- Your field isn’t as important to everyone else as it is to you. We all want our mission field to be the center of the universe to everybody else, like it is to us. The truth is that not everybody will share your burden for the field to which you are called. If your field is somewhat obscure, you’ll get more than your fair share of funny questions. Depending upon the church or group you are addressing, you may get even more yawns. In our experience, Portugal got confused with every country beginning with the letter ‘p’ in the western hemisphere – Panama, Peru, Paraguay.Most people thought that it belonged to Spain or had something to do with Brazil. That’s Ok. Part of a missionaries job is to educate others about their field. Where you’re going to serve should be vitally important to you, but it may not be to anyone else. Forget it. Move on. Give 100%, 100% of the time. Don’t get bitter or distraught when only a few get on board. The Lord knows. It appears that the apostle Paul at times only had 1 supporting church. Not a whole lot of people cared about what he was doing. If that was the case then, what makes you think it will be any different for you? What makes you think that it would be ay different today? It’s not, and that’s why the second point is so vital.
- Have a plan. Stick to the plan. Way too often missionaries assume that any meeting is a good meeting. They traverse the country zig-zagging across time zones and states like fugitives. Like the wind, they are blown from one place to the next without really ever thinking about the toll that it takes on their finances or their family. This kind of willy-nilly approach to missions is poor stewardship. I once spoke to a missionary who in less than 2 week had a series of meetings which began in Tennessee, followed by a weekend in southern Florida, only to trek back to Maine. The Lord only knows where he went from there.
We had a plan. It was simple and it made sense to me. It involved 2 basic premises. First, we decided to stay within a 6 hour radius of our sending church. If we could not travel to the church from our home church in 6 hours, we didn’t go. There are plenty of good churches in that area, and we trusted that God would direct us to them. Before contacting any church, I looked on Google maps to find out if it met this criterion. If not, I moved on to the next church. We made an exception to this rule for 3 churches out of almost 150 that we visited. In each instance, we were guaranteed support before ever traveling. The second premise was to attempt to establish forward operating bases (or FOB in military terms). I was convinced that we could gather support and create hubs in certain areas, making it easier for us to arrange meetings while on deputation and helping down the road when we would return for furlough. The majority of our support comes from these FOBs in Birmingham, west Georgia/east Alabama, southern Mississippi, and east Tennessee. In these locations we were able to stay for a few weeks to a month at a time visiting the neighboring churches. We had a plan, and we stuck to the plan. Maybe your plan is completely different. That’s ok as long as you have one.
- Communication is queen. Prayer is king. Before ever launching out to our first meeting, I designed our first prayer card. It was poorly designed, but functional. One side had our family picture and some basic information. The other side was pre-printed as a postcard. Whenever we visited a church, we left a few prayer cards, but a few days later, Nina wrote a thank you note on the postcard side of the prayer card. We expressed our thanks for the opportunity to share our vision for preaching the gospel to sinners in Portugal. We thanked them for their generosity in providing meals, a love offering, or any other special act of kindness that was showed to us. On several occasions, just after receiving our thank you note on a postcard, pastors contacted us to let us know they were praying for us or to inform us that they would soon be considering partnering with us. It kept the lines of communication open and combated the “moochinary” mindset. Nina blogged regularly so that others could keep up with our progress. Communication with supporting pastors and churches is very important, but communicating with the Lord is even more important. Prayer is king. Pray for safety. Pray for grace. Pray for wisdom. Pray for joy. Pray for good health. Pray for special needs. Intercede for lost souls on the field where you are going. Intercede for churches and potential future missionaries. Intercede for your co-workers and family. There is no substitution for prayer, regardless of your field or ministry.