Missionary Motivators

by Angie Washington on March 20, 2013

Why are you a missionary? What motivated you to live a life of challenge, adventure, and sacrifice? How did you make the decision to serve in such an intense capacity?

We have lived in Bolivia for over 11 years. From the time I was seven I knew I would live outside the U.S. for most of my life. My husband was in high school when he made the same realization. Those initial prodding desires led to practical steps: Praying. Maps as wallpaper. Counsel. Training. Meager living. Extreme serving.

my husband with one of the Dreamers at our orphanage years ago

So, what got you to the mission field?

I see 5 main reasons people serve on the mission field.

  1. Call of duty – a commissioning ceremony, a scripture that spoke to your heart, a sense of obligation
  2. Itching for adventure – you crave risk, you’re an adrenaline junky, boredom terrifies you
  3. Bleeding heart – your heart breaks at the plight of the downtrodden, compassion fills your soul
  4. Way of escape – deep down you know you had to get away, you are running, you are seeking refuge
  5. Purpose driven life – you want your life to count for something significant, fulfillment

I suppose I might as well give voice to what many are thinking. What about number six? Certifiably crazy. Okay, yes, I can see some validity to that being a common motivator. Right? Smile, I’m just kidding.

my daughter feeding the same little girl in the first picture

Then there’s the fact that what gets you to the mission field might not be what keeps you there. Maybe you are not meant to stay forever. Maybe life happens and you have to move back. Maybe you hate life as a missionary. Maybe you knew this was a short term thing to begin with so you are content to return. Maybe you feel you would be more effective in accomplishing what you feel God wants from your life by being based back “home”.

Those who choose to live as missionaries for the rest of their lives will encounter moments (read: hours, days, weeks, maybe even months) of questioning. Healthy evaluation is helpful and necessary. Putting words to why we continue on in this lifestyle might be hard, but it is worth the effort.

Can you answer with gut honesty and full disclosure transparency in one sentence: Why are you a missionary? Care to share? Dare to share? The comment box is open. Thanks!


Adoption day for this same little girl four years after coming to The House of Dreams Orphanage here in Bolivia. She’s in Europe now with her beautiful new family.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

(Philippians 3:12-14 msg)

– Angie Washington, co-editor of A Life Overseas, missionary living in Bolivia

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie work blog: House of Dreams Orphanage

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About Angie Washington

Co-Founder, Editor of this collaborative blog site: A Life Overseas
  • hermanojuancito

    Though I felt I was doing good (and doing well) as a lay campus minister, a spring break trip to post-Katrina New Orleans opened my heart to a call to something “more,” mostly through the witness of an African-American grandmother whose water-devastated house we emptied. I started by asking what people would be do with all my stuff after I died and so was opened to hearing a call from God to be more closely connected to the poor living in a poor country, assisting the work of the local Church – to be of those to those most in need.

  • I’m a missionary because the love of God compels/constrains me…

    “Either way, Christ’s love controls us.Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,e so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Cor 5:14-21, NLV).

    … and has ever since I was just a little girl. To me, it doesn’t really matter where or how or who or when – just that it is God’s love for me and in me (not my love for Him like I once upon a time thought) which inspires, insists, encourages, enables……………..

  • Dave Lewis

    I saw Jesus “over there” in the harvest field, and I wanted to be with him.

  • It’s a valid question. We’ve been in Peru 11 years and while most days I know why I’m here and can bask in that knowledge…there are some days when I have no idea. Those are my most selfish and me-filled days…when I crave canned goods, frozen food, and large bags of “real” Cheetos. That aside, we find joy in being the tools that can bring someone to a greater knowledge of Christ.

  • One Word: Obedience!

  • tony and amber elswick

    I agree with Obedience and Calling. I have always had the sense that God is doing something somewhere and i want to be apart of it. –AmberE

  • I guess I have to plead #6. Really, my main reason is that I just love this part of the world. I usually do have to add to that explanation, “Yes, I’m crazy.”

  • Britney Smith

    Reasons #1 and #5 are my motivation for serving overseas. It’s definitely not because I’m itching for adventure!

  • having grown up on the mission field, I came to realize that I COULD NOT stay in the US and just be one of hundreds who could or would serve in a local church. I had to be one who would go – the where was not as important as the fact that it needed to be outside the US. I enjoy my visits back in the US, but “home” it is not. I want to be out THERE – serving alongside others who share a passion to see the world reached with the Gospel. I guess there are parts of all 6 at work in my life.

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