5 more missionary myths

Tags: Exploring Missions, Story, United States, US Office

By Josie Oldenburg, SEND Communications — One of our most popular articles, “5 myths of the missionary call,” tackles one of the most misunderstood terms surrounding the Great Commission. But even when misconceptions surrounding calling are cleared up, other myths can keep people from taking the (admittedly big) step of becoming missionaries themselves. For example:

I’m bad at learning languages

Barely passed high school French? Forgotten how to count to 10 in Spanish? Don’t label yourself a linguistic failure based on these experiences! Many people who struggle to learn a language in an academic setting find success when they are immersed in a foreign culture. Never underestimate the power of needing to buy vegetables, visit the doctor and make friends to fuel language learning.

SEND highly values connecting with people in their heart language and in a culturally appropriate way. Missionaries who arrive to the field without knowing the local language generally are given up to two years to study the language and culture. Of course, language study is an ongoing process. You don’t learn vocabulary for how to fix a car or birth a baby until you have a car that needs fixing or a baby who needs birthing. But our missionaries leave their initial language study with a strong linguistic foundation upon which to build.

I can't take my kids overseas 

Carting children across the globe seems complicated. Just the idea of flying internationally with munchkins strikes fear in the hearts of many people. (Insider secret: Over-ocean flights on huge planes are pretty easy if you’re willing to throw screen-time rules out the window, walk endless laps around the plane, and ply your littles with a steady supply of airline-supplied juice and snacks. Domestic flights, on the other hand, are the worst.)

But either way, the travel is over in a day (or two or three). The true challenges arise with educational decisions and transition issues. SEND gets it. We care for the whole family, offering child-focused pre-field training, programs at conferences and debriefing.

A SEND missionary kid keeps up with his national school lessons via Skype.

Thanks to the internet, educational options for cross-cultural families have blossomed. Our trained educational consultants help parents make the best decisions for each of their individual children. Many SEND families combine various approaches — some online school, some home school, some national school, some international school — in order to give their children extremely well-rounded, globally focused educations. SEND also offers families time to attend education seminars specific to third-culture kids and to keep up with their children’s academic testing. 

I’m not healthy enough

Cross-cultural service does not require perfect health. Such issues may limit where you can serve, but God can use these perceived limitations to direct your path. For instance, one of our missionaries developed a life-threatening allergy to a ubiquitous local ingredient, which helped her family decide to minister in the capital city where she could buy imported foods and quickly get to a hospital.

If you feel like God might be calling you to become a missionary, talk with your doctor about any health concerns you might have. Our missionaries have found that many doctors are very understanding, willing to work with the missionary to manage health concerns, and even able to keep in contact via email or Skype.

I can't preach or translate the Bible

Though preaching and translating the Bible are amazing gifts that effect powerful change in people’s lives, they aren’t the only options! SEND offers more than 200 opportunities to reach the unreached. Though love for and a growing understanding of the Word are crucial to each role, only a handful of SEND’s current opportunities are directly dependent on being ordained or having a degree in theological education.

I see needs in my own neighborhood

You likely do have neighbors who haven't yet accepted Jesus as their Savior. But if you live in a majority-Christian nation, chances are good that your neighbor will have opportunities to hear the Good News from someone other than you. Your neighbors may be unsaved, but nearly 3 billion people in the world remain unreached. These billons have no local church capable of spreading the gospel and lack access to the Word. So, by all means, reach out to your current neighbor. But also consider whether God might be calling you to become a neighbor to the unreached in another land.

About the author: Josie Oldenburg served with her husband and three sons in Kyiv, Ukraine, for 12 years. She definitely can't translate the Bible, but she's found plenty of ways to put her journalism training to use for God's glory. 

More on becoming a missionary 

Considering missions — Questions to ask as your discern God's leading.

Why go with SEND — Some of the benefits your family will receive if you become missionaries with us.

5 myths of the missionary call — Rethinking when and how God draws people into cross-cultural service.