For more than half my life, I have participated in international missions in a variety of ways: short-term trips, summers abroad, mobilization, training, and study. I entered seminary four years ago with the intention of spending my life overseas, but the Lord had a different plan—at least for this season of my life. Now, I live in Houston, Texas. It’s different from the suburban Carolina life I’ve always known, but it’s not quite the overseas experience either.
My call to missions is not suddenly null and void because I’m still living in the United States. The Great Commission is for all Christians. Although the term “missionary” refers to “one who is sent,” typically overseas, there are many ways in which believers can participate in and support missions even if they are not going themselves.
My call to missions is not suddenly null and void because I’m still living in the United States.
Prayer is an obvious and necessary way to participate, but there are many avenues to take when praying for missions. First, pray for the missionaries you know. If you don’t know any personally, pray for the missionaries from your church or for missionaries in general. Pray for unreached peoples using a reference like Operation World or the Joshua Project. The IMB has a page on our website to guide prayer.
If you attend a Southern Baptist church, a portion of your tithe likely goes to the Cooperative Program, a portion of which is given to missionary efforts. You can also give directly to missions agencies, to self-funding missionaries, or support others going on short-term trips. One example is the Lottie Moon offering, which goes directly to the IMB to support international missions. You can explore other giving opportunities here.
Share the Gospel
All believers are called to share the gospel with non-Christians around us. In doing so, we join the work of missionaries around the world in reaching the unreached for Christ. We who live in America are able to share the gospel freely. There are many who are sharing truth in contexts where people are hostile to the gospel, where it is illegal to be a Christian, and where conversion to Christianity could be a literal matter of life or death. Recognizing this reality encourages us to take advantage of every opportunity to share the gospel in a country where making someone mad is likely the worst that could happen.
All believers are called to share the gospel with non-Christians around us. In doing so, we join the work of missionaries around the world in reaching the unreached for Christ.
Read Missionary Biographies
Reading missionary biographies and missions history offers the opportunity for a broader perspective on how God has carried out his mission through the church for centuries. These stories teach us how faithful people approached the task of missions in the past, what worked, what didn’t, the hardships they faced, and their successes. Learn about these missionaries, be encouraged by their stories, and use them to become more aware of and engage in missions efforts going on around the world today. You can also find free missions courses here.
Teach Others About Missions
Utilizing the resources mentioned above—and many others that are widely available—teach others in your church about missions. When I was young, I was in a group for young girls called Girls in Action (GAs). We learned about missions, prayed for missionaries, and raised money for missions. Although many churches may not have GAs or RAs (the boy equivalent), there are still opportunities to teach kids, students, and adults about missions and encourage them to participate in the work.
Join an Advocacy Team
Advocacy teams support missionaries in practical ways. Teams are typically made up of members of the missionary’s sending church. They communicate with missionaries, pray for specific needs, send care packages, and visit missionaries on the field to support and partner with them in their work. If your church does not currently support any missionaries, contact your church leadership to ask to become a missions partner through a larger sending agency.
Get Involved with Local International/Refugee Ministry
Immigration patterns, education opportunities, and the refugee crisis have brought people from many nations to the United States. I live in one of the most diverse cities in America. When I walk through the park or the mall, I encounter people from all over the world. There is a cornucopia of opportunity for international ministry here.
Large cities like Houston or New York are not the only places hosting immigrants. Chances are, there are internationals living around you as well. A fresh look at your surroundings may reveal businesses run by immigrants or an apartment complex full of refugees. A nearby university likely hosts many international students. Ask your church leaders about work that may be going on with particular groups, or help them develop a strategy for international ministry in your area. Or do a quick Google search to see if there are any refugee resettlement agencies near you, and volunteer there.
Go on a Short-Term Trip
Done right, short-term trips can be valuable for missionaries on the field, their sending church, and those who go. If your church does not have any trips, ask your leadership to help you find ways to go through another church or sending agency. Exercise caution if you decide to join a trip this way, though. If you go through a sending agency, make sure you talk through details of this decision with your local church.
If you partner with another church, make sure you understand the nature of the trip, it’s purpose, and what they mean to accomplish. Not all short-term trips are created equally, and they can be more harmful than beneficial if not approached in the right way. The short-term team should be in constant communication with the missionary on the field, and their direction should come primarily from that missionary.
The Great Commission is for all Christians, whether you live in small-town South Carolina, a diverse city like Houston, or Timbuktu. Immigration and the refugee crisis have given those of us living in the United States a unique opportunity to reach people who may have never had access to the gospel in their home country. Opportunities may differ depending on your location, but the above suggestions are a good place to start getting involved in international missions here at home.
Meredith Cook is a content editor for the International Mission Board. She has an M.Div. in Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lives with her husband in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @meredithcook716.