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5 things you Need to Know before Heading to the Mission Field

March 20, 2017

I remember being 25 years old and landing in Khartoum, Sudan. As I stepped off the plane, baby in tow, I thought I might pass out from the heat. In case you’re wondering, the stories you’ve heard about Sudan being hot enough to fry eggs on the runway are true. The heat, however, was not my biggest adjustment.

Within a day of arriving I knew I was not prepared for the challenges we would be facing. Nothing happened according to plan in Sudan. The heat and dirt felt oppressive. Shopping in the market was way out of my comfort zone, and then there were my missionary teammates.

 Steve and I were sent to pastor the International Chapel which included the local missionaries. Most of them had been walking with the Lord longer than we had been alive. Strong and independent by nature, the very personalities that allowed them to survive on the field made them difficult to deal with. The country was in a civil war, but we discovered quickly that the missionaries were also in a bit of a civil war. In almost every staff meeting conflict was the norm.

 Looking back, here are five principles I wish I had known before we headed to the mission field. As you think about heading overseas, consider these five principles:

 1.  Honor is important. There are strong personalities on the field. The very independence that allows missionaries to succeed in a difficult environment is often the same personality trait that can be abrasive. As a young missionary trying to survive in Sudan, I felt shocked by the intensity of disagreements I saw on the field. I wish the principle of “honoring others” had been part of the training.

 Disagreements are not bad. In fact, they’re healthy. Passion behind your opinion is fine, but at the end of the day the ability to honor your fellow workers is important (Romans 12:10). Understand that God has positioned people together in teams to help accomplish their transformation towards holiness. You won’t always be with a team that makes you happy. You’ll be with a team that moves you toward being holy. Here’s a good question to ask yourself when serving with a team: “Is my communication style honoring of others?” And here’s a good question to ask the Lord: “How do you want me to change to become more like you as I serve with this team?”

 2. Flexibility is key. As a young missionary I learned quickly that very little happened according to plan. The ability to be flexible and change plans quickly with a good attitude was essential. Creativity goes a long way, and learning new methods of everything from cooking to evangelism brings growth to our lives. A good question to ask yourself if you’re struggling with flexibility is, “Why is it so important to me to feel in control?”

 3.  Facetime with God needs to be a priority. It’s important to set aside one-on-one time with God, especially since everyday life takes twice as long as in your home country. Here’s the thing. Pushing to minister when you haven’t spent time with God is of little value and unsustainable for the long haul. Moses met with God face to face, and as a result he was able to deliver God’s message with a radiant attitude (Exodus 33:11).

Spending time every day in worship, prayer and reading your Bible is crucial. Only then can you minister out of the overflow of a Spirit-filled life. A good question to ask yourself in ministry is, “How do I prioritize time with God each day?”

 4.  Listening is a spiritual discipline. Looking back at our time in Sudan, I wish I had listened more. It’s easy to draw conclusions and withdraw when you don’t agree with decisions being made. How much wiser is it to listen and seek to understand (Proverbs 1:5). A good question to ask others with whom you serve is, “How would you rate me as a listener? Do you feel heard?”

 5.  Knowing your “why” is crucial. When Steve and I served in Sudan, many days the temperature reached 120 degrees F. The electricity would fail often which meant the water pump wouldn’t work. I had a baby in diapers, and by the middle of our term I was pregnant with No. 2. Early in the morning, I remember getting on my knees and asking God to show me once again why we were in Sudan! It didn’t feel like we were succeeding. Life felt hard and frankly, I felt ready to quit. Many mornings my prayer went something like this, “Lord Jesus, remind me why we’re here. I don’t like dirt, and there’s lots of it. I don’t like not having a fan when it’s so hot. Honestly, Lord, today I’m not sure I like the people we’re serving. Help me to remember why I’m here Lord.” In those early-morning hours on my knees the Holy Spirit would remind me that we were there because the love of Christ had compelled us. Jesus was worth sharing with all people. He had called. We had obeyed. He never promised it was going to go well. He never promised we would succeed or that we would feel happy. He simply asked us to go and share His love. Jesus was my “why.”

A good question to ask yourself is, “What’s my why for serving on the mission field?” If it’s just longing for adventure or boosting your ego, pack your bags and head home. It has to be about something bigger or it will be challenging to survive.

 As I look back, I thank God for our time in Sudan. I praise Him for how He molded and shaped us. I thank Him for how He used our teammates to humble us. Our years in Sudan grew us up and prepared us for future ministry. Before you head to the mission field, ask God to prepare your heart for how He’ll change you. You might change the world but you’ll absolutely be changed in the process.



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