Going Overseas? Prepare for Scars

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Recently I sat with another missionary, stocking feet curled beneath us. We were reflecting on some of the more painful parts of missionary life.

I’m talking things that were hard to understand if you hadn’t been overseas, hadn’t had moments in a foreign land defined by sacrifice or loss. They were like scars, covered by clothing. read more

“Do I have the Call to Be a Missionary?” Free Webinar

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the call

It’s the first step, and one of the hardest to discern: How can you tell if you’re experiencing the call from God to be a missionary? How does God speak, and guide people overseas?

At Go. Serve. Love, we’ve explored this idea a lot, with both warning and affirmation. How would one even define the call?

One of our partners, the Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention–using podcasts, training, and other resources–aims to increase and retain the number of long-term missionaries sent around the world.

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?

Like this post? Don’t miss

Raising Financial Support: Voices from Around the Web

Reading Time: 4 minutes

raising financial support

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:

External Articles on Raising Financial Support

And we love this one from OMF: An Introvert’s Guide to Support Raising. (We know you’re out there.)

Entire Sites on Raising Financial Support

Fundraising coach Jenn Fortner provides this amazing infographic with 22 Expert Tips on Fundraising Straight From Missionary Geniuses. But check out her entire site (on “fundraising made relational”). It’s stuffed with practical tips like

SupportRaisingSolutions.org also offers a wealth of encouragement and wisdom, whether you feel really new…or really worn out. They’ve got posts like

What Not to Do in Raising Financial Support

You knew this part would be coming too, right? How might you be self-sabotaging (and without a clue you’re doing it)?

But hey: Do not let fear get the last word.

Like the Israelites going into the Promised Land, if God’s got you going overseas, he also has the means.

He knows what financial “territory” he’s earmarked as yours, but you must go and take it.

You must be strong and courageous and not depart from God’s commands. And you’ve gotta trust he’ll do his part so you step off that 757 at just the right time.

Got resources or thoughts that fuel you in raising financial support? Share your goodies with the rest of us in the comments section.

How to Say, “Hey, Kids. We’re Moving Overseas”

Reading Time: 7 minutes

kids moving

Editor’s note: When God begins to pull your hearts in an overseas direction, that potential decision is inevitably a life-shifting chapter of your kids’ calling and story, too.

We’re pulling this post from the vault to help you navigate.

“When Should We Tell Them?”

I’d say–and most sites agree–as soon as possible.

Your goal? Well-adjusted kids with ownership in your decision, and who can eventually follow God courageously in their own life decisions.

If your kids keep secrets as well as mine did didn’t, it can be hard to discern (“What if they tell people in Sunday School and our cover is blown? We’re not ready to tell the whole church”).

But even before you tell-them-tell-them, you can start planting seeds in your kids’ heads.

The more kids feel “brought along” in the process, being able to ask their questions, process, understand how and why you’re thinking this way, the less they’re likely to feel excluded and out of control.

This can start small.

“What if?”

Take advantage of times when a conversation at the dinner table turns to events around the world, or your church service brings up missions. (Or get a little sneakier, and bring up age-appropriate world events yourself.) You could ask questions like,

  • “Do you think you could ever live overseas?”
  • “Do you think we could ever be missionaries?”
  • “What do you think it would be like to be missionaries?”
  • “Why do you think it’s important for people to be missionaries?”
When praying at bedtime, talk about how your heart hurts for people who don’t know Jesus.
Purchase a scratch-off map of the world, download the Operation World app (my kids love pushing the “I’m praying” button in the app).

Let kids choose a country each night, and perhaps look up a few facts or pictures about those countries. Eventually, start to talk more about how many people in your future host country don’t know Jesus, and the specific needs.

Show them pictures.

Look up videos and photos, and read kids stories and blog posts (missionary stories work, though realize many are told to demonstrate missionaries’ sacrifice–and kids may get the idea you’ll be in a mud hut with no other kids around and asked to die for Jesus. Use discernment, m-kay?). See if missionaries you’ll be with can send a video or photo of their child and their house.

Get fictional.

This may sound weird–but after my husband and I returned from our vision trip to Africa, I started telling my kids about a pair of fictional siblings. They will always remember “Shiloh and Summer stories I told as we drove somewhere.

These kids just happened to be my kids; age–and just happened to be moving to Uganda. (This site suggests using toys–perhaps a plane and some dolls?–to tell younger kids.)

Without overselling it, get excited about a new “adventure.”

I talked about how the kids had to go through airport security, had to sleep under a muggy mosquito net but were thankful they wouldn’t get sick, and realized people around them looked at lot different now, but were mostly really nice.

These fictional characters missed grandparents, and yet made new friends. They counted down the dates till Grandma and Grandpa came to visit, when the kids got to be the hosts.

Get honest.

Kids can have an uncanny “you’re not for real” radar. Let them know they can trust you–that there will be no spin on the truth when they want to know how things really are. That’s not to avoid optimism, but let kids no that no questions or answers are out of bounds.

kids moving

Bring Older Kids (especially teens and tweens) along on the vision trip–and into as many conversations as you can.

A friend was overwhelmingly glad she made this decision.

Older kids are rightfully growing more independent–and are more likely to feel the threats of moving. They can keep secrets, generally.

So as you wade through this, show them the respect of communicating openly about the pros and cons; the questions you’re asking.

Demonstrate how you make godly decisions. Ask your child’s opinion, as long as they understand you’re the one with veto power. Hear their hearts. Shepherd them through their hearts’ most profound questions without resorting to spiritual platitudes.

Don’t let them feel written off. Help them feel like a valuable member of your team–and that if God’s calling you, he’s calling them, too.

Give them a head start on language.

They’ll have relationships to establish, too. Help eliminate some of the weirdness by getting them a tutor, an app, a class.

Let them know what will stay the same.

Kids, having no framework of life overseas, might envision leaving everything.

  • Start a running “wish list” of items they’d like to pack with them, helping them feel they have some sense of control (though you’ve got list veto power).
  • When you tell them they can’t, in fact, bring their bike or your minivan, let them know they’ll probably get to help you find a new one in your new country.
  • Don’t forget items that simply help your child feel at home: their special plate, a poster from their wall, etc.
  • And try to make establishing kids’ rooms a priority once you move, to help them feel like it’s home.kids moving

Help Kids develop a vision for life there.

Try to make it as long-term as possible. (“We’re going on a plane and watching movies!” isn’t much consolation when your child is missing his old home and tired of mosquito bites and power outages.)

  • Could they play soccer in your new country, too?
  • Will the weather be nice year-round?
  • Will there likely be a big yard, or a park nearby?
  • Is there a food they’ll get to try that you loved?
  • Will there be a beach nearby?
  • Are there cool animals in your host country?
  • Will your child probably get to go on safari?
  • Is there a great tree to climb at a new friend’s house?
  • As you get to know what other kids might live in your country-to-be, see if one might become a penpal. Tell your kids what those kids like (Legos! Books! Barbies! Sports!), and help them get a little excited. Maybe you could even pick out a small toy (Legos are light and often expensive overseas)  to send or bring with you as a gift.
  • Are you thinking you might be able to get a pet?

Grieve with Your Kids.

Don’t gloss over mourning by just propelling your kids forward. Sit with them and cry a little about leaving cousins, grandparents, and the friends they have here.

  • Make real plans about your first Skype appointment with a friend overseas.
  • Make a network of kids who will pray with your child.
  • Perhaps get some parents in cahoots with you to send a letter (or a series of penpal letters) or small care package to greet you upon arrival, or cards to stick in your child’s suitcase as a surprise.
  • Consider establishing an email account under your supervision for your kids, where they know they will get “for kids only” emails from back home.
  • When kids complete hard parts of the journey–like saying goodbye to a friend–create “white space” in your (no doubt packed) schedule for emotional needs, too. I admit to distracting my kids a bit during our massive garage sale by letting them have a lemonade stand.
  • Have reasonable expectations in your own mind. You might hear that six months after is often the low point when you move. Expect that your first year will be tough, and frought with a lot of highs and lows. (Duh, right?)
  • Don’t miss this post on The Art of Saying Goodbye.

Make a photo album. Get an app.

Ask friends to contribute photos; save Christmas photo cards. Download Marco Polo or another strategic way to connect with friends. (Just remember you will likely no longer live in the land of free wi-fi.)

Make the discussion ongoing.

As you progress through your journey, continue to ask questions about how kids are feeling, what questions they have, what they’re scared or excited about, etc.

Consider recruiting family friends to take your kids out individually and ask questions/listen to them talk, in order to give kids other arenas in which to discuss their feelings and thoughts.

Remember most kids are super-resilient.

With the exception of preteens and teenagers (at least one missions org has been rumored not let you move with kids around this age), my kids were bouncing around Uganda in about two minutes. (Their parents took considerably longer.)

In general, remember kids are taking their cues from you.

If it’s home to you and you’re there, kids will feel like home. If you’re willing to try new things (roasted grasshoppers. Boom), they might, too. (Don’t miss 8 Ways to Help your Family Flourish Overseas!)

That doesn’t mean you slap on a happy face. We can talk with kids age-appropriately about times we feel sad or afraid. But in general, where your family is together will eventually be home sweet home.

What would you suggest for preparing kids for the big move? comment below!

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 for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

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Packing: A Few Tips and Tricks

Reading Time: 6 minutes

packing luggage

We realize that with COVID-19, many of you may just be hoping you get to the packing phase–and actually get to leave for your host nation.

This week, we’re bringing out of the archives tips on luggage, what to put in it, and a few ideas about what works.

When my family went over, I confess my 2-year-old may have fallen over backwards after I crammed his carry-on backpack a bit full. It was amazing how many prayers of mine were offered on behalf of that poor British Airways attendant who would be checking in (and yes, offering a lot of grace toward) our family of six.

Meet an Agency: Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We heart this ongoing series–a virtual trip to the coffee shop with organizations to help you go there, serve Him, and love them even better.

(For more thoughts about why you might join an agency–and a handful of reasons you might not–make sure to check out He Said/She Said/You Say? “Should I go overseas with an organization?”, both the pros and the cons.)

Today, because they’re based in the Northwest U.S., we’re grabbing a berry smoothie with Christian Veterinary Mission.

Pull up a chair.

TELL US WHAT YOUR AGENCY SPECIALIZES IN. WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

CVM’s vision is to share Christ’s love through veterinary medicine.  We challenge, empower and facilitate veterinary professionals (vets, veterinary technicians, and veterinary students) to serve others by living out their Christian faith.

Through relationships built around the care of livestock and pets, the gospel can be shared in locations often closed to other missionaries.  We call this the “animal bridge”. 

Many of the unreached people groups are livestock-based societies that while not open to the gospel, would welcome someone who could help them with their animals.  From grassroots rural workers to university professors, what we have in common is our use of the “animal bridge” to reach people.

CVM

HOW LONG HAS CVM BEEN AROUND, AND HOW LARGE ARE YOU GUYS? IN WHAT COUNTRIES ARE YOUR GLOBAL WORKERS LOCATED?

CVM was founded in 1978 by Dr. Leroy Dorminy, who was inspired by a West African woman who said not to come to help, but “Come and teach us, that we can help ourselves.” 

We now have 38 long-term veterinarians and technicians placed in 16 countries and approximately 600 volunteers who serve short-term each year in about 50 countries.

TELL US ONE STORY THAT EXCITES YOU FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION IS DOING.

In Uganda, Dr. Daniel Graham is implementing a successful rabbit project among the Batwa people, who were looked upon formerly as slaves. 

Daniel teaches a course on caring for rabbits, and all about rabbit husbandry. Then those who complete the training course and demonstrate that they have built the housing necessary are given a pair of rabbits.

The first offspring come back to the project for the next round of training and recipients.  This gives him the opportunity with each lesson to share the Gospel and biblical principles and build relationships leading to spiritual conversations where it would be very difficult otherwise.

Daniel started a School of Ministry where pastors and church planters are trained by studying through the entire Bible in a year and then sent out.  From last year’s class, 3 students in a Muslim area have planted 5 churches, and asked Daniel to come to their area to give additional training.

Three other students have gone to the Batwa people and are planting churches there—locating several groups of Batwa in more remote areas where they were previously unknown.  They want Daniel to move there and help plant churches—an opportunity that opened because of the rabbit project.

When Turkeys Become Your Church Project

Last year, after Daniel trained on evangelism and disciple-making, he challenged each student to prayerfully choose someone in the surround community to evangelize and disciple, putting into practice what they had learned.

To kick it off, each student invited their new friend to the small neighborhood church which Daniel and a Ugandan doctor has worked together to get started.  When these new friends gathered, Daniel taught a course on animal husbandry for turkeys.

Thus it became a church project!  At the end of the course, each participant got a pair of turkeys to take home; as it was for the rabbits, two offspring would be returned to the project for the next opportunity.

This provided an opportunity for the students to continue their new friendships, visiting to ask how the turkeys were doing, and to evangelize and then disciple the ones they had felt the Lord led them to select from the community.

The turkeys were a great success themselves.  But better yet, many families started coming to church.

They explained that they had thought the church was just for the kids program, not for adults.  Now over 120 new people attend church, and a number have committed their lives to Christ and become baptized.

These are a direct result of using turkeys to show the love of Christ with human compassion and evangelism.  From humble turkeys to new life in Christ!

“Use the Tools that God has Given You”

Daniel wrote,

You never know what might happen when you use the tools that God has given you to reach out to those around you who are desperate for love and hope.

God uses veterinarians, especially to reach people who rely on their livestock for culture and survival.

In Tanzania, one church planter tells of going to a village and only getting to talk to about 6 people. But the next day, the veterinary team arrived.

As they treated animals, people would ask why they were helping them—an immediate opportunity to talk about the love of Jesus. 

Over the next couple days, they got to talk to more than 80 people and 60 made decisions to follow Christ—and a church was planted.  One of the village elders gave his own property as a place for the new church to meet.

In Central African Republic, a veteran missionary begs for veterinarians to come join their team.  “We have years of good relationships. We have spiritual materials translated.  But when I go out to the Fulani cattle camps, I can’t help with what they hold most dear.  A veterinarian would make all the difference.” 

He knows.  We previously had a vet there for a year, and it made the difference.

5 WORDS TO DESCRIBE the CULTURE of CVM. GO.

  • Christ-centered (multi-denominational)
  • Veterinary-focused
  • Relational
  • Supportive and Flexible
  • Collaborative partnerships

LET’S TALK BRASS TACKS. GIVE US THE 411 ON YOUR APPLICATION AND TRAINING PROCESS.

We encourage people to participate with CVM to get to know us as an agency first.  This might be going on a short term mission trip with us, or attending our long term missions orientation (generally a 2.5 day seminar offered once a year). It could be coming to a “Real Life, Real Impact” conference at a veterinary college (six times a year), or completing some of our free online modules.

Our first step is a simple Missions Interest Assessment form and a learning needs assessment that helps us recommend specific trainings based on an individual person’s experience.

Common recommendations for serious candidates would be

  • language learning and cross-cultural training
  • support raising (deputation)
  • Biblical foundations
  • Perspectives on World Christian Mission course
  • Training of Trainers in Participatory Methods (offered by CVM about once a year)

We ask for six references (two professional, two personal and two spiritual).

Once an applicant is approved by our personnel committee, they become an official candidate and we come alongside them and their church as they do further training and support raising.

CVM phase chart

WHAT KIND OF GLOBAL WORKERS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR AT CVM? PAINT US A WORD PICTURE.

We are looking for veterinary professionals with a commitment to Christ.

No two positions are alike. Some work in rural villages with subsistence farmers.  Others teach at universities. Some serve in modern animal clinics with pets in cities or large animals in the countryside, while others teach with what they carry in a backpack.

We work toward sustainability, participation, and transformational development. 

CVM

A CVM worker needs flexibility, resilience, creativity, and the humility to serve under national leadership.  All of our workers serve with an in-country partner.

Rarely do we have more than one CVM worker in a given location. Teams are inter-denominational and international in make-up.

Singles, married and families serve with CVM around the world. We have women and men, and both large animal and small animal veterinary professionals.

WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER “RED FLAGS” IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS?

Red flags would be those who are rigid in how they think things should be done and unable to partner with national believers.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING IN AN OVERSEAS DIRECTION?

Think about how you can use your profession where you are now to share the love of Christ with those you work with and those you serve. Start now to use that animal bridge to build relationships.

Pray that God will give you a vision for how these skills might serve overseas.

Contact CVM now!  Come to our conferences, check out our website, try out a short term trip, contact our US-based regional representative for your area and get to know us.

We would love to come alongside you as you explore the possibilities even if you don’t go overseas for another ten years.  We are a fellowship of Christian veterinary professionals serving together wherever God has placed us.

Some people come to us with a specific calling to a specific part of the world. Others have a vague sense that God might be calling them but no idea where, when or how. Let us be a part of your journey.

Contact CVM by clicking here,

or email International Programs Director

Dr. Brad Frye at bfrye@cvm.org

AND DON’T MISS…

Meet an Agency: Studio

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We heart this new, ongoing series–a virtual trip to the coffee shop with organizations to help you go there, serve Him, and love them even better.

(For more thoughts about why you might join an agency–and a handful of reasons you might not–make sure to check out He Said/She Said/You Say? “Should I go overseas with an organization?”, both the pros and the cons.)

Today, we’re grabbing a white mocha with Studio, a dynamic internship program designed to equip long-term workers for the Muslim world. 

Since we’re passionate about the unreached 4.13 billion, we can’t wait to tell you about this org.

Pull up a chair.

studio

TELL US WHAT YOUR AGENCY SPECIALIZES IN. WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

Our passion is equipping long-term workers for resiliency and fruitfulness among the unreached in the 10/40 window. 

Far too many cross-cultural ministers of the Gospel return to their home countries without seeing the fruit they wanted to see—unfortunately, often before their language ability is sufficient to lead a Bible Study in the host language. 

At Studio, we’re changing that with pre-field training that includes daily practical application, including real-life ministry among immigrants from unreached people groups.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AROUND, AND HOW LARGE ARE YOU GUYS? IN WHAT COUNTRIES ARE YOUR GLOBAL WORKERS LOCATED?

We started Studio in 2016, and are now in our seventh three-month session. We have 40 graduates in full-time service in 18 countries across the 10/40 window.

studio

TELL US ONE STORY THAT EXCITES YOU FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION IS DOING.

All of our training is practical and reproducible, and our goal is to see our graduates training others on the field for greater resiliency and fruitfulness.  In one country, Studio alumni are partnering with local churches in training believers to reach out to unengaged peoples in their own region in effective ways.  We love to see our training multiplying to equip those on the “front lines”!

5 WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOUR ORGANIZATION’S CULTURE. GO.

  • Fruitful
  • Resilient
  • Humble
  • Hungry
  • Transformed

WHAT’S DISTINCTIVE ABOUT YOU GUYS?

Studio is only for those called to long-term service among the unreached.  All our trainers have spent their careers in church-planting ministry in the 10/40 window, and teach from real-life experience.

studio

We combine adult-oriented classroom teaching with practical experience among refugees and immigrants in the context of community living and the stresses of team life, so our graduates go to the field with a complete toolbox they already know how to use.

LET’S TALK BRASS TACKS. GIVE US THE 411 ON YOUR APPLICATION AND TRAINING PROCESS.

Studio is a ‘first step’ to your long-term field ministry. After you’ve joined a team and raised your financial support, we invite you to come to Studio to gain and hone real-life field ministry skills.

WHAT KIND OF GLOBAL WORKERS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? PAINT US A WORD PICTURE.

We are looking for people committed to seeing movements of Jesus-followers raised up among every people group!  We are looking for people who are humble and hungry, eager to learn, and to practice what they are learning.  We are looking for those who want mentoring, growth, and ongoing transformation into the likeness of Jesus.

WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER “RED FLAGS” IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS?

A big red flag would be a belief that training isn’t necessary; that we already know everything we need to know and have nothing new to learn!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING IN AN OVERSEAS DIRECTION?

Get involved in ministry to refugees and immigrants here among us.  Serve them, pray for them, pray with them, learn from them.  See what God is doing and how He wants you to join Him!

Interested in Studio? Email info@studioteam.org to discover more and/or enroll!

AND DON’T MISS…

 

Wise Men & Your Path Abroad: “We Have Come to Worship Him”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

. wise men magi

Wise men.

There’s a lot of beautiful mystery in the story of the magi.

I picture camel hooves sponging a desert floor, heavy treasures banging in woven luggage, men wrapped from the sting of the sand.

We’re not told who these “wise men” are or the stories that compelled them to follow a celestial sign, an ancient prophecy.

But in their story, I see a bit of yours.

Crazy Talk

I wonder what their communities said. These men saddled up, following a star to a place unknown, or made costly (to the point of being weird) personal sacrifices for an unseen king.

Did one of them got sick? Did all of them get tired? Perhaps they wondered about their own sanity and dragging other people with them.

I wonder if there was loss along the way.

I speculate about whether they doubted their interpretation of what they’d read in Scripture, coupled with the alignment of other signs. Would they get there and wish they’d never come?

wise men magi

In hindsight, moments stood out where they were wrong; deceived (say, by an egomaniac king).

Maybe there were moments, when it was all said and done, when they heard of the devastation following their visit and wondered if they could have acted differently, more…wisely.

(Did word of the infanticide ever reach them? Did they realize the ways they’d done things without knowing, and wonder if they’d made the right choice to go?)

wise men magi

Though I’m certainly not justifying infanticide or any other outcomes: We see in the story of the wise men a courageous faith, a persevering journey, so Christ would be worshipped as much as they were able.

So they could bring the finest gifts they could, for honor he deserved.

 

“We Have Come to Worship Him”

Packing up to head home, none of them was asking, “Was that really worth it?”

Here’s what we do know. They represented the first worship of the Gentiles, with great sacrifice and adoration.

Their obedience and perseverance in a curious journey meant Christ was worshiped as he should be. (Remember John Piper? “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”)

That baby had a way of leaving an impression on people. I think of the shepherds, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

Because the path to worship this baby changed people. They came away feeling like the lucky dogs.

As you perhaps say some goodbyes this Christmas and wonder about a path and even a possible desert before you, may you take heart. Your act of worship is sacred, beautiful, and endlessly worth what it asks of you. 

May Christ be lifted up in a distant land.

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Meet an Agency: Worldwide Evangelization for Christ (WEC)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

We heart this new, ongoing series–a virtual trip to the coffee shop with organizations to help you go there, serve Him, and love them even better.

(For more thoughts about why you might join an agency–and a handful of reasons you might not–make sure to check out He Said/She Said/You Say? “Should I go overseas with an organization?”, both the pros and the cons.)

Today, we’re grabbing a peppermint mocha with Worldwide Evangelization for Christ (WEC International). They long to see Jesus known, loved and worshiped by the unreached peoples of the world. And they’ve got some interesting distinctives.

Pull up a chair.

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TELL US WHAT YOUR AGENCY SPECIALIZES IN. WHAT is WEC PASSIONATE ABOUT?

WEC’s passion is to see Christ known, loved and worshiped by the unreached peoples of the world, and to see churches planted and growing among them.

Because of this, we’re also passionate about mobilizing people for missions from all over the world.

We are committed to finding new, creative and culturally-relevant ways of doing missions and of sharing with the unreached both in their home countries and wherever they have been displaced by political and social unrest.

Sometimes this means traveling across the globe; sometimes it means going across the street.

HOW LONG HAs WEC BEEN AROUND, AND HOW LARGE ARE YOU GUYS? IN WHAT COUNTRIES ARE YOUR GLOBAL WORKERS LOCATED?

WEC was founded by C. T. Studd in 1913.

We are a multi-cultural, interdenominational mission of over 1,890 workers from 58 countries serving in approximately 90 countries (on six continents), training and sending out long-term, mid-term and short-term workers from 20 centers around the world. We also serve displaced people from additional countries.

So it follows that many areas of ministry have grown out of WEC and are a vital part of our church-planting work:

  • Operation World, whose passion is to speed the work of world evangelization through prayer, and who published what is widely regarded as the definitive volume of prayer information about the world;
  • Rainbows of Hope, whose passion is to transform “children in crisis to children in Christ,” ministering to vulnerable children in more than 90 countries;
  • Betel, whose mission is to bring long-term freedom and restoration to lives broken by drug and alcohol abuse, ministering in over 100 urban areas in 24 nations;
  • Neighbors Worldwide, who are reaching “the world on our doorstep,” the unreached people who are displaced and now living in Western countries;
  • Arts Release, a collective of creative arts specialists who enjoy expressing God’s love through various art forms which help local believers around the world (especially the least reached) to better understand, worship and share God;
  • Mobile Advance, whose mission and vision is connecting the unreached with the good news and church of Jesus Christ through the device that connects them with the world – the mobile phone;
  • International Mission Mobilization, whose passion is to share the gospel “From Everywhere to Everywhere,” mobilizing missionaries within the majority world to fulfill the Great Commandment of worldwide evangelization;
  • Missionary Training Colleges (MTCs), cross-cultural schools that are dedicated to training and equipping students both theologically and practically to serve God in cross-cultural situations. Our MTCs are: Cornerstone (Netherlands) Eastwest (New Zealand) Latino Americano (Brazil), and Worldview (Australia).     

WEC

 

TELL US ONE STORY THAT EXCITES YOU FROM WHAT WEC IS DOING.

WEC founder C. T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

The continuing story of WECers sacrificing deeply to reach the lost and of God using those sacrifices for good is really inspiring!

THE DAVIS FAMILY’S STORY

The Davis* family suffered the tragic loss of their toddler in an accident while serving overseas. After coming home to bury their child, they decided they must return to the people their hearts longed to reach.

There they held a Christian memorial service for their child, which their neighbors from another religion attended. Witnessing this family’s suffering, the people were more open to the gospel. And some have now become followers of Jesus!

While still grieving their deep loss, the family rejoices that God is using their sacrifice to bring freedom to others.

EVAN’S STORY

Evan* is a young man who works among one of the least reached people groups in the world, one well-known for violence.

When warned that his life would be at risk, he said, “It doesn’t matter if I die. I already know Jesus. But I have to go, because they don’t know Him!”

God is blessing Evan’s work, and he rejoices that many in this people group are now followers of Jesus. Some are even going out as missionaries to their neighbors!

KAITLYN’S STORY

Kaitlyn* took a short-term trip to work among Syrian refugee women and children. One of the women Kaitlyn served told her she must be crazy to leave her comfortable home and come to such a harsh place.

The woman implored, “Please send more crazy people!”

We pray for more people who are crazy about Jesus and about the lost to join us soon, so we can continue to be His hands and heart to the world!

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WEC’s Organizational culture in five words. Go.

  • Christ-centered.
  • Prayerful.
  • Diverse.
  • Sacrificial.
  • Innovative.

What’s distinctive about WEC?

Multicultural Teams

Our missionaries come from five continents and 58 countries. For nearly half of us, English is not our first language. Diversity enlarges our teams’ worldviews and reduces the danger of imposing our home cultures on the churches we plant.

Living Simply

WECers accept that obeying Jesus’ call to missions means following Him on a journey that includes sacrificing earthly treasures that don’t last to pursue heavenly ones that do.

No Financial Appeals

God has led us to adopt a financial policy that gives visible evidence to His worthiness of our trust. We seek His kingdom first, communicate with others about what God is doing in our lives and ministry, and trust Him to provide what He already knows we need, without us making appeals for funds.

Member Care

We are intentional about helping our workers to stay healthy, resilient and effective in the demanding situations of life and ministry.

You can learn more about these and other distinctives of WEC here.

Let’s talk brass tacks. Tell us about WEC’s application and training process.

WEC is an international organization, and each branch varies somewhat in the application and training process.

  1. The process for long-term missions through WEC USA begins with filling out this contact form on-line or emailing our First Response Team at contact.us@wec-usa.org
  2. A member of our mobilization team contacts the inquirer.
  3. If we determine individuals are ready to begin the two-part application process, we’ll walk through it with them.
  4. Once this process is completed and WEC and the individuals agree that we are a good ministry fit, they will enter a 13-week candidate orientation, which includes
    • taking classes on many topics related to WEC, missions, cross-cultural preparation, etc.
    • working alongside of WEC staff in various roles
    • completing one week of ministry
    • participating in prayer meetings and events on campus, etc.
  5. At the end of the orientation, candidates will receive a formal invitation to join WEC, followed by a graduation ceremony we call The Right Hand of Fellowship (Galatians 2:9 NIV).

Short-term workers (those going out anywhere from one week on teams to up to two years as individuals) complete a similar application process and attend a five-day, eight-day, or one-month orientation, depending on the length of their trip.

What kind of global workers is WEC looking for? Feel free to paint us a word picture. 

We are looking for people from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets whose core passion is loving Christ, who are passionate about sharing Christ, who make prayer integral to everything they do, and who are willing to live out the Four Pillars of WEC:

  • Faith
  • Holiness
  • Sacrifice
  • Fellowship

WECers should also be able to remain flexible in our changing world, while not compromising the truth. As we are called to be “all things to all people so that by all possible means [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b NIV), we seek to invest time in understanding people’s lives, cultures and needs and how best to reach them, instead of stubbornly sticking to “how things have always been done.”

What characteristics cause you concern in an applicant?

Serving cross-culturally and in multicultural teams can be very stressful.

So we tell candidates, “If you don’t deal with your stuff while you are here, you will have to deal with it on the field.”

We would be concerned about applicants who:

  • are not able to identify areas of weakness they struggle with, or who had recent moral issues they have not dealt with
  • are “Lone Rangers”, those who don’t have a sending church or prayer partners.
  • have no overseas experience, or who have never lived away from home or held a steady job. We would suggest such applicants take a short-term trip before considering long-term service.

We recommend couples be married for at least one year before applying to serve long-term.

Tell us anything we missed that you’d like to mention about WEC.

Our WEC USA branch located in Philadelphia needs you! We are seeking behind-the-scenes workers to help equip and support our workers around the world.

There are both long-term positions and short-term volunteer positions available. Each position involves trusting God for financial support, just as our overseas/international missionaries do. We are specifically looking for people to serve in the following positions:

  • Mobilizers/Recruiters; Short-Term Department Workers
  • Member Care Counselors
  • Digital Media Creators and Designers
  • Kitchen Assistants; Childcare Workers
  • Missionary Kid Department Workers
  • Accommodations Assistants
  • Maintenance Workers
  • Accountants
  • Finance Office Workers
  • IT Specialists
  • Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

Interested? Fill out this contact form online or email our First Response Team at contact.us@wec-usa.org.

What advice would you give to someone considering going overseas?

  • Make prayer your first priority, seeking God’s will and empowering for your life and ministry.
  • Have a core team of prayer partners committed to praying for you and your ministry.
  • Take Bible classes, and dig deep into His Word.
  • Have an experienced missionary mentor you.
  • Faithfully serve in your home church and local community.
  • Take a short-term trip. (These trips are available through WEC.)
  • Gather as much information as possible about missions and the people/country you hope to reach.
  • Get training in whatever area you would like to serve in.
  • Have a skill that can lead to a job in the country where you will serve.

*not their real names

AND DON’T MISS…

10 Realities a Missionary Probably Won’t Tell You

Reading Time: 11 minutes

missionary realities overseas global work hard truth

Go. Serve. Love is psyched about featuring this post from missionary Joe Holman; it originally posted on his blog and is gratefully used with permission.

Fun fact about Joe: He and his wife totally pull off the missionary thing amidst a family of 13. They’ve served in Bolivia since 2007. 

First, the Disclaimers.

I’m going out on a limb here, so I’ll put some disclaimers up in advance.

1. I love being a missionary.

This post points out bad aspects you’ll not hear us normally say.  It doesn’t mean I’m unhappy or unfulfilled.

2. I’m speaking of feelings and perceptions.

I know what the Bible says and can give a counterpoint to each of these.  For example, when I share how we feel about shortchanging my children, I know that there are 100 positive things that people can point out to me.

I’m sharing my heart, how I feel.  I don’t need anyone to send me a Bible lesson, in case you’re feeling the itch!
I’m going for what a missionary won’t tell you in their newsletter or at church missions conference.  Here’s a little of the dark side of missions.
 

What A Missionary Won’t Tell You

 

1. You’re never one of them.  

A missionary will talk about the joy of cross cultural missions and going into all the world.
What they won’t tell you: It isn’t fun most of the time.
 
I was first exposed to this while on a short term trip to Ghana.  I was invited to a missionary going-away party.  A nurse from Canada was returning to her home country after serving on the mission field for (get this) 40 years.  She had come to Ghana as a 20 year old and was now going ‘home’.
 
During the conversation I asked her why she was saying she was going home. If you have lived for all of your adult life, slightly over 40 years, in Ghana and only visited Canada every four years…then isn’t Ghana your home?
 
She told me no matter how incorporated you are into the culture, no matter how good your ministry, no matter how accepted that you are by the people…you’re not one of ‘them’.

Close, but no cigar

At the time this post was first published, I’d been in Bolivia for 8 years.  I am fluent in Spanish and have a great ministry here.  I love what I do.
 
But I am not at home.  I am not a Bolivian.
 
I do not share their cultural history or family ties.  When I go to someone’s home to celebrate a birthday or wedding, I am the white guy.  I am the stranger.  I am the foreigner.
 
When they begin to laugh about family memories or tell stories about relatives, I just smile at the right time.  I do not belong.  When I go to ‘La Cancha’ our market place, children stare at me.   I had a man visiting us from the States tell me when we were there, “This is weird, we are the only white people in sight.’
 
It gets old being a stranger, never being in the group.  It isn’t fun to always be noticed.
 

2.  It’s lonely.  your friends and family from the States have in many ways forgotten you.  

You won’t ever see this in a mission letter.  We will tell stories of fun things and great times.  We will be upbeat and happy and post photos of our family Christmas party.
 
You won’t have us posting videos of us crying or hear us complain about missing friends, but we do. And the harsh thing? They don’t actually miss us.
 
When we were planning on going to the mission field, we interviewed 10 different missionary families.  We talked to people who were single, married, married with kids, and older missionaries.  I asked them a question: “What is the hardest part of being a missionary?”
 
Their answers, all 10 at separately, replied, “Loneliness.
 
“After the first year people totally forget about you.  Even your best friend now won’t continue communicating with you.”
 
missionary realities overseas global work hard truth

Harder than we thought

We decided to fight against this.
 
Using Facebook and social media, along with monthly communications and blogs, we knew we would stay in touch with our friends.
 
What surprised us: How quickly they didn’t want to stay in touch with us.
 
Oh, we understand that their lives are busy and we’ve moved!  But understanding why doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
 
This rides shotgun with point #1–not being part of the culture.  We don’t feel like we have a home. But we do feel like those from our previous home have forgotten us.
 

3.  We are normal Christians.  

People think missionaries are super-Christians.  We’re one step up from being a pastor.
 
And if you’re a missionary pastor?!  Even the Apostle Paul envies your uber-spirituality.
 
You won’t be reading in a missionary letter, “This week I did not spend hardly any time in the Word, got mad at my wife, yelled at my kids, and got insanely jealous after seeing photos on Facebook.”
 
But it is the truth.  We are normal people seeking to honor Christ even though we are weak and fragile vessels.
 
We sin, repent, repeat.
 

4.  We never have enough money, but feel guilty asking for it.

 
Missionaries ask for money.  We have to.  We put it in terms like, “opportunity to support’, or ‘be part of the blessing’, or ‘looking for monthly partners’.
 
What we want to say is, “We are dying here!  Please help us!  We need money!!”
 
That’s a no-no.  We have to appear above money.  Money should seem like something we could probably use, but no big deal.  We’re walking by faith and trusting God to provide… That’s what we’re expected to display.
 
You see, we don’t want it to seem like all we want from our supporters is money.  It isn’t.
 
But in all honesty, we do need money.  We need it for our family and for our ministry.
 
We just hate asking for it, and you hate hearing it.  So, we keep quiet or couch our needs in spiritual terms (while meanwhile, we really struggle with being judgmental over money).

 

5.  We feel like our children are getting shortchanged by our choiceS. 

You will see cool pictures in my newsletters of my children helping do outreach, being in the jungle, washing orphans, or having a monkey on their shoulder.  It all looks so cool.
 
But the truth is, we feel like our kids are suffering because of us.
 
This is compounded by Facebook.  Just this week I have seen photos of kids playing football, music lessons, dance, debate, camps, concerts, movies, lock-ins, and taking classes at the community college while in high school.
 
My kids do nothing like that.  I know I can post all the cool things that my kids do, but I simply cannot compete with the options that you have.  I find myself fighting jealousy, envy, and covetousness.
 

6.  I took a great vacation but I cannot tell anyone. 

 
One of the neat things about social media is how we can share our lives with others.  Pastors can go on cruises.  Friends can go to some wonderful island.  Family can travel Europe.
 
They can all brag about their time and post photos on Facebook and social media sharing their joy.
 
We can save up money.  Live on a budget.  Spend less than we make.  The, after five years of frugality take a much needed vacation.
 
What do we hear?  “I should be a missionary, then I could take cool vacations.”  Or, “Is that where my donations go?”
 

7.  We hate being judged by a standard our judges do not follow.

When we meet with mission committees, churches, sending groups and donors they always ask us very specific questions.  I have no problem with that.
 
What drives me bonkers? When someone not doing what I am very much doing judges me because they don’t think that I am doing enough of what they are not doing.

Advice for the Big Game

It is honestly difficult to listen to armchair quarterbacks who have never suited up critique the game I’m participating in.

 
missionary realities overseas global work hard truth

Sometimes, for example, people who are doing nothing to help the poor criticize us for how we help the poor.  They tell us what we should do, what we should not do, how and when and to whom we should do it.  Supporters tell us of the latest book that they have read and/or the latest sermon that they heard.
 
They do nothing themselves, but they know exactly what we should do and if we don’t do it their way, then the threat of cutting support is dangling over our head.
 
If someone who is actually doing the ministry has advice, input or corrections then it is infinitely easier to accept.
 
It’s when we are told what to do by someone not doing anything that we have to constantly check our hearts and put a guard on our lips.
 

8.  Saying good-bye stinks…and it is not the same in the States.

Our lives become one of a constant good-bye.  We are saying good-bye to fellow missionaries leaving for the States. We have to say good-bye to our children.
 
Denise and I have four kids living in the USA while we remain in Bolivia.  When we visit for furlough and see grandpa and grandma, we have to say good-bye again to go back to the field.
 
It stinks.
 
I was invited to speak at a mission conference in the States.  The church was a little over an hour from where my 24-year-old son lives, so he drove down to see me.
 
After I preached, I went to my mission table in the hall and was chatting with people, passing out prayer cards, shaking hands, etc.  My son and his girlfriend came to say hi, and after a few minutes my son hugged me. “Love you, Dad. See you in….what…two years or three?”
 
I started crying and people graciously walked away from my table.  We both knew I was not going to see him again for at least two years.

“I hate this!”

My wife recently took my 19-year-old to start college in the States.  She called me from her hotel room weeping and said, “It doesn’t get easier.  I hate this! I hate this!”
Friends will say with totally good intentions, “I understand. My son left for college this week, too!”

Their son or daughter may be able to snag a $100 ticket and bop in for a three day weekend, break, or holiday.  At the most, they’re a quick flight or short drive away.

We live on another continent.  When we say goodbye, it isn’t “See you on break”.  It is “See you for a few days in three years.”

My son Jacob called after moving to the States. After talking I let him know that he needed to go to the hospital because I thought that he had appendicitis.  It was, and he called to let us know they would perform emergency surgery.

It took my wife three days to get there.

She could not hop on a plane and be there any more than when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I knew that when the phone call came telling his children to come say their good-byes, I wouldn’t be able to be there.  I knew I would miss his last words, not be able to minister to my family, and probably not be able to attend the funeral.

It isn’t the same thing as living in the States.  It isn’t.

 
I would say that out of all the negatives to living on the mission field, this is the worst:  Saying good-bye.
 

9.  Going to the States is hard.

 
You would think that returning home on furlough is wonderful.  Every missionary looks forward to it.  It’s the focus of the year.
 
That is partly true.  However, there are two things a missionary will not tell you.
 
Logistically it is difficult.  Most missionaries don’t have a place to live, a car to drive or a plate to eat off of.  All those things we need in everyday life, from pillow cases to car seats, we do not have.  We have to find short term solutions and we hate borrowing stuff.
 
We also don’t really want to live in a basement.  My family enjoys our own privacy and family time.
missionary realities overseas global work hard truth

And…the money thing

We also want to visit and spend time with our donors and churches, but making that happen is so hard when we have donors in 12 different states.
 
It isn’t feasible to spend $1,200 to visit a church that gives you $25/month. But you want to and think that you should.

 

The second thing that you probably don’t know? It’s hard emotionally.
 
Why? Because we discover that we’ve changed.

The Land of Blue

I tell the story like this: A man from the land of Blue became a missionary to the people of Yellow.  He struggled because he was a Blue man among Yellow people.  However, after a while he began to truly understand their culture and become partly assimilated. 

One day he looked in the mirror and saw that he was no longer Blue, he was now Green.  It made being in the land of Yellow easier.  Then, after many years, he returns to the land of Blue. To his dismay, no one there in his homeland of Blue wants to be with him. He was a Green person in the land of Blue.

After being on the mission field you are a different person.  People perceive you differently.
 
Even people who were friends are no longer friends.  They have grown without you.  They have had different experiences without you.  You are no longer ‘one of them’.
 
When you return, people want to shake your hand and say that they missed you, but they don’t want to be with you.  They are also worried that you are going to ask them for money.
 
We actually asked a person out for dinner, a person who had been a friend before going to the mission field.  Their response was, ‘We don’t have any money to give you.”  (Yes. They really said that.)
 

10.  I constantly feel like I have to prove myself to supporters.

 
Like it or not, I now feel like I have to justify that giving us money is good.  I have to prove myself and my ministry over and over again.
 
My newsletters are not to let people know what we are doing; they are far more.  They are items that I am entering into evidence as proof they’re are making a good investment.
 
And if a period of time goes by where we don’t really have anything big to report? We feel like a failure and live in the fear of supporters giving money to someone who deserves it.
 
Often we don’t feel like we are on the same team as our supporters.  We feel like they’re our boss and it is time for the annual performance evaluation.
 
And this year someone has to be let go.

Newsletter Translation

We are tempted to pad our resume and make it look better than it is. Instead of saying that we go to church, we say, “We are actively engaged in a local congregation”.

We don’t say that we buy our fruit from the same seller every week. Instead, “We are building intentional relationships with those in the marketplace.”
 
We may lead a Bible study but call it “engaging in a mentoring relationship with young married couples.”
 
So we say things that make us sound better, holier, busier than we are.  We can’t say that we are living in the culture and doing what we can to promote Christ but it is difficult and we really don’t have much fruit to show this year.
 

 

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