Here I sit with a cup of coffee (always from another country) thinking back to our first missionary journey to Nigeria in the early 1970s. Was it so long ago that my husband-to-be asked the ultimate question: “What do you think of missions and more specifically, Africa?” I had already developed an interest in missions, but the part about Africa … well, I had watched one too many Tarzan movies!
This may seem like a strange reaction, but before the mid-1970s, no one went on short-term mission trips. Looking back, I see that today there are many more opportunities to get ready to become world-class Christians, believers called to be a blessing so that God will be glorified among all the nations. I look back and wish I had prepared more. Today, I would recommend that you:
Go on a specific short-term trip with a specific goal. If you are interested in orphans in Africa, then go and experience that. When we go global, we enlarge our perspective and see the world through God’s eyes and with His heart. Go as a servant, and most of all, as a learner.
Meet with an experienced cross-cultural worker who can point out potential. What are your gifts and strengths? Can you be a teacher? A bookkeeper? A solar power consultant? A film producer? God will use your gifts to live and work in countries that require professional skills. Finish a degree, or even two. My degree was in education, but little did I realize I would be leading and teaching women who were ex-fighters in Eritrea or leading Bible studies with eager Lebanese women in Liberia. None of these opportunities looked like my original degree. I was very surprised at how God used me.
Be healthy emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Hidden character issues become giants in the stress of overseas living. What you cover up here and now will definitely come out into the open.
Become a member of a local church. Let the church see you in action and give you Godly advice, counsel and direction. Join Bible studies with those seasoned in the faith — they have much to give and we have much to learn. Take the Perspectives course offered each Spring semester. I guarantee you will not look at the world, the news and missions in the same way.
If you have student debt, be sure you redeem the time before you go overseas to pay it back. It is an amazing time to start praying and giving to your church and missions. Be obedient and surprised as you give to God’s work. It is an outward evidence of your inward commitment to the Lord.
Pray for the world. Get a map, use Operation World or the Joshua Project. Keep the world visible! Pray for people groups that have yet to hear of God’s love. Watch the news and pray for Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Liberia and Sri Lanka. Have you prayed for those countries labeled in your clothes?
Read, read, read. Those who have gone on missions have much to tell us. I read my first missionary biography in college about Isobel Kuhn in China. I’ve read many since, and each gives a different perspective. God guided and prepared them for the future. Little did I know that my future would include living in the bush in Nigeria for 10 years, experiencing civil war in Liberia and living in Eritrea.
My husband and I look back and see that there were many things we could have done differently, but now, here at JBU, we have had the privilege and honor to prepare the next generation to live “on mission” and experience the world with God’s heart. If you would like to talk with us, Dr. Klotz and I are available for a cup of coffee. We can’t think of anything more important than being a part in God’s plan as a world class Christian.