“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” – 3 John 1:2
It’s 2 AM, your flight to another country leaves in a matter of hours. You’ve made more phone calls than you can count, raised thousands of dollars, packed and unpacked your bag twice; maybe three times. Your mind is swirling with what the next weeks or months have in store. You feel nervous, yet prepared. Anxious, yet ready. Outreach always seemed so far off, yet right now, it’s within reach.
Whether it’s your first time overseas or you’re a well-seasoned traveler, everyone learns something new each time. We have the opportunity to travel to a nation most people will never see.
Here are some wisdom nuggets to ponder as you not only prepare for the physical demands of outreach, but the spiritual, emotional and mental aspects as well.
- Know the culture: Take the time as a team and as an individual to study the language; even if it’s not perfect, the locals will always appreciate your efforts. I remember seeing the way people’s faces would light up when I spoke just a few simple words in their language. Understand their religion, way of life, work, history, economy, food, etc. Jesus did not come to BE served, but TO serve. As Christ followers, we should do the same. When working with the local churches in another country, remember, Jesus is already there. Listen to the locals on how to contextualize the Gospel to the people you’re ministering to. Meet the people in the culture that they grew up in.
- Leave it all on the field: You’ll be stretched to a capacity you didn’t know you had. You’ll have opportunity after opportunity to remain unoffended. Be teachable and willing to serve, love and do anything. You will be SO glad that you did. Whether it’s serving your teammates, your host, or the people in the nation, give your all and hold nothing back. Do not leave outreach regretting you didn’t give it your all, that you could have done more; make sure you leave knowing you did everything and anything possible to serve the locals and your team.
- Spend time with Jesus: This will make or break you, in any season, but especially during outreach when everything seems to be heightened. Download sermons and worship music, and a lot of it, for flights, long drives and in your quiet time. Aligning yourself every day in the word of God and in prayer, will keep you in touch with what the Spirit is doing within and around you. Focus on the eternal perspective of every little detail of your time there, and you’ll be surprised how the Lord speaks to you even in the mundane.
- Give G R A C E: There IS a difference between a free pass and grace. A free pass chooses to ignore sin, and turn away because it’s easier to avoid conflict than face an uncomfortable situation. Grace, however, chooses to call you out and call you higher in love because of the cross. To “give grace” simply means to see each other as new creations in Christ. Giving grace to your team, your team leader and your local contacts is necessary because we will never see the whole picture. Keep short accounts, because the Father doesn’t hold anything against us or love us any less because of our sin. See it as an opportunity to grow in love, and in likeness of Christ. Remember, we forgive much because we have been loved much.
- Be flexible: Flexibility in your expectations, schedule and your living situation will be a necessity on the field. Often, many things don’t go according to plan or even meet our expectations but when we are flexible in those areas of our life while on outreach, we won’t be disappointed. We won’t be disheartened, we won’t get frustrated and we will be able to demonstrate who Christ is by being helpful regardless of the situation you are put in.
I hope these points have helped shed some light on things you may not have thought about or run into until you’re 6 or 7 weeks deep on outreach. Expect the Lord to move around you and through you.
“If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
― David Livingstone