Sending First-Time Missionaries: Five Hurdles Before Take Off
1 Aug 2016
It takes a lot of planning and preparation to get from a decision to serve the Lord overseas in missions, to the point of actually stepping onto a plane. In the final months before a missionary goes onto the mission field for the first time, there can be huge hurdles to overcome.
One hurdle is deciding what to do with their possessions. If they own a house, will they keep it or sell it? If the house still has a mortgage, can the house be rented and the mortgage covered? What about furniture, books, the car? What should they take overseas with them, what should be sold, and what can be stored? These decisions are both pragmatic and emotive as people often have sentimental attachments to possessions.
An essential aspect of moving to another country is having a role to play and a visa to live there. Obtaining an appropriate visa is a common struggle for missionaries, not only when they start out, but throughout their years on the mission field. Will they start studying on a student visa? Will they have a job and a work visa? Will they have a valid role in their community and can they answer the question from a new local friend “What are you doing here?”
There are many decisions for families regarding their children. There can be health and safety concerns with small children, or practical challenges if there are kids with special needs in the family. How will their kids do school in their new country? There may be very limited options meaning that Home Schooling is necessary. This can be very daunting for some parents. Perhaps there is a good school available but it’s very expensive. Is that the best use of finances? As the day of departure draws near there can be an increasing sense of grief and concern about leaving the extended family behind in Australia. There are also specific challenges when families must leave young adults or older teens behind in Australia.
Missionaries need to get their personal affairs in order before they leave the country. This can include tax requirements, Centrelink issues, wills, power of attorney, superannuation and bank accounts. These things can be very time consuming and require attention detail.
When exactly is the best time to leave Australia and make the big move? Often the decision is set around the school calendar. Timelines can be drawn up, but so often external circumstances necessitate changes. It might be because of visas, things happening within the team on the field, medical issues to be sorted out before they go, or a shortfall in financial support. Last minute changes to the leaving date can be extremely stressful. There can be big practical challenges if they have already moved out of their house, taken the kids out of school, had the big farewells, and then need to delay. It’s like been left hanging in the air with neither foot on the ground.
If you are the family, friends or supporters of missionaries preparing to leave, there may be practical helps you can offer. A place to stay in the last few weeks before they leave, assistance with the paper work, or praying for their visas. Most importantly, just being aware of these stresses and showing understanding can make the world of difference. Be open to how the Lord may want you to be actively involved as a sender.