This post is my own response to an article in “Askamissionary.com” “What do Missionaries wish they had known before they first went?”
“I wish I had had more realistic expectations.”
I am usually a pessimist. The good thing of a pessimist is that when things turn out better than he expected, he is encouraged. I am not an optimist. The bad thing about being an optimist is that when things fall apart, you are unprepared emotionally for that, and it is very discouraging.
I think that a realistic expectation for a missionary is the following:
1.) It is going to be hard.
If you don’t fully believe that, you will not last, and nobody has an easy time of it in the ministry. That is the way it is in the U.S. That is the way it is for English ministers in England, Canadian ministers in Canada, etc. No matter what you do, it is hard going in the ministry. The only people who have a “lighter” time of it is the false prophet, because Satan is not opposing him so hard.
2.) It is going to be a lot of work.
The ministry is hard work. You should be prepared mentally for that. Long hours, lots of work, and nothing to show for it for a long time. If you are lazy, you should find another line of work.
I remember reading one time about some great industrialist. I believe it was Henry Ford, but don’t remember exactly. When speaking about that years later, they said that he had a Midas touch, that everything he touched turned to gold. He laughed and said, “no.” He said “I just learned the secret.” “What is it? please tell us!” “Well, for every 100 things I try, 99 fail and one succeeds. Every fail I see, I don’t get discouraged at that failure. I just start counting, that is number 1, 98 to go.”
3.) There will be no good results for a long time.
Being a missionary is a lot like being a potato farmer. He plants, waters, pulls weeds, dusts for insects, and does an aweful lot of work without every seeing any potatos. He works in hope, hoping that one day, he will see fruit. A good missionary will labor indefinitely without any real results and not get discouraged because “he is a trooper”. He obeys orders, and fulfills his tasks with a joyful heart whether there is immediate gain, victory, or positive feedback.
4.) There will be needs, lacking, and insufficiencies.
Paul talked about knowing hardship, suffering, and insufficiencies in his life as a missionary. No matter what you do, you will always have some of your needs go unmet. This is not because God can’t, or because God is grumpy at you for some reason (based in Him or in you). It is because that is how things must be. If we suffer with Christ, we will reign with Christ in eternity. There is a “need” for you to learn to labor when it is hot, uncomfortable, and when you don’t have refreshing (water). There is a spiritual need for you to learn to obey, work, labor, sweat, and continue on without giving up nor complaining, because that is how a Christian laborer learns of his God.
Moreover, when you have all the luxuries of life, your people will never trust you, nor think you know what you are talking about. It is only when they see you suffering, sweating, and without relief that they identify you. Americans are sitting on the top of the economic world. Few nations have the income that Americans do, and few have the luxuries that Americans take for granted. Open a fausset, and water comes out is a great labor in many parts of the world. Electricity that doesn’t spike and blow up your appliances, or go to half voltage and likewise ruin them is something that Americans don’t think twice about. Most people in the world do. They suffer with these little things.
You are sent to reach these people, and it is only when you identify with them that they trust you, love you, and share their lives with you. That will not happen when you are driving a model year car around and living in a mansion by their standards.
5.) There will be God’s purpose accomplished in your ministry.
If you are truly saved, and you are called into missions, and you honestly and sincerely serve God, you will succeed at what God has for you. Perhaps God is sending you so that you will minister to a hard hearted people like Israel, and in the end, they will totally reject God and God will chastise them. That is success. How? Because you accomplished God’s will for your life. You did what God called you to do. It is not about having a 10,000 member church and a parsonage the size of a small city. It is not about fame, recognition, nor money. It is about doing what God has for you to do. Read the prophets of the Old Testament, and see how they had a losing battle with Israel, and how they were so discouraged by Israel’s rejection of God and his word. Can God send you to a people and to a place like that? You bet ya! Success must be in fulfilling what God has called you to do, not any other standard.
Excellent youtube channel on missions: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcoS4i_FqDoNDcmm4v0IG7w