Five Ways to Last As a Missionary

November 7, 2014

This past October we will celebrated five years on the mission field living in South Africa.

This is a momentous and special occasion for us and definitely something we celebrated.  Not because we are so special for lasting this long, but more because those we love and serve are so special for putting up with us so long!  No but seriously…

So it has me thinking of HOW DID WE MAKE IT THIS LONG??

In honor of our five year anniversary on the mission field here are:


1. GIVE and RECEIVE .  Many missionaries come in to serve, help and love people.  This is based on the assumption that I have something and those I am coming to serve do not.  I am blessed.  I am whole.  I am healed.  I have resources.  I have and they do not.  Obviously most missionaries do not realize this is their thinking, but it’s an underlying assumption and it separates you from those you serve and can quickly create a ‘Messiah Complex.’  Urban Dictionary describes the Messiah Complex as “a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief they are, or are destined to become, a savior.  Jesus had a messianic complex.”  Umm yeah, Jesus had a messianic complex because HE WAS THE MESSIAH.  WE ARE NOT.  We need to know that while we have been blessed with some talents, gifts, finances, and training, there is SO MUCH that we can learn from those we serve and we always need to be open to what God wants to teach us.  Trust me, He has a LOT to teach you.  Be ready to teach and help but be open handed so you can also receive from those God puts you among.

2. CREATE COMMUNITY. Oh man you can’t do this journey alone.  We have had a few instances happen in our story here that FORCED us to create community (i.e. major burn accident and special needs diagnosis) but no matter the ease of life we always need to do this life together.  You need people to pray with you, laugh with you, cry with you, work beside you, and celebrate all the milestones of ministry on the mission field.  Bring people on the journey with you and it will be so much fuller.

3. Love SCANDALOUSLY.  When you go into the mission field I want to let you know one thing you will encounter that you won’t expect: BROKEN PEOPLE.  The people you will go to love will be pretty unlovable at times and it is hard to love broken people.  They don’t know how to receive love or give love.  People will hurt you and try to break you and manipulate you and turn their back on you.  When this happens… love anyways and love SCANDALOUSLY.  We are called in Philippians to have the humility of Christ who gave everything to love His people, and we must follow that example.  Don’t just love the ones who are easy to love, the ones who come to all your events, the ones who respond to your brilliant sermons and studies, but seek out the really broken and hurting.  They need it most and love even when it’s beyond reason and scandalous.

4. LIVE in Scripture.  As a pastor for many years, I have taught scripture, read scripture and studied scripture for my bachelors and Masters’ programs.  I KNOW much about scripture, but as a missionary I have learned that I have to LIVE in scripture.  I eat scripture and devour it like my life depends on it.  We have faced so many huge trials in our five years here and huge challenges we face in serving the people here in Africa.  Without scripture I honestly don’t think we could have made it through what we have faced.  God has been sovereign and allowed these things to happen in our lives, but learning to cling to HIM for power and strength in it all has changed our lives.  We find that strength, hope, guidance, and inspiration in God’s word.

5. Seek out REST.  This last one is the hardest for me.  Seems that my life trained me to be a ‘do-et’ and not a ‘rest-er’ but I have found that you desperately need to be both.  Our hearts, our health, our families, our entire lives desperately need both.  We know so many missionaries and pastors both near and far who struggle with finding rest as well and we are convinced that the only cycles and habits of rest and renewal will allow the spiritual worker to make it for the long haul.  Find out what gives you rest and renewal and put it on the schedule.  Be unapologetic and persistent about your rest.  Your life depends on it.

Now go and change the world!  Or rather, be changed by the world you SERVE!