Monday, May 13, 2013

Missionary Monday - Advice for the New Missionary (part 2)...

Missed part 1?  Click here.  As mentioned last week, 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!)...

- I am only in my second term, but one thing that has helped me tremendously is remembering that I am not the first missionary woman to have faced this (whatever it may be) challenge. So many godly women of all ages and in all stages of life have gone before me. Get to know the other missionaries within the country and glean from their wisdom about the culture, family life, and ministry opportunities.  -Hannah

- Balance sure is the key. Our kids go everywhere with us, but we have family day on Tuesday, and it is sacred!!  -Althea
- Patience. Lots of patience--learning the culture, learning the language, etc. No matter what language, it takes months to be able to hear and use the language with fluency; and some languages take years. You have to have a lot of patience with yourself.  -Marcia
- 1. Where you can--. develop and encourage the local customs in your home--example: we eat Japanese food with whatever utensil they would use i.e. chopsticks, spoons, etc.; we leave our shoes downstairs in the entryway; we learned the words used for entrance and leaving; we learned the way to bow to various 'types' of people, etc... Your testimony in spiritual things will go a whole lot further if you try to do as they do when it is no harm to your personal testimony. When it does, we politely stand away from it, and now they know what we don't partake in and are not offended.
2. Encourage godly biblical associations with missionaries that may be in your general area because you need fellowship, but be careful of SO needing English speakers around you that you eventually break down your stand. We didn't have this problem because we started in the non-computer era--but be careful of filling the needs for English, family (from far away), etc. that your time around your daily schedule is filled with computer time so that eventually you are not developing relationships with those you seek to reach.
Those are the main two I would think to add to the family matters that have already been talked about. And #2 I even have to be careful even after 30 years--not so much because I need the English speaking, etc...that isn't the reason any more--it's the grandkids and family I have on the other side of the world that could take up a lot more of my time than I should. And God bless--those struggles you go through the first couple years especially can be overwhelming at times--take them to the Lord in prayer--He will meet you there!!  -Vicki

I agree with the ladies in finding your ministry. Yes, my family is my #1 priority, but it helped when I could be more involved. I started a ladies' Bible study, and we meet weekly. I look forward to it each week, and it gets me deeper into God's Word. I also helped start a weekly co-op with our homeschool group. This has been a huge blessing. I also have made time to take one of the ladies from church out for lunch every week or so. Please note, I'm not boasting, just sharing what has helped me. Another thing that helped me was I prayed and asked God for an Aussie friend who would help me learn the culture. Although Australia is similar to America, there are still many differences. The Lord brought me a wonderful friend who helped me with the different words from cooking to just learning the area so I could be more independent. Most importantly, and this is for whether it's your first term or tenth, keeping your relationship with God as your priority is key. When you feel friends and family have deserted you, He is ALWAYS there.  -Jen
- Before we had children, I was involved in many different ministries. When I had three children who were three and under, I could not be as involved in all of the ministries that I had been doing. It was a discouragement at times because it felt like I did not do anything at all at the church, but balance is definitely the key. Now, our oldest child is eight, and the youngest is four. They are able to do ministry related things with us. It is important not to neglect your family, but at the same time, you do not want to completely neglect the ministry either.  -Laura
- I remember arriving in Panama a few years ago with a five year old, an almost three year old, and an almost two month old baby and feeling like I was "treading water" in relation to ministry, no energy, confused in the language, etc. I was feeling downright depressed, like I couldn't balance a plate, let alone life! I remember a wise missionary lady encouraging me to dig in and relish this time of life, that I was training my co-laborers in the ministry. Now, a few years down the road and having added another precious baby to our family, I have lots of things I can do in the ministry and lots of things that my babies (now 9, 7, 4, and 7 months) do right alongside me. I feel blessed to have more energy now and a better handle on my fit in our ministry. Sometimes the "little years" with your children can feel like slogging through in slow motion, but when you keep focused on Christ, stay in communication with your husband, and realize how short the years really are, you will turn around one day and have the best of both worlds when your children and outside ministry really start working in harmony or synergistically. I love having my kiddos ask me when we/they can go make visits, hand out tracts, sing a special, take up the offering, attempt to lead music, work with the children, etc. They are having a great time and don't even realize they are working a ministry.  -Ruth
Lots of great advice here! We've only been on the field for (almost) eight years, but I would say to be teachable. Sometimes new missionaries feel as though they already know everything there is to know about the mission field, when in reality there is so much you can learn from the other missionaries as well as from the native people. 

I've also noticed that sometimes the missionary wife does not like her country, and that not only cultivates a spirit of bitterness in her heart but also in her children's. Try to love the people and the place in which God has placed you. Look for the good in everything, and you'll always find something.  -Carole

- I would say encourage your family back home to not always be mentioning everything you are missing and how much they miss you. I know my family misses me, but they tell me how much they love me and are praying for me. As a result, I don't feel guilty about not being there for every family function. I have missed some pretty big things, but they get it, and so do I. I have seen missionaries miserable and have a hard time adjusting to their field because their heart is still in the US. Another thing is don't allow or teach your children to think they are missing out on things because they are mks or that they "deserve" something because of it. I worked with several couples who were great in this area . They emphasized how many cool things they got to experience because they were in ministry. Instead of growing up with a sense of entitlement, they grew up with servants' hearts. Make friends with nationals and spend time in their culture aside from will be an encouragement to them and you, not to mention for those learning the language immersion is the best way. So, one for singles...remember your's not about finding a spouse. If the Lord provides in that area fine, but be careful as the decisions you make can greatly affect the ministry you are involved good and bad ways. Remember relationships between guys and girls on a foreign field are NOT always looked at the same as in the States. Be accountable to someone; it's a great idea for you and your testimony.  -Cynthia
- I second the comment about being teachable and learning all you can from other missionaries on the field. So many times I was my own obstruction as I wanted to ask a question of an older/more experienced missionary about the culture or an aspect of ministry or life in general. I would figure out what I wanted to say but then back off because of not wanting to seem like I was denigrating the country, culture, or people and wind up offending someone when all I really wanted was to understand. Sometimes ya just gotta stick your neck out!  -Ruth
- One more thing; if you are serving God, you are going to be under attack all the time. You experienced that on deputation, but during the time that you are adjusting to the language and culture, the attack will most likely be more focused. You are going through so many changes, and it can be confusing. You will NOT be able to see all of Satan's designs against you. You don't have a chance to survive spiritually if you aren't plugged into Christ every day. Do not, do not neglect your spiritual life. It is over all the most important thing that will help you survive when you are depressed, keep you from being overwhelmed, and help you to remember the blessings that we have as His servants. Then there's another type of attack when you get comfortable where you are, and you don't feel so desperately in need clinging to Christ every minute. Yes, you still need Him. What I'm saying is, don't let any change in your life push you to neglect your spiritual life. Keep a close eye on it, and when you feel out of balance, make the changes you need to get centered back on Him! This is my greatest challenge by far, and the thing I struggle with more than anything.  -Sarah

- Realize it's a process. Be teachable. Cling to The Lord.  -Lisa
Did we miss something?  Do you have anything to add?  Please leave a comment!

1 comment:

Ben Anglea said...

It has been such an encouragement reading all of this well thought advice,.. Missionaries wives I believe, are such special people as we have to adapt to so many new things,... And keep a good attitude:). We are in our second term here in Madagascar and my husband and still feel like we are rookies,.. Both in ministry and in family,...however The Lord had been so gracious to us and we literally have to give everything over to Him every single day or the days here will swallow us up,... Thanks to all who gave such wonderful advice