When I received the phone call about an opportunity to teach English in Chile, I kept my cool. But inside, I was jumping, ecstatic. After the phone call, the inside jumping turned into literal outside jumping. I bounded around the house and shouted. Luckily, I was by myself.
I always had an interest in foreign mission work. I am convinced that the Gospel is the single most important information that anyone could hear. I admired those who worked in churches abroad. I hoped that one day God could use me in the same way.
Looking back, I can see how God prepared me for that phone call. He gave me a desire to learn Spanish, an ability to relate and listen to people, and a strong curiosity in other cultures. He also gave me a conviction about the importance of His message, a longing for adventure, and years of Lutheran Christian schooling.
Attitude-wise, God prepped me, too. And it was painful. I had graduated with honors, but I just couldn’t land the jobs I was trying out for. The month before the phone call, I had been unemployed. Now I can see that God used that time to humble me. I prayed a lot during that time – I was out of ideas and had to “give up” trying to control my situation. He also used that time to make me search and search…and he gave me a new desire – to teach English to foreigners.
When I got that phone call, I was ready. Or so I thought.
This month’s Mission News theme (Mission News=mission newspaper for the Evangelical Lutheran Synod) is “worker training and volunteers.” What does the word “training” make you think of? Workshops, seminaries, and evangelism classes. This preparation is both useful and necessary. The devil works extra-hard to make us slip up and slightly twist the ideas in the Bible when we talk to others about faith. But training and preparation helps all of us stay faithful to the right doctrines. It also equips us with “tried and true” approaches to accomplish church work.
When I came to Chile, I had a lot to learn. (I’m still learning.) I got certified as an EFL teacher, and I’ve sat alongside the two pastors who have been in this mission field. I’ve listened to them share the truth of the Bible with compassion, but without apology. At the encouragement of a former EFL teacher in Chile, I’ve started to read more about doctrine. This helps me understand and explain it better to my students. (I encourage you to do the same…The Lutheran Confessions are killer…I mean, er…save-r?).
So, God provides us with formal training and informal training. What I mean is this: God has equipped each of us with talents and natural strengths. Yours might be a knack for language, enthusiasm for working with young people, an interest in a culture, a talent for administration, a drive to design or create film, the gift of encouragement. He also prepares workers formally, with Bible classes, doctrinal seminars, and outreach workshops.
Each mission field needs certain gifts and certain training. Not every mission site would be a good fit for every person. If you are thinking about volunteering in missions, consider your God-given strengths. Consider the training, preparation, and financing you still might need. It’s also good to consider your attitude (Phil. 2:5-7). The mission field requires a ton of humility, steadiness - and a light sense of humor. Finally, pray. God will give you a yes, no, or wait answer. Whatever happens, we can be confident it’s for the “good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The great thing is that we can trust God to fulfill the needs in each place at the right time. The Chile English program doesn’t need volunteers right now…but it may eventually. In the meantime, Pastor Tim Erickson is busy training up our male leaders in seminary classes. They’re preparing for ministry via Skype, evening classes, and sometimes re-arrange their work schedules to be able to study a full day each week.
Can you pray that God prepare both local volunteers and workers from each country, as well as volunteers and workers from the United States?
Comment below: What questions do you have about working in missions? Looking back, how has/had God prepared you to be able to share His message?
All the best,