A Personal Note
This indeed is one of the most rewarding careers you could choose. My family and I served as missionaries for six years with Cam International in Mexico. It was a lot of fun. These were challenging years, but very fulfilling years for the whole family.
Please be aware that I have by necessity limited the resources on this site to the organizations with which I am personally familiar. A short time searching the Internet on your own could well bring other organizations to your attention. Check with your pastor, priest or rabbi for additional organizations that may be more akin to your preferences.
What does it take to be a missionary? The specific requirements vary depending upon with which mission agency you go and specifically in what assignment you will be involved. You should contact the mission agency you are interested in for their specific requirements.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that I consider basic:
1. Faith - The missionary enterprise is not an easy one. It is a job unlike any other. Many may be attracted to the mission field because it seems adventuresome. Others may be led by their ideals. All of these motivations will disappear within the first two years.
No one will take responsibility for your personal safety. No one will guarantee you a stable income. You may find yourself the target of much criticism from people who disagree with you as well as from the people you are trying to help and perhaps from even among your coworkers! The only person who will take charge of your basic physical and emotional needs is your Maker.
It is vital that you have a very close and personal relationship with Him and that this relationship be the motivation for your work overseas.
2. A Hard Head - This is the term I use for convictions. This encompasses basically two areas:
(a) You must have clearly in your mind and in your heart the principles in which you believe. What do you believe about God? What is the nature of His relationship with you? With mankind in general? How does He communicate with the human race? What is His goal or will for mankind?
These may seem like superficial issues now, but they won't be for long once you are on the field. You will meet a wide variety of people with beliefs and convictions very different from yours. You need to be very sure of what is negotiable and what is not.
This is why many mission organizations require a certain amount of formal Bible education. This I see as very important, no matter what job you will be performing on the field. Moody Bible Institute is one of the best missionary-training institutions on this planet. There are many other good ones. Check with your pastor.
(b) In addition to these fundamental convictions stated above, the missionary needs to have a rock-bed conviction of his or her calling to be involved in the ministry. There will be times of discouragement. You will be criticized. During these times, your faith (mentioned above) and your conviction God's will for you to be involved in His work as a missionary will see you through.
3. A Thick Skin - This is my term for loving forgiveness. You must learn to forgive and love those who criticize you.
4. A Love for People - After all is said and done, no matter what your assignment may be, people are what missions are all about. Even though you may be fixing a strut on a small plane, adjusting an Internet router on the mission's computer system, or handing out pamphlets to passersby on the street, you are in the business of helping people get back in tune with their Creator.
You will note that I have not included the knowledge of another language. Knowing another language is helpful...especially if you have learned the language of the country to which you are going. That may seem like an odd statement to you, but I know missionaries who studied French for years and ended up being called to serve in Guatemala! The above qualities are much more important than speaking a second language. Languages can be learned fairly quickly, believe it or not. Most missionaries spend one year in language study, usually in very good language schools taught by native speakers.
What kind of people become missionaries? What do missionaries do? It actually might be easier to ask: "What don't missionaries do?" Here is a list of just some of the positions available. I did not have the time to link all of these positions to particular organizations and sites. If you have any questions about an item below that does not have a link to it, let me know and I will get you an URL (Internet address) that will match up with it.
Evangelists:CAM, Luis Palau, Team
Healthcare - Hospitals, Clinics, Community Health
Aviation - Pilots, Aircraft Mechanics
Anthropologists - EthnoMUSICologists,
Translators - Bible Translators, literature translators
Here is a list or mission organizations and their current personnel needs. Needless to say, this list is not anywhere near complete, but it is a place from which you can start if you are interested.
There are several things you can do now to see if missionary work is for you.
1. Be active in your church here in the United States. If you are not active in the ministry here, you won't be overseas either. Help teach Sunday School. Learn to sing and join the choir. Volunteer to help with service projects. Help watch the babies and the toddlers. Be active in your youth group. Help out in the worship service. A word to the wise: missionaries never do just one thing. They are involved in a large number of activities, half of which they do not feel qualified for. So if you feel like you don't sing well enough to be in the choir...or that you're too young to teach Sunday school, get used to it. That's a feeling you're going to be experiencing a lot of.
2. Invite missionaries over to your home. When missionaries come to your church, raise your hand when the pastor asks who can take them out for lunch...or who can let them stay at their house for a night. Raise your hand before someone else does. You'll learn a lot from the talk around the table.
3. Read books on missionaries. I haven't time right now to include links to some possible sources. First, check out your church's library. Then try a search on Amazon or Border's web sites. Search on the keyword 'missions' or 'missionary'. The public library is another good source.
4. Fill out a preliminary questionaire. If the high school counserlors don't have one handy, fill out CAM's preliminary questionaire online.
5. Go on a short term mission trip. Grab a hold of your youth pastor at church and ask him to help you check out the possibilities of a short missions trip. There are some missions organizations that particularly encourage high school youth to come and help on the field.
Although not tailored for high school students, Cam International's internship experience is an excellent program to 'get your feet wet' in missions. TEAM's short term opportunities are really intended for kids over 18, but it will give you an idea of some of the short term programs available. Greater Europe Mission's (GEM) Euroteam is another great opportunity to get a first-hand look at missions (especially for you francophone people). Take a good look at GEM's opportunity finder for other great opportunities. Time Ministries also offers opportunities for high school students to aid in Mexico and the Dominican Republic with their ministries.
1. Check out a FAQ. FAQ stands for "Frequently Asked Questions". Many mission organization's web sites have just such pages that might answer the question that's gnawing on you. I have only had time to include one of such pages: Trans World Radio's FAQ page.
2. Get a hold of your pastor. He will most likely have a host of information that I have overlooked!
3. Drop me an email or give me a call: email@example.com Telephone: (515) 981 0435 (ext 60).
4. Post a discussion note on this site! I'll get back to you on it as fast as I can!
Here is a very small list of only a few of the mission organizations with which I am familiar and could recommend heartily. They are all nondenominational organizations. That means they do not belong to any one church. For denominational mission organizations, check with your pastor, priest, or rabbi.