I traveled to Latin America to speak to missionaries. I taught three afternoons of Bible studies to the women and three mornings of Bible studies to teenaged kids of missionary families. This was for the annual conference for the region so over 100 of us gathered together to connect and learn.

When I’m working with a planning committee about a speaking event, there’s always a conversation when I ask the questions, “What else? What mistakes should I avoid?” 

 For my trip to speak to the missionaries in the Dominican Republic, one of them shared this advice. “Connect with the missionaries’ stories. Get to know them. Hear about their work.”

I tried to do just that. Of course, it’s a cliché with mission work is that the blessing is the ways it changes you. And yet, time with the missionaries changed me. May the stories from our experience change you, too.

Stop Judging Success.

Something happens when you become a missionary that changes you—the Holy Spirit, sanctification, dying to self. This process makes you see your work differently. Coming from the states to the mission field, this difference was so dramatic. It wasn’t about the fruit. It was about the relationships.

Over and over, as we talked to the missionaries about their work, they shared stories. When we have this conversation in the States, it’s like asking for a financial report of the ministry—people answer with numbers, and stats about programs, and financials: (“How is our new church? Good. We have about 200 a Sunday.” Or “We love our new school. There’s soccer, art camp, and our football team made it to regionals.”)

The missionaries were different. They shared stories about women or men they had met in their region. They passionately told stories about God working in the lives of real people. Their excitement wasn’t a report about attendance or programs. It felt odd to me at first—and then it felt refreshing.

Do the work—even when it’s hard.

The missionaries deeply believed that the work they were doing. They believed it was their privilege and call to share God’s love with the world. They did this, even when it was hard. Even when they weren’t comfortable. Even when their ministry felt strange and difficult.  

I taught Bible studies every day in English to lots of people who only speak Spanish. They patiently listened to the translator. This was not always easy, but they didn’t complain.

My new missionary friends told stories about leaving families and friends back home. They shared the logistics of raising kids in a new culture. They described the experience of moving to another country and missing funerals and weddings

So, you want to live like a missionary? Start with your comfort zone. Ministry is often not comfortable–and that’s part of the blessing.

Prioritize Rest and Relationships. 

Part of travel is resting and reconnecting with your people, right? You disconnect from your work to reconnect with people we’re too busy to rest with during regular life. 

Except, we often don’t do that at all. 

We’re present with each other—but we’re not really there. 

We are becoming so bad at community. In groups, most of us prefer the tailored experience of our cell phones. We struggle to hold meaningful conversations. We prefer to scroll the content that’s curated just for us. I know I do. 

The missionaries were different. They gathered every night and talked, shared heartaches and worries, told funny stories, and hugged and laughed, and even cried together.

But it was more than that. The missionaries found so much joy in being together—and they were good at it. 

The connection, like everything else about the trip, was beautiful, necessary, and so refreshing. 

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