When you talk to a family on deputation for the mission field, you sense a lot of excitement. They can’t wait for the traveling to be finished. They can’t wait to board the airplane. They are eager to serve the Lord in a foreign country.
Unfortunately, that excitement isn’t enough to keep them on the field. We are seeing too many missionaries leave the mission field and not enough taking their places. For sure, many of these are due to health reasons or the Lord leading them in a different direction, but far too many are simply tired of the fight, tired of the discomfort, and are no longer willing to pay whatever price is necessary to reach souls for Jesus Christ.
In these final days, we cannot withdraw or retreat. We must be moving forward in our attempts to further the kingdom of God. I am not exempt from the feeling of wanting to leave at times. I get frustrated, discouraged, and angered at the culture. However, these tips I share with you are things that I myself have learned and practiced that have helped me to not grab the first flight out.
1. Family before Ministry
Often, when a missionary leaves the field, it is because his family has burned out. The husband has the joy of seeing people saved and discipled, and he is busy in the work and action of the ministry, while the family faces the daily grind of homeschooling, long hours of food preparation, and lonely days without family or friends.
First of all, as a husband and father, make the family as comfortable as possible before you start any ministry work. My wife has thanked me over and over for the time and money I have spent on our home. Your family will face enough changes and difficulties in their new country, so do what you can to make their new life easier. Install an extra water heater in the kitchen, tile the living room, or build a fort for the kids. Invest in your home, both the house and the people, and you will find a much more pleasant atmosphere when you return from your full day of witnessing and discipling.
Second, do your best to include your family in the ministry. Make sure they have opportunities to go soulwinning. Whether it is distributing songbooks, stamping tracts, or cleaning the church, help them see that every area of service is to bring people to Christ and to bring glory to the name of Jesus. Let them be a part of your ministry not just the housekeepers. Remember, without your family, you have no ministry!
2. Pour Yourself into the Ministry of People
You cannot overestimate the importance of building relationships with your people. Let them know that you love them. Learn their language and their culture. Invite them into your home for fellowship and accept invitations from them to be in their homes. Those you have built a relationship with can be a source of encouragement when you are tempted to quit. Many missionaries keep a stand-offish attitude because they are afraid of being “burned” by the nationals. Lies will be spread, items will be stolen, and court cases will develop — by church members! However, let those incidences be stepping stones to bring you closer to Christ and not be stumbling blocks that knock you down into pits of despair.
3. Know Where Your Call Is and Focus on It
As appalling as it sounds, there are some missionaries who start planning their furlough as soon as their bags are unpacked. Daily they talk about the events they are missing, the food they are craving, and the efficiency of America. Your home is where your call is! Truly, this world is not our home, so be content wherever the Lord puts you. Our children know Uganda to be their home. They are not away from home by being here. They ARE home. On furlough, I am so blessed to hear our children missing Uganda and not wanting to stay in a place which is not their home. Keep your family’s focus on the blessing it is for you and your family to serve the Lord in the place He has chosen for you.
4. Maintain a Healthy Relationship with the Holy Spirit
Without the Holy Spirit’s power in your life, longevity in ministry will not be possible. Eventually, your flesh will wear out. Many missionaries never return for their second term. God’s Holy Spirit was given to us in order to give us the grace—power to do that which we cannot do in our flesh—to accomplish whatever God has called us to do. Children of God must maintain a consistent walk with God, for without it we will stumble at what God is trying to accomplish through us.
Jesus asked, “What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?” How sad that many missionaries do not spend even five minutes with God in prayer each day. More important than family, more important than ministry, more important than human relationship is your walk with the Lord. The quickest way to destroy your ministry and find yourself on a plane returning from the field is to try to do the work in your flesh.
5. Finish the Work that God Has Given You to Do
One of the greatest bits of advice that I received once when I felt like quitting was this, “Remember, that all you are is a link in the chain, not the whole chain, just a link.” A link just has to focus on holding the two links next to it, not on what all the other links are holding.
In John 17:4 Jesus said, “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” When Jesus said this, no churches were started, not everyone was healed, not everyone was helped, and for sure, not everyone was saved. However, He could pray to His Father and declare that He had finished the work that His Father had given Him to do.
Missionary, know the work that God has given you to do, and focus on finishing it. Many get wandering eyes to other mission fields or churches where it seems like the “grass is greener,” and so the work that God has given to them never gets finished. Without a doubt, a great work needs to be done for God in the Philippines, in Vietnam, in the USA, in Namibia, and in countless numbers of villages and towns across this world. BUT, that is not the work that God has given me to do. I pray for other countries. I take interest in them. However, I must concentrate on the work that God has given me to do in Uganda, East Africa!
Missionaries, will you stay and finish the harvest the Lord has given you?