You don’t have to carry the pressure of needing to be the hero.
In fact, if you go to another culture with the attitude that you will help the poor humanity there who will then be grateful for you, you are missing the point. Remember God is ALREADY at work wherever you may travel. People in your new host country LIVE there and have a way they ALREADY do things and may not even want the help you offer. In fact, you may find that YOU are the one that needs help learning how to settle into this new environment. You DO, however have the GOOD NEWS about Jesus to share. So… spend time listening to people’s stories. Share your own. And as you share your lives, share Jesus’ story. He’s the real Hero after all.
Don’t think you’ll always agree with your team members.
Missionaries are just people sharing Jesus with others. Just people who may have experienced loss, who may have strong opinions, who can get tired, or discouraged or happy or sad or frustrated or jealous – just like you. Do your best not to compare, or judge. This is where it’s essential to know how to find your identity in Jesus yourself and to trust other team members to do the same. You won’t always think they are right. You may start to wonder if you are. Remember: Grace, Truth, and Love … always. That OTHER team member is one of God’s favorites too.
Sharing the good news of Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll do nothing else.
Shopping for groceries, cleaning the house, fixing your car, organizing your tasks, heading for work – all these everyday life things still happen when you are a missionary. I don’t know what you’re good at, but you will likely be doing that thing in whatever culture you end up living in. So… if you’re a great teacher – teach well and share Jesus. If you’re a great mechanic – fix things and share Jesus. If you’re a great mom – raise kids and share Jesus. Don’t start to resent these tasks thinking they get in the way of your REAL work of sharing Jesus. Do your REAL work WHILE you are doing your everyday tasks as best you can. And when there’s no one near you to share with, do your everyday tasks for and with Jesus. He’ll lead you to the next opportunity to share. He’s already got someone in mind.
Poverty looks different to different people.
If you’re going on a mission trip so you can see real poverty and realize how great you have it in your home country… pause. As important as learning to be grateful is, it’s NOT the right reason to go into missions. First of all, the people that you think look poor may not regard themselves that way at all. They might, for example, think of poverty in terms of lack of good relationships or status. Secondly, if you do meet someone who finds themselves in a difficult situation, it’s unlikely they’ll want you to define them by it. After all, you don’t like to be defined by your hard times. So – don’t take a picture of someone who is wearing their poverty on the outside so you can show people back home that you are making a difference. Instead, capture a moment that fills your heart with WONDER because of Jesus. Find the gifts – the tea sipped, the laughter shared, the hope renewed. Record moments rich in grace.
Sometimes you might feel like you’re not making a difference at all.
Just because you are a missionary and your vocation is defined as life-changing, doesn’t mean you’ll always feel like this is true. You might feel like you’re not doing enough to earn the support of the church(es) that sent you. You might start to count successes and losses and determine that if bearing fruit is what defines a follower of Jesus, you may not be one. Don’t get discouraged. Make sure your heart is drawing its life from Jesus. Abide in Him like a branch in the vine. Then it’s all about trust and obedience. Say ‘yes’ in every moment He gives you and let Him decide when the leaf will sprout, or a root will grow deeper or a blossom form. If you are given the added gift of seeing the fruit, that’s something to celebrate too. But your vocation won’t define you. Your DAILY abiding in Jesus will make you who you are.