This is the second post in a series about understanding what a path to missions is like. Last week we looked at “calling,” or God’s leading toward cross-cultural ministry. This week, we are looking at how to prepare for living and working in ministry.
Preparing to live and work cross-culturally is one of the most important things you can do along the path to impact. Even the best preparation will not guarantee a trouble-free experience, but dealing with the inevitable challenges will be easier if you have prepared well.
So how should you prepare? Consider the following suggestions as a starting place:
- Look for confirmation of God’s leading to go. Start with your home church leadership. Do they agree that God has called you to go? What do they think you should do to equip yourself, and to be sent well?
- If you aren’t already, get involved in the local ministry of your church. Be part of the outreach or the supportive structure. The more involved you are, the better the church will be at supporting you when you are gone, and the better prepared you will be to get involved in ministry in your new culture.
- Communicate early and well with your network of family, friends, and acquaintances. Bring them along for the adventure. You will want them with you in prayer and support (both emotional and financial) while you are in your country of service, so begin that process now. The more invested they are in your early steps along the path, the more invested they will be in the work ahead.
- Get your financial affairs in order. Pay down your debt – eliminate it if possible. Have a savings account. Unexpected things happen, and having some cash in reserve may save the day. Put together a will. In fact, many agencies require one before you get on an airplane. Make sure that any assets left in the US are being well managed. For example, if you are keeping and renting your house, make sure that you have a plan in place for when it may no longer be rented.
- Perfect feeding yourself spiritually. When you get to a new culture, you may not know the language well enough to be fed at church. On top of that, you may not have the community you are used to in worship and growth. All of this will be new, and knowing how to guide your own spiritual formation will be important.
- Have all the certifications you need to do the ministry you project doing. For example, if you plan to teach English as a second language, get the certification to show that you have been properly trained to do that work. It may make the difference between getting a visa or not. If you plan to teach, make sure you have your credentials up to date.
- Start engaging other cultures in your community now. Learn some phrases in another language. Observe how their culture is different than yours, and eat food that is different than what you’re used to. If you are going to Ethiopia, for example, visit an Ethiopian church in your city. Make friends with people of other cultures, and spend time with them.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good place to start. Talk to missionaries you know about what they wish they had done to prepare. If you don’t know any missionaries, shoot us a note. We would be happy to share what we know.
Don’t let preparation overwhelm you. Just take one step at a time.