How to prepare with patience and faith while you wait to serve overseas.
“We want you to wait.”
These words from my pastor in a recent conversation wrenched my heart. I’ve been waiting to go to the mission field since I was 14. First waiting to become an adult, then waiting to finish college, then waiting out a worldwide pandemic. How much longer will I have to wait? I wondered.
I trust my pastor’s counsel because he knows me well and shares my burden for the nations. But it was hard not to jump in with reasons why I’m ready to go now, or to ignore his advice and move forward with a mission agency on my own.
My face must have shown my disappointment because my pastor’s wife spoke up: “We’re asking you to wait to go, but don’t forget that waiting is an active thing. We, the whole church, want to come alongside you and disciple you as a church member for a little while longer. We want to watch you disciple others and give you time to deepen relationships with your international friends here.”
Though I was discouraged, I’m also thankful. My church cares enough about me and the least-reached to ask me to prepare well. I know their goal is not to keep me home but to send me to the field healthy and well-equipped rather than depleted and immature.
Are you waiting to be a missionary, too? I believe the Lord is sovereign in his timing.
Will you join me in waiting actively? Here are some ways I’m learning to do that.
- Invest time in God’s Word and prayer. Both now and on the field, you are wholly dependent on the Lord. These spiritual disciplines will sustain you by fixing your eyes on him. Plus, they will keep you motivated toward the least-reached as you experience God’s heart for the nations through them.
- Surround yourself with trusted, godly counsel. Share your desire to be a missionary with your church leadership, mentors, family, and friends. Ask them to hold you accountable and encourage you. This might mean studying a book together, going to biblical counseling, asking to be discipled, or simply serving alongside your community.
- Address areas of sin in your life with the truth of Scripture and the power of the Spirit. A small issue here can become catastrophic overseas when you’re challenged with the stress of living cross-culturally. Work through these heart issues now so they don’t trip you up later.
- Plug into your local church and practice intentional membership. God designed us to need the whole body of Christ, so invest in the church and let the church invest in you. Use your talents, perspectives, and passions to serve your church and the people in it. You never know whom God may be calling to partner with you in your future ministry!
- Keep learning. Read missionary biographies. Befriend internationals in your city and learn about their culture. Study a foreign language. Research a country or people group that interests you. Practice sharing threads of the gospel in everyday conversations.
If you’re like me, your heart beats a little faster every time you hear a story from the mission field. God has given us a good desire to serve him among the nations. He has a good plan, and he knows the right time.
Oh how badly I want to go! But even more, how badly I want to go well.
God is not asking us to wait in vain. Press into this season of longing. Wait with patience and faith. One day, in his timing, I’ll see you on the field.
Natalie M. serves as a recruiter with Crossworld in Kansas City, where she invests much of her time in the city’s growing international population. She’s passionate about different cultures, is game for trying any and all ethnic cuisines, and enjoys learning to make disciples as a way of life.