Can I become a missionary if I fear going overseas?

“Look to Jesus and read my story.”

As a young adult, I (Keith) talked with different team leaders to see which country I would go to. I met Norm, who led the team going to Sudan. That trip seemed like more an adventure than all the others.

But in my last interview with Norm, he looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you ready to die in Sudan?” I remember thinking, “Look buddy, I’m here for one year, got it? I am engaged to a beautiful girl back home. I’ve got a life and a future waiting for me. No one has asked me to die for anything before!”

I went away and thought and even prayed about this. I kept thinking that no one had ever asked me that before, but then it hit me hard. Someone had asked me. It was Jesus. 

I went to Sudan. It was the most difficult, purging time of my life. I came back broken. I was a different man for Rachael when I returned. In my heart was placed a flame, a burning desire for Muslim people that cannot be quenched. That was twenty-two years ago.

Now the flame burns hotter and deeper. Rachael and I never accomplished my original career plan to run a beautiful Christian camp in the Rockies. Instead, God has taken us to North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula. Here we’ll stay by his grace until he releases us or takes us home. 

Answer from Keith and Rachael who serve in the Middle East with Operation Mobilization.

Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement by Kathy Hicks.

“Even the best of us get afraid sometimes.”

I love talking to missionaries who “keep it real.” There are times when I don’t feel courageous enough or smart enough or prepared enough or experienced enough. Talking with missionaries who have felt the same way is encouraging to me.

A few months ago a friend of mine said that he feels fear sometimes when he has to travel to certain parts of the world. I didn’t think any less of him. Instead, I listened to how he responded to the fear. Similarly, I’ve learned that several people I respect get stage fright prior to public speaking. Listening to how they respond to this fear is encouraging to me.

We are human. We will feel fear at various times in our life. That is a given. However, our response to that fear is what makes all the difference. Do we take captive those fearful thoughts and put our trust in Jesus, or do we rehearse all of the terrible things that could happen to us?

Answer from Richard who serves as a mobilizer with The Mission Society.

“Yes. Also realize that God never chooses for us safety at the cost of significance.”

Instead of finding confidence to live as we should regardless of our circumstances, we have used it as justification to choose the path of least resistance, least difficulty, least sacrifice.

Instead of concluding it is best to be wherever God wants us to be, we have decided that wherever it is best for us to be is where God wants us. Actually, God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution. 

God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance. God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.

Do you think John the Baptist felt safe being in the center of the will of God while Jesus was busy proclaiming the good news to others, yet leaving him in prison? And when John was about to lose his head over his allegiance to the Son of God, do you think he was feeling overwhelmed by God’s protecting hand?

If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then how do you explain the life and ministry of Stephen, one sermon and then stoned to death? Was he really that bad? If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then why is it that the biblical word for witness is actually the word for martyr?

If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then how do you explain the experience of Paul? Paul walked with God, and certainly whatever the center of the will of God looks like, Paul had to have visited there at least a few time in his life. His journals, however, described not a life filled with safety and certainty, but a life of adventure and danger. Paul said of his journeys:

“I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)

Answer from author and entrepreneur Erwin McManus, founder of MOSAIC, a community of faith in Los Angeles. Originally published in his book The Barbarian Way.

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