What it takes

“There are very few people who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.” (Saint Ignatius)

Although God’s call to serve him comes in different ways for different people, one thing seems to be constant: we’ve already told him that we are willing. We may not even hear from God immediately, but if we have abandoned ourselves into his hands, as Ignatius of Loyola has it, you can be sure he will call — through circumstance, through a sudden, unmistakable and specific call that makes you go hot and cold at the same time, or through gentle nudges over time. Sometimes all three.

When you focus on the end goal of rolling up your sleeves somewhere (either at home or away) and getting involved in what God is doing in this world, it’s exciting, perhaps a bit daunting. But following Jesus is always one step after the other. My experience is that we’re always given the faith and resources for the next step. Like many people, Darnelle (see Preparing To Go on this website) was blessed to visit the country she felt called to and to experience working there for a few months, before coming back to prepare and raise funds to go back. It confirmed her calling was real. Jesus asks us to count the cost of following him into a needy world.

Another mission partner, Emily, says her top three tips for those wanting to work in cross-cultural mission overseas are:

  1. Start while you’re still at home, be involved by praying for mission partners overseas, being engaged in what is happening in the world. Pray for a country. Pray for a people. God can use that to touch your heart, and also to show you where he wants you to be.
  2. It’s also important to get involved with serving God cross-culturally in your home community. There are so many ethnic groups in New Zealand now, this is an accessible way to prepare. Get to know them, build relationships.
  3. She also highly recommends doing theological study, be it a few modules from a college on-line or a fully fledged course. Not only will you get to know God better, but you will get to know yourself much better. Following is by its very nature a transformational experience.

In practical terms, I would add that it’s also a great idea to seek an email buddy who is already working in the place you think you will serve. Not only will your online contact be supporting them, but you’ll gain a feel for the place.

When I was heading for Ethiopia a decade ago, my prospective director over there sent me an email which he started by saying, “As I write I can see the vultures in the trees outside and hear the mosques calling people to prayer.” My preparation-to-go process had been a fast-track one, a jumble of bureaucratic requirements, vaccinatons, packing up my house and looking for funds, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  But those simple words were a breath of fresh air. “Now we’re talking,”I thought. “This is real,” and felt grounded.

In the end, keeping perspective is what grounds and motivates us through the preparation process…  “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)