Staying Sent Well
April 2022

By Michael Smiel

I recently had the privilege of hosting a missionary and friend at my home. He was passing through the city where I live so I picked him up from the airport and he stayed with me for a day. Our friendship began while going through SEND’s training, then we parted ways to head to our separate fields. He went to Japan and I went to Russia. So, what did we talk about? Our first four years on the field as missionaries! 

We found that, though our fields and host cultures were different, many of our experiences were the same for missionary life. We struggled with culture shock, language, missing family and friends, and learning about our flaws in the thick of ministry in a foreign land. However, the consistent topic we came back to was how hard we worked to get to the mission field and how hard it was to stay. We were sent well, but then we had to stay sent. 

The three things we agreed would have helped us most are:  

1) Dealing with Personal Baggage 

If you want to stay sent well, deal with your personal baggage well. No, we don’t mean the baggage you pack all of your valued life belongings into when you leave for the field. We mean the hurt filled emotional and psychological experiences of the past that we all have and can cause problems if left unattended. A lot of people, including myself, are tempted to pack it away and think they can leave it behind. Well, when we got to the field, someone seemed to have forwarded it to our locations. The pressure and stress of living cross-culturally brought out insecurities, character flaws, and triggered responses that we developed throughout our lives. For me, I had thought of myself as an excellent student my whole life so when I struggled with language learning or doing basic things in life, like going to the grocery store; I felt stupid, beat myself up about it, and lost confidence to even speak in public. This is baggage that I can now trace back to the start in my memories. I wasn't aware of some of it until I got to the field but some may have been known before going. It’s best to unpack baggage as you find it rather than trying to leave it behind or save it for later, because chances are that you will find it right back on your doorstep the next time there is a stressful situation. And there are a lot of stressful situations on the mission field. Please know I understand that facing your flaws or your past is a difficult process. So, be gentle and patient with yourself as Jesus is. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." - Matthew 11:28–29 (ESV) 

2) Communicating with the Team 

If you want to stay sent well, communicate with your team well. When we were in training, I heard someone say that a top reason missionaries leave the field is because of other missionaries. I didn’t think much of it at the time as we worked on communication skills. I simply thought, “No, that won’t be me.” Well, both of us ended up in situations where it was difficult to work well with people on our teams and we both had times where we wanted to leave the field because of another missionary. Relational work is difficult work no matter what. The best thing you can do is communicate directly with whom you have a problem, acknowledge the problem, be honest about it, own your part of it, and listen to them. I recognize that we cannot control what other parties do but we can control what we do and my hope is that we do all things with love. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34–35 (ESV) 

3) Running Your Race 

If you want to stay sent well, focus on running your race well. It was tempting for both of us to look at other people in the field and compare ourselves to them. Whether it was someone being better at language, making friends, evangelism, or just doing something different than us; the temptation to look over at a teammate or a national ministry partner and be jealous, to irrationally change things up for ourselves, dislike them for it, or beat ourselves up was always there. Learning from others isn’t a bad thing and I encourage that! However, God has called you to do something somewhere and, though you can and should learn from others, God has gifted you to be you and run the race he set for you. That includes all the obstacles, advantages, and strength building along the way. Be a part of your team; help and be helped but be who God made you to be. Go where God has called you to go. Do what God has called you to do. Run your race and cheer your teammates on as you go. 

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” -James 3:16 (ESV)  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:1–2 (ESV)

SEND’s member care department provides personalized support for each of our missionaries and their families throughout their careers. Read about some of the benefits of serving with SEND.

Click below to speak with a coach who can get you started on the path to global missions.
Contact a mission coach


Subscribe now to stay up to date on all our recent posts, right to your inbox!

Connect with SEND

Start your missions journey by chatting with a SEND Coach.


Sign up for Explore, our monthly newsletter to help you discover your role in missions.