Thriving in Cross-Cultural Ministry – Arriving, Article 3 of 3

By David Harakal

Your First Six Months on the Field

Installment 12: Arriving 3 of 3

Your First Six Months on the Field

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

– Proverbs 19:21

God seldom calls us for an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of His sustaining grace.

– John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

Please help me select a title for the book these articles will become:

Reminder: Your fellowship, sending organization, or team may not align with my advice. Trust your leaders as you respectfully share what you learn.

If you missed the first of the Leaving series, or would like to see all three parts in one place, visit


  • By this point, you should be able to find out more answers on your own.
    • Be realistic. Some struggle is good. Exasperation when others know the answer is either prideful or foolishness.
  • Develop your accountability network, ideally someone your same gender in your same context but not on your team.
    • Your team may assign an accountability partner(s), but it’s important to have someone outside of the team with whom you can be completely open, especially regarding team or leadership challenges.
  • Focus on transactional language—how to greet people and respond, make purchases, understand and offer directions
    • Laugh at the errors you make.
    • One day you will be amazed by what you have learned.
  • Create a plan if you are not in full-time language. This may be the first time you have nearly complete control over your day. You do not need every minute structured, but you will find your time wasted if you do not do some planning.
  • Build your list of good medical providers if your team does not already have this.
  • Join a local church if possible.
    • Church is for worship, not to learn spiritual language.
    • Until your language learning is sufficient, worship in a language you understand well.
    • You need community beyond your team in your natural language right now.
  • Start/continue Sabbath rhythms.
  • Decorate your home. Put up pictures, even if you move frequently. You need a haven to return to each day.
    • Find someplace comfortable.
    • You get no extra credit for sub-standard living.
    • You do not need to live like a pauper, nor a prince or princess.
  • Continue or start your regular and short newsletters. (See next article for suggestions.)
  • If you have had a phone number for a long time, transfer it to Google voice.


  • Network – befriend people in different organizations/teams.
    • It is normal in this phase for most of your friends to speak a language you already know.
    • You need friends with whom speak easily.
    • You need their perspective and outside input for what is “normal.”
  • Start to foster local friendships.
    • Initially these people will probably also speak your native or second language, like your teachers.
  • Develop a hobby or find a way to exercise one you have.
  • Leave the country.
    • A visa run might be required, but leave for a weekend in any case.
    • If you do not have good medical care, consider “medical visa runs”
  • Set a day aside each month to look back, look forward, and look up.
    • Review your answered prayer lists.
    • Adjust your daily and weekly rhythms as you reflect on the past month.
    • Develop what you want to accomplish in the next month.
    • Spend significant time with the Lord. Others’ ideas might be interesting, but you need what works for you. This is worship, not trial and error.


  • Most people still focus primarily on learning language.
    • But start doing what you left your home to do.
    • This will begin to give you local words for your work.
    • Your days will be less frustrating when you engage in your passion.
  • You should have some local acquaintances by now, if not friends.
    • If not, redouble your efforts and pray for God to lead you to them.
  • Schedule a debrief to cover the period from when you started your path to now
  • Most people “hit a wall” about now.
    • Those things you initially loved you love no longer.
    • The things that excited you leave you flat.
    • Anywhere seems better than where you are.
    • This is normal and rarely lasts long.


This will be your hardest period of adjustment. A downward trajectory in this phase is typical.

Reflect on how far you have come. Celebrate little wins—and big ones. You will begin to feel successful again.

I pray you have experienced the sufficiency of Jesus in the times he is all you had. If not, I hope you will.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Reliant or any other entity with which he is affiliated.

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This article is part of a series. For prior articles, resources, and the author’s biography, visit

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Reliant or any other entity with which he is affiliated.

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