God can use anyone. He wants to use us in ways we can only begin to imagine. God can, and does, use everyone who makes themselves available and open to His will. But, it needs to be in His will and His timing. We all have different giftings and talents; not everyone can do every job.
We host a lot of groups here at our ministry in Mexico, almost three hundred groups a year. For most people, short-term missions is a mountaintop experience, an experience that has a tangible impact on their lives. Frequently, when people are out of their comfort zone and the distractions of everyday life, God can and does speak to them in new ways. More often than not, IF a person has a call on their lives for full-time missions work, they will first hear that calling on a short-term trip. I’ve never met anyone in long-term missions, that didn’t start with a short-term mission trip. So, if you’re on a mission trip, and feel called long-term, what do you do?
Almost every group we host has one person who comes to my office and asks about staying long-term to partner with us. We love that people are open to the idea of long-term missions and a life of service. But, when people are on a short-term trip and immediately want to transfer it into a long-term commitment, we find this tends to be an emotional decision. God might be speaking to them, or it might just be them caught up in the emotions of the moment. How do you know the difference?
When someone approaches me on a trip about long-term missions, I always meet with them, try to encourage them, and give them all of the pertinent information. I also tell them to go away for about thirty days. If, after a month, they still feel called, then it might be real. I don’t want them deciding in the moment. To commit to a mission for six months, a year, or longer is a huge decision. If it’s not done in the right way, a person’s desire to serve can sometimes do more harm than good.
If you feel called into a long-term mission (6 months or longer) there are a few things you should do. Before anything else, go to the person in your life who REALLY knows you, and you see as a leader. This person might be your pastor, youth pastor, mentor, or some other person you trust completely. It needs to be a person who will be honest with you. The hope is that if your personality or skill sets are not ready for the missions field, they will speak the truth to you. If they think you do have the right motivation, skills, and calling, they can help you take the next steps.
If you feel called into missions, honestly ask yourself whether or not you have a humble servants heart. This will make all the difference. Everyone thinks they have a humble, servant attitude until they’re asked to serve. It can be very challenging to be self-aware in this area; this is another reason to seek wise counsel. Are you living a life of service now? If you’re not serving those in your church, your school, your work, your town, you won’t suddenly develop a servant’s heart once you cross the border. Just because you change location doesn’t mean your personality and priorities will change. In every way, your baggage travels with you.
Humble service is a big deal to God and essential in missions. As we go into the mission field, we need to represent Christ well and walk in His steps. If we look at the life of Jesus, He was all about service. Humble service. Very often, when He did great acts, He would instruct those around Him to tell no-one. Every action Jesus took was for the benefit of others, are you ready to walk in the same way?
You might be called into missions, even if it’s just for a season in your life. Please be open to that calling and seek competent counsel. If it’s right, and the calling is real, it will change your life in ways you can only imagine, and you will find a joy that few people experience. If you think you’re called into missions, and it’s from the wrong motivations or the timing is not right, you can do a great deal of damage. Please seek God, and make a mature, informed decision.
Please share with the missions pastor at your church. Thanks.
Photo credit: Pat Rogers: Pat Rogers Studios