“It would be a fascinating to know how many career missionaries go back to the first place they went on a short-term trip. Some point to this frequent phenomenon and doubt those missionaries’ call. While I did not go to the first place I visited on a mission trip, the Lord did indeed call my wife and me to missions through short-term trips.”
Much missions activity throughout the years has been zeal without knowledge and action without forethought. Many returned missionaries continue to wrestle with false guilt about putting their hand to the plow but looking back, wondering if they are fit for the kingdom any longer. Often, the “plow” was one of their own choosing, and it was chosen in haste.
An old saying goes, “Marry in haste, repent in leisure,” which assumes that the unhappy married person will not divorce but will quietly regret his or her decision for life. That same dynamic is true in missions, but because the self-called missionary unwisely launched into the work, he realizes far too late that he is not a good fit for the team or agency, or that she does not have the blessing and support of her church, or that God was actually leading in a different direction.
When the rocket burns off the fuel for lift-off and the fluttering fall to earth is over, the regrets, the “if-onlys”, and “what-ifs” haunt them for years—unnecessarily. Those considering long-term missions should ask the following questions to minimize the dangers of rushing in unadvisedly, and the answers received should be the result of prayer, counsel, and searching the Scriptures.
1. Is my desire to be a missionary simply the residual emotion of a mission trip or temporary excitement/guilt from a conference speaker?
It would be a fascinating to know how many career missionaries go back to the first place they went on a short-term trip. Some point to this frequent phenomenon and doubt those missionaries’ call. While I did not go to the first place I visited on a mission trip, the Lord did indeed call my wife and me to missions through short-term trips. Rather than belittling the missionary call of someone returning to a place previously visited, we should remember that the God who calls is also sovereign over where Christians go on their first mission trip, and perhaps he used that trip to guide to his calling. Still, it is wise to discern the difference between a call to career missions in that place and an abiding love for the people and a good memory of a week of his favor and blessing in another country.
Similarly, many conference speakers stir up passions and challenge believers to go to the mission field. They cite statistics about the numbers of lost and preach on verses about Christ’s command to go and make disciples. All of what they say is true, but sometimes these speakers do more than call out the called.
Some Christians with especially tender consciences are easily “guilted” into surrendering to a call that is imagined in the moment, but evaporates in time. When I was young I would go with my friends to the movies on Saturday afternoons. The endings of intense action movies often left us with hearts still pounding as the hero narrowly escaped disaster and defeated the bad guys, but walking out into the blinding sun after the movie was over melted the excitement, and we were ready for the next activity of the day. Sometimes, a season of maturing the call that came through a trip or conference can help reveal whether it’s the real deal or a fleeting feeling.