This question was posted on our BMW facebook group page:
What advice would you share with new missionaries
to help them adjust and survive the first term?
We had a great response. Here is some advice from veteran missionaries. (Since there was so much great advice given, this will be in two parts!)...
- Occupy as much of your time as possible with learning the language. Have daily lessons and spend lots of time with non-English speaking locals. Also, try to make contact with another missionary in the country (if there is one) with whom you can fellowship and from whom you can learn. Also, don't be expecting all of your old friends and family members to keep in touch. Some will, but most will only be able to keep it up for the first year (if that). Don't set yourself up for a major disappointment. It was the toughest lesson of my first term. -Suzy
- Leave America and what you miss behind. Make this your HOME. You'll never feel 'at home' in America again anyway, to be honest. Love, love, love (through Christ) the people in your new country and be humble and teachable always. -Joy
- Adjusting takes time. Even after you are "adjusted," there will still be those "culture shock" days when everything seems foreign. At times when you are feeling overwhelmed, remember Proverbs 3:5-6. Worrying is "leaning to our own understanding." No matter what the circumstance, we can fully trust in the Lord. We still at times get culture shock ten years later. Oh, and when you return to the States, you will also have culture shock -Laura
- I am only in my first term....and not at all experienced; however, I would suggest that you and your family get a nice, clean, comfortable and big enough place to live....one that you (the wife) just love!! Depending on where you are (mission field), language may not even be the issue. The biggest issue for me was the house thing; we looked at many that just made me cry. Then, we found one that I did not think we would ever get...(thought it was out of our range), but God provided. -Faith Ann
- Don't be surprised by the strong feelings of homesickness. God made us to become attached to family and what we are used to; so it is normal. I feel more homesick over missing family members' kids growing up than anything else. It helps me to acknowledge the ache and be thankful for the privilege to serve God in the same moment. It is not wrong to live with unfulfilled longings because God can use these in a powerful way in our lives! -Sarah
- I would say every time you think of something negative about where you live, make yourself think of something positive. Do your best not to compare. Laugh at your mistakes because the natives will! -Althea
- Don't be cocky. You will alienate those who eventually can be some of the dearest people to you - other missionaries. -Maureen
- Definitely spend time learning the language!!!! It can't be over emphasized, and it defines your limitations as to what kind of ministry YOU the wife will have. Also, pray early for God to give you a love for the people to whom you will be ministering. He will, and the people will see if you are genuine or not. Also, ladies, strive to have a ministry of your own. I do not mean to offend anyone with this, but I did not come all the way to Siberia to wash dishes and teach my children at home. Those are wonderful ways I can serve my family and provide a Christian education for my children, but I want the Lord to use me directly in the ministry. In Russia, for example, most of the first contacts you have with people are through the wives or ladies. We need to be able to meet them, make friends with them, invite them to church or find other ways to invite them to church activities in order to see them come to Christ. My hubby cannot do that as well as I can! Pray and ask God to use you in more ways than a wife, mother, and housewife. Strive to be needed in the ministry on the mission field, not just a wallflower! Get involved! Pray for God to show you new ways to reach out to women and children and get in there and serve God! -DeeDee
- I would say to be very careful about comparing yourselves to other missionaries, especially those who have been on the field longer than you have. I did this with material things. I saw the conveniences other wives had and did not understand what it took for them to get to that place. They had been there and accumulated things for years! I now understand that you will not "have it all" your first term or maybe even your second or third. My biggest lesson I learned was to be content with the things God gave me and the ministry He gave us. You also have to learn that the other missionaries have spent years building a ministry, and you will not have that same type of ministry right off the bat. Oh, and you will make mistakes. Get over it, only Jesus did everything right. Learn from your mistakes and let God disciple you on the field. -Sarah
- Take one day at a time. Get up every morning and ask God to help you get through that day, and then thank Him at night when the day is done. Everything from language to culture takes time, and you can get overwhelmed if you try to take it all on at once. -Marty
- A very wise woman told me to just be myself and not to feel like I had to be like other missionaries. It is very true. God made you who you are for a reason, and He uses your special talents and personality to reach even that one person who needs to know the Lord as their Saviour. That first move is always scary, but once you get settled in and into a rhythm of doing things where you are, things are not so bad. -Amanda
- Have certain times (like holidays) when you try to do things the 'American' (or Australian, Canadian etc.) way, but don't spend every day comparing everything to America. You'll drive yourself (and everyone around you) crazy! Realize that just because it's not the way you did it 'back home' doesn't mean it's the wrong way. -Amanda
- Balance, Balance and more balance! I agree that we need to have a ministry to call our own. When my children were young, (we came to the field when they were 3, 4, 5, 9, 10) I felt "home bound" because I was raising, homeschooling, and feeding my kids. So, I wrote in the front of my Bible, "As long as you have your husband and children to tend to, THEY ARE your ministry." I remember someone once said, "I'm investing in my children because someday when they are grown, my ministry will be multiplied through their ministry." It must have worked because our eldest son and his wife are here ministering to the Russian people; our second son and his family will be joining us this summer; our eldest daughter is married to a man called to Russia; our second daughter is already back here working and ministering with us, and our youngest is in medical school desiring to serve the Lord through medical missions. So, I feel that I'm reaping fruit from all these ministries because I was faithful to my main ministry of the family while our children were growing up. If you have a wonderful church ministry yet lose your children because they resent the ministry and think that it stole your attention from their needs, you've lost big time. So, like I said, "Balance, balance, balance!" It doesn't mean you can't have a ministry; it means that you should involve your children in whatever ministry you have and make it their ministry too. Hope this is understandable- I'm not condemning, just saying what worked for me. -Kathy
Come back next week for part 2.
Do you have anything to add? We would love to hear your comments.