10 Things I’ve Learned from Missionaries

If you know me at all, you know I love missionaries. One reason I do is because they always teach me something. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from them over the years:

  1. The world is still lost. I know that truth, of course, but missionaries who weep over non-believers remind me that I sometimes take that truth for granted. I don't care about the lost like I should. 
  2. The gospel is costly. I know that, too, in my head, but I don’t live among people who face persecution and death every day because they follow Jesus. Many missionaries do.
  3. I’m not nearly as important as I think I am. I’m just one person in over 7 billion people in the world. See Wednesday’s post to learn more about this reality.
  4. God works miracles outside my worldview. I don’t often see healings and exorcisms. Some missionaries I trust do speak of these kinds of experiences.
  5. Prayer support really matters. I often call for prayer only when I most need it. Many missionaries survive daily on the wings of prayer.  
  6. I’m deeply ethnocentric. That means I have a tendency to judge other cultures in light of what I think is right in my culture. Sometimes I’ve judged the way others do church more according to my cultural standards than according to biblical standards.
  7. Spiritual warfare is more real than I realize. I teach about spiritual warfare, and I’ve written about the topic. Missionaries on the front lines, though, are the ones who continue to teach me about its reality.
  8. A pastor’s support of missions matters. Missionaries who’ve sought opportunities to tell their story to local churches usually learn this truth the hard way: when the senior leader of the church isn’t passionate about missions, the church won’t be, either.
  9. American culture is generally busy . . . and loud . . . and big. I don’t think about this stuff until missionaries come back from the field and struggle adjusting. We go non-stop. Some of us don’t operate well unless we have noise in the background. We build big church buildings, have big shopping centers, and eat big servings at restaurants. We overdo it, frankly.  
  10. God always takes care of us. I preach this truth, and I believe it. Somehow, though, it strengthens my faith when I hear it from the family that’s given up everything to follow God to the ends of the earth. 

What have you learned from missionaries? If you’re a missionary, what have you learned from your colleagues?

13 Comments

  • Trey says:

    As a missionary, I would like to stress how important it is for sending churches/supporters to make an effort to understand all of the emotional stuff that missionaries deal with (both on the field and on home assignment.)

  • Kevin says:

    Good thoughts. I had the privilege of spending 11 years on the mission field (Philippines). Re-adjusting to life in America has been challenging for us, but God is good.

  • Brandi J says:

    Being only a 10 year missionary myself, I am always in awe of those who served for decades at the pace of trust that we must maintain in order for us to even survive. The shoulders we stand on have plowed soil so hard and so dry, and yet now new missionaries are walking into fertile ground ready for a harvest because of the faithfulness and trust that went before us. God continues to use the new to refresh the old, and the old to strengthen the new. I see this as the beauty of the call of the body to service.

  • Jeff Holeman says:

    You’re a great encourager to so many. Thank you!

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, brother!

  • David Nies-Berger says:

    Very good point in the miracles thought. They aren’t part of my worldview because I’ve never experienced them. The Insanity of God really opened my eyes to how God is working overseas

  • Kurt Urbanek says:

    Having been a missionary for 25 years, I still learn these lessons for our missionary family but also from our national brothers and sisters. Seeing the church as your life and not just a part of your life.

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