by Peter Swann
When it comes to overseas missions, we all like to talk about a “calling.” We often make it seem mystical and mysterious, almost impossible to attain. It keeps us up at night and is constantly on our minds. We worry if we don’t have it, or if it doesn’t compare to someone else’s calling. And if it isn’t some radical event, we wonder if we really have a calling at all. That leads to the big question we all face… how do we know if we are “called” to overseas missions?
With this in mind, here are sixteen encouragements along the journey:
1. Understand a “calling” - We have long reserved a “calling” for the major moves in life, but taking cookies to your neighbor can equally be a calling. It’s all about the Holy Spirit’s leadership, and the process for determining it is the same.
2. Be surrendered - If you don’t start the process totally surrendered, it’s going to be hard to know all that God has for you. Here’s the question: are you truly willing to go anywhere and do anything if God calls you?
3. Fast and pray - This may go without saying, but you can forget all the other points if you aren’t walking out this one.
4. Consider the ordinary - Far too many potential missionaries miss their calling because they wait for the radical. God’s calling looks different for all of us. Don’t miss the ordinary.
5. Study Scripture - Scripture is replete with examples of men and women who followed God’s calling… a powerful source of encouragement and direction.
6. Depend on community - Missions is not a solo event. When you go, you’ll want to go knowing other friends and leaders also diligently prayed and affirmed your calling. Your calling is a community calling, so your process is a community process. Just be careful who has the strongest voice.
7. Remember the co-laborers - It’s not only about where you are going but who you are going with. In fact, you’ll soon be stuck internationally together, and your co-laborers may define your time abroad. If you find a group you’ve vetted well, enjoy richly, and deeply believe in, you may be trending the right way.
8. Be wary of romantic ideals - All of us are missionaries, and going internationally only changes our location, not our daily mission. International missions can be amazing, but we can’t romanticize it. Romantic ideals tilt the process, and let’s not make the decision bigger than it is.
9. Don’t forget the specifics - Often we pray through a calling, but only regarding if and where we should go. In reality, there are also questions of who you should go with, when you should go, what you should do, etc. The specifics are equally important.
10. Disregard inadequacy - Many never arrive internationally because inadequacy trips them up. They feel not worthy or not gifted or not experienced or not spiritual enough. The good news is that God made you, knows you, and knows exactly where you fit in His Kingdom advancement. He’s only looking for the faithful.
11. Reflect on your passions - Consider your passions and gifting. If you find an organization whose mission and work fits with how you’re wired, it’s a good place to start. Sending organizations are hiring everybody from accountants to coaches. It’s okay for your passions to speak into where you’ll go and what you’ll do.
12. Avoid analysis paralysis - While it is admirable to seek out God’s calling in your life, He won’t permanently want you in this phase. Make sure that fear doesn’t drive analysis paralysis and keep you from the “right” decision.
13. Trust the One who calls - God is exceptionally good at letting you know what He wants you to know. If you are earnestly seeking Him, you’re in perfect position. You stay faithful to your King, and He’ll make His calling clear.
14. Be patient - This is probably the toughest point. For some, the process is fast, for others, painfully slow. You’re good as long as you’re right where God wants you today.
15. Don’t forget to worship - No matter where you are around the world, your relationship with Christ is always foremost. The stress of determining your calling shouldn’t trump your enjoyment of Him. Remember to enjoy Him, cherish Him, and rest in Him. It can be a challenging season, but an incredibly rich one. Don’t forget to worship.
16. Enjoy the journey - There’s no denying the effort and cost in determining and living out your calling. But the rewards are rich, both for how this season will press you into the Lord and for the impact on others down the road. Even the processing of this potential calling is a gift. Feel free to enjoy it.
Having lived overseas as a child and adult, and understanding our God to be a missionary God, I am incredibly passionate about international missions. Yet it’s not the people who end up internationally that I respect the most; it’s the ones who are willing to go. Thank you for pursuing our King, and thank you for your passion for His mission. May He powerfully bless and guide you in your journey.
*This blog was compiled with insight from our friends at Every Village.