A New Perspective on the Idea of Mission Work
By Kathryn N. Donev
I have never seen myself as “mission-minded.” To be honest I don’t even really know what this statement means. Maybe it is an out-dated phrase, but during my college years I would constantly be faced with these words. Then when I married and moved overseas I met many people whom identified with this saying. However, I noticed that many of these “mission-minded” people enter the international context completely the opposite because they were lacking in culture sensitivity. And for the most part, this unfortunate insensitivity was unaware to them. Without being sensitively aware of your location there is limited connectedness to the people to whom you attempt to minister. And in addition when there is the other barrier of language, one at times works in a context of misunderstanding and ineffectiveness regardless of how “mission-mind” one may be.
So before answering the call to missions and going on your first cross cultural experience, there are a few things to consider:
1. Be informed about the cultural differences of the people you are trying to reach because your good intentions may be misunderstood and even offend.
2. Keep in mind you are not going on a site-seeing tour but to help others see the true light.
3. Just because something makes sense in your language, doesn’t mean it will make sense interpreted into a foreign language. Clichés are to be avoided.
4. Remember that you are going to lift up others and not yourself. The song that says “It’s all about YOU,” actually refers to Christ.
5. Consider that the people you are ministering to are real and not objects to be put on display in a savvy PowerPoint after returning home from your trip.
6. Just because you go to a foreign country doesn’t make you a missionary.
7. It is when you put yourself in the shoes of the people you are helping, that you just may learn some do not even have shoes to wear.
8. Aid is not the answer to all problems. Sometimes the people you are going to assist have real problems and spiritual needs.
9. It is not the power of money that saves souls, but the power of a Heavenly Father.
10. There is a major difference between being “mission-minded” and being an international worker.
If you want to genuinely minister to another, you have to meet the needs that they have and not the ones you want them to have. Not everybody is in need of a pair of socks or a toothbrush. Not everybody has a cookie cutter problem that can be fixed with one solution, which is found in a brown paper bag. If you want to be effective on the field, consider the difference of being an international worker versus being “mission-minded.” Perhaps, you should listen to where God is calling you to work and not be influenced by emotions of where it would be exciting to visit. And just maybe consider embracing the idea of working tirelessly instead of simply being mission-minded without a clue. Consider that perhaps the answer of you not being effective in your context is not to go across seas to try to be effective in another context. It’s great to have your mind on missions, but it is insufficient to only think about missions on a whim; if this is even what this statement “mission-minded” means at all.