Ready to Go? The Case for Preparation

I Want to Go Now, but the Benefits of Pre-field Preparation Are Worth the Wait

By a Pioneer Preparing to Serve in Africa

Missions has always had a sense of urgency for me. People need Jesus, and I want to tell them about Him. My departure for the field, however, has been anything but speedy. One of my pre-field requirements before going into long-term missions with Pioneers was to attend NYC Immerse. It’s a 10-month church planting training program. And it would help me learn cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship skills and put them into practice among unreached people groups in New York City. Before I began Immerse, I wasn’t entirely convinced it would be worth the time.

After all, I was already committed to global missions. I had a passion for the unreached. I was ready to give up life in my home culture, say goodbye to my friends and family and fly away to a distant land to make disciples among people who haven’t had a chance to hear the gospel. But, now that I’ve had a year of training, I realize I was not as ready as I thought.

Ready to Learn

It turns out, I’m not the only one who was in a rush. Rev. Dr. Timothy Monahan, the director of Immerse, shared that he felt a similar urgency before he started his 31 years of cross-cultural ministry:

“I was in a hurry to get to the mission field. Therefore, I underestimated how vital pre-field orientation could be. Consequently, I ignorantly made irreparable cultural mistakes that could have been avoided. Immerse/EQUIP exists to teach young missionaries how to be resilient and effective while ministering cross-culturally. If I realized that I would have had 30 more years of successful ministry by growing through a program like EQUIP, I would have made the valuable 10-month investment.”

Check out the Immerse/EQUIP program provided by our partners at International Project. Or watch this short video. Story continues below.

Today, with coaching from Dr. Monahan and others, I’m much more prepared for ministry among the unreached than I was a year ago.

Lessons Learned in My Season of Preparation

  • I was unprepared for the physical, emotional and mental challenges of transitioning from the Rocky Mountains to New York City. Now I have learned how to care for myself, prioritize spiritual disciplines and acknowledge when I don’t have it all together.
  • I was unprepared for the spiritual heaviness and opposition I experienced living among unreached peoples. Now I have learned to own the power of Jesus, pray for protection and enlist others to pray for me.
  • I was unprepared to engage my Muslim neighbors in spiritual conversations. Now I have learned to be a learner, inquire more deeply about their faith and share more relevantly about mine.
  • I was unprepared to answer the hard questions that people ask about Jesus, God’s character and the Bible. Now I have learned how to find the answers to every question in the pages of God’s written Word.
  • I was unprepared to live and work in close community with a team of people who didn’t always agree, but needed and cared for each other anyway. Now I have learned to lead, to listen, to collaborate, to forgive quickly and to ask for forgiveness.

Prepared to Turn to God First

Most of all, this time of preparation showed me that God is not just concerned about what I do for Him. He’s also concerned about my heart. God has used the NYC Immerse program in a very personal way, transforming areas of my life where my understanding of myself and the Lord has been flawed. He has unraveled my tendency to try to earn love both from Him and others. I see now how quickly I go to people or things when life gets hard. I am learning to experience the satisfaction of turning to Him first.

The Lord has walked with me through difficult trials so that I would know that it’s not always about getting out of the fire as soon as possible, but being able to trust Him and glorify Him in the struggle. God has strengthened my faith, built my resilience and shown me more of Himself. It’s really easy in the missions world to get caught up in what we do for the Lord and forget that He cares about our hearts as well as the hearts of the unreached. I am learning how He refines us through the process of ministering to others.

Ready to Keep Learning

With these new skills (and more realistic expectations), I now feel better prepared for life overseas. Nevertheless, I still have more training ahead of me. Before I start ministry in my long-term location in Africa, I need to study French, the language used by the government and many local churches. I plan to take a year-long intensive language course in France before joining my team on the ground in Africa.

Since I joined Pioneers, my Pre-field Coach has often reminded me, “The preparation process isn’t a race. It is worth taking longer to get to the field in a healthy place mentally, physically and emotionally. Even though a few extra months feels big right now, in the big picture it will feel small.”

A Four-Year Journey

From when I decided to become a missionary to the time I join my team in person in Africa, about four years will have gone by. Even then, I won’t be done with training. I’ll spend several years studying Arabic before I’m ready to be fully involved in ministry. What I thought would be a few months of support-raising and tying up my life in America has become a multi-year process of learning and sanctification. It’s been difficult, and it’s been fun. It’s been discouraging, and it’s been empowering.

My preparation has required a tremendous amount of hard work and pressing into the Lord for the work that only He can do. But it’s been worth it. Step by step, God is giving me what I need to effectively make His name known among the nations. He is worthy of any amount of preparation that is required of us, and in the end, He will receive the glory.

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