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Tips to Prepare Your Life for Long-term Missions, Even if You’re Not Ready Yet

By Andrew Sauder, RMM Mobilizing Coordinator

As an agency, Rosedale Mennonite Missions desires that every person would engage in the work of global evangelization in a meaningful way. In my role as mobilizing coordinator, I connect with young people who have a passion to reach the unreached and unengaged peoples of the world and I encourage them to fulfill that calling. Through this work I have met many young people who have that vision, but often struggle to know how to prepare themselves and their futures for that type of long-term work.

If you are facing those uncertainties, here are five steps that can be taken to help prepare you for future mission work. Some of these ideas are simple, while others require long-term sacrifice, preparation, and planning. If you eventually want to serve in another country, consider these suggestions:

1. Talk to Others About Your Dream

This first step is important. Don’t hide the dream that God has given you. Having someone with which to discuss mission ideas can really help to keep the vision alive while you are preparing to go. Tell other like-minded individuals in your life about your calling. Discuss it with your parents and close friends; share it with your pastor and other mission leaders in your church. Start the conversation now and keep seeking ways to talk about your passion.

I love talking with people about missions and mission’s topics. Feel free to send me an email at andrews@rmmoffice.org to discuss any mission topic that interests you.

2. Find a Missions-Minded Mentor

Being mentored by someone who has been on the mission field is a great way to keep the vision for the unreached alive. More than likely you have people in your community who have been involved on the mission field and would enjoy regularly meeting with you about your calling. If there isn’t anyone, we are connected to many missions-minded people and we could put you in contact with them.

I’ve heard countless young people, who have passion to work among the least-reached, talk about how they fear getting comfortable and losing vision for God’s work among the unreached while they are in training or in college. This is a very legitimate fear, and we’ve seen it happen to many people. That’s why it is vitally important for young people to find ways to keep the vision alive while they are preparing to go. Having a mentor and a supportive group around you will help keep that flame alive. Seek out books, resources and online communities focused on missions and evangelism.

3. Develop Your Passion into a Skill

If you feel God leading you to go work among an unreached people group, take some time to check your passions and see what skills you have to offer that specific location – and then work at developing that aspect of yourself.

Many times that will mean you should go to college and receive training, but it could mean that you need to develop a different, non-college related skill. Either way, focus on becoming competent with a desirable skill and not necessarily on just getting official credentials. I know people without college degrees but with farming backgrounds who are extremely helpful in developing countries because of their competency in agriculture. I also know people without college degrees who have a knack for business, making them an asset to a mission team.

If you are attracted to working among the unreached, but you aren’t sure if your skills could be helpful, contact RMM to see what options there might be for you. There are other countless opportunities to work in countries: theater and drama, computer programming, graphic design, starting businesses of all kinds, teaching (mostly English but other subjects as well), community development, social work, camp ministry, coffee production, nursing and other medical related arenas, etc. If you are passionate about the unreached, then we believe God will make clear a place for you among them.

On a side note, RMM does offer loan payment assistance for young people who hope to go to the mission field before they’ve paid off their student loans. If loans have been the only thing holding you back from getting involved in mission work, please contact us!

4. Build Cross-Cultural Relationships Where You Are

One huge step someone can take right now, which will prepare you for future cross-cultural work, is to befriend internationals who live near you – especially internationals from the location you wish to go. If you feel that you have been called to a specific area of the world, go out of your way to show hospitality to, and build relationships with the people from that location who live nearby. After all, isn’t missions about the unreached people and not the geographical location anyway? So, if you are called to these people, engage them wherever they may be in the world.

I know people who have befriended immigrants from countries where it is illegal to proselytize. Some of these immigrants – knowing of their faith – invited them to come to their home country to work. Just imagine going to a restricted country with a preexisting network of connections! These types of relationships are not hard to find if you live near urban areas or if you attend a moderately large university, but you will have to make sacrifices in order to develop them. I would strongly encourage moving into a neighborhood with a high percentage of first-generation immigrants if possible.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you go out and build relationships with people for the purpose of getting an invitation to their country. I am saying that if we care about the people who have never heard the gospel, we can find those people around us. Getting to know them might even be a strategic piece of living within an unreached people group in the future. There are even ministries that specialize in showing hospitality to international college students like International Friendships Inc. and International Students Inc. and they are located all across the country in different universities. They are always in need of more volunteers. Getting involved in this type of work can be extremely helpful in keeping your vision alive while you prepare to work long-term in an unreached people group.

Perhaps the most important way to keep your vision alive is to find ways to be missional every day. Find the unreached people nearby, as described above. Volunteer in ways that get you out in the world and into other people’s lives. Listen to the hurts and struggles of the world around you, and pray for God to give you a bigger and deeper heart for the lost.

5. Don’t be Afraid of Commitment

As I’ve spoken to ministry leaders about involving young people, one thing that often comes up is that millennials and generation Z have a hard time making commitments. The many options available to young people are constantly pulling them in different directions. They can get connected somewhere for a while only to move on to the next thing before they get a taste for what ministry looks like longer term. In the unreached and unengaged people groups of the world, a long-term commitment is needed to till soil, plant seeds, and slowly nurture any seed that starts growing. Sometimes the soil tilling aspect alone can take several years. I’m hearing ministry leaders ask, “Do millennials and generation Z have what it takes to do ministry in these areas?” I think we do, but it will require us to reframe how we live life and how we view ministry success.

Remember that not all of us are called to work internationally. Realizing this concept before you go will be a huge benefit to you and to the people sending you. Don’t be discouraged though, the work of global evangelization can’t just be accomplished by people who go to the unreached. We also need people who stay and pray for workers and for unreached areas, we need people who support workers financially, we need people who disciple future mission workers and prepare them to go, and we need people to work with the unreached around us in America.

Discerning God’s leading in life is not an easy task; staying faithful with a calling for the unreached is even harder. But, if you think that God is calling you to go to the least-reached people of the world and share God’s love with them, I urge you to pursue that calling.

One way you can do this is to go to the field as an intern. You can make a short-term commitment of six months to two years to a location that you think you might be called to. RMM currently has interns in North Africa, as well as a few in the process of going to Spain, Thailand, and The Middle East. If you want to spend some time learning from long-term workers, experiencing foreign misisons and seeing how God can use you in a different country, contact RMM and we can get you started on that process.

Remember that a lot of time and effort will have to go into making your calling a reality. Don’t be discouraged if it feels like it’s taking a long time. That’s normal; just keep taking steps. The sooner you start taking steps the better. No matter what role you end up filling, do it with passion and excellence so that God’s kingdom can advance and people of all nations, tribes, and tongues can worship his name!

If you have questions about this article or want to learn more about the opportunities mentioned, please contact andrews@rmmoffice.org.