To Timbuktu & Beyond
A Guide to Getting Started in Missions
William Carey Library, 2009, 154 pp. ISBN 978-0-87808-015-1
Marsha Woodard has served with Youth with a Mission in Latin America, Europe and Africa in church planting, prison ministry and discipling children and youth. Here she presents a practical step-by-step guide for helping you (and your church and your mission agency) prepare to become a missionary.
A missionary is "an individual who carries the Gospel across cultural, geographical, and/or linguistic boundaries." This includes those directly involved in ministry, tentmakers, and support workers. (Introduction)
Chapter 1. Sand or Bricks? Building a Strong Foundation
In your daily Bible reading note everything God says about nations and peoples. Study Acts. Do a word study. It's compelling! Keep a journal of what you learn. Ask God to give you his heart, then turn your eyes outward to what's going on in your city, country, and the nations. Get started.
"Specific guidance will come more easily as your heart and mind become more and more aligned with God's passion for the nations." (9)
Chapter 2. To Go or Not to Go? How do I Know if I am Called to Missions?
"Most new workers want to try things out, to commit for a limited time period or to a specific project. Exploration is healthy, provided you are serious in your commitment of obedience to Christ Himself." (12)
"…our walk with Him is an on-going cycle of seeking, hearing, and obeying. God is faithful to unfold our path for us one step at a time…." (13)
Chapter 3. Aim for God's Highest Blessing!
"What you decide about your relationship with your home church will have serious implications for your future and your success or failure on the mission field." (28) "How you relate to your authorities at home is a good indicator of how you will deal with your authorities on the field. If you are struggling with submitting to authority at home, the issue will only be magnified on the field. With the stresses of a new culture, a new ministry assignment, being far from home, and so on, new missionaries frequently feel the need to 'vent their frustrations' (a nice way of describing what really happens), and this is usually directed at --you guessed it--their leaders! In pioneer situations those in authority may often have some rough edges. They didn't head out to a remote area because they were pastors, but because they were hard-shelled pioneers. Before you go, ask for God to give you His heart and understanding toward authority, and consider your remaining time at home as a 'school' to get it right." (31)
"Please don't head out completely independently. The enemy is expert at picking off isolated sheep who are wandering out alone!" "To sum up: Your leaders' blessing and backing is important! Do all that you can to make your relationship with them a fruitful one." (34)
Chapter 4. What Do You Mean "WAIT"?!
God is never passive in our lives. He is always at work. "Make a specific list of any areas that God wants to work on. The best way to begin is to ask your leaders and other mature people who know you well. Yes, it will probably be embarrassing, but you can get directly to the issues if you are willing to have people speak frankly into your life. They will also be able to address any 'blind spots' in your character or personal development." (39)
Chapter 5. Narrowing the Field--which Organization is for Me?
"If governments ran wars the way some churches do missions, they would just hand out rifles and airplane tickets to soldiers and expect them to go win the war with little training, no officers, no plans, no organization, and little logistical support." (49)
"…relationships are a surprisingly healthy way to choose a team or organization. If you are drawn to people you've met because of common vision and values, there's a good chance the organization will also hold many of those same values." (49)
Chapter 6. Mapping the Road to Success
Suggested cyclical model of training. 1. Basic discipleship at church. 2. One- to two-week visit to the field destination. 3. Basic missions training in cross-cultural adaptation and language exposure. 4. Internship on the field of 2 months to 1 year. 5. Additional training in missions, ministry, and language. 6. Field commitment of 2 to 5 years. 7. Ongoing training and periods of personal review. 8. Back to the field. (p. 60)
This allows you to realistically assess the situation and yourself and avoid huge preparation followed by great disappointment. We learn best by practicing and doing. So take some basic classes and apply what you've learned, then return for more specialized training.
Here are some recommended training components: personal character and interpersonal relationships, Bible doctrine and theology, cross-cultural adaptation, knowledge of the specific culture, language learning, specialization related to your ministry area, professional and technical training.
"The best way to become a serious student of the culture as well as to learn the ropes of the ministry is through a period of internship." (67)
Chapter 7. Who's Holding the Ropes?
"For a 'full-powered' mission, you'll want to enlist partners for at least four areas of home support: prayer backing, finances, pastoral care, and practical help." (74)
Chapter 8. Who's Holding the Ropes? (continued)
"Are there folks who are committed to stick with you throughout your adventures? People who will cheer you on, but also bring words of correction when necessary?" "Secure commitments from mature men and women of God to be your source of counsel." (86) "Remember, accountability is your protection from self-deception. Ask them to pledge their commitment to pray for you, to check up on you regularly, and to speak into your life when they see any areas of concern. Then work together to keep your connection strong." (87)
Chapter 9. Before Packing Your Bags
"Our most important consideration [regarding our lifestyle overseas] must be how the way we live will affect our ability to share the Gospel within the culture where we will be living. …lifestyle has a great impact [on] missionaries' credibility as messengers…." (100) "Both our spending habits and our attitudes must be weighed Biblically, measuring ourselves within the new culture rather than how we live at home." There is no simple right answer. (101)
Chapter 10. Saying 'Goodbye' the Right Way
Chapter 11. Landing on Both Feet
Epilogue. Staying the Course
Some factors that will make for long-term fruitfulness on the field:
A Note to Pastors
When you send the missionary your job is just beginning. Your church has six roles: pastoral care and encouragement, logistics support, financial support, prayer support, communication support, and reentry support.
Appendix A. A Partial List of Scriptures Relating to Missions
Appendix B. Country Research Questions
Appendix C. Pre-Travel Information Checklist
Appendix D. Preparing Your Family's Budget
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