Practical Mobilization: Three Personal Challenges for 2024

You likely know that January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god of transitions. Roman mythology says he had two faces: one looking back, one looking forward. In the same way, January gives us a Janus-like moment to consider what happened last year and what’s coming next.

Of course, if New Year’s Day took you by surprise, without a resolution or a “word” for the year, fear not. Looks like Chinese/Lunar New Year rolls around on February 10 and Persian New Year, Nowruz, is March 20. In the liturgical calendar, February 14 will launch us into Lent, and that might be a good time to turn over a new leaf or lay aside a distraction. And then there’s the ultimate resurrection day, Easter Sunday, which most of us will celebrate on March 31.

Face it. Any day is a good day to start anew and embrace new life. We walk with a God whose steadfast love never ceases and whose mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Might one of these gospel-inspired challenges shape your 2024?

1. Make a Different Kind of Resolution

Here’s something thought-provoking from East-West Ministries.

They wrote,

“The Apostle Paul was certainly a proponent of becoming more like Christ every day (Romans 12:2). But Paul also had a different kind of resolution that was not focused on improving himself. In fact, his resolution embraced his shortcomings.”

They’re referring to what he told the church in Corinth after hearing complaints that he wasn’t an impressive performer (1 Corinthians 2:1-5):

“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Is there something here for us?

“As you contemplate your resolutions this year, consider whether your supposed area of improvement might be an opportunity to display God’s power in your life. Perhaps your weakness is the very thing God will use to draw many people to him.”

Read A Different Kind of Resolution.

2. Do Your Devos (or Discipleship) Differently

“We would love for our team to grow,” a Pioneers worker serving in Eurasia said in a recent newsletter. “When we’re in the U.S., we enjoy meeting folks considering overseas life. We join interview committees to listen to peoples’ stories and help direct their next steps. In the summer, we host interns to give them a look at long-term life.

“Dialoging with potential coworkers gives us a glimpse into trends. Those currently looking to move internationally want to join teams that will disciple them not just in language and culture but in the Word. During interviews, we ask, ‘How do you commune with God? Have you ever taught the Word?’

“More and more candidates are saying they use devotional books and book/video studies; they have never learned to study or teach on their own.

“So, if those we send have never been discipled, how can they make disciples? We’re kind of scratching our heads. We definitely want to disciple others. That’s the command: Make disciples. And we definitely will sharpen one another as coworkers. But our intent in moving overseas was not to disciple coworkers from fellowships in our home country. It is to teach new brothers and sisters from the people we now live among.”

Rather than bemoaning how hard it is to find qualified candidates, this cross-cultural worker invited his supporters and other readers to be part of the solution:

“Can you help? As the new year comes, if you know how to study the Bible on your own, pray about inviting two or three others to study with you straight from the Word so they can learn, too. Then, in 2025, ask them to pass on their new skills to two or three more people. If you’ve never learned to study or teach, be willing to learn and find someone to help you.

“If you’re a leader, can we ask you to evaluate the teaching methods in your fellowship? We know that it’s easy to have people lead book/video studies, but it can become a crutch and hurt in the long run. Are you teaching people how to feed themselves? Who are people in your fellowship who possibly have the gift of teaching that you could develop?

“We’re thankful that people are following the command to go. And we’re grateful for you standing behind us to get and keep us here. We look forward to receiving some of those you’re sending. We’ll work together to build up the kingdom on both sides of the ocean!”

3. Prioritize Funding Ministry to the Unreached

Recently, Justin Long of Beyond published an article revisiting the oft-quoted statistic, based on data from a few decades ago, that less than one percent of all money given to missions goes to reaching unreached people and places. Is it true? Still?

After explaining where the number came from, why it’s more difficult than ever to measure, and why he believes the imbalance is not as severe as it once was, Justin concluded:

“The percentage spent on mission to the unreached is almost certainly less than half of the total spent on foreign mission (which is itself 5% of total Christian ministry funds)—very probably less than a third of it. I would go so far as to guess, I think very reasonably, that it’s less than a quarter. If correct, then 25% of 5% would mean about 1.25% of total giving to Christian ministry is spent on mission to the unreached. It’s probably safe to say that 1% or less is given to mission to the unreached.”

But here’s the takeaway:

“Those who’d like to make a difference might look at their own giving and consider how they might give their own personal 1%, 2%, 10% or more to this ministry. It might not jar the global numbers very much, but it could make a very strategic difference in specific works.”

Consider looking at your own budget through this lens. How would you like to see churches and believers using their resources? Could it start with you?

Want to dig deeper in the data? Read the article (at the end of the email).

For more from Justin, subscribe to one of his newsletters: the Weekly Roundup, free or premium edition (this article was in the premium edition) or to the free, weekly prayer-guide based on the Roundup.

Practical Mobilization: Remembering Those Who Came Before Us

Youth With a Mission founder Loren Cunningham saw waves of young people sharing the gospel in every nation (Mark 15:16).

A Morbid Confession

It may be strange to admit it. But I do enjoy a good funeral. What about you? It’s not the music, flowers, or stained glass that gets me. And the death of a child or someone who died prematurely can be brutal.

But I love to see people gather to celebrate a long life well lived, especially when it’s the life of someone who stayed focused on honoring God and loving people their whole life long, not giving up or hindered long by the setbacks and struggles they faced or their own hang-ups and handicaps.

Maybe they made a big splash in the world. Maybe not. But they lived for what matters, and when they’re gone—and probably before that, too—people saw it and said, “Yes, that’s right.”

The death of such a saint, now at rest, calls me to question my habits and refocus on things that count more than killing time or meeting deadlines.

Losses and Legacies

The mission community and the Church have lost many senior leaders in the last few years. Some of those deaths have brought an outpouring of articles celebrating that person’s legacy in the lives of others. Think Billy Graham, George Verwer, and Tim Keller.

Last week, the mission community lost another, Youth with a Mission founder Loren Cunningham. He died October 6 at the age of 88.

Into All the World and Now Beyond

A YWAM press release reports, “Loren was the first person in history to travel to every sovereign nation on earth, all dependent countries, and more than 100 territories and islands for the sake of Christ and the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). Now he has added one more “stamp” to his well-worn passport: HEAVEN!”

That Mark 16 verse (“go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”) was part of the bedrock of Loren’s life and had been since 1948 when he was 13, and it rang in his ears at an altar call. Then, at age 20, Loren heard the call confirmed. In prayer, he saw a picture of a world map with waves crashing on every coast, waves of young people from all over who would go share the gospel all across the globe. In the early 1960s, Loren’s vision led to the launch of Youth With a Mission.

YWAM and the Short-Term Mission Movement

Loren had a gift to mobilize young people to respond to the gospel and offer themselves up in service. Yet, he saw the years of schooling they’d have to complete to become missionaries as an unnecessary barrier to unleashing them on the world. Loren was ready to disrupt traditions and remove obstacles. So he looked for new pathways. Created them, really.

His early experiments with sending short-term missionaries (like some of his later efforts) had mixed results. There were controversies and failures. But Loren and those who joined him learned as they went. By 1985, YWAM was discipling and sending out more than 15,000 young people every year. The impact of these trips on their lives and the lives of those who received them and served alongside them was significant.

YWAM went on to become one of the world’s largest mission organizations. Loren always brushed off that claim lest it take away from God’s glory, the urgency of the task remaining, or the great work done by others. Yet, through YWAM, millions have been discipled and shared the love of Jesus with people everywhere.

That’s no small thing. And it started with a man who listened to and was led by God and who wouldn’t give up.

“Remember your leaders,
who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life
and imitate their faith.”
– Hebrews 13:7

Practical Mobilization Takeaways

  1. Think about leaders who have impacted you, directly or indirectly. Is there a parent, grandparent, pastor, mentor, or ministry leader whose influence helped set the trajectory of your life? If you can, thank them for their faithfulness. Ask God to help you recognize opportunities to pour into someone else’s life like that.
  2. Life verses have fallen from fashion, but maybe you have a favorite passage (or a few) that you hang your hat on in the way Loren Cunningham held onto Mark 15:16. If not, ask God to show you a Bible verse, story, or principle that might help you set your course or make sense of how he’s led you so far.
  3. How would God have you encourage the next generation and walk with them through the challenges and obstacles they face in following God’s plans for them, close to home or across the world? What would help you persevere as a sender, mentor, or mobilizer?

Links for Learning More

The Dog Ate My Passport and 10 Other Ways to Avoid Becoming a Missionary

By Amanda, Pioneers UK

Read or share the email edition of this article.

I’d always thought the excuse of a dog eating one’s homework was laughable (having been an overachieving child myself). Imagine, then, my slightly misplaced delight when I arrived at the office one day to find one of my colleagues—who had been due to fly to South America the day before—inexplicably sitting at his desk.

“But you’re meant to be in Brazil,” I stated quizzically. He said very little, just presented me with a plastic bag. The contents looked like shredded paper at first. That is, until I noticed the remnants of a photograph and the distinctive red of a British passport cover.

“The dog ate my passport,” he said. “I couldn’t go to Brazil because the dog ate my passport.”

I confess that I laughed long and heartily. It wasn’t particularly kind of me, but thankfully my colleague saw the humor in the situation too and we had a good laugh together.

We make small, insignificant decisions every day—decisions we would never imagine could make any difference to our lives. But sometimes they do. (For instance, leaving your passport on the dining table unattended could result in a missed week-long trip to the other side of the world.) In fact, our insignificant, everyday decisions often set the course of our lives more than the major, more dramatic decisions we make.

Howard Culbertson, former missionary and professor of missions at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma wrote a checklist for anyone hoping to avoid missionary service. Although it leaves out feeding your passport to your dog, it lists some of the other everyday choices and attitudes that could affect our willingness to say, “Here am I, send me.” The list applies primarily to Goers, but those of us who are Senders, Givers, and Pray-ers will certainly find that it applies to us too!

And now, without further ado, for a good giggle (with just a little sting), I present to you:

10 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Missionary

By Howard Culbertson

1. Ignore Jesus’s request in John 4:35 that we take a long hard look at the fields.

Seeing the needs of people can be depressing and very unsettling. It could lead to genuine missionary concern.

2. Focus your energies on socially legitimate targets.

Go after a bigger salary. Focus on getting a job promotion, a bigger home, a more luxurious car, or future financial security. Along the way, run up some big credit card debts.

3. Get married to somebody who thinks the “Great Commission” is what your employer gives you after you make a big sale.

After marriage, embrace the socially accepted norms of settling down, establishing a respectable career trajectory, and raising a picture-perfect family.

4. Stay away from missionaries.

Their testimonies can be disturbing. The situations they describe will distract you from embracing wholeheartedly the materialistic lifestyle of your home country.

5. If you happen to think about missions, restrict your attention to countries where it’s impossible to openly do missionary work.

Think only about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, and other closed countries. Forget the vast areas of our globe open to missionaries. Never, never listen to talk about creative access countries.

6. Think how bad a missionary you would be based on your own past failures.

It is unreasonable to expect you will ever be any better. Don’t even think about Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, or Mark, all of whom overcame failures.

7. Always imagine missionaries as talented, super-spiritual people who stand on lofty pedestals.

Maintaining this image of missionaries will heighten your own sense of inadequacy. Convincing yourself that God does not use ordinary people as missionaries will smother any guilt you may feel about refusing to even listen for a call from God.

8. Agree with the people who tell you that you are indispensable where you are.

Listen when they tell you that your local church or home country can’t do without you.

9. Worry incessantly about money.

10. If you still feel you must go, go out right away without any preparation or training.

You’ll soon be home again and no one can ever blame you for not trying!

And just for good measure, let’s add:

11. Leave your passport on the kitchen table.

Maybe the dog will eat it and then you’ll be off the hook.

Adapted from The Dog Ate My Passport (and Other Ways to Avoid Becoming a Missionary), from Pioneers UK, and How Not to Become a Missionary, by Howard Culbertson.

Dog photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash.

How to Spread Mission Vision in the Local Church (Barna Reports on Sale Through Friday)

Source: Barna Group

“When we surveyed our readers to identify areas where leaders are looking for more support, the #1 response was helping churches reach their full missions potential,” says Barna. The email caught my eye because that came out in our last survey of Missions Catalyst readers, too. This week only, you can save 40% on three Barna research reports that will help you reimagine missions in your church.

Purchase the Missions Bundle before midnight [Pacific time?] this Friday, June 16, to get all three reports at a 40% discount.

1. The Great Disconnect (published in 2022 with Mission India) is designed to both equip and challenge church leaders to build an expanded, global view of missions within their churches and to evaluate how God is uniquely calling their congregations to reach the unreached.

2. The Future of Missions (published in 2020 with the SBC International Mission Board) reveals how young Christians’ perspectives on missions are different from older believers’—and includes profiles of current missionaries in various parts of the world.

3. Translating the Great Commission (published in 2018 with the Seed Company) details how the American Church really feels about the Great Commission, as well as the many opinions about how to accomplish it.

Looks like the total is US$52. Such prices still seem steep? Search for free online articles that reference these reports and their findings.

Practical Mobilization: Messiology 101

Five Practical Principles for Mission Mobilizers From OM’s George Verwer

By Shane Bennett

Read or share the email edition.

Since mission mobilizer, leader, and author George Verwer died on April 14, we’ve seen many tributes. Read a short but strong one from OM USA’s President and CEO Andrew Scott (Christian Post). In his final video on YouTube, just a week before he died, George said he hoped he’d be remembered for what he called “messiology.” So let’s remember. Here’s what Shane wrote for Missions Catalyst a few years back when the “Messiology” book came out. Scroll down for how you can get a free copy. ~ MW

You know those people you really wish you could hang out with? Heroes beyond your reach? Maybe you’ll shake their hand or get a picture with them, but there’s no way they’re going to be weekly-get-together, maybe-go-camping-in-the-fall kind of friends. George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization, is like that for me. We go way back: I can literally remember stuff he told me (and 17,000 others) at Urbana in 1983. Later talks and books of his have shaped me in significant ways.

Right now I’m really jealous of the guy. I just read a book he wrote called Messiology, and I so wish I’d come up with that term! I love it! I wonder if I was sleeping or deep in a must-watch episode of The Office when God was handing out “messiology” and I missed it. More likely he knew George would hit it out of the park. And so he has.

“Where two or three are gathered together in His Name, sooner or later there will be a mess.” 

– George Verwer

I love this little book and want to point out some of the ways the book speaks particularly to mobilizers—and why you might want a few physical copies on hand to share.

What Is Messiology?

George says, “Put simply, messiology is the idea that God in his patience, mercy, and passion to bring men and women to himself often does great things in the midst of a mess… Over the course of 57 years in over 90 countries and thousands of churches and other organizations, I have often observed some kind of mess with them. Sometimes clear sin is involved that needs to be repented of. Other times it’s just silly stuff. I have said, and I feel it strongly, that no matter how filled we are with the Holy Spirit, we are still human. Our humanness has its beautiful side and its messy side.”

Pause for a second. Any messes in your life and work right now? If you’re at all like me, this probably doesn’t require a lot of mulling over. Likely a few popped into your head instantly. George is right when he says, “Where two or three are gathered together in His Name, sooner or later there will be a mess.”

Here are five things from this little book that I think are particularly helpful for us as we advocate for God’s purposes among the nations, work in the roles he has given us, and deal with the messes we—and sometimes others—have made.

1. We’ll never fully “get” God.

That God works despite and sometimes through the messes in our lives rests on the mystery and mercy of a great God. Verwer says,

“The last verses of Romans 11 have helped me again and again: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways.”

The stamp of God on creation, on every bit of life we’re connected to, is both broader, deeper, and more subtle than we imagine. In a way that is both stunning and uncomfortable, I’m reminded that I comprehend only the tiniest slice of the great work of God at any moment. I pray for the grace to be duly humble.

2. God didn’t ask me to sign off on who he uses.

Joel Osteen? Pope Francis? Nigerians? Hard-core Calvinists? Americans? Apparently, God doesn’t feel the need to have me vet everyone he chooses to work in and through. I don’t get this: How can perhaps mistaken people be used by a good God to raise up honest disciples? It boggles the mind!

But clearly, the circle God draws and labels, “these are building my kingdom” is bigger than the one I’d draw, and I tend to think I’m pretty open in this area. I once nearly lost a long-term worker I was recruiting because I was not strong enough on some beliefs. (You’ll have to guess or ask which ones!)

Is it possible we can become so enamored with our view, our dogma, or our history that we assume God does not work outside of it? Is it possible that we waste valuable time writing papers, making videos, and holding meetings all primarily designed to point out how other people are wrong? All the while many of those “wrong” people and “wrong” methods are tools in the hands of a wise and powerful God, so intent on accomplishing his purposes of gathering people to himself, that he can and does use them! And we don’t see it.

Neither George nor I would advocate that we abandon truth, but rather rejoice in the deeper truth, the mystery of a powerful God who accomplishes his purposes through a more diverse set of humanity than we might be comfortable with.

3. Critical people annoy me to no end.

Seems wherever you look, Facebook, online and print publications, public forums, or pulpits and stages, people are constantly being critical. “This ministry isn’t committed to the Bible.” “That church is too extreme.” Really, what is wrong with people? Do they not own a Bible? Maybe they never open it. Don’t they have anything better to do than complain and criticize?

Oh, hang on: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…!”

It is so easy for me to snip and bite, casually pointing out the shortcomings of some and the extravagances of others. In my younger days, I wasn’t even subtle: “No Christian should own a Range Rover. It’s just a ridiculous status symbol.” As I’ve gotten older and put childish ways behind me, I’ve sadly gotten more sophisticated in my criticism. Dang it! But God has mercifully reminded me through the valiant Verwer to ease up on knocking people down.

No church is perfect. Few supporters respond as quickly as we like. Every agency drops the ball. And all of us fall short of what we might be. Thank God his grace abounds.

4. I should say “I’m sorry” much more often.

Want to join me in this? Honestly. Not in an “I’m sorry you felt bad when I did that” way. More of an “I dropped the ball; I failed to respond on time; I lied to you because I was embarrassed about my mistake” way.

There are times when I’m trying to be funny and say things that are not honoring. Other times I’m arrogant and self-aggrandizing because I want to be looked at and liked. And sadly, I sometimes overlook or demean people because I don’t see how they serve my purpose.

I’m sorry.

5. Let’s love more, even when it hurts.

I cannot imagine the criticism and abuse George Verwer and his wife Drena have dealt with over the years. One of my favorite leadership quotes is, “If you want to be a leader, you’d better get used to the sight of your own blood.” I suppose the Verwers know it well.

May God give us the grace to love people when they fail us. When they impugn our motives. When they relentlessly attack, causing pain to us or worse, to ones we hold dear.

Mobilizing others and working to complete the Great Commission is messy. Thank you, George, for the happy reminder that God is big enough, good enough, and intent enough to work out his purposes for us and the world, despite—even through—the messes.

Originally published in Missions Catalyst in 2018; slightly adapted.

Want to read it for yourself? Here’s a publisher’s blurb and a way to get a copy for free.

In his most biographical book, George Verwer exercised his well-loved honesty and refreshing realism, sharing his own failures and looking at how God works through messy situations. Journey with this great man of faith as he explains that although everything we touch has its weaknesses and faults, God works through our fallenness and humanity. Join George in “messiology” and celebrate what our great God is doing and how we can be part of his work.

Download a free PDF ( or purchase copies wherever you get books.

What World Travelers Should Know Before They Go: Part 2

Skills Not Taught in Bible School

Also see part 1, What World Travelers Should Know Before They Go.

A while ago we published an article about some of the practical skills would-be missionaries and other travelers would do well to learn or brush up on before they get on the plane—all, it happens, things those of us on the sending side might be able to help with.

I suggested learning to cook from scratch, operate a motorbike, and do basic repairs. I threw in a few more ideas and categories to prime the pump, then asked you for feedback. Here are a few great suggestions that came from reader submissions. Thanks, everyone!

1. Do site-specific research.

Tina from One Mission Society recommends doing lots of research about where you’re going before you get there. Make it as site-specific and current as you can. “I once told an about-to-arrive coworker that we could readily get pork even in a Muslim-dominated country,” she remembers. “True in the city where I was at the time with a fair Chinese population. But in the city where they were going, the Chinese population was much smaller and that was not true. Oops!”

You (or the missionary candidate on your mind) may survive without ham and bacon. Other things you may really need, or need to know about. It’s good to ask lots of questions, then hold the answers with an open hand since opinions may vary or conditions change. The would-be worker would be wise to make an in-person visit (what my organization calls “a survey trip”) to see the place for themselves rather than relying on a barrage of emails, calls, or texts to tell them what they’re getting into.

2. Grow in navigational know-how.

Been lost in as many cities as I have? A few skills can help you get where you are going. Neal Pirolo of Emmaus Road International writes, “Know directions: North, South, East, West… without a compass. Know how to read maps. Know how to find places without a map by using landmarks and following people’s instructions.”

Neal says his wife has trouble with this, yet she’s led more than 50 ministry trips and God has always provided someone who has the knack. Praise God for partnership. None of us can do it all.

But it’s worth learning to get around before you go. “I once worked with a young intern on our field who didn’t know how to read a map,” says a reader named Rachael. “Even though she was just coming for three months, it was really difficult to let her go out on her own—we weren’t sure she’d make it back home!”

Note that these days, the same tools we may rely on to get around in our home countries—like navigational and ride-share apps on our phones—may work or have equivalents in our host countries, too, provided we have our phones charged and handy. And especially when we have some language under our belts. And speaking of that…

3. Get a kickstart on language and culture learning.

Learning a language and culture may be a lifelong pursuit, but it’s worth getting a jump on before you go, as several readers point out. This is true whether you’re there to stay or just passing through.

“Study a bit and learn the culture, at least enough not to insult your new friends, and to learn a few phrases in their language like please, thank you, etc. People love it when you at least try to say something in their language and they will more than likely teach you more if you ask,” writes a reader named Rebecca.

Alan, who has worked with Wycliffe for years, encourages a first-timer to take advantage of today’s language-learning apps to do some basic learning in the major language of the region or country. While local dialects often vary, starting with a language app will help them start getting their ears attuned to the new language.

Alan also points out an essential skill to learn a little later. “Once in a language learning setting, I encourage the person learning to pray out loud in the language as early as possible, so that as they grow in learning the language in different contexts, their ability to do something as basic as praying (which we learned to do in English early on as children) grows along with language skill. I had colleagues who had spent the better part of a year learning French (on the way to French-speaking Africa) who had yet to pray out loud in French, and so they were hampered in their ability in the language in this area of faith.”

4. Learn to be a language learner.

And speaking of language… Rachael works for the Institute of Cross-Cultural Training at Wheaton College. “One of our biggest services is in teaching people to be language learners,” she says. This kind of training can be very helpful, even for those expecting to learn a “major” language for which there may be lots of language-learning resources. She explains:

“Many people think they know how to learn a language (because they took Spanish in high school, even though they didn’t learn too much) or that language school will just automatically teach them everything (though this isn’t true). We help learners become self-directed and know how to fill in the gaps left by a language school, tutors, or various methods to become effective, efficient, long-term learners. I think this is essential for anyone needing to learn a language!”

Pre-field language (or language and culture) acquisition programs vary in cost, duration, and depth. Schools and mission agencies may provide training or referrals. In the U.S., check out Mission Training International the Center for Intercultural Training, and TRAIN International for several good options. You can also find helpful online resources from Global Trellis and Grow2Serve.

5. Deal with debt and learn to live on less.

A reader named Barb who served in Nepal brings up several key points related to the management of money. It is helpful to be mature in this area before launching into another culture. And, like many other skills on our list, these skills may serve you well at home or abroad.

The first skill she mentions is living on less than you make, which requires learning to budget and stay debt-free. “Practice before you go,” she urges. “Debt is often a reason why willing workers are delayed in getting into areas to serve—saving for a rainy day is a lost skill in our culture. The Lord has scriptural wisdom for us on this topic.”

“Support from home often decreases over time, or inflation and access to products shipped from the West may become more expensive,” Barb points out. “Learning to adapt to the local culture often requires living on the products, foods, clothing, and daily rhythms of your national neighbors. Though there may be Western stores, they are usually more expensive and beyond the reach of your neighbors. Learn to eat what is available.”

If you manage your money well, you will be ready to give to others—something missionaries may have many opportunities to practice. Barb remembers how her national friends in Nepal with shared meals and welcomed her family to their celebrations. “We need to learn from their example,” she says. Right on, Barb. We who benefit so much from the generosity of others should also be good givers and generous with our neighbors.

6. Don’t go without a team of partners.

Finally, as Neal points out, nobody should go out as a mission worker without an active partnership team, a group of people as committed to the cause as they are and ready to send them well. Emmaus Road has many resources to help with this. If you serve in such a role, good for you. I hope you do such a good job every missionary wants such a sending team. May the Lord bless you and make you a blessing to the nations.

Header photo by Tommaso Pecchioli on Unsplash.

Question: What (Else) Should Missionaries and Other Globetrotters Know Before They Go?

A huge thanks to all who read and responded to our article about pre-field practical training. Want to see your tips or stories make the sequel? Skim the first article, then respond to this email or shoot me a line. Thanks!

What World Travelers Should Know Before They Go

Skills Not Taught in Bible School

By Marti Wade

G.K. Chesterton was famously asked what book he’d want with him if stranded on a deserted island. Everyone may have expected the outspoken Christian to say, “The Bible,” but he answered, “Thomas’ Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.”

Maybe you’ve experienced this tension: a head and heart full of Bible knowledge to sustain you, a story to tell to the nations (and a strategy for doing it), but a sad lack of practical skills you didn’t know you’d need when God led you to serve in a culture far from home. Knowing your way around a spreadsheet, a Greek lexicon, or the New York subway system may not so quickly apply in your journey to the nations.

Or on the other hand, you may have discovered that what you learned growing up on the farm, from your scout leader or grandparent, or in that shop or home economics class has served you well.

So how does one get those practical skills?

The days of “jungle camp” and other in-depth, hands-on pre-field training experiences may have passed for many. But a lot of young missionaries get a taste of what they’re in for on a short-term (or medium-length) mission trip. They may also be able to count on a solid orientation when they arrive on the field, and/or a mentor to walk with them as questions and conundrums arise.

A local friend or host family may be a big help. They know the ropes and can take care of the newcomer. They will also soon see that the rookie doesn’t know how to use the stove or the toilet, greet people, or flag down a taxi.

Can We Help?

What does this sad gap in daily life skills mean for us as mission mobilizers? As we seek to inspire and equip Christians for God’s global purposes, what practical skills may they already have that we can affirm? What experiences can we encourage them to seek out now to be better prepared for months and years to come?

Three Things People Need to Know

Here are three items on my list. Can you help me flesh out the list with added items or your own hard-won experience? I’ll include your input in What World Travelers Should Know Before They Go, Part 2.

1. How to Feed Themselves

Those who starve do not get far. A season in Central Asia helped me learn my way around a tea service, how to handle bread (which is considered sacred), and methods for eating gracefully with my right hand rather than utensils. Stick around very long, though, and you need to know more.

The best way to learn to make the “national dish,” whatever it may be, is from a local. In some places, hiring a cook (or an all-around house helper who can cook) makes perfect sense. But someone who only knows how to microwave processed foods with instructions in English on the box might wish they’d learned to make meals from scratch before leaving home.

Action Step: Mobilizer, take that would-be missionary under your wing. Get them a copy of More With Less or The Expat Cookbook. Give them some assignments or invite them over to make some dishes together. If possible, send them off knowing how to cook a few things that remind them of home using local ingredients.

Next up…

2. How to Get Around

It’s not wise to drive in another country without enough language and cultural fluency to navigate a traffic stop or accident. And many a mission worker never feels up to the many challenges of driving a car in another land. Fair enough. Using public transportation offers its own hurdles but is a good place to start.

And what about a motorbike? A Pew study from a few years back claimed 87% of households in Thailand have at least one scooter or motorcycle, followed by 85% in Vietnam, 85% in Indonesia, and 83% in Malaysia. (See Countries with Highest Motorbike Usage.) Interesting, huh?

The recent book Global Christianity points out that there are 10,000 missionaries in those four countries! I bet a lot of them have stories about their moped mishaps. They could probably sit around the campfire for a long time telling those tales and talking about how glad they are they survived so long.

Action Step: Got a friend heading somewhere motorbikes rule the road? Help them get off to a safer start. A friend told me she took a two-day motorcycle endorsement course before she left the U.S. to serve in Southeast Asia. “My parents were the ones who thought of it and paid for me to take the class before I went,” she says. “Best going-away present they could have given me!”

And that leads to…

3. How to Do Basic Repairs

“I know someone who met Don Richardson many years ago,” adds my friend. “He was in awe of this missionary giant and asked him what he wished he’d known before going to the field, expecting something brilliant and deep about missiology or the character of God. Don’s answer was, ‘I wish I had learned to repair small engines!’”

While many modern life skills may be less relevant in some contexts, a basic ability to use tools and make repairs comes in handy worldwide. Basic plumbing and electrical know-how may also be essential in places where people still fix things rather than throwing them out.

This is not my strong suit. Any mechanical skills I had in the decades I was single have gotten rusty since I married a man who knows what he’s doing. But you may be different. You may know things, things you can teach your mission-minded pal who may not have grown up with such knowledge. Give it some thought.

Action Step: Why not encourage your friend going into missions to contact folks in the field and ask what would be helpful to learn before they go? Maybe they could head to a local college that offers community classes. Or you could design a course together using free YouTube videos, online articles, or _______ for Dummies books.

What Else Does a World Traveler Need to Know?

I raised the question on Facebook. A savvy colleague jumped in to add the following:

“Cutting hair, driving a manual transmission car, speaking softly, packing efficiently, how to avoid getting pick-pocketed and other basic personal security tips, journaling, basic first aid, staying nutritionally healthy, basic internet security.”

Wow. I am pretty sure he could have continued for quite a while in that vein. What would you add? My two bits: how to build a fire that won’t go out and how to hand wash and mend clothing—skills I’ve seen short-termers struggle with.


The point is not to become omnicompetent so you never embarrass yourself, depend on others, or experience frustration in another culture. That’s not even possible. Nor should we encourage people to set their sights on avoiding all inconveniences or living just like they did in their home country. The fact is that every expatriate will have to adapt, shelving old skills for a season and dusting off or developing new ones.

The point is this: Let’s not send people to the field handicapped by a lack of practical skills “everyone knows” in the place they go, skills they may currently lack but could get a head start on before leaving home.

On a final note, this may also be a sneaky way to involve more people in your mission mobilization efforts. Tap folks in your church or community who may not realize they have something to give on the mission front. Teaching a missionary to bake bread, ride a motorcycle, or change a tire could be just as valuable as getting themselves a passport or writing a check to a mission agency.

Got a story from your own experience or a word of wisdom for those mobilizing and mentoring tomorrow’s missionaries? Send it my way, and we’ll fold it into Part 2.

Practical Mobilization: 7 Ways to Change the World in 2023

…And a roundup of resources to help.

Read or share the email edition of this article.

1. Surrender yourself to God.

This first one is not new but it may help make way for a new you for God to use as he pleases. This a covenant prayer from the Wesleyan tradition. And evidently, it’s often been used as a way to realign one’s heart at the start of a new year:

“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.”

Download graphics or watch a music video.

2. Get to know the global Church.

Each year, Gina Zurlo, Todd Johnson, and their colleagues at Gordon-Conwell’s Center for Global Christianity in Boston publish a snapshot of global Christianity in its historical context (1900-2050). If you want to know where we are, statistically, in 2023, this is a good place to look.

What makes it into the one-page document continues to evolve, but it includes mid-2023 projects for the global population, cities, world religion, the distribution of Christians by continent and tradition, Christian missions, Bibles, Christian finance, and the status of world evangelization. Note that their source, the World Christian Database, uses a wide definition of what it means to be Christian. Some other sources take a different approach to this and a few other categories.

Download the Status of Global Christianity 2023. It just came out. Savvy mobilizers and mission advocates who want to avoid trotting out old or inaccurate data should take a look. It may change how you think about the global Church.

3. Dig a little deeper.

There’s plenty to chew on in the Status of Global Christianity document, but you may have questions. Read the related article from the International Bulletin of Mission Research, which this year also looks at data from something called The Women in World Christianity Project. Since few religious bodies track gender info, it’s a formidable task. But they calculate that global church membership is at least 52% female, and considerably higher in some groups. For example, 63% of all church members in Mongolia are women. What might that mean for our mobilization efforts and global partnerships?

See one writer’s takeaway from last year’s Status of Global Christianity report in 7 Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2022 (Lifeway Research). That’ll preach! You might also stop and peruse Lifeway’s Fast Facts data roundup, mostly about Christianity in the U.S. See something there that could inform your ministry focus?

4. Do you do data? Gather with others who do.

If mission data is your jam, you are a select tribe. Don’t go it alone. Consider attending the second annual Mission Information Workers conference. It’s all online, several hours a day April 17-20. They’ll be looking at mission data standards, training, data gaps, ways to better share information, and more. The conference is sponsored by the Community of Mission Information Workers, Lausanne Research and Strategic Information Network, and Harvest Information Standards. I heard about it from Joshua Project.

5. Pray for these 12 countries.

Zoom back out; this one’s for everyone. What do we do with what we know? Take it to heart. Let it change us. And turn it into prayer. Here’s a good example.

“Nearly 75% of the world’s unreached people (3.6 billion) live in 12 countries,” says Jesus Film Project. “We invite you to join us as we engage in strategic focused prayer for those 12 countries. Each month we’ll introduce one of these countries and share prayer requests to address its specific needs.

“You can join us by downloading a prayer guide or exploring our family prayer resources. Throughout January, we are praying for Indonesia.”

Learn more and download what you can use. The materials look great and are fairly organization-neutral so you may be able to share them in many contexts. I like their prayer card with the QR code; we’re using something like that with our prayer team for Pioneers. Maybe your church or ministry team could do the same.

By the way, the 12 countries (alphabetically) are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

What do you say; can we pray for these places?

6. Prayerwalk your neighborhood.

You may remember the saying: Think globally. Act locally. But we can pray locally, too. Navigators has a new ebook to download called Praying Through Your Neighborhood. It includes a 30-day prayer guide with scriptures, ideas for how to turn your stroll around the block into an opportunity to pray, and a prayer map you can use to keep track of how you’re praying (and who you pray for and with).

It’s free but you’ll have to give the Navs your email address to get it. That could be worth it: they put out a lot of helpful content about sharing the gospel, making disciples, and spiritual growth.

7. Let your light shine.

Maybe God is starting to show you he’s put you and your family where you are for a reason. If that’s true, what does it mean for how you engage your community? Read Your Home: A Lighthouse (Rob Rienow, for Weave).

Seeing yourself as a light in the darkness may be daunting, but as the article says, “A lighthouse can still shine even with cracks and missing bricks. Our families are no different. We can still shine for Christ even though we are struggling with conflicts, anxiety, and discouragement. Talk and pray as a family about how God can use your home to be a light in this world of darkness.”

Making Thanksgiving Count for the Kingdom | Practical Mobilization

In this edition:

  1. Thankful Habits: 30 Thankful Prayers
  2. Get in on a Great Giving Tuesday Giveaway
  3. From the Archives: Making Thanksgiving Count for the Kingdom

Read or share the email edition, or scroll on for more.

Dear friends,

Ever feel like you don’t have enough? Enough time, enough money, enough energy for all you want to do or think others expect from you? It can be so overwhelming. If you’re like me, you might easily fall into a mindset of scarcity, focusing on losses, limitations, and all that you may lack.

A recent sermon reminded me of God’s abundance. He always has more than enough, more than we will ever need. And scripture suggests that when God throws the party there are going to be leftovers, too—an overflow of provision (see 2 Kings 4:42-44, Psalm 23:5 John 7:37-38, John 10:10, and John 15:5).

Let’s live in light of that abundance, full of gratitude and hope for the days to come, and ready to invite others to the table.

This edition includes several tools and ideas that may help.

Marti Wade