As an African-American is there anything specific I should learn about being sent as a missionary overseas?

“African-Americans are welcomed as missionaries.”

I am an African-American missionary to Africa, and have noticed that the African countries are really welcoming to missionaries of African descent. There is really nothing different that you would have to know, but what is really important is that you have a very close personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and that you spend time in the Word of God and prayer, led by the Holy Spirit on a day-by-day basis. It could mean the difference between being safe and unsafe.

Also remember that Satan will tempt you with relationships with the opposite sex and you must keep these relationships holy and in line with the will of God. God bless you as you labor in the field.

Answer from Armada, who has served three years in West Africa.

“Research cultural perceptions in your country of service.”

First and foremost, race, gender, and ethnicity are no barrier to the Lord’s service. If he is calling you somewhere, rest assured he’ll take care of the details.

However, in certain countries, racism is still very much an issue. For example, in Russia beatings and murders of non-white residents are common enough to warrant a mention on the US State Department’s travel site.

Before traveling abroad, it is best to be aware of any such issues.

Answer from Reese, who has served with One Mission Society (OMS) in Ukraine.

“There is definitely a place in missions for you.”

There is definitely a place in missions for you, and your race makes no difference. In some cases it can be an advantage. Do you need special training? Nothing that our other workers don’t get too. If you have experience in inner-city work, that is already a big advantage for you.

Do you have Bible training? This is important. There are several routes. In Philadelphia, where I live, there are some churches, especially African American, that run their own Bible schools geared to those who are working full time, so the schools are in the evening. Traditional Bible schools are also found around the country.

Your racial background is a non-factor. General preparation is what you need.

Answer from David Smith, director of mobilization with WEC International. David has been a missionary twenty-five years, a field worker in West Africa and at WEC USA headquarters.

“African Americans are under-represented in world missions.”

Probably not more than 250 African-American cross-cultural missionaries exist among approximately 35 million African-Americans. While the Black church focuses upon the needs of the local congregations and community, understandably so, global missions is usually the “Great Omission.”

Although local ministry is essential, so the mandate to the Black church is the same as to any other part of Christ’s Body, to go to the ends of the earth to give everyone the opportunity to hear the Gospel understandably. 

The Reconciliation Ministries Network helps evangelical churches establish and pursue their global mission priorities. They can help you find agencies specifically seeking African-Americans for cross-cultural ministry. 

African American mission executives helped to refine a survey that was sent to African American cross-cultural missionaries to determine reasons for the under representation of Blacks (African Americans) in intercultural missions. A theory is proposed and supported from findings that the core worldview value of survival / security in current African-American culture explains the under-representation.

Implications for recruitment of African American missionaries are given for both Black and White mission recruiters as well as recommendations to the Church to remedy deeper issues of racism (read the report).

Answer from the Reconciliation Network.

Editor’s note: See also the books Profiles of African American Missionaries and African-American Experience in World Mission: A Call Beyond Community. The National African American Mission Conference meets annually and is led and attended by those who share these concerns.

“Twenty-four years ago I read Matthew 28:19-20. It said go!”

Twenty-four year ago I read in Matt 28:19-20. It said go! 

I did not think that I could not go because I was black.
I did not think that I could not go because I poor. 
I did not think that I could not go because I didn’t speak the language. 
I did not think that I could not go because I had no education.
I did not think that I could not go because I had no mission organization sending me.

He said go and that He would be with me unto the end of the world! I thought… what more do I need? I can’t get out of God’s will by obeying His word! So my wife and two children moved into the sums of the Dominican Republic with nothing but a desire to share the Good News! 

Twenty-four years later… 29 churches later… four Christian K-12 schools and 450 students later… … a Bible Training Institute, Water Purification Plant, Youth Mentorship Program-Sports Evangelism, Agricultural Projects, and Missions Center later…

I am still black, still poor, still have no formal education, and still have no missions organization funding me accept the one I started. 

His promise still stands today! “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

His love is the root, sacrifice is the fruit of missions!

Answer from Roderick in Florida, who has served with T.E.A.R.S. Ministries in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for 24 years.

“The Great Commission is for all of us.”

My husband and I are both African American and have been serving in Africa for about 10 years. We both responded to God’s call while on short-term missions trips. One of our burdens is to see more African-Americans responding to God’s call. 

One thing I would say is not to focus on being African-American, but focus on being a follower of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is universal; it goes far beyond race, culture, gender, etc. God is the God over all and he expects us all to obey.

Depending on where you serve, you might encounter some racism still. This gives you a great opportunity to show the love of Christ and any resentment or bitterness you might feel needs to be left at his feet. 

You should prepare well. Learn the language of the country you are going to and take some classes in cross-cultural communications. Most agencies also require that you are near to, if not completely, debt-free. Most agencies may also require that you have some level of Biblical training. I would recommend that you also take a Perspectives course. And most of all: Pray and trust the Lord’s guidance.

Answer from Diane in Africa, who has served there for 10 years.

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