What does it take to become a missionary? It takes many things — including some very interesting experiences such as the one that follows.
The plate of food stared back at me, daring me to try it.
“What kind of meat did you say this was again, Liu Yang?” I asked my Chinese friend, who was here in New York studying mathematical statistics. She and her roommates had decided to make me a meal for Chinese New Year as a way to honor me.
“They are fish eyeballs. A special treat! You like?” Oh boy.
Learning to eat and like new types of food is one of many skills it takes to become a missionary. I remember when I first left my home, people would say things to me like, “Oh, I could never do what you do!” They were referring to the many challenges missionaries face — like having to eat fish eyeballs.
Or even harder things, like learning a new language. That one is a doozy.
Or the one that Jesus talks about in Luke 14 — leaving your family. He says our love for our family has to pale in comparison to our love for him — to the point we could give everyone and everything else up to follow his will for our lives. I had a hard time with this one when it was time to say goodbye. In fact, I cried for weeks.
So, what does it take to become a missionary?
Well, yes, all of these things for sure.
But I think one of the greatest surprises I have had this year at Equip is that missionary readiness cannot be boiled down to a check-list of skills or evaluations. I have learned lots of great methodologies this year that I have put into use, and I have eaten lots of crazy food. I have learned enough of the Albanian language to buy some local foods, and I have even been able to get over my homesickness.
None of this makes me a fruitful or effective missionary. No, the most important thing it takes to become a missionary is learning to have intimacy with God. Learning to lean on him and abide in him continually. learning to fight spiritual battles with your armor on. Because I can assure you that once you answer God’s call on your life, you will face spiritual battles every day.
I once met a missionary who said she had not had time to have a quiet time with the Lord in months. And it’s true — missionaries live unbelievably busy lives. But I can unequivocally say from experience that prayer and time with the Lord is the most important part of my ministry, and without it, my ministry would not exist.
If you are reading this, I hope and pray that either you are thinking about answering God’s call to become a missionary, or you are training and helping others to become equipped to do so. If you are wondering where to start, or what it takes, start with inordinate amounts of prayer. Begin by seeking an intimate and passionate relationship with the God of the Universe, and allow him to direct your path. The rest is just an adventure.