Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ten Thoughts for Veterans {Those on the field 5-20 years}

While I wouldn't necessarily qualify myself as a veteran, there is no denying that after a decade of missions work, I better have learned some things!
I call this a "work in progress" list as I pray that we'll learn many more essentials over the next decade!
I've chosen to call veterans those who've been on the field for 5-20 years, because I consider those over the 20 year mark as something beyond veterans.
For them? I have a post with some requests I've written for those I think of as long-term missionaries.
But for today, I'm sharing things we've learned and are learning as we've grown a bit older in the ministry and as a family.

1.  Never stop learning. Once the initial shock waves of missionary life are past, it is easy to forget that there is still so much more we can learn.

2.  Do not grow content with your language skills. After language school is over, and you feel like you can get through most days without being totally lost linguistically, it is easy to think you've arrived. Beware! There are always ways you can improve ~ tone, accent, idiomatic expressions, cultural thinking, new expressions ~ don't sell yourself short!

3.  Don't grow calloused. When you first arrive on the field, everything is new and exciting. You are overwhelmed by the opportunity to reach people for Christ. Over time, though, the newness fades, and if we are not careful, so does our passion to reach the lost.

4.  Seek to make as many meaningful relationships as possible. This applies to both nationals and missionaries. With foreigners, choose friends that you want to be like, that share the same goals as you, not just those who are available. And with nationals, work hard on building real, deep friendships, not just those based on "getting something" from you to them or them to you.

5.  Do not discourage rookies. If God gives you younger missionaries to mentor, be very careful of your attitudes, your words, and your reactions. Guard against projecting an "us and them" mentality {about the nationals}. Identify with the people God has given you, and the rookies will follow suit. Rookies have much to learn ~ give them time, love, prayers, and patience.

6.  Let rookies fail safely. All of us have to learn, and part of learning is failing. Let the rookies under your care make missteps and mistakes in a safe environment so that when they go out to start their own works, they aren't making huge errors that could effect the rest of their ministry. And when they make mistakes? Correct them kindly.

7.  Don't put all your eggs in one basket!

8.  Always be willing to re-evaluate. After some time, it is easy to get settled into a routine. Routines aren't bad, but ruts are. Be willing to ask the hard questions. And if something isn't working, or has lost its effectiveness, then ask why it is still being done.

9.  Don't grow sedentary. When God provides you with new opportunities to reach the unreached, when He opens new doors for ministry, don't be afraid. Jump in by faith......even if that means life may be a bit unsettled and uncomfortable for a while.

10. Never forget that the ministry belongs to God, not you. He promises to build His church. Believe Him.

For those in the same place in ministry as us? Maybe some of these thoughts will encourage you or spur your thinking.
For those who pray for missionaries ~ don't forget your veterans. They are often deep in the middle of ministry-building and family-raising. They need your encouragement and prayers!
For those of you who've been on the field between 5 and 20 years, what would you add or subtract? I'd love to hear from the wisdom you've gained!

Tomorrow ~ Ten ideas for keeping the spark alive in your marriage while on the road and on the field!


  1. Terrific! Nothing to add except to encourage people past the second term. Sometimes people get very discouraged about 5-6 years in, and if they can just tough it out, they'll see that they really DO know the language and really can be effective for God. Wonderful list and exactly on target. (I'm decidedly older than your group here, but I still think you have it just right.)

  2. Love the pictures, as always, and love to see missions through your eyes. It helps me know how to pray. :) Love you all and will keep praying for you!

    1. Thanks, as always, for the encouragement!