Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Archive for November, 2007

Interview with Stacy A.

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

This issue’s interview is with Stacy A., an aspiring missionary who grew up in Nebraska and presently lives in that state’s capital city, Lincoln. She addresses a few things here related to missions we’ve yet to talk about in Propel.

Propel: How long have you been interested in long-term missions?

Stacy: I have been interested in long term missions since I took Perspectives a little over two years ago.

Propel: When and how did this interest begin?

Stacy: I came to Christ in 1997. In 1998, I began to feel a tug toward missions, which I pretty much ignored for a while as I planned to go into politics, and missions would kind of just mess that up! But in late 1998 (I was still I in high school) I went to a youth conference in Denver. During the conference they did a presentation about different countries and people groups. I was fairly indifferent until I heard that “One Million Buddhists Die Every Year without ever hearing the name of Christ.” God broke me right there. I didn’t hear anything else during that conference; I couldn’t focus on the sessions, I was completely distracted by that statistic. Through a series of events during the conference that week, God really confirmed that he wanted me to go to Southeast Asia for missions work. He wasn’t clear on when or how long, just Southeast Asia.

Well, being young in age — and young in Jesus — I was ready to go that next summer. So, I got information from this conference about their trip to Southeast Asia My parents were not believers, but I was convinced that if God called me they would let me go. This may come as a surprise, but it didn’t work that way. I was promptly grounded and not allowed to go to church anymore. Some months passed and I was able to go back to church. I was greatly questioning this “call” I had received because my parents had acted so horribly against it. But this longing and ache for Southeast Asia, just wouldn’t leave my heart.

Finally, in 2002, the college group at my church was going to Southeast Asia. I applied and was accepted to the team. This trip confirmed my love for Southeast Asia more than any experience of my lifetime. It was pretty clear to me that even if God didn’t call me full-time that I would have to go semi-regularly to Southeast Asia. Perspectives was really the training ground in which God made clear that this was to be my life’s work. I still don’t have all the details of when or how, but as I have learned from previous experience, He’ll get me there in His time.

Propel: You’re interested in social issues and community development as missions, if I understand correctly. What are you doing now to specifically prepare yourself for this kind of work? (more…)

Health and the missionary candidate

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

by the M-DAT staff

Missionaries aren’t sent on their merry way with a pine box in tow anymore. Thanks to modern medicine and its worldwide availability, the life expectancy of a missionary is less affected by life-threatening disease than it used to be. However, your health still plays a significant part of life anywhere, even if you’re not afflicted with such an illness. Will your health limit when, where or whether you should go?

What about health issues not serious enough to keep you from going, but may still affect your ministry strength and flexibility? What if you have asthma or diabetes? What if you’re overweight or blind or bipolar? What about depression, allergies or bad knees? Is it irresponsible to go overseas as a missionary if you aren’t the complete picture of health? Or must your problem just be reasonably treatable?

Mission history would say lack of health doesn’t necessarily eliminate you. Lilias Trotter, for instance, was rejected by the mission board she applied with because her health wasn’t up to their standards.

Though frail in health, Trotter was convinced that God had a place for her in North Africa, even if she didn’t meet the prudent standards of a mission board. So she and a couple of other women set out on their own in 1888 as the Algiers Mission Band. Her health did affect her work in Algiers from time to time. Occasionally her weakness even forced her to take extended leaves from the field.

Yet she accomplished so much, and for so long! Lilias Trotter served in Algeria as a missionary for 38 years, living to be 76 at a time when the average life expectancy was closer to 45. What’s that verse about God showing himself strong through our weakness?

The key point seems to be – know your limitations. How will your health situation affect you? Under what circumstances will it limit you? When will others have to flex and adjust their schedules and ministry to cover for you? Are there things in the job description or environment that will trigger your health problems? Could you serve just as well in another location or in a different type of ministry? Then again, if God sends you there anyway, you wouldn’t be the first to sacrifice your comfort for the sake of the gospel. Each missionary sacrifices some kind of comfort as they go overseas.

While composing these thoughts I talked to two people with knowledge of different sending organizations and how they view the health of their missionary candidates. The first does not have a written policy, but it does require a full physical and a doctor’s note saying, essentially, that you will be able to perform all the duties of your job. The second agency appears to carry out a fairly meticulous evaluation of your physical and emotional health as you plan to go and then regularly on home leaves. If there is a problem, the sending agency does everything in its power to fix it and get you back on the field. Sending agencies desire for you to be there as much as you do, but they also want to be responsible in the stewardship of their personnel.

It is impossible to predict every health issue you’ll encounter overseas. Hudson Taylor’s health failed him after his first wife died. An acquaintance of mine suffered terrible mold allergies after moving to Bulgaria. Know your limitations. Know your options – options of treatments and medicines, options of facilities, options of seasonal time frames. You might be called on to overcome those limitations as Lilias Trotter did. Or as the motto “planning to go, willing to stay” leaves open, your involvement may be from this side, helping to send others.

Want to be a Missionary? Help is on the Way!

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

By M-DAT Executive Director

Becoming a full-time missionary is simple. Just join an organization, raise support, and go — right? While technically accurate, this summary glosses over the challenging decision making process. Serious questions and issues involved with each step can literally take years to solve.

In fact, the average length of time from when a person decides to be a missionary and when they join an agency is seven to ten years. A look at a list of factors which heighten the decision making process gives a clue as to why it takes so long:

  • An overall need for a sense of God’s direction or affirmation of timing, type of service, sending organization, and geographic location
  • The weight of responsibility for the impact of decisions on immediate family
  • The seriousness of the commitment
  • Public scrutiny of decisions by friends, family, and church leadership
  • Known and unknown risks and personal sacrifices
  • The complex planning and logistics involved in moving a family to another country and switching to a job requiring support raising.

Here at M-DAT, we are working on a resource that will make quite a difference. It is a website with guidance and advice to encourage and assist aspiring missionaries in a fresh and relevant way. Currently under the name, we released an initial version last year with basic helps for people interested in becoming a missionary. This Spring, we will expand the website to include video content and a more interactive version of the mission readiness quiz. We aim to gradually ramp up to a weekly release of five varieties of video clips:

  1. Interviews of on-field missionaries about pivotal moments in their journey to the mission field.
  2. Missionaries answering common questions asked by potential missionaries.
  3. Snapshots of specific mission fields which report ministry strategies, describe unique challenges, and highlight current needs.
  4. Short tours of mission headquarters with an overview of the mission and vision of the organization and glimpse of the organizational culture.
  5. Interviews with people who are in the process of getting to the field or who have just made it to the field.

All of these videos will be topically indexed and easily available for future missionaries to access advice when they need it, or just to watch and be encouraged as they see how God has worked in the lives of others on the journey. The long range plan is to grow the website “organically” by adding content in response to needs expressed by visitors.

If you are on the path to becoming a full-time missionary, we need your input to help shape this new web resource! Please help us out by taking this survey. Thanks!

M-DAT News and Prayer: October 2007

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Prayer: Radio Spot – We wrapped up production of a 30 second radio spot for Building on a landscape of sounds from around the world, the spot informs believers of how they can find a mission trip on which to serve. Pray that God would open the door for five to ten Christian radio stations to play the spot late Fall or early Spring as a public service announcement for their listeners.

News: Mission Trip Search Widgets Available – Do you have a website or blog? Consider adding a search widget in the side bar. Now available in tall or wide.

Prayer: Volunteers and Staff- As we grow into offering a new web resource for aspiring missionaries, our biggest prayer need is for God to expand M-DAT’s capacity for ministry by providing additional volunteers and staff. We are especially praying for a volunteer coordinator, volunteer video editors and a website project manager.

News: Report Published- In September we released a search summary report to the missions community. It examines the roughly 80,000 “basic” searches made on from January through April of 2007 and shows the top search criteria people use when looking for short-term mission trips. Nothing like this has ever been available before now, and this information has been well-received.

Praise: God’s Provision – We were surprised this month with a very large donation that will enable one our staff members to continue working full-time with the ministry! It was a huge answer to prayer and blessing to the ministry. Praise the Lord for His goodness.

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