Fresh Off the Plane - Advice to New Missionaries
You’ve spent years praying, traveling, and dreaming of how God will use you to reach a specific people group. Now that your support is raised, you’re finally heading to the field. Congratulations! This is a busy and exciting time as you’re packing or parting with possessions; getting visas and tickets; and saying, “See you later” to family and friends. You likely have a general plan for your arrival and first few months. However, if you’re like many women, you have hundreds of questions about the details: What will language school be like? Which spices and cooking ingredients should I pack? Can I get medication? Will we be safe? How will I drive on the other side of the road? How will I handle grocery shopping and cooking at first? Where will we live? How will my children/spouse/pet adjust? How is my hair going to behave in that climate and without my tried and true products? From the practical to the trivial, these questions can swim in the back of our minds like alphabet soup. Though each experience and each culture is unique, let me attempt to give advice as someone who was fresh off the plane a few years ago.
First, you’ve spent months giving presentations about how you hope to reach people for Christ. You and your supporters may want you to shake off jet lag and get started! Realistically, you may spend days looking at and buying housing, vehicles and furniture. You can spend hours in line at each of several offices opening a bank account, getting a cell phone contract, applying for a tax ID number, extending your visa, or registering for classes. If your country of service is new to you, you will probably spend several hours lost and trying to ask for directions in a language you don’t speak yet! Grocery shopping is easy when you have the aisles and brands memorized, but shopping in a new market with new products in a new language can take several hours at first. While you wait for your crate of clothes, toys, books and furniture to arrive, you may spend weeks entertaining your children with the 5 toys you’d packed in your carry-on. You might write your first prayer letter and think, “I haven’t done any ‘missions’ work yet!”
However, your first month or so is a time for dozens of details that make life and ministry possible.
Mark as a success each item that gets you settled and ready to serve.
Do you have a dining room table? Now you have a place to feed your family and guests and perhaps do a Bible study.
Did you get a phone? Now you can call people to meet, pray, offer a ride to church, etc. (as soon as you learn the language).
Did you get lost and still make it back home? You didn’t fail. You just learned a new route.
Did you sort of find what you were looking for at the food market? Congratulations. You kept yourself and your family fed another day, and you probably learned new food vocabulary in the process.
Newbie Nugget: Give yourself grace to settle in the first couple of months, so that life and ministry are possible.
About the Author: When Sarah and her husband, David, arrived in Portugal in 2010, learning Portuguese & Portuguese Sign Language was their first task. Since then they have taught in local schools and after-school centers, built relationships with neighbors and co-workers, and begun two church plants in Montijo. Their desire is for God to be glorified in Portugal!
Learn more about their ministry by visiting their website: www.boothsinportugal.com