We haven’t been serving as missionaries very long. We’re rookies. We still mess up verb conjugation, get lost in traffic, and find ourselves scrambling in the maze that is “missional living,” trying to “do no harm,” and yet loving as much as we can along the way. That being said, we often have couples and individuals that come to serve here in Nicaragua short term or simply interested people from back in the US or Canada that tell us they think God is calling them to be a missionary and ask for our input.
Here’s the thing...we can’t confirm God’s call on your life. What we can do is to be completely honest. We LOVE Nicaragua. We LOVE the Nicaraguan people and have deep friendships here. We enjoy the food and adore learning about the culture. On most days we find learning Spanish to be a joy rather than a chore. We don’t struggle to like our role here. It’s an amazing and sometimes insane place to live.
We are sure that missionaries both here in Nicaragua and throughout the world say the same things. We can also say most lovingly that you will face hard times, many of them and in various forms. God calls but He doesn’t always make it easy. He doesn’t promise that you’ll be funded quickly or that your house will sell for a good price. He doesn’t promise that your friends and family will support you or that you won’t get homesick. He doesn’t promise that you will love the food or magically learn a new language in two months with little effort. He doesn’t promise that you won’t get sick, in a car accident, or have your house broken into. He doesn’t promise that you’ll have great success or that you’ll be kindred spirits with your co-laborers. He doesn’t promise that your new home won’t be invaded by mosquitos or have months of drought and be continually covered in dust. He doesn’t promise that your children won’t struggle to “fit in.” He doesn’t promise that it won’t be very difficult and complicated. God will carry you through all these hard times (and more!). He is a faithful God but your commitment has to be greater than all of these difficulties because you and your family will.face.them.
It doesn’t hurt to go explore. Go check out a different culture. Read. Learn. Shadow a missionary for a week, two weeks, a month. Ask a HEAP of questions. But realize that visiting a country for a short time or with a large group and serving long term with little help or camaraderie and a lot of responsibility are two totally different worlds. Let your heart be spurred on by your short term experiences, but understand that living and working fulltime in another country is a different beast entirely!
We recommend three very practical things:
1) DO NOT GO INTO DEBT. Student loan debt, credit card debt, any kind of debt. Keep it as low as possible. Debt will keep you off the field, delay your departure to the field, or make it more difficult to stay on the field. If you must take out student loans, live very simply and pay them off as fast as possible. Living frugally will be great preparation for life overseas where you must live contentedly on a missionary salary.
2) GET LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE. You will be in a leadership position overseas. You will teach, you will mentor, you will surely be looked at. Get used to taking initiative, making do with with the opportunities and resources you have, and love on the incredibly imperfect people around you. Be the AWANA teacher for the rowdy age group no one wants to volunteer for. Serve at the soup kitchen: do the dishes and learn the names and stories of those who come to eat. Go pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ in the nursing home. Lead a small group for international students. If teaching a Sunday school class is hard for you in English, just think of the challenge it will prove in another culture and language! Get as much practice in before hand so you will be usable on the the field!
3) Read THIS. 10 Reasons not to become a missionary. Most of what we do here is not glamorous. Most days are not what are shown on the slide presentation. For as many times as we reunite sponsors with their sponsorship child, host a missions team, see a life changed in a profound way, there are twice as many times where we are still waiting for God to work. There are hours of receipting and answering emails. Waiting in long lines at the bank or at customs. Memorizing irregular verbs. Packing school lunches and getting the garbage bags out soon enough for the garbage truck but not too early since there are roaming dogs waiting to tear them open. There is nothing romantic about poverty or working among the poor. It is challenging. It means making mistakes. It means admitting that we often don’t have the resources or the answers. We must go in with eyes wide open.
At the end of the day, pray your heart out, listen and listen some more, and then go...make that call to a missions organization. Fill out that first form. Be obedient one step, one day at a time. It’s worth it. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. Our God is on mission and it’s a blessing to serve with Him!