|On top of Mt. Fuji|
Normally my husband is the writer of this blog, however he asked me if I would do a special post to commemorate my 10 year anniversary as a missionary in Japan. Much thanks to all those who have helped me make it! When I first came over as a single lady I went to language school while assisting churches for the first 5 years. This post is about some of the things I learned, but mainly I wish to write this to benefit people who are considering service as a missionary or in some other ministry capacity. Amazingly the points I wanted to write about came to me in alliterated form so...
DEAR FUTURE MISSIONARY, This is for you...
• Confirmation: I always advise new missionaries not only to ask God for a clear calling and confirmation for going into ministry, but also for choosing a certain field. Because tough times on the field are inevitable, knowing that you are called from God will help give real determination for your mission. I also strongly advise asking God to give a special confirmation verse that confirms His leading in your life.
• Christ: Make sure your calling is from Christ and not just your own sense of adventure,
obligation, pride, emotion, or some other thing that you think is calling you to the field. Only Christ provides the power and long term incentive for keeping to your calling!
• Count the Cost: Just as the passage in Luke 14 speaks of counting the cost before you begin
something, you must also do this with your life on the mission field before you go. Be aware that you are going to miss out on special family gatherings, weddings, funerals, friendships, and seeing family growing up. Sure, there will be short furloughs, but you can't go back home for everything. You have to be okay with this.
While walking by faith is essential for any successful Christian life, there are 10 areas of faith that I believe are particularly important to have as you start your ministry journey and to develop as you serve.
• Field: This goes back to the confirmation point as mentioned before. Having faith that the field you are going to or working on is correct is important. Can your field change? Sure it can. But make sure it is a step of faith and not based on feelings that you are in the right place.
• Finances: If you can learn to trust God early with your finances the better off you will be for the
field. My best advice is DO NOT take out loans or go into debt for anything. Trust God to provide
for your needs and be patient for Him to do so. This may sound crazy by today's thinking, but that's
exactly what I did for all 4 years of college when neither I nor my parents could afford it. I was on
my knees every weekend begging God to provide for my next bill and He used it to teach me to trust
Him. Miraculously, He provided everything with no debt involved! That was just the preparation I needed for the field.
• Family: You must trust God to take care of the family you are leaving, and the one you are taking
with you. Pray for their protection , needs, etc. I was single when I first came to Japan, so I
had to have faith God would send me a man also called to serve God in Japan, and He did!
• Future: We have no idea what our future on the field will look like, or how long He will allow us
to be here. Many times missionaries can get discouraged because when their "future" arrives it
looks much different than they had envisioned it. But we shouldn't be discouraged—only trust God
and keep serving Him!
• Friendships: Faith in friendships can be applied here in a couple of different ways. First it is
important to have faith that God is bringing friendships into your life for His purposes. There are
people He wants you to witness to as well as minister to that need you—and ultimately need Him. Also, you must use faith and seek God as to who you are to be partners to minister with. Do not just
assume you will fit with someone because it seems right. It is important to really seek God on these matters.
• Fights: Yes, there will be fights on the field! Fights with Satanic forces, fights with those who
you are trying to minister to, and yes, fights or disagreements with co-ministers. The
number one reason missionaries leave the field is over disagreements with co-workers. During these
times it is important to seek God and make sure you are clear in your own conscience, gracious
and forgiving towards the other party, and in the end that you put your faith in God to keep going
even when things are looking down.
• Feelings: We must realize we cannot rely on our feelings as a missionary. There will be good
times and bad times. It's important to keep our eyes on God during both times and seek Him for constant leading and direction rather than what we are feeling like doing. Be not weary in well doing!
• Failures: There will be times when we fail. Our ministry isn't going to be perfect, but we must trust that God can still work in failures and have faith that He doesn't give up on us when we mess up!
• Fruit: We must have faith that God brings the fruit! Some places like those in many Latin
American countries have fields that are ripe for harvest with many getting saved rather quickly. Others like Japan need a lot of watering or weeding before even one little plant sprouts up. Either way the fruit is from God in His timing. This doesn't negate our need for laboring for souls, nor does it mean we should be proud, thinking Salvation of a soul is all our doing. We labor, then trust
God for the increase.
Fitness: One of the most common ways a missionary is tested on the field is through health concerns. Be it yourself, family back home, or your children—and believe me, nothing tests a missionary like having a child with health concerns on the field. Medical practices will be different and often the language is too. But again, each one must be given to the Lord as they come up—and often repeatedly. The other aspect of faith in fitness is taking care of our body as the Bible says to prevent health issues. Not being gluttonous, getting exercise, and taking care of our body as it is the temple of God. Even so there WILL be things that arise—accidents, sudden sickness, dental issues etc., but we must look at these things as a way to grow our trust and love for the Lord.
I could have put this point and the next under the Faith bullets and kept up with the alliteration, but I felt they were important enough to deserve their own sections. My college missions teacher used to say, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be easily bent out of shape.” This is a great point for missionaries to remember because there are many different kinds of demands on the field, and often when ministry opportunities arise it will be in an unexpected way. One veteran missionary told me to learn every skill I possibly could before coming to the field because God would use them all. I've found this to be true. Also, having enough time management skills in one's life to be able to minister to someone when the opportunity arises is a challenge for the busy missionary, but something to strive for!
One of the key characteristics of a successful missionary is faithfulness. Faithfulness is most often found in the private life where no one but God sees. Faithfulness in reading your Bible, faithfulness in prayer, faithfulness in witnessing, and since I became a wife I have added family and home duties to things to be faithful in. As I am naturally a more sporadic-type person, this has been an area that I've had to do some growing in—and I still have plenty of growing room! I must say I'm thankful for my husband's example in this way as he is a faithful, steady man if I ever met one! Even though I have been on the field 10 years now, there is still much for me to learn, from my husband who has been here less time than I, from others, and from God. Which brings me to one of my most important tips for missionaries: Never stop learning, but be faithful to always allow God to use your experiences, relationships, failures, and especially His Word and the Holy spirit to keep teaching you no matter how long you serve Him!