“No. Let God direct you where and how he pleases.”
Don’t let this worry you. We are all different. Missionary biographies are replete with those who had a lifetime direction to a particular people, such as Hudson Taylor’s call to the Chinese. Others, like C.T. Studd, moved around. Did Paul have direction to a particular culture or geographical location? He went as the Spirit led him.
My own direction came as a child. I knew God wanted me to be a missionary. I thought it was going to be in Korea, but God shut that door. Through a chain of circumstances, he led me first to Canada, then to Latin America in general and university students in particular. Thirty years in Colombia has made these people very dear to us, but we lived in four different countries and served in many others. He will lay the burdens on our hearts when and how he pleases, as we are open to him.
God’s basic guidance is to know and serve him. The place is secondary. We served the Lord among students for many years in Colombia, South America. I once asked Eugenio, who worked for several years among indigenous peoples, how he happened into cross-cultural ministry. He replied, “Well, you got us involved in serving the people next to us, then took us to universities where there was no witness, and you never told us when to stop.”
Answer from Jack Voelkel, missionary-in-residence with the Urbana Student Mission Convention; originally published on the Urbana website. Previously Jack served thirty years with Latin America Mission in Peru and Columbia. Find other answers and articles from Jack and others on the Urbana blog.
“Invite God to first match you to a mission agency.”
Mission statesman Ralph Winter used a sports analogy: what team you’re playing on is more important than the stadium in which you are playing. Let the Lord decide where he wants to place you in his world. Perhaps you have a clear, specific geographic interest, and that will focus your selection of an agency. But for most, God has given gifts and a desire to respond. For example, about half of those who join WEC International don’t begin with a geographic interest, but they know they’re being led into missions and to that agency.
Some agencies have global opportunities, so you can find a placement anywhere in the world. Other groups have a focused geographic focus such as Greater Europe Mission. The agency name may or may not indicate that focus. For example, Christian Associates International is a ministry that works mainly in Europe.
Answer from John McVay, mission mobilizer with In His Image International Medical Missions.
“Let others match your gifts with the need.”
I’d always thought missionaries were “called” to a particular country, and I had no tug like that. I talked with a recruiter about my background. When I mentioned my degree in journalism and career in publications, her eyes lit up. She mentioned a communications role in Hungary. I had never had any interest in Hungary. I wasn’t even sure I could find it on the map! But something clicked. I know this could only come from the Lord, because I have never been interested in leaving my friends and family and moving halfway across the world to become a missionary!
God has led me to a place physically, spiritually, and emotionally where I have to depend on him. My relationship with the Lord has grown stronger and more confident. He always responds to my questions, frustrations, and my occasional willingness to obey with love, assurance, and blessings.
Answer from Rebecca, who at age thirty-seven, had finally settled in the business world after years of climbing the ladder.
Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks of Operation Mobilization.
“No. Expect a God-given curiosity to be your first step to the nations.”
Christians in the West have for generations talked about missions mostly in terms of being called to political countries. The Bible, however, tells us to make disciples among all nations, using the Greek term ethne – or ethnic groups. For example, the political country of Sudan has more than 500 distinct ethnic groups. So how does God lead you to a particular group?
Missiologist Herbert Kane interviewed hundreds of missionaries about their sense of a missionary call to a place or people. He found that what they referred to in hindsight as a call was most often a sequence of curiosity, interest, understanding, assurance, conviction, commitment, and finally, the action of moving out to live among a particular people.
So instead of waiting and waiting for some kind of traditional “call” to a specific place or people, it makes all kinds of sense to follow your God-given curiosity and interests – and “look among the nations” (Habakkuk 1:5).
Answer from Bill Stearns, mission mobilizer and author.