So you think that God is leading you to consider some kind of cross-cultural work?
One question you may ask is, “Where do I start?”
First, let me say that everyone’s path is different, so there is not really an exact “right” place to begin. If you are the type of person that strives to get it right, let yourself off the hook with this one. If God wants you somewhere, he will get you there (remember, he whisked Philip from the road to Gaza off to Samaria in the Spirit…now that must have been some trip!)
Pray about this a lot! I can’t stress this enough.The path from here to there in missions is not usually an easy one. There will be many opportunities to question if you are truly on the right path both before you get on an airplane and after you arrive in a country of service. To the extent possible, you need to be at peace that this is, indeed, what God has planned for you next.
Talk to your home fellowship (church) leadership. Before you spend lots of time on the internet searching for places to go or agencies to help you get there, use the resources that are right there with you each Sunday. Your church may have all kinds of training and preparation opportunities available for those wanting to serve cross-culturally. Believe me, wherever you end up in the future, you are going to want a strong foundation at home to “go with you” and they will be able to do that best if you begin the journey with them.
Communicate with current missionaries that you know. People out there doing what you think God is leading you to do will be one of your best resources. How did they get their start? What do they wish that they had known when they were where you are? How would they recommend that you prepare? Most of us know at least one “missionary.” Get them on Skype (or email, Facebook, Facetime, etc) and start asking questions and carefully listening to what they have to say. You will be helped. They will love it too.
Pray for the world. I know, I already said to pray, but the focus of this time is to pray for those who still need to meet Jesus. Often we forget that the most effective tool in our toolbox is prayer. Remember, if anything really is to happen in the kingdom, it will happen because God wills it to happen. Our major part in bringing about God’s will is prayer. Operation World (published by Intervarsity Press) is a great guide to use, but by no means the only resource out there.
Engage the cultures at your doorstep. In our excitement to follow God to the uttermost we often forget that God has brought the uttermost to our neighborhood. Most places in the US have first generation immigrants living and working there. If you intend to have an impact in some other country with some other culture, what better place to start than to get to know people of other cultures and religions here. How do you find them? My experience is that minority cultures tend to group. That is common of missionaries too, in other cultures. Begin with food. If there is an ethnic community near you there will be a place close by where they can buy food that reminds them of home.
You might be wondering… “What about a short term trip?” Well, ST trips cost money, for one thing. None of what I have mentioned above…besides perhaps buying a copy of Operation World… will cost you a cent. Since there are so many things you can do without needing money, why not start there and let God lead you into the more expensive stuff as those steps become clear?
If, after you have tried out some of what I have recommended above (and that is not an exhaustive list, by any means), God still has you moving toward cross-cultural work then begin the process of searching out an agency family to partner with.
Your Great Commission waits. What are you waiting for?