A missionary is, literally speaking, “one who is sent out.” But my husband and I did not go down the traditional missionary road. We were not sent by a church or organization, and we do not solicit funds or ask for financial support. We simply feel commissioned by the Holy Spirit to go to “the regions beyond.”
When I met my husband, he was working for an IT company in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was in transition, helping out as a locum physiotherapist at an orthopaedic practice in Pretoria, South Africa. The day before we met, I signed a contract to work at a practice in Namibia.
Four months later we got married and set off into the sunset on a honeymoon/road trip with a car full of belongings on our way to my new job in Namibia. Fortunately, my husband’s boss agreed that he could finish up his remaining project by working remotely from Namibia.
In many ways, the Namibian desert became our “exodus.” We had much to learn, but God began tugging at our hearts during that time. The Word became alive to us, and we realized that we were in preparation for a mission. We both felt passionate about reaching people who have never heard the gospel and agreed that Asia would be a good place to start.
So, while I finished my one-year contract in Namibia, my husband went ahead to Thailand to work as a volunteer and to check out our future options there. Needless to say, some people thought we were crazy. Even our local church at that time was not very supportive of our plan to “go to the nations” by jumping on the next plane.
Like many other young people in Asia, we ended up working as English teachers in Thailand. And here we are three years later with a new baby. . . . living, teaching, and volunteering in a Buddhist community.
So what is it like being non-missionaries on mission? I’ll start with the obvious CONS:
- No formal training for missions. Everything we know, we have learned from our personal journey with God and other people, the Bible, experiences of people we met along the way (our missionary friends and local Christians), and books/videos.
- No formal language or culture preparation.
- No financial support from a designated church, organization, or supporting partners.
- No furlong, paid vacation, or paid trip to go back home to South Africa. Our only trip back home was a private trip to see our family and friends.
- No team members or local support groups. We have no visitors except family or friends who have come on holiday.
- No structured ministry-related assignments or opportunities.
- Most time and energy spent on doing our secular jobs well.
But there are many PROS to our situation:
- Total accountability to God; no accountability to any organization.
- Freedom to learn and follow God. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and the Bible is our main guidebook.
- No pressure, expectations, or concern for spiritual titles. It’s okay to figure it out as we go, and we have freedom to learn from our own mistakes without any denominational oversight or limitations. Therefore, we have freedom to help any local churches and missionaries by simply showing up with open hands to support what God is already doing in the community by coming alongside the local church leaders.
- No fund-raising or administrative hassles. This gives us the freedom to write newsletters or blog posts simply for the joy of authentic writing and as a way of sharing and keeping in touch with the people we love.
- Opportunity to be part of the local community. By taking secular jobs and raising a family here, doors for one-on-one ministry in the community are open wide. It also supports language acquisition and culture immersion and creates casual opportunities to share what we believe with those around us as insiders and not outsiders.
- Freedom from judgement of our lifestyle. We live a simple lifestyle because of personal choice, not by constraint; but we also do touristy-things like going to the beach or eating out at restaurants sometimes without the fear of constant scrutiny or unfair judgment.
I’m not sure if I ever wanted to be a missionary, but being on this great (co)mission has been a revelation of how desperately those around me, as well as I myself, are in need of a Savior. And in the middle of our joys and struggles, God keeps showing up over and over again, always guiding, providing, and convincing me more and more each day that if I trust in Him, I do not need a back-up plan. He is enough.
He leads us by opening and closing doors — sometimes in the form of work opportunities or visa problems. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter where we end up going or whether we stay because He is already there and He will complete the good work He began in us and in the hearts of the people around us.
Being part of the global mission, introducing people to Jesus and sharing the good news with the nations, is a mission worth dedicating our lives to, regardless of where or how God leads us. So the pros always outweigh the cons if we keep on choosing to follow God’s leading and to remain content in Him, being grateful that He is truly enough.
We simply need to continually choose to see obstacles and problems as learning opportunities, and, of course, to choose to point others to Jesus in their life’s journey that they too may choose to end their journey safe in the arms of God.
Dorette Skinner is a farm girl from South Africa who ended up kicking off her shoes in a small town in Thailand. Four countries and three career changes later she is content to be a full-time mommy and part-time volunteer for now. She loves learning more about God, spending time with people, reading good books and going on mini-adventures. She writes at reporterofhope.com