A Day in the Life of a Language Student

Language learning is ministry. Not only are you portraying the love of Christ for the people in your learning as they see your respect for them and their culture, but every day’s efforts are serving Christ and are a sacrifice pleasing in His sight. Your daily language learning activities are a real way to love Christ and love the people, even as you are investing in future fruitfulness for the gospel among them.

Dan Sinclair, A Vision of the Possible

My husband and I have been language students in East Asia for nearly two years. Each day we have classes at the university, one-on-one time with a tutor, and personal study time. A large chunk of each day is devoted to spending time in the local community practising our speaking and listening skills, whether that’s going out for lunch with people, hanging out in a student dorm, or chatting to shop owners.

But how does it feel to be a language student?

Let’s see….when you realise you’ve just described the entire plot of Jurassic Park 4 to a friend using the language, it feels really good. When you can talk to someone and actually understand them, and they understand you, it’s a real confidence boost. And when you’re able to pray with someone or share about Jesus with them, it’s the best feeling in the world.

But those moments are few and far between.

Usually it’s uncertain, stressful, discouraging, tiring and pressured.

It’s the uncertainty of living in a culture that does not plan ahead – often invitations are immediate and made on the day, and can also be changed or cancelled that day too.

It’s the stress of not feeling in control – what you think is just a lunch invite with friends turns into an afternoon and evening full of activities where you’re expected to attend.

It’s the discouragement of not understanding even the simplest things people say to you, and wondering how on Earth you will ever learn the language.

It’s the awkwardness of being unaware of the social cues and the ‘meaning behind the meaning’. Making silly mistakes and laughing them off is one thing, but unwittingly shaming your friend in front of their friends and family is seriously embarrassing.

And then there’s the pressure we put ourselves under – pressure to ‘perform’ when we’re with our friends, to be a good host, or to be a good guest – to say the right things and give the right gifts, to be good company and to avoid doing anything that would cause people to lose face or that might damage the relationship…it’s pretty tiring!

Honestly, there are times when I think God’s made a mistake and put us in the wrong culture – we’re both introverts, both ‘planners’, and adapting to this new culture does not feel easy or natural. There are some days when it feels too overwhelming to even go outside, and there are some days when I just want to go home.

I think it’s helpful to validate these feelings and to say that, in the process of language learning and living in a new culture, it’s natural to feel these things.

But God also wants us to trust Him with these feelings. To trust that He not only uses us despite the stresses, the awkwardness and the uncertainties but that He uses us BECAUSE of these things.

His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). In fact, the Amplified version says, “My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in your weakness.”

When I feel overwhelmed, entirely inadequate, and lacking in every way, God reminds me that He uses the ‘foolish things’, the ‘weak things’, the ‘lowly things’, the ‘despised things’, the ‘things that are not’ (1 Cor:26-31). He delights to use people who realise their utter lack and inability and who have no choice but to utterly rely and depend on Him.

So please pray for us and for all those engaged in language study. Pray that we would trust in God and not in ourselves. Pray against feelings of discouragement. And pray that God would use even the process of language learning for His glory and for our good.

What Moving Overseas Taught Me About My Sin

This post is more or less a reflection on life the past few days. Why? Three days ago, I moved back overseas to my home in an unreached area of East Asia.

It truly feels like I’m on an entirely different planet over here. Or at least right now, with home fresh on my mind and heart. That 13-hour flight is a pretty wild experience, sort of like a transporter to an unknown world. I’ve done that flight four times now, but for some reason, the stark contrasts between here and there are far more obvious this time around.

A friend had a quick reply to my last monthly prayer update and said something along the lines of “I’ll be praying that you’re living to be forgotten.”

Living to be forgotten.

He meant it in the sense that my desire for my own glory in doing missions would be replaced by desires to glorify God alone. I’m not entirely sure why, but that line has stuck with me.

Also recently, I was reminded in a book how our call as Christians is to come and die. I’m not talking about coming to the mission field and dying here; I’m talking about the general call for all Christians to die to themselves and live unto Christ.

Somehow, I forgot this is the sort of life to which I’m called.

I believe these are two things – my friend’s comment and the reminder to die – that God has placed on my heart for a reason as I returned to the field and am re-figuring out life here.

As I reflect on these reminders, I’m realizing a great need in my life, a need to die to my desire for having others think well of me. It’s a way I try to validate my existence. It affects every part of every day, and it crushes me when I’m not fighting it.

Early on in college, a friend told me that our sin is like an onion. The more we fight it and peel off a layer, God is gracious to show us the depth of our sin in the layer underneath, a layer of which we were previously unaware.

A big layer was recently peeled off for me, and I’m seeing this sin come up just about everywhere. It’s utterly defeating to see how little I must believe that I’m a true, adopted, blood-bought son of the Most High king of the universe.

God is using my return to East Asia to continue showing me my need for Jesus.

It feels like I’ve forgotten at least half of my language learning in the States this summer, but I can still understand enough to know locals are mocking my language ability around me. This forces me to lean into Christ – into the truth that I’m not defined by my language ability nor by how awesome or not these people around me think I am.

I’m realizing how much I hate being incompetent at something when people around me all get it. It’d be true in sports, academics, and it’s being made crystal clear in these first few days back in East Asia. I simply just don’t get the culture, the people, and certain ways of thinking, and I’m not sure that I ever fully will.

I simply feel incompetent here, always. I believe Jesus is teaching me that life is not drawn from the well of competency. I’m found in Christ, and that’s the identity I fall back on, not being “competent”.

Tips for the Twenty-Something’s First Year Overseas

Photo used from Velvet Ashes' website.

Photo used from Velvet Ashes’ website.

We at The Sowers Project have been extremely encouraged by a blog called Velvet Ashes, an online community of women serving overseas. Last month, they posted a blog that was right up our alley, titled Tips for the Twenty-Something’s First Year Overseas. We wanted to share their post with you in order to give you a taste of what a year overseas could look like and how you can survive.


 

While some people enter the field with years of life experience under their belt, there are many of us who enter it with little to none.

I was twenty-two, bright-eyed, and inexperienced. Not only had I never been on a service trip in my life, but I was also a fresh college grad. I knew little to nothing about cross-cultural service, and just as little about life as a working adult.

Serving overseas takes an immense amount of adjustment and energy, and so does a college graduate’s transition to the “real world.” My year overseas felt like a double whammy of adulthood. Yet, the challenges God presented me with taught me vital lessons for first-year survival, and how to establish a support system. While I am an expert by no means, I know the following advice—some of it given by co-workers, some of it learned the hard way—is the kind of stuff I will always carry with me.

By all means, read up on culture shock. Culture shock is very real. It’s so real that investing in a book, or two, or three, is completely worth it. Going through the adjustment is already hard—going through it blindly is even harder! Only after struggling on my own did I finally invest in reading about cultural adjustments overseas. Since then, I’ve found this research-oriented approach applies to just about anything you encounter in the adult world.

Expand your understanding of culture shock by talking with your American co-workers. The ups and downs of culture shock can make us feel shameful and embarrassed—why does everyone in this new place seem completely at ease, while you feel anxious, scared, upset and, at times, downright insane? The reason:  they’ve all gone through it before. So ask them what it was like, and how they got through those first stages. Bringing this hefty topic out on the table will ease your transition and allow them to apply their expertise.

Educate yourself about your host country and its culture. Whether it’s through books, newspapers, websites, or conversations you initiate with locals and Americans, understanding your new home’s history and its people’s way of life will transform challenging situations into ones that are less baffling and more tolerable, paving room for fascination and even joy.

Find an expat mentor. Seek someone who’s lived in your host country for a while, is knowledgeable and fond of the culture, and could make a good friend. She will help you immensely. Without my mentor, I would’ve gone insane! She taught me so many things about my job, life, and faith. Pray for someone who will take you under her wing.

Seek out a local mentor. Not only can you gain a deeper understanding of your host country through this friend, thereby easing your adjustment, but she can also act as a bridge for you to become part of the local community. In addition, you’ll feel more welcomed. Because forming a friendship with a local will take more time and effort than with an American, ask your work colleagues, both local and expatriate, to introduce you to someone who has had ample experience with foreigners.

Make self-care a top priority. Take time out for yourself, and even more than usual—because of the hardships you’re facing, you need to be extra generous. Whether it’s extra time alone to decompress, or more time spent socializing, make it a priority. You deserve it.

Know that your struggles, though painful, are lessons of gold. Overseas, everything that was once familiar to me, that I had identified myself with, was gone. More specifically, the crutches of my own society that had substituted for my faith all those years were no longer around. The struggles I faced brought me down to the dirt and mud, and it was there, crying out, that I found Christ in a way I had never known Him—dirty and muddy, too, for our sins. Without those struggles, I wouldn’t have grown in my faith, and I wouldn’t have the relationship with Him I have today.

Trust that God is good. You may wonder the following:  What am I doing here? Why is this so hard?and Where is God? For me, these questions weren’t in the back of my mind, light and wandering—they were at the forefront, igniting panic and fear. But God is always with you; He will never leave you or forsake you (Deut. 31:6). As my closest friend and mentor would tell me, time and time again:  God is good. He loves you; He has a plan for you. And He will provide.

What tips would you add? 

Why Overseas Missions Scared Me. And Why It Shouldn’t Scare You.

During my senior year of college, I faced quite possibly the biggest decision of my life up to that point. I had two options: stay near my hometown of Chicago to find a job or move halfway across the world to do campus ministry.

Chicago was safe. It was comfortable. I could find a job, have a salary, see my family every weekend if I needed to, worship with a thriving church community, and maybe most importantly, eat at Chipotle anytime I wanted.

Or I could give it all up.

Most people thought my biggest fears would be the new culture, the new language, the new food, the rejection, the lack of family, or the lack of fast food. I knew those things would be hard, but deep down in my soul, they weren’t what was holding me back.

I was afraid of failure.

I felt unworthy.

I felt inadequate.

I felt like a poser.

I wasn’t afraid of failure on the mission field. I had been trained for years to do campus ministry, and I could walk through the motions in my sleep.

I was afraid of failing on a personal level.

I thought all of the other missionaries would be so much holier than me. I was afraid I would be alone in my deep sin struggles. I feared I would be the only person on the team who sometimes wakes up without the urge to share my faith with everyone I meet.

Here’s why you shouldn’t share my fear: I was wrong.

Missionaries are people. Missionaries are simply followers of Jesus in a different culture. Missionaries are sinners.

They weren’t super humans who have figured out the secret to perfectly living the Christian life. They weren’t scary to approach. They weren’t flawlessly bringing people to Christ every day.

They were just like me.

They got homesick.

They confessed some of the same sins I did.

They did things in their past they weren’t proud of.

They wished more people would email them.

They felt lonely when looking at social media.

They missed western food.

They longed to see their families.

Is that what you picture when you think of missionaries? People with loads of faults and problems? People who sometimes don’t have everything under control?

It was probably my greatest fear. And it turned out to be completely false.

This truth speaks to the reality of the gospel. That we are a fallen people. That we daily look at the world and choose to serve ourselves before God. That we will never be as good as we want to be, or as God demands we be.

Yet, God still chooses to use us. Despite our weaknesses, our fears, our insecurities, God uses us to magnify Christ among people of every tongue, tribe, and nation.

God doesn’t use us because we are worthy, but because Jesus is worthy.


 

You are not perfect, but if you are anything like me, you don’t need to be reminded of that. You remind yourself everyday. You already pour heaps of guilt and condemnation on yourself.

But I have good news: you are not alone.

The gospel frees us to follow Christ into what He calls us to. For some, that is certainly to serve Him at home. To send and give to overseas missions. There is no shame in that at all. It is extremely glorifying to God.

However, he also calls some of us to serve Him overseas among unreached people. To go.

Don’t believe the lie that you are not good enough. You are just like missionaries all over the world: you are broken. I am too.

How beautiful that this isn’t about how worthy you or me are. It’s about how worthy Jesus is.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

2 Reasons Why It Costs To Go And Stay

When it comes to missions, people often talk about the cost of going. During my college years, I was given examples of past missionaries who paid a price to go overseas. I was also encouraged to be open to giving up a year of my life to do missions after college.

I am supportive of people taking their post-college years to do missions, for a few years or a lifetime, and am actually currently doing so myself. That is what this blog and The Great Commission in Matthew 28 are striving to see.

However, we should think about the cost of going differently. Here are two reasons why:

1. Missions shouldn’t be that different. When I was in college, my church had a plaque above the doors that read: “You are entering your mission field.” It is when we walk out the doors of our churches, not our homes or nations, that we enter our mission field.

We shouldn’t tell others they need to sacrifice a year of their life to do missions; their mission has already started.

If we are Christians, then we will pay a cost to live as Christ did. It will be hard to fight for community, fight sin, and share the gospel with others. In fighting for these things we will face rejection, persecution, and have to give of our time and resources.

Our geography may present us with unique challenges, as new cultures and customs change the way people behave. However, the way we give our lives to Christ and for one another shouldn’t change.

Your neighborhood should look more similar to an overseas mission field than different.

2. Each person experiences cost differently. For some people, leaving their home to do missions may feel like a sacrifice; for others, it is hardly that at all. As Christians, we will all suffer and face persecution, but that happens differently for each person.

While one person’s suffering may be related to the act of leaving home and living in a foreign culture, another’s may be more related to their relationships and ministry.

The cost of following Christ may even be higher for you if you stay home. You cannot know beforehand, or even in retrospect, but each person will have a different perception of their costs.

Ultimately, that is why we don’t make decisions based on the cost; we make decisions out of obedience. Someone else’s cost may be different than yours, but Jesus says, “What is that to you, you follow me!” (Matthew 21:22)


It will cost you to go and cost you to stay where you are; living sacrificially is not just reserved for overseas missionaries. The cause of your sacrifice will differ from others, but you will sacrifice. As Christians, we are simply called to make disciples of all nations, whether that is across the world or with your neighbor next door.

3 Reasons We Plant Churches, Not Movements

The Sowers Project is all about campus ministry, but even more than that we want to see churches planted. But why? Why not start campus movements and call it quits?

Because movements are not the primary means by which God has designed his gospel to go global.

This pill can be hard to swallow for those of us who come out of a parachurch campus ministry model, like myself. In fact, the campus ministry I was involved with during college functioned more like the church than many of the churches around campus. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen Biblical accountability, the pursuit of the lost, or discipleship modeled as well as I’ve seen it in my campus ministry during college.

This article isn’t trying to take a stab at people overseas who focus on starting fellowships or movements. It’s a plea to look at what the Bible says about church and what the implications are for cross-cultural missionaries.

That being said, here are a few reasons why I’m not a movement planter:

1. The Apostle Paul set out to start churches, not movements. If this was Paul’s M.O., it should be ours as well. He wrote his letters to specific local church bodies that had structure, including elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), regular preaching of the Word (2 Timothy 4), and taking the sacraments (1 Corinthians 11).

2. Early church pastors knew who their flock was. In James 3:1, we read that not many should be teachers because those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Pastoring a local body of believers is a scary thing because you’ll be accountable to God for each and every believer under your care. To faithfully accomplish this, you have to know who’s under your care!

This is why church membership, or covenanting together with a local church is so important. Most campus ministry leaders don’t have this view in mind while leading their movements, and they shouldn’t because that’s the church’s job.

3. Being part of a local church family is Biblical. I said local church family because this is one of the main metaphors we’re given in the Word to shape how we think about church. In Matthew 12, Jesus stretched out his hand toward his disciples and said “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

When you’re saved, you become part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), and that body is expressed Biblically in the context of a local church, not a movement.


Campus movements, fellowships, and Bible study groups are great. In fact, they’re good, and often times necessary, stepping stones to planting churches. But they’re just that – stepping stones.

They’re the sign on the side of the road towards obedience to Christ that says, “The fullness of what God has for you in the Christian life is just a bit farther”.

You’re not experiencing the fullness of God’s design and joy in Jesus if you’ve stopped at movements. And you’re depriving your disciples if you’re a missionary who’s merely starting campus fellowships.

Start campus fellowships, but don’t stop there! Don’t stop at the five yard line, which is a good position to be in, but go all the way into the end zone.  Keep moving forward – evolve them into the healthy, robust, gospel-driven churches that the Bible teaches us to start.

Check out What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever for further information on this subject.

Bringing A Living Hope to the Unreached

I followed the line of four Muslim men into the back of the crowded restaurant. These were men of standing, of influence, so they seated us in a private room in the back of the gold-tiled, smoke-filled restaurant.

Waiters threw down a pan overflowing with skewers of mutton…and sheep kidney. “Kidney is good for your kidneys!” the men proclaimed and laughed hard, eating the whole time. I grinned and tried my best to put on a “happy face” that would make my mom proud.

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“Lamb Skewers (yangrou chuan’r 羊肉串)” by Jen Leung licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I hadn’t expected this reception and hadn’t hoped for sheep kidney kabobs, but I came for an old friend.

One of the men at the table was my first language tutor when my family and I moved to East Asia in 2007.  He comes from a very unreached Muslim people group and, though I shared the Gospel with him then, he seemed interested mainly in intellectual pursuits.

His educational passion took him around the world, but now at 34 years old he works in a rural university area outside our poor city. It’s bleak, arid and lonely – which is how he felt and why I came.

Timothy* walked close next to me, the cold, dry wind whipping between us. The rest of the men walked ten steps behind us. He looked me in the eye: “My mother died two months ago.”

Tears welled up in his eyes. “I spent almost all my money to pay for her hospital bills.” His mother and father are both dead; his siblings have their own families; he is unmarried.

He feels so very alone.

What can I say to someone like that? I have a few moments with him, and then I leave and return to my home, my wife, my kids…my Jesus! We’re separated by language, culture, economics, religion, and history. What can I say to show him love?

I’m praying in my head as we walk together, “Father! Help me! Help this man! Open His eyes and give Him hope in You Lord Jesus! What can I say, Lord? What can I say?”

I didn’t say much.

That night, he sent me a text thanking me for coming. But it felt so lifeless, so empty to be thanked for coming to eat kidney, for listening, and for aching so much for this hurting soul to find peace in Christ. I want Timothy to know Jesus and His resurrection power. A Living Hope – that’s what Timothy needs.

Doing this work is hard. Days like that just leave me aching for Jesus to come back, to rescue us, to bring us home. It’s a sacrifice on too many levels to list.

But at the end of the day, despite the pain, the suffering, the sacrifice, the helpless, the trial and on and on, I’m still convinced that this is one of the most privileged positions to be in on the planet – to proclaim to those who have never heard that indeed Jesus is risen! It’s among the highest honors given to men to proclaim the glory of King Jesus.

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”  – Romans 10:14-15

Have you thought about joining God’s great plan of taking His glory global? What if you gave one year of your life to preach the Gospel among the unreached? I want to invite you to consider it. Come join us for the Sowers Project – one year bringing the Gospel to people who haven’t heard.

* Name Changed for Security Reasons

5 Things a Missionary Team Leader Must Never Forget

I’ve been a team leader for almost 8 years now.  If I could sit my (much younger) self down right now, I’d tell myself not to forget five key things:

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“Father and Son Going fishing near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at Sunrise” by Matthew Paulson licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1.) Don’t forget your family. Paul, sharing with Timothy about what kind of man God has in mind to lead His church, spends the most time talking about managing your household well. (See 1 Tim 3:4-5)

Why is managing your household important? Managing one’s family life translates directly to managing God’s household.

Mission teams are no exception, and we can so easily forget this. Forgetting your family, not caring for them spiritually, not seeking their good, selfishly neglecting them (and often calling it a “sacrifice”) for the sake of your ministry, is a quick way to a lot of pain and burnout, or worse. Managing your household well equips, empowers, and qualifies you to manage other ministry responsibilities well.

Don’t forget your family.

2.) Don’t forget your Christian heritage. Although Christianity has been around a long time, for some reason, missionaries like to come overseas and brush aside thousands of years of Biblical and wise patterns of church functioning.

I’ve observed countless missionaries who view church attendance as “optional.” I’ve witnessed missionaries do away with commissioning qualified church leadership in new church plants because it slows down the “movement.” I’ve seen the Bible as the authoritative Word of God supplanted by other literature – or even their own thoughts or practical experience.

Beware, leader! Beware leaving behind thousands of years of wisdom for fleeting and passing “missionary methods”! Beware redefining that which has transformed lives and peoples and nations and cultures for centuries past!

Don’t forget your Christian heritage.

3.) Don’t forget that Jesus unifies. In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer paints a beautiful picture of how unity happens. Imagine a room filled with pianos, all out of tune. Then imagine someone tuning the first piano, then going to the next piano and tuning that piano to the first one, the next piano to that one, and so on. What do you get at the end? A room filled with out of tune pianos.

Imagine the scene again, but this time the piano tuner pulls out a tuning fork. One by one, the piano tuner tunes each piano to the tuning fork, to the standard. What do you have at the end? A room filled with pianos, all in tune.

So it is with Christ. He is our standard and to Him we must look, must be “in tune” with! So much time and energy can be spent trying to unify your team (social gatherings, discussions, meetings, retreats, etc.), and these things have their place and value, but this most-essential, foundational principle cannot be forgotten: turn your (spiritual) eyes and your team’s eyes to Jesus!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.

In the light of His glory and grace.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Hymn

Don’t forget that Jesus unifies.

4.) Don’t forget your God. This is something you already know.  Walking closely with God is the most important thing you can do while you’re overseas.  He is your strength, your life, your help, your hope, and if you do not continue in deep intimacy with Him, you lose sight of it all. Like a plant without sun, you will shrivel.

The shocking thing is not this truth; it’s that knowing this truth, you will quickly forget it.  The busyness of life, family, ministry, platform, and on and on will come and take your eyes off the One you went to serve.  In no time at all, what originally was about Him and borne of our knowing Him, becomes all about you.

He is your Source.  As one of Hudson Taylor’s favorite hymns says:

Jesus I am resting, resting.

In the joy of what Thou art

I am finding out the greatness 

Of Thy loving heart.

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting, Hymn

Don’t forget your God.

5.) Don’t forget that Jesus loves you. Sometimes I call this “Kindergarten Christianity”; its so simple, so fundamental that kids sing about it in Sunday School.

But its all too often forgotten. I, too, forget it.

The Apostle Paul, talking about the new life in Christ, says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

“Who loved me and gave himself for me.” Just think of that: Jesus truly loves YOU! That phrase alone is worth a lifetime of meditation. He loved you before you even trusted Him, while His enemy. He loved you before you ever “did” something for the Kingdom. And He loves you now – no matter what you “do for Him” or not. What amazing grace!

Every day – through His Word, prayer and meditation, by the power of the Holy Spirit – press this truth deep in your soul.

Don’t forget that Jesus loves you.

5 Ways You Can Love Missionaries Better

Relationships between missionaries and supporters can suffer from a confusing paradox. Missionaries want to be loved well by sending churches and supporters, but it can seem self-centered to talk about. Supporters want to love overseas missionaries better, but they often simply don’t know how.

The result is silence. The missionary is left wondering if they have been forgotten, and the supporters continue on in ignorance.

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“La Vieille Lettre / The Old Letter” by JulienDft_Photo licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

However, these relationships are vital, and silence shouldn’t be acceptable. Missionaries needs these interactions to be encouraged in their work. Supporters need these interactions to have a better understanding of God’s work in the world.

So what can be done? Everyone knows they could love most missionaries by giving them money and praying. These are what most people settle for. Send a check in the mail and forget about it. Keep some missionary names in your prayer list so that you will remember to pray every once in a while.

These are extremely good things, but it is just the beginning. Here are 5 slightly more unorthodox ways that you can love missionaries better starting today.

1.) Reply to their updates. Most missionaries send out prayer updates, some maybe more than others. The majority of people on the receiving end of the updates don’t realize how much work goes into these and how much encouragement a short, quick reply can deliver. Even if it’s only one sentence, these are the kind of simple things that remind missionaries you care.

If you read the update, let them know. If you have been praying, let them know. If you have prayer requests or life updates, let them know. If you don’t tell them, how can they know it’s happening? It is easy to feel forgotten while living overseas, and this is a quick, simple step to remind a missionary that they are being remembered.

2.) Send a care package. This one takes a little bit more time, effort, and money, but it speaks volumes about your desire to care for missionaries well. You can send a care package for a holiday or a birthday, or you can do it to brighten their day.

What is their favorite candy? What is their favorite snack? What is a new book you think they would enjoy? Think about creative ways to serve the individual person you are sending the package to.

3.) Send a letter. Maybe the missionary you love isn’t one for material things. Another form of encouragement utilizing the postal service is snail mail. Though an email is one click away, there is a certain nature about letters that make them extremely meaningful.

Want to take letter sending to the next level? Get a group of people to all write encouragement letters and send one envelope with all of them. This doesn’t have to be an individual activity.

4.) Host a prayer party. This one will really take planning and intentionality, but what a great way to involve other people in your quest to encourage missionaries better. Invite some friends over, share some fellowship over a meal, and spend time intentionally praying for the missionary and their work.

And don’t let this be a secret! Make sure to tell the missionary you are hosting a party, take pictures, and even try to Skype them in if possible. The party will be more encouraging if they’re aware it’s happening.

5.) Take an encouragement trip. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but it might be the most encouraging item on the list. Take a week to enter into the missionary’s world, see the work going on, and invest in your relationship with them. This would obviously take a lot of planning and money, but emails and pictures can only paint so much of the picture of the world they are living in.

Talk to your church about what it could look like to officially commission an encouragement trip and provide financial support. Talk to other church members about going with you. And of course coordinate with the missionary to make sure this is possible.


Relationships between missionaries and supporters don’t have to be stagnant, sitting in silence while neither is willing to break the ice. It takes courage to make the first move, but know that the missionary will likely appreciate it more than they can express. They just aren’t willing to ask for it.

Continue giving financially and continue praying, but consider these more unorthodox items the next time you are looking to encourage an overseas missionary.

6 Reasons You Should Spend A Year Doing Overseas Missions

Nowadays, there seem to be more missions organizations than anyone can count, and many of them offer one-year programs to explore the idea of missionary work. Even we, The Sowers Project, are a one-year program that focuses on making disciples among unreached college students for the purpose of planting churches in East Asia.

Committing to a year overseas can seem really daunting, as you leave the comfortable behind, say goodbye to your family and friends, and embark into the unknown. But there are also many benefits that can’t be overlooked. Below are six reasons why you should spend a year overseas, and each alone is reason enough to go abroad to make Jesus’ name famous.

"Old Globe" by Kenneth Lu licensed under CC BY 2.01.) Learn a new culture. It’s easy to read about cultures and gain an intellectual knowledge. It’s a lot harder to actually go and live in a new culture, but the rewards are plentiful. Practice a new language, try new foods, explore new cities, visit locals’ homes, and experience how a different part of the world views life. Not only will this broaden your view of what it means to be human, but it will also help you appreciate the beauty and diversity of God’s creation.

2.) Experience the work. In addition to learning the culture, you have the opportunity to see first-hand what God is doing there. Meet local brothers and sisters in the faith and experience how the local body worships God differently than your home church. See with your own eyes what God is doing among particular people groups and how you can be praying for the ministry.

3.) Network with missionaries. Meet a lot of awesome missionaries who are sacrificing a lot to be serving in the field. Develop relationships that allow you to continue be a part of God’s global mission whether you decide to live overseas or not. These people are the best to learn from about the particular city/people group/ministry that you want to work among because they live it out everyday!

4.) Try it out. Are you interested in serving overseas long-term but don’t know where to start? A one-year program gives you the perfect opportunity to really understand what it would look like to live overseas, as you evaluate the location you want to serve in, the role you want to have, how you fit on a particular team, and what church planting looks like practically. It’s possible to try doing missions overseas without signing your life away.

5.) Be equipped for the future. Whether you hope to stay overseas longer or return to your home country after one year, the equipping you receive is invaluable! It will equip you for long-term missions by showing you exactly what to expect, giving you a head start on language learning, and helping you cast vision for financial supporters. But it will also equip you for returning to your home country and helping the local church serve missionaries, as you will have tangible knowledge about ways the church can better love its missionaries.

6.) Make disciples. Last, and certainly not least, be a part of the Great Commission. Go and make disciples among all nations. Sow gospel seeds broadly, and pray that the Lord brings in a harvest. You get the privilege of serving the God of the universe by boldly making his name known among the nations. The Bible says that there will be someone from every tongue, tribe, and nation in Heaven worshipping Jesus, and you have the opportunity to be intimately involved in seeing that come to fruition.


 

Going overseas certainly isn’t for everyone, but pray earnestly, asking if the God of the harvest would want you to spend a year of your life serving him overseas. God desires for people to repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ in every people group on Earth, and he invites His followers to be a part of his global mission.

What reservations do you have about going overseas for a year? What excites you about the possibility of serving for a year in a foreign country?

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