In part 1 of this blog series, I shared that we as Christians living in America need to see ourselves as missionaries, and our communities as our mission fields. To help us with that, I created a 5 question survey that I sent off to several full-time missionaries I know, to find out how they go about being full-time missionaries. I believe we can learn from what they do as full-time missionaries and apply it to our lives as we seek to be missionaries in our everyday lives.
Here are the answers from the missionaries. After I share their answers, I share a few questions for us to consider…
1) Before you began, what did you do to help understand the culture to which you were called to minister in?
3 of the 5 missionaries I sent this survey to are missionaries to a foreign country. Their answers were very practical…they visited the area they were going to ahead of time, they did cultural training and research to help them get to know and begin to understand the people they’d be working with, and they learned the language of the area they would be living in so they would be able to communicate.
The other 2 missionaries I sent this survey to are missionaries in their own country. Obviously, neither of them had to learn the language and culture of their country as they already knew it. However, there was still work they had to do. One of the missionaries does street evangelism in a major city, where he comes into contact with quite a few different cultures. He said he has learned certain phrases in different languages, which helps him begin conversations with those he comes in contact with who speak that language. The other missionary organizes and coordinates short-term mission teams from other countries, so he had to do research to understand the culture and language of the people who would be coming in on those teams. He has to be able to work well with the teams as well as be an effective connection between the teams and the people they serve.
Questions to consider: What do we do in order to better learn the culture and people where we live? Consider your community and how it functions and is organized. What are the cultural dynamics at play in your community? What are the needs in your area that need to be addressed and dealt with? What can you do to best communicate and get to know those in your community?
2) How much time in an average week do you spend in prayer specifically for opportunities to share your faith with others and/or seeking out those opportunities?
This question received a wide variety of responses, yet they also all essentially had the same answer. Let me explain…
The variety of the responses was seen in the specific amount of time they spend in prayer specifically for opportunities to share their faith. One missionary said 5 to 10 hours a week, another said 3 hours a week, and the other three didn’t mention a specific amount of time, but rather they said that they continually pray for opportunities throughout their day/week as they are able to connect with people.
The similarity of the responses was seen in the fact that they all talked about specifically praying for opportunities to get to know people, interact with people, and to be ready to share their faith with people when the opportunities presented themselves. They all are intentional in praying for and seeking opportunities to share their faith.
Questions to consider: How much time do we spend specifically praying for opportunities to share our faith? How aware of our surroundings are we, so that when an opportunity comes our way, we are ready and don’t miss it? Do we actually look for opportunities to connect with people and share our faith with others?
3) What ways did you go about becoming a part of the culture and getting to know the people around you?
Their answers to this question were all fairly simple, yet at the same time somewhat profound.
They all talked about getting involved in the local activities; one played and coached basketball in the community, another mentioned attending different public events and getting involved with the local schools. The missionaries talked about living and eating in the local town where they ministered, talking to the people and listening to their stories, and even living a simple life so they had time to focus on others.
Two quotes from 2 different missionaries in response to this question that sums up everyone’s responses really well are…”Being friendly and saying hello” and “Getting out of our house and going to where the people are”.
Questions to consider: Do you know your neighbors? Have you met and talked with the people who live in the houses around your house? What about the people you work with, go to school with, and cross paths with on a regular basis? The fact that these answers were so simple is what made them so profound…any one of us can do everything the missionaries shared. Question is, are we getting out of our house and going to where people are?
4) What has been the biggest difficulty in you/your family’s life as a missionary?
This question received a wide range of responses, which honestly I was hoping for…which I’ll explain why in a minute. But first let me share the different responses from the missionaries.
They shared many different difficulties they experience in their life as missionaries. A couple talked about the difficulty of being away from family, especially during times like family gatherings (over the Holidays) or if there is a family crisis happening. A couple missionaries mentioned the difficulty of working with other missionaries in the area. Other difficulties mentioned were financial difficulties, dealing with Spiritual Warfare, not having a lot of time at home to be with their spouse and children, and one of the missionaries who serves in their own country said that they are sometimes told they aren’t real missionaries “because you aren’t overseas”.
Questions to consider: Ever have a time making ends meet financially? Do you know what it’s like to not be near loved ones when you want to be? Ever had to deal with a family crisis and felt helpless because you couldn’t do much to help? Have a hard time working with other people at your job? Are you busy and don’t get to be home as much as you’d like?
The reason I wanted to get a wide range of responses for this question is because I didn’t want to have them all say the same two or three struggles, but instead I wanted to hear that they are just like the rest of us who aren’t full-time paid missionaries…they struggle with a wide range of issues that are difficult to deal with. I think sometimes we have this mindset that they are “super Christians” (a missionary mentioned this idea, which I will share in part 3) so they don’t struggle like we do. But they do. Same as we do. They are humans same as us, deal with difficult situations same as us, and have to rely on God for strength to get through those things same as we should.
5) Any other thoughts concerning living a life of missions that you want to share?
I am actually going to share the answers to this question in part 3 of this blog, where I will talk about what we can learn from the missionaries answers, and how we can begin to live as missionaries in our own communities and culture.