By Eric Oldenburg, missionary to Ukraine — It took me about a decade to go from “I want to be a missionary” to actually BEING a missionary. Those years weren’t wasted; I went to university, I served on my church’s missions committee, I chose a mission, I met my wife, and I went on quite a few short-term trips to help me determine where to serve.
But I admit, once I knew where I wanted to minister (about seven years into the process), I became pretty eager to just GET THERE ALREADY. If you’re in the same boat, there’s no need to wait to start engaging the culture you’ll eventually live in. To stay motivated as you wait to move to the field, get to know the place you want to serve, even from afar.
1. Google it
Read world news sites to stay up to date on what’s going on in your future destination. Set up a Google alert to make this type of research practically effortless. Christian missiology sites, like the Joshua Project, offer insight into the people group that you will be serving. A number of missions organization web sites have country profiles and short videos about their ministries and missionaries. The World Factbook offers all manner of interesting maps and facts about a country (everything from birth and death rates to number of telephones). All of these options mean you can stay more current than back in the day when folks had to rely on a missionary newsletter once every three months to stay informed.
2. Have a conversation
Missions coaches love to talk to people about the countries where their organization is working and about the specific Kingdom impact they are having. These mission representatives are easy to find on college campuses during missions conferences. Even if you don’t have a missions conference near you, mobilizers are glad to set up a chat. I was going through a pretty rough time when I spoke to a missions coach about Ukraine. He was caring and encouraging and prayed for me in my difficulties. Click here to contact one of SEND’s missions coaches.
3. Take a trip
No research can expose you to the sights, smells, and sounds of a place like taking a vision trip can. And, even more importantly, visiting a prospective field will give you the opportunity to meet people from the people group to which you are being called. Remembering an actual person’s face and recalling a conversation will keep your passion alive in ways that no book, web site or even missionary report can replicate. Chatting with the president of Kyiv Theological Seminary and hearing him invite me to come and teach inspired me to press on through the next three years.
This post originally was published in On Mission, our monthly “travel companion” newsletter for people journeying the path to missions. Each month, you’ll find ideas for finding a quicker route, advice for getting past the rough spots, or encouraging stories that prove that others have successfully traveled this road — and that you can, too. The next On Mission comes out later this week. Don’t miss an issue — sign up here!
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Banner photo by Andrew Neel