How Becoming a Missionary Can Change Your Life
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The truth is, missions work comes in so many different shapes and sizes. There are missionaries in huts in the jungle and missionaries living in apartments in Paris. Even here in Africa, there are so many different kinds of missionaries.
A missionary is someone who is working in an effort to bring the Gospel to cultures outside of their own. There are American missionaries serving in America though, and South African missionaries serving in South Africa (such as my husband).
Some missionaries serve as full-time pastors, others fly planes for organizations like Missions Aviation Fellowship.
The daily tasks of the missionaries around the world are so different, but the goal is the same – to make disciples.
Being a missionary will change your life.
I know this for a fact because it changed my life.
Being involved in missions is a huge undertaking, and it scares a lot of people off because they don’t understand what missions life is like. Take some time to learn more about missionaries and what it’s actually like. It might not be as scary as you thought.
3 Seasons of Missionary Work for the Young Woman
When I was in high school I probably didn’t even know what missionaries were. I wasn’t raised in the church and even though I had this wild dream of working in full-time ministry I had no idea that 8 years after graduation I would be raising my family in South Africa.
My journey in missions so far has had 3 unique seasons, each have changed my life significantly and I want to share them with you as a way of looking into missions life. Keep in mind all my experiences have been unique to me (and in Africa) so someone else might have some very different stories.
The Season of Short-Term Trips
Taking a short-term missions trip can be one of the most amazing things you can do in your life whether you are young or old. I have had amazing short-term experiences that have made a LASTING impact on the community because of the mandatory training period and because of the connection between the sending agency and the local workers. If you’re thinking of a short-term missions trip don’t go for an organization that gives short-term missions a bad rap. Teen Missions International all the way my friends! And they’re not just for teens, any age can get involved.
So with short-term missions, I did a trip to Uganda when I was 19 as a team member and a trip to Tanzania when I was 20 as a leader. These missions experiences changed my life because it was there in the Ugandan bush, in a tiny God-loving church on Sunday morning that God spoke to me more clearly than ever before and called me to long-term overseas missions work.
I love Uganda, and I still do. It was a wonderful place to experience missions and I look forward to returning there again someday. Uganda is very special.
The team I was on did construction on a Bible school that was strategically located to recruit not only Ugandan believers but also Sudanese and Congolese students. We did a lot of bricklaying and we also got the chance to do some kids programs nearby at the school.
The next year in Tanzania I led a team of teens who did a similar work project and then also spent a significant amount of time doing evangelism with door to door, church presentations and showing the Jesus film (Swahili version) at night. I oversaw the evangelism portion of the team and it stretched me to better understand how to present the Gospel to people.
My season of short-term missions trips changed my life, and it changed the lives of many of my team members even though not many continued in missions. Short-term missions will change the way you see missionaries. It will also change the way you see the importance of the Great Commission and the role we all have to play to see it accomplished.
Short-term missions won’t lead everyone down a path of missions work, but it will definitely change you.
If you want to get started with a short-term summer trip then I highly recommend Teen Missions International which serves all over the world.
The Season of Single Girl Living in the Bush
This season of my life was one glorious year of missions work, again with Teen Missions International. I served in Malawi and then in South Africa for a month and a half before returning home.
In Malawi, my partner in crime and I lived deep in the bush in Malawi with no running water or electricity. We stayed at an AIDS Orphans Rescue Unit run by a Malawian couple employed by Teen Missions. Rescue Units are basically like safe community centers for children to come and hang out after school and on the weekends. It caters to the children’s physical, spiritual, educational and mental needs.
During the day I did things like garden work and visit the nearby school. In the afternoons we would teach the children classes like about health and nutrition, math, music and there were Bible classes every few weeks.
One of the most meaningful experiences I had in Malawi was when we ran a two-week camp during Christmas vacation. We chose about 20 local kids who could attend and we were able to provide them with 3 meals a day (some may have been lucky to get to eat once a day at home) and filled the two weeks with classes and fun! I was a leader for one of the groups of kids and it was amazing to see how they grew closer to God during that time.
One of the fellow leaders on my team really impressed me, he was about 18 years old and he was getting really interested in the Bible. I decided to buy him a Bible in his own language (Chichewa) and I marked some of my favourite verses. I knew it was an assignment God had given me to give this young man a Bible. I had my co-worker translate for me as I gave the leader his new Bible. My co-worker told me that it was amazing that I did that and that if I hadn’t that teen never would have been able to afford a Bible and would probably never own one in his life.
This small interaction changed my life. It taught me the importance of God’s Word and that God needs missionaries to bring the Gospel to the darkness.
Living in the bush with very, very few resources was easy for me. I was still single and I’m a very frugal, low maintenance kind of gal. It was the perfect time of my life for this sort of commitment.
My 1 year as a single full-time missionary changed my life.
Oh, and the month and a half I spent in South Africa DEFINITELY changed my life. I met an amazing South African man, which leads us to the season I am currently in.
The Season of Wife and Mother
When I arrived at the Teen Missions Bible school in South Africa I told myself I wasn’t going to be my shy self – I was going to make friends with the students! God must have been pushing me on purpose to get to know people so I would end up really getting to know David before leave South Africa a month and a half later.
I could spend forever telling you about this but I will just summarize it to say I met my soulmate and I married him.
I married my husband under a big tree in South Africa.
Getting to be a wife and a mother is pretty awesome, but it is completely different from being a single missionary where you only have to take care of yourself. When I was single I didn’t mind not having running water, especially because I didn’t mind not washing my clothes for awhile and I cooked very simply so there were fewer dishes, I also of course didn’t have these cloth diapers to wash at the time.
This season of missions work has definitely been the most challenging, but it’s also been the longest season so I guess that makes sense. As a wife and mother missionary I find myself doing less hands on work and more administration work – which I find joy in so that’s been fine
- Children’s programs
- Church work
The children’s programs are definitely my favourite, seeing the Word of God touching such young lives, but I also enjoy the evening crusades we do for evangelism, and the various tasks we end up with through our partnership with the local church which my husband grew up in. My daughter gets to grow up surrounded in ministry and we think that’s pretty cool. Of course there are many times that her and I stay home so she can go to bed on time and get what she needs while daddy runs crusades, drives people to the hospital, meets with pastors, etc.
Being missionaries is a big part of who we are, and maybe we won’t always live in Africa and maybe we won’t always be missionaries by career, but God has placed a lifelong call on our hearts to serve Him and we will do so no matter where we are in life.
Being a missionary as wife and mother has actually shaped me into the kind of wife and mother that I am. My husband and I have a certain kind of relationship because we understand that sometimes the ministry comes first and other times family comes first, it’s a tricky balance at times but we make it work.
Since I have worked with children for years and in different countries and environments it has led me down the path of Gentle Parenting. I was already prone to Gentle Parenting, especially with my background in Early Childhood Education, but working with children in Africa and seeing them through God’s eyes really sealed the deal for me.
Working as a missionary brought me to Gentle Parenting
I could write an entire post all about the connection between my work as a missionary and how it led me to Gentle Parenting (and maybe I will) but I will just try to summarize.
First of all, I saw first hand the benefits of Attachment Parenting with babies and toddlers throughout Africa. Babywearing, breastfeeding, bed sharing – it was all there without question. I have seen so many boobs in Africa because breastfeeding is a part of life that never has to be hidden. I’ve watched women confidently caring for their families all day by cooking, gardening, chopping wood…all with their baby safely wrapped on their back. Grandmothers and aunts teach new moms how to care for the babies and it’s just part of life. You don’t choose to breastfeed, babywear, or bedshare, that’s just how things are done.
As children get older though that’s when things can change, especially in countries where most people live in poverty. When I worked in Malawi there were children who ate less than their step-siblings because their step-father did not want to take care of another man’s children. Children who didn’t get an education because they had to work on their family’s fields all day. Disabled children who were abandoned by their fathers and sometimes mothers, often kept secluded from the rest of the world. Children left to cry when they were sad or hurt, encouraged that they needed to “toughen up.” I watched children forced to grow up way too fast in a cruel world.
While I worked in Malawi I felt it was my greatest job just to love these children.
There were a group of boys who always came to the rescue unit just to hang out with me and play. We made up games with teams, rules and strategies without even speaking the same verbal language. We used to run through the maize fields, have tickle fights and just lay on a giant rock looking up at the sky.
Working as a missionary in Africa has taught me how important love and respect is for children.
Children need kindness.
Children need their needs met.
Children need to have fun and to laugh.
I miss my kiddos in Chipeni, Malawi, but I know that God is still reaching them through the Rescue Unit that is still there.
Being a missionary has changed my life, it has given me the opportunity to start to see children more and more the way that God sees them. It is my prayer that I would continue to care for and love the children I work with, that I would show them love and respect, that I would be gentle with them when I have to discipline them, and that I would lead them to Jesus.
Do you want to try Gentle Parenting with your children? Then grab my free 2-week Gentle Parenting challenge here!
Getting involved in missions isn’t easy, but it can change your life
That’s the journey I have been on. That’s how God has changed my life with missions, and He can change your life too.
You could become a missionary, or you could support a missionary through donations or prayer.
The people who donate to our work and who pray for us play a huge role in our lives. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them and we are so thankful. Everyone can be involved in missions work to different cultures, you can play a role in reaching out to others without even leaving your home, through prayer and giving.
So if you know any missionaries I would encourage you to encourage them! Send them an email, read up on what they’re doing, pray for them, help support their work financially.
And if you think maybe you should be a missionary then start looking into that! Do you know anyone personally who has gone on a missions trip that you could get involved in? Or you could look into Teen Missions for a summer trip or an even longer commitment.
You’ll never know how missions work can change your life unless you start to get involved. The world needs missionaries.
This has been my journey. I can’t wait to hear about yours.
Leave me a message in the comments with any questions about missions or stories you have with your experience in missions work, I would love to hear about them.
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.