Friday, August 23, 2013

Ten Tips For The Rookies {Those on Deputation & First-Termers}

While I don't claim to be an expert, at some point I had to admit that I was no longer a missionary rookie.
And "if" I was no longer a rookie, then I had to ask myself what I had learned that had allowed me to move to the next stage....
As you can see from the above picture, John and I were babies when we came to the field!
And if we were babies then, what in the world were we on deputation!?!
And so, this list.......
Ten things the Lord helped me to learn while on deputation and in our first term in Ghana.
Maybe they will be a help or encouragement to someone.
And if you aren't a missionary?
Maybe they'll help you know how to pray for the rookies you meet!

1. Deputation is not a competition. Our very first meeting we ran into "one of those couples." You know, the ones that dressed perfect, had a perfect display board, had a perfect presentation, she could play the piano, and he could sing. And us? Our board barely fit in our car {cuz we forgot to measure!} and had nails sticking an inch out the back, my brand-new suit was way too hot for that time of year, we didn't have an extension cord and couldn't get our borrowed projector to work, and we certainly didn't have any special music ready. After feeling awful for a day or two, we got some good advice from some veterans ~ this isn't a competition. We are all here to follow the Lord.

2.  God is The One who provides for us, not our supporters. You will be a nervous wreck if you rely on man to take care of your needs as a missionary. Only God can get you to the field, and only God can keep you on the field. It really is as simple as that. We adopted Hudson Taylor's quote early in our ministry, "God's work done God's way never lacks God's supply."

3.  The beginning of ministry is your learning time ~ whether on deputation or on the field. Some people have short deputations and some have really long deputations.  Remember, all of us have to learn what God wants us to learn before we can effectively minister. For John and I, we made it through deputation and to the field quite quickly, but God had a three year immersion crash course ready and waiting for us when we arrived. Everybody is different. Trust that God's timing is always best.

4.  Language AND culture learning must be first priority. You are first a student. Every rookie missionary I've ever met {including myself} wants to claim the world for Christ immediately. That is not bad. But don't hamstring yourself by not learning the language and culture first. If you don't, it will trouble you down the road. I speak from experience.

5.  Ask questions and glean information, but beware. Ask questions of veteran missionaries, both those you meet on deputation and those you meet on the field. Ask questions of pastors and leaders you meet in the churches you visit. Ask questions of nationals on the field. Then take everything you hear and measure it by the Bible {or common sense, in some cases!} While on deputation we were in a missions conference with some veteran missionaries from Africa. I was so excited to ask the wife what I should take to the field. You know what she told me was the *most important thing I could pack*? Food.......including a frozen turkey packed in dry ice. Needless to say, that was probably not the best advice I ever received! Remember this,'ll never have all the answers. That is why we must learn to rely on the Holy Spirit.

6.  Don't call home {or facebook} every time you are upset. This bit of wisdom was originally gained from the president of our Bible school, but it certainly fits for this situation, too. Take your concerns, cares, worries, and fears to the Lord first. If he gives you the go-ahead, share with others. But even in sharing with others be wise. And while I'm here, I might as well point out that living online after moving to the field is very dangerous. The internet can easily breed discontentment in your life.

7.  Culture shock is real. It is not a sin, but how you react to it can be. This was counsel I received from a precious missionary wife that I spent two summers working with while in college. Every missionary will go through culture shock, whether you like the idea or not. And how you respond can make or break you as a missionary. Be willing to admit it, and then go to the Lord with it. He left His home, too.

8.  You are not in your home country anymore....nobody really cares how "they do it there." This was a tough lesson to learn, but so very important. I'll never forget the day a young man looked at my husband and said, "Who cares how they do it in America!" Obviously we had been referencing our home country once again, because, really, we did think how they did everything in America was right. You can never minister effectively if you think everything from your home culture is right and everything from your new culture is wrong ~ and it is an easy trap to fall into. Ask God to change your heart and give you new eyes. Accept all the good in your new culture and reject the sinful, not the different.

9.  Don't be jealous of what older missionaries have. As we were almost completely isolated from any other missionaries our first term, I didn't begin running into this until a little later. I found out quickly, though, that this can be a real problem. As a rookie, you cannot compare what you have, what your home looks like, what vehicle you drive, or your ministry with those of older missionaries. It takes time to accumulate the things you need, make a home, get a good vehicle, and build a solid ministry. My husband and I owned nothing but our clothes, a few decorations, a few dishes, a guitar, a mattress, a wardrobe, a hot plate, and two buckets for the first eight months on the field {that's another story for another day!}, but you'd never know that by seeing all God has blessed us with ten years later! Let God give you what you need when you need it.

10. Hurry, hurry has no blessing. This is an African proverb and a wise one, indeed. Many of the problems we had while on deputation and in our first term were because we were in a hurry. We would have told you it was for God, but truthfully? It was for us. We bought a car after being on the field a year and a half. We would have told you it was to help in the ministry, but in reality, we just really, really wanted one. God made sure that that car was an absolute misery to us. We replaced the engine three times in a year and a half. I was never so happy to see a car go! That car was our desire for us, not God's.
Pray first {in all areas of both home and ministry}. You'll end up with a lot less headaches and heartaches down the road.

And one for the missionaries in tropical climates.....
11. Sooner or later, you'll get used to the giant cockroaches and lizards! Trust me!

Lord willing, and the creek don't rise {as my mama always used to say!}, I'll be back next week with some more "tens" and another house tour. Have a lovely weekend!


  1. Much wisdom here! These are great thoughts, and I whole-heartedly agree with all of them. Thank you for being faithful and being such a great example. Congrats on 10 years!

  2. I wish every mission board and every missionary wife could read your list, regardless of where she is in deputation/field ministry and where she is in her life. Excellent. True. Refreshing.

  3. Very, very good council! Thank you for taking the time to prepare this for us "rookies"!!

  4. Boy, have you nailed it with this I read, I kept saying, "Yep, Yep, and Oh Yes....:) I keep telling Adam and Lisa that someone needs to write a book for
    others who are entering deputation!!!! Keep up the great work. I do so enjoy you
    blog, Patty, and this helps me to get a glimpse into your world and know how to
    better pray for you and the family. Love always, Cindy Lewis

  5. Thanks for the insight, Patty! I think these can be applied to any new situation in life, too, especially #9 and #10! :)

  6. EXACTLY RIGHT!!!! Very well thought out and written! Great insights!

  7. Loved it! Thanks for the wisdom ! Maria