the cultural transition is much more difficult, especially if the son or daughter is a pre-teen or teenager.
It’s also important to engage in special occasions for them–such as birthdays, academic accomplishments, sleepovers, sporting events (we had basketball and volleyball games).
Plan for pain.
One event that really impacted our family: Church problems we experienced in 1996. After two years, we had certain people that were opposed to my husband’s leadership. Some people walked away and others complained about us.
We had to spend much time in prayer and examine our lives and ministry before the Lord. We never wanted to hurt anyone, but the enemy was working. This is very common. Before making any major decisions, consider the fallout, although things do happen that are out of our control.
We basically had to start over again in the church until the Lord provided a godly Ukrainian leader/pastor, This was hard for us, yet we never thought about quitting or returning home–there was too much at stake.
ADVICE FOR A YOUNG MISSIONARY: Be prepared and have the courage to trust God for difficult, painful circumstances.
In 2003, we moved out to the village to evangelize and hopefully start a church.
Life was so hard. People weren’t friendly. We had to walk to the village well to draw our drinking water. We’d burn our own trash because they refused to collect ours.
We had Ukrainians working in our home for remodeling purposes, and their work wasn’t good. After we paid them lots of money, they demanded more. When we refused, they took us to court. They paid the judge a bribe so we would lose our case and our home.
It was so difficult. We prayed a lot. My husband hired a Ukrainian lawyer and she took pictures of the work. She actually won our case, but then we were forced to sell our home. Some of these men were associated with the mafia and we didn’t want to take any chances.
My husband sent our son and me out of the country back to the States. We prayed and ask others to pray as well.
Glen sold our house within one month–which was a miracle! After this, we left Ukraine for about one year.
don’t let marriage and family fall prey to ministry.
The demands, trauma, and pull of the mission field have torn apart too many marriages.
My advice for a young missionary: Always pour unconditional love, support, and sacrifice into each other’s lives for God’s honor and glory–no matter the needs “out there.”
Glen and I always prayed together as a couple and as a family.
Missionaries we met while raising support encouraged us to never allow ministry to become more important than our families. We remembered that and took one day a week to spend time together at the park, the shopping malls, or watching a movie at home. No interferences.
We spent time together talking about life with our kids and any issues they were encountering.
Stay aware of and responsive to your kids’ holistic experience.
One of the biggest mistakes we personally made was to send our son to a Ukrainian school while we were attending the Kyiv University for language. During that time in Ukraine, the prejudice was real. Ben was about nine years old.
We eventually brought him home. I wish we could have afforded private school, but the prices were too expensive. So we had to homeschool–another challenge.
Your kids’ educational and cultural experiences are so important, so research your options thoroughly, visit schools, talk to other parents, and plan wisely for the education that will make up their days and much of their cultural experience.
FINAL ADVICE FOR A YOUNG MISSIONARY: When It’s Time…
Some missionaries have left the field due to health, marital issues, problems with their children. Regardless of where we live and serve, God can use you. You don’t have to feel like your life is over!
We follow him wherever he leads us–to the mission field or elsewhere. Our ministry doesn’t define us. It’s our relationship with God that’s so important.