Missions 101: Part 3 – First Term on the Field

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Missions 101: Part 3 – What is involved in the missionary family moving to the field and adjusting to the new culture and way of life and ministry?

Preparation to Leave for the Field

  • They must prepare themselves spiritually for the transition through prayer, counsel, and studying God’s Word.
  • They must prepare financially for the transition through selling, shipping, and/or storing their belongings.  They must save the necessary funds to start up an entirely new life in the country to which they are moving.
  • They must prepare their families for the transition through spending time, saying goodbye, and seeking to communicate in new ways.
  • They must take care of getting passports, visas, and necessary approval by the government.
  • They must gain wise counsel at this time from their pastor, mission boards, and other missionaries on the field to make sure that they…
    • Get off to a good start with the right visas
    • Don’t leave under-supported
    • Don’t waste a lot of money on purchasing the wrong things
    • Don’t make alot of mistake due to inexperience and being a foreigner

The First Few Months on the Field

  • These are very busy stressful months for the missionaries.
  • They have many things to take care of when they land…
    • Setting up a house, buying a car, furniture and everything necessary to live.
    • Getting a bank account, utilities, phones, etc.
    • Learning where to shop for groceries and how to cook in a new country.
    • Finding a school or beginning to homeschool their children.
    • Trying to figure out how to do all of this in a place where they cannot understand the people or the culture.

The First Year on the Field

  • They must begin learning the language.
    • They will go back to being an infant in this new language and culture.
    • They don’t know how to even ask for the most simple thing.
    • They will be laughed at and feel very foolish for a long time because they don’t know how to do anything.
    • This can be very humbling and difficult and keep many missionaries from learning the language.
    • They will go to language school 4 hours a day and practice with the local people another 4 hours per day.
    • A lot of pressure is on them as they deal with frustration, discouragement, tiredness, culture shock, and humiliation.
    • The missionary wife has the pressure of trying to be a wife and mother while also trying to learn a new language.
  • They must learn to function in a new culture.
    • Everything is new to them – the weather, the food, the language, the smells, the sounds, the sights, and the culture.
    • They must constantly fight the temptation to make comparisons, reject the new culture because it is different.
    • They will have to rely on others to help them do everything.
    • The newness will eventually wear off and they will begin to despise their new country if they are not careful.
  • They must deal with the stress of missing family, friends, and familiar surroundings.
    • They will be tempted to think that the cross they are called to carry is too great.
    • Their desire for their friends and family will be accentuated because they find it difficult to relate to the new people around them.
    • They will feel like they will never be able to have genuine friendships in the new culture.
    • The time change will make it frustrating trying to communicate with those they have left.
  • They will be frustrated because they are not doing much productive ministry.
    • Their first year will be spending just observing and learning.
    • Until they can speak the language, the amount of ministry, preaching, and teaching will be severely limited – only through a translator.
    • They will struggle with going from doing much in the ministry to very little.

The First Term on the Field (typically 4 years)

  • Randy Stirewalt – said that the first term is the most difficult.
  • Veteran missionary to Japan, Kenneth Mansell, says that in many countries the number of missionaries returning for a second term is as low as 10%!
  • Many missionaries said this on askamissionary.com about what they wish they had known before they went:
    • I wish I had had more realistic expectations.
    • I wish I had known how difficult missions really is.
    • I wish I had known more about the challenges of language learning & developing relationships.
    • I wish I had learned about spiritual warfare.
    • I wish I had know how difficult long-term fruit really is.
    • I wish I had known more about myself and being patient.
    • I wish I had known how nationals view the economic status of missionaries.
    • I wish I knew how to deal with conflict.
  • Realistic goals for the first term
    • Become proficient in the language and culture
    • Develop a heart that loves the people and is at peace with the new culture
    • Win, disciple, and train a few men who can carry on the work when you return on furlough
      • Many of the churches Paul started were small but they were able to continue on in his absence.
      • They were not perfect churches and needed much maturing, but he ordained
    • Pattern of missions from Acts
      • Preach the gospel and teach many (14:21)
      • Confirm the disciples and encourage them (14:22)
      • Ordain elders in every church and commend them to the Lord (14:23)
    • Pattern of missions from Matthew 28:19-20
      • Go
      • Teach all nations
      • Baptize them
      • Teach them to observe all things

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