As a missionary walks out the door at St Andrew's Hall, what's the most important thing he or she needs to remember? CMS Development and Training Secretary David Williams offers five top tips for missionaries in their first three years on location.
1. Jesus is number one.
Nothing is more important that your relationship with your Heavenly Father. As you learn to live in a new country you have the opportunity to trust God for things that you’ve usually taken for granted. This can be a great time of seeing immediate answers to all sorts of prayers. Living in a new culture can also bring the Bible to life for you in new ways as you read it with fresh eyes.
2. Suspend judgment.
Lots of things will seem strange and confusing. That doesn’t mean they are wrong – they may just be culturally different. Don’t judge anything as wrong until you truly understand what is happening. That might take years.
3. Learn the language.
“I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on language learning,” said no missionary, ever!
4. Find a mentor.
Find a local who can act as your cultural mentor. Ideally this will be someone who understands where you are coming from, as well as the local culture. You can ask your cultural mentor all the questions that arise as you keep suspending judgment.
5. Take a holiday.
It often isn’t easy to take time off in a new country. Sometimes the stress of organising a holiday feels like it outweighs the benefits. But you need a break. Missionaries often slump after six to nine months on location. Take a holiday nine months in. Even if it is stressful to organise it, it’s a good thing to do.
Go: CMS missionaries receive comprehensive cross-cultural training and ongoing support when they begin serving on location. If you would like more information about serving with CMS, get in touch with your local branch (contact details here).