For those planning to go overseas as missionaries, there will come a day when they and their families board a plane with one-way tickets in hand. They’ll be nervous but confident that God is making a way for them to take the gospel to the unreached.
Every missionary has this experience in common. Whether single or married with children, this experience bonds all missionaries together. They have left behind family, friends, jobs, security, comfort, and normalcy for the sake of the gospel among the unreached. I have been thinking about that moment for years, and soon, my family and I will be stepping onto that plane.
Having said that, there is a lot to do here before we get to our destination. You see, we pray, plan, and prepare for the time when we land, but if we are only thinking of our future ministry, we may be missing some key opportunities to point our family and friends to Christ. The truth of the gospel should impact the way we leave home. Here are four things you can do to both leave well and prepare for your future ministry overseas.
Remember Your First Priority
There are many details standing between you and beginning your ministry overseas. Details like selling all your stuff, getting passports and visas, saying goodbye to family and friends, connecting with churches, deciding what to bring and what to leave, and a number of other important processes. If you are not careful, these details will overwhelm you. But it is important to remember your first priority.
The truth of the gospel should impact the way we leave home.
Jesus puts it this way, “Don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear? For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:31–33, CSB). It’s easy to get caught up in the details of the move, but Jesus reminds us that while our “details” are important to God, our first priority should be him.
Learn From Those Who Have Gone Before You
One of the best things my wife and I have done in preparing to move overseas is talk with others who have walked a similar path before us. We have learned so much from them, which has saved us from unnecessary stress and disappointment. They’ve helped us see the larger picture by knowing what needs to be done and what may not be as important. As we can now attest from experience, ask good questions and make sure to listen.
Not only have we learned from those who have recently gone before us, but we have also learned from those who served the Lord as missionaries many years ago. One recent missionary biography my wife and I read was of Eric Liddell. Although Eric was famous for his running ability, he gave it up in order to bring the good news to the people of China.
He suffered much pain and hardship at the end of his life, but through it all, he was able to say, “All will be well” because his hope was in the Lord. His story and many others have reminded us that in good times and hard, Christ is enough. So, whether you talk with a retired missionary couple from your church or read about a hero of the faith, learn from those who have gone before you.
Make the Most of Every Opportunity to Share the Gospel
You may have so much to do to prepare for your move that you end up dropping the ball on some relationships and ministries in which you were invested. If you have family members or friends who need to hear about Jesus, take the opportunity to tell them why you are moving your lives overseas. This is the reason why you are going overseas—to tell others about him. Jesus is the Savior for all people, which includes your uncle too.
Don’t sacrifice the ministry God has entrusted you with here because you have been called to the nations.
Also, make sure you hand over your ministry responsibilities before you leave. Allow others to step in and lead where you left off. Don’t sacrifice the ministry God has entrusted you with here because you have been called to the nations. Finish well by handing off the baton. This will help you make the most of every opportunity to point to Christ both here and in your new country.
Know that God is Working in All Things
One of the most comforting truths that we have reminded ourselves of consistently is God’s hand in our lives. Romans 8:28 (CSB) says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” When your family doesn’t understand why you’re going, or you’re unable to reconcile a relationship with a friend, it will be hard to leave. In that moment, remember that God is the one who has called you and redeemed you. He will sustain you through life’s difficult circumstances.
Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you are preparing to move your family overseas. However, God may be providing you an opportunity to glorify him, even in your leaving. Remember your first priority, learn from those who have gone before you, make the most of every opportunity, and know that God is working in all things.
Phil Bartuska is an M.Div student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is completing his degree in International Church Planting. He is moving to Vienna, Austria to serve as a church planting strategist with his wife, Becca, and son, Mark. You can find him on Twitter at @phil_bartuska.