I hit “send” on the application to RTIM. I was excited, and a little nervous. Months of praying, researching, and planning had led to this moment. My wife and I had worked hard on the application for RTIM, and finally it was time to submit it. But something strange happened after I hit send.
More specifically, nothing happened. Of course, I was well aware that they needed to process my application. I knew that it might take weeks or months. But still I sat there, looking at my computer, thinking, “What next?”
Perhaps you’ve applied with a mission board such as RTIM and now you’re waiting for their response. What should you do in the meantime? How can you keep moving forward while you wait?
Don’t skip this one and move right on to #2. Prayer is not the obligatory first step we have to include lest we appear unspiritual. It is the irreplaceable foundation of ministry. When I don’t pray, it betrays pride and self-sufficiency in my life. Do I really think I will be able to raise missionary support on my own? Do I really think I can uproot my family from our home and transition to another country without God’s help? Do I really think I can share the gospel, train leaders, and plant churches in my own strength? Prayer is my daily reminder that I need God. So as you begin this journey, start with prayer, and continue in prayer.
If you want to be a missionary, I’m assuming you are actively serving in your local church. “Wherever you are, be all there”—the oft-quoted saying of Jim Elliot—applies as much to this season of life as it does to the mission field. Be committed to evangelism and discipleship now. We don’t believe in “transformation by transportation,” as one missionary leader told me. Moving to another country will not suddenly turn you into an evangelist and disciple maker if you’re not already serving in your local church. So keep serving.
During this time, receive counsel from your pastor. Even though you are waiting to be accepted by your mission board, they are not the ones who will affirm your calling to the mission field. You will be sent by your local church. So maintain a strong relationship with the leadership team, listen to their advice, and continue to learn from them.
As a side note, I’ve met several people who feel called into missions, but know that, for theological or philosophical reasons, their current church will not be able to send them. If that’s the case, now is the time to have an honest conversation with your pastor to make sure you’re on the same page.
Allow your pastors to speak into your life. Their counsel, suggestions, and corrections are invaluable since they know you better than most. Submit to the counsel of your local church.
You might feel like you’ve never been busier, but I would recommend carving out time to read. Read great books on missions, culture, and missionary biographies. You probably already have a list of your own, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Missions: Let the Nations Be Glad! (Piper), Missions (Johnson)
- Culture: Foreign to Familiar (Lanier), Serving with Eyes Wide Open (David Livermore)
- Biographies: John G. Paton (Schlehlein), To the Golden Shore (Anderson), Shadow of the Almighty (Elliot)
Whether you are waiting for appointment from your mission board, raising support, or in another country as a missionary—keep reading.
Seize every opportunity you can to learn from other missionaries, pastors, and mission board leaders. Ask about support raising, the needs around the world, raising a family in another country, missions books they recommend, etc. Catch up on any episodes that you may have missed from The Great Commission Podcast, a weekly podcast that features conversations with Christians around the world. Look for opportunities to meet people from the country in which you desire to minister. Spend time in their home, eat national food, and learn about the culture. You will thank yourself later if you gather notes in an organized system so you can remember and apply what you learn (e.g., Evernote).
This season is a perfect time to learn more about your mission board. RTIM hosts a Preview Weekend which is an excellent way to learn about the DNA of the board and gain skills for launching overseas. The next RTIM Preview Weekend will be March 20-21, 2020, in Louisville, KY.
If I could add one last point it would simply be to wait. Trust God in this season of life, knowing that his timing is perfect. Unexpected things will happen to you in the next few months, that I can assure you. Rest in the fact that every unplanned event is from your loving Father’s hand. Every bump in the road is a gift from him designed specifically for you. You may encounter unexpected delays, family tragedies, unbudgeted expenses, or discouragement from friends. Thank God for these blessings in disguise, and wait for his timing.
I trust these basic steps will help you keep moving forward while you’re waiting. And I’m sure you will think of more action steps you can take during this time. Your time of waiting will be a blessing if you keep praying, keep serving, and keep learning.