What are some defining factors between missionaries?
There are all different kinds of missionaries. Some are evangelists; others are church planters. Some missionaries care for other missionaries, and others are undercover for years for the sake of the gospel. There are teachers, nurses, counselors, and the list goes on. The point is that it takes ALL of us to get the job done.
Maybe you didn’t share the gospel personally with someone living outside of your passport country, but let’s say, for example, you spoke into someone’s marriage or encouraged several other missionaries. That made way for the gospel to be shared. That illustrates the body of Christ.
What makes mental health so unique in the mission field?
When you’re on the mission field, you’re usually separated from the safety net that you had in your home country. But when you leave all that behind and you go somewhere else to be a minister of the gospel, you’re left flailing a little bit. What we know to be true is that challenges in any area of your life always fester when left unchecked. When life’s circumstances inundate you, it’s always more complex.
Growth is always fostered through connection. We find connection in three places: ourselves, others, and God. Connection with our sense of self is discovering whom God made you, who you are, and what you know to be true about yourself. Relationship with others is self-explanatory, but it indicates and encompasses all you come across, including your spouse, children, coworkers, employees, and superiors.
Finding growth through connection with God brings about your sense of purpose by connecting with foundational truths we know to be true about ourselves concerning God’s character and perspective. When we stay connected to ourselves, others, and God, we reach a balance that keeps our gaze in the right direction and is headed toward future growth. We can do what we are compelled to and stay humble about our roles, positions, and opportunities. We want to save the world, reach the unreached, and champion the gospel. When we are continually present with ourselves and connected to God and others, we maintain that awe, wonder, and meekness no matter what we face.
Many missionaries feel inundated. Enthusiastic about expanding the gospel, missionaries are the first to make things better, bigger, and more sustainable wherever they serve. Such a mindset can be traced back to US culture – bigger, better, faster, stronger. However, this isn’t the call for us to constantly maximize every opportunity if we look at scripture. By contrast, we are called to be faithful, humble, and steady in our walk. Most of our readers have an incredibly high-achieving mindset; this isn’t to completely negate that side of things. There is a place for efficiency, leadership, and a maximizer mindset. The hang-up and overwhelm happen when we start seeing things move forward, and we are the ones receiving accolades and kudos, and as a result begin to shift our gaze from true adoration of our savior to seeking recognition, speed of growth, and status.
When missionaries have found themselves in this place of chasing accolades, that’s where they get inundated, flooded, and maxed out. Seeking just one more pat on the back from a head pastor, one more “great job,” and one more “look at what we did” instead of “look how amazing Jesus is” paints the cliche picture of pride coming before the fall. We’ve forgotten our first love and why we were doing what we’re doing in the first place.
As missionaries, let’s look at those around us. A helpful tool is to practice being present with the primary purpose of why we are doing what we’re doing. Even with audacious, grand, and God-sized dreams, ask ourselves, do we love the one, two, and three people in our sphere of influence? If that grows and skyrockets, that’s amazing! Exponential growth is not something to omit, but it’s also not the main focus. As Jesus exemplified, he poured into his 12 disciples. Incredible exploits happened out of those seasons together. Still, Jesus wasn’t pouring into the thousands of believers surrounding him the way he did with his disciples. He was consistent and present with his close circle of influence, producing exponential evidence of sustainable impact. Let’s not concern ourselves only with serving millions; instead, find the few to pour into.
Hear more on this topic on the Modern Day Missions Podcast: Mental Health on the Mission Field with Dr. Matt Turvey