Let’s be honest for a moment, not everyone is called to be a missionary nor does becoming one happen instantaneously. After living the last 3 decades in faith based mission work, I am still learning what it takes to serve God full time and long term. And that is one of the most important character assets any missionary or leader for that matter has to develop, a willingness to be teachable. To learn.
So, what does it take to become a successful long-term missionary? I have seen missionaries thrive and others return home in dejected failure over these last 30 years as a missionary momma. Here are some key elements that I have noticed successful long-term missionaries have in common.
Touch Missionaries often feel deeply and profoundly. The needs before them are overwhelming and the task difficult. Successful long term missionaries are usually the ones whose lives were originally turned upside down on a short term outreach. Perhaps they met someone with great need, or someone whose life was so inspirational that it moved them into action. One thing is for certain, a missionary heart is born of intense prayer and the hand of God moving upon their heart through a felt need.
Sight A missionary can see things others can’t. Usually a felt need or witnessing God moving to meet that need will prompt a missionary into action. They are natural visionaries, seeing the beautiful in the broken, finding creative ways in which to bring hope to the lives of the hopeless.
Hearing Missionaries hear something wonderful. It takes a listening heart to stop everything and be willing to jump into action. Not even the distractions of the day to day keep can keep a long-term missionary from taking time to sit and listen to what The Lord whispers in the quiet of their hearts. Missionaries are natural born listeners, not only to the Lord but to those whom they are called to serve.
Smell A missionary has a keen sense of smell. Although one could imagine that the smells encountered while serving God in war-torn or natural disaster devastated countries can be overwhelming, it is not just about that. A missionary lives intentionally bathed in the aroma of Heaven. They desire to leave the pleasing fragrance of goodness, kindness, mercy and the love of Christ wherever they are called to serve.
Nothing is impossible for those who have seen the God who heals miraculously and provides mysteriously.
Taste Missionaries lose their appetite for the mundane once they have tasted the adventure of what it means to live by faith. Nothing is impossible for those who have seen the God who heals miraculously and provides mysteriously. Each day is filled with anticipation and opportunity to see how He will move on their behalf as well as in the lives of those whom they are called to serve.
The word mission or missionary is not actually found in the Bible. It is derived from the Latin word missio which means “the act of sending” and was first used by the Jesuits in the 16th century. However, Jesus was clear in calling each and every believer to, “Go therefore and make disciples,” which is in essence the goal of missions. Although we have all been called to make disciples, that looks differently for each of us. For some, missions means faithfully serving in the Sunday School program and for others it may mean leaving everything behind to serve the unreached Monpa of Northern India. One thing is for certain, no matter where the call of God takes us, we are all meant to leave the pleasing fragrance of His love and grace wherever we may go.