Hey future Goers! After serving overseas for two years and choosing to stay long term, I have some thoughts I’d love to share with you. Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes and be inspired by how God can use anyone--especially those who feel weak.
- Support raising: Don’t be scared!!! Raising support is a joy and God can provide for you in ways you never thought possible. During the first few weeks of connecting with people, support poured in like a flood--emotionally, spiritually, and financially. When my husband and I first decided to work globally, I hated the idea of support raising. I kept looking for other ways to serve overseas with “real jobs” that made an income, because I thought asking people to partner with us would be humiliating and that our needs wouldn’t be met. How wrong I was… I see now that those were lies from the Enemy, and that God Almighty is my faithful, patient provider. There is so much more than money going back and forth. The people who came around us and joined our team are our prayer warriors. Trying to do this on our own, going overseas without a strong anchor, would have been disastrous. Not only that, inviting people to partner with you is a great opportunity for the other person! It gives people an amazing opportunity to be involved with global work. Not everyone can go, but everyone is called to participate somehow.
- Saying “see you later” to friends & family: Goodbyes are so hard, and sometimes the reality of two years (or more!) doesn’t hit you until after you move overseas. There will be moments where you wonder if it is worth the cost. The loss feels so heavy at times, especially during those first few months before you have close friendships. If you are thinking about moving overseas long term, you will have to face really difficult questions: Will the rest of my life just be a long string of hard goodbyes? Am I strong enough to keep laying down my desire to live a comfortable life, close to friends and family? How much time is being lost? But your Heavenly Father sees you in those moments of loneliness and sorrow, and He promises that time is NOT being “lost”. It is being saved up. The time that you are “losing” with friends and family will be saved up and redeemed a hundredfold in heaven. You will not regret missing big events: births, deaths, changes big and small, because Christ Himself will make up for every sacrifice. “Only what’s done for Christ will last.” God comforts us with this truth: that which we give up to serve Him is never lost--only saved up to be redeemed again, and again, and again for all eternity…
- Frustrations in ministry: There is no greater joy than sharing your faith with people who have never heard the Gospel before. Yet you will also experience deep sorrow when people are not receptive to Jesus. Trust in this: God is moving in hearts in His perfect timing. He wants His will to be done more than you ever could! It isn’t up to you to “save” people. Though He uses those who are willing, it is up to Him to change hearts. His timing is perfect, His ways are higher than ours, and He can move mountains… in His own way. So don’t be discouraged when ministry doesn’t go according to plan. God can redeem any mistakes you make and He is never limited by your weakness. If you think you aren’t cut out for ministry overseas, you are right. But that is GOOD. The sooner you realize that you need to depend on God 100% of the time, the sooner you will see Him moving in powerful ways through you. You’ve probably heard the phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle,'' but I don’t think that is very Scriptural. He will give you more than you can handle because He wants you to lean on Him and let Him do the heavy lifting!
- Be the hands and feet of Jesus: Meeting peoples’ physical needs is such a beautiful testimony to His love. “Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne” (Ps 89:14), so as you fight against injustice and address poverty you will grow to understand the Gospel in a whole new way.
- Language learning: Learning a new language is both extremely rewarding and frustrating. You will feel humiliated almost daily. But when meaning is communicated, celebrate that small victory! When Moses said he couldn’t go and lead the Israelites out of slavery, he tried to convince God that he wouldn’t be equipped to do the work God was calling Him to because he wasn’t very articulate (as if God didn’t know whom He was choosing!) God silenced him with these simple, yet profound words: “Who made man’s mouth?” (Exodus 4:11) Not only did Moses eventually agree to go, he became one of the most famous leaders in history. Speaking in a second language will almost always be at least somewhat of a struggle. Yet God made your mouth. The only reason you are able to say anything is because He has enabled you to do so. Place your confidence in Him, and go forth and serve Him in power.
- Spiritual warfare: If you don’t know much about this topic, I HIGHLY recommend “Spiritual Warfare”by Karl Payne. You will need to be prepared for the attacks from the enemy, and also know how to address other difficult things like demon possession, syncretism, animism, and more. Also, start developing the discipline of thanksgiving now! “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Living overseas is hard, and you will probably find yourself wanting to complain from the moment you wake up some days. Instead of grumbling, make a list of things to be thankful for each day. You may be wondering what this has to do with spiritual warfare. 1) Thanksgiving leads to a life saturated with prayer. The first half of 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 states: “Rejoice always, praying without ceasing”. Praying without ceasing sounds impossible, but when we give thanks to God I think this is part of what this verse means. Thanksgiving is sweet, intimate communication with God. 2) It equips us for spiritual battle. The enemy plants lies and sows seeds of discontentment to turn our eyes away from what God is doing, leaving no opportunity for us to remember our eternal hope, joy, and peace that we have in Christ. 3) God sees when we are thankful, and honors it. I do not mean to make this sound like a give and take relationship by any means (after all, anything we have has been given by God and we are not worthy of any of it), but what I do mean is that when we give thanks, it is pleasing to Him. Sometimes when I choose to give thanks I immediately feel His presence and joy, and have assurance that “the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart are pleasing to Him” (Ps. 19:14). This relates to the idea of “storing up treasure in heaven” (Matt 6:19). It is not a selfish thing to desire to store up treasure in Heaven, because our eternal Treasure is Jesus Christ. Desiring more of Him is never sinful--it is, in fact, righteous.
- Pray, pray, pray: If you want to see God move, this is where you start. This is where the battle is won. Pray alone, with your team, and with other believers from your host culture. Ephesians 6:12: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Enjoy this new adventure with Jesus!!!