The following blog posts were adapted from a seminar I gave at the Epic East Coast Conference in 2012. Please pass it along to others who may be struggling about investing a year on full-time mission. This is part 1 of a 3 part series.
You want to take a year to go on missions BUT…:
A discussion on the barriers of going on missions
I distinctly remember: I was on the plane ride home from summer missions in East Asia. I had a challenging summer raising support, dealing with parental disapproval, and experiencing culture shock in a new country. As I looked out the plane window, I thought, “Goodbye East Asia! I’m never going to see you again!”
God had other plans for my life. As I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do after college, the Lord kept bringing up this idea of missions. I tried to avoid these thoughts. But wherever I went, this topic of Asia and missions came up. I remember reading a quote from Time Magazine: “East Asia’s communism is a system of economic development, but there’s no theology to explain what people should believe in. East Asia is very fertile ground for any religion.” My first thought was: “If it’s any religion it should be Christianity!” Then my 2nd thought was: “Oh no, God is NOT calling me to serve there, is He?”
God indeed was calling me to serve on STINT, Cru’s one-year overseas missions program. While I dealt with even more challenges answering this call, I was not the only one. I asked several other Asian Americans who went on STINT the barriers and challenges they dealt with.
The most common response was the fear of parental disapproval. Devin, who STINTed in Asia for 2 years said: “One of the biggest challenges when I was considering going on STINT was how my parents and those around me would react. My parents are not Christians, so they saw my decision as career suicide. And in fact, many Christian parents probably think the same thing as well.” Yes, Christian or non-Christian, many parents will think the same thing: I didn’t send you to college to become a missionary!
Mary who served in EA (East Asia) from 2003-2004, said “as much as I felt like I owed everything to my parents – and I think that you should always communicate how grateful you are for the things they have provided – I think I have/had boundary issues with them that I needed to address eventually. I feel like that’s common for Asian Americans.”
Her suggestion is for us to demonstrate that our decision to go on missions isn’t a flighty idea, but one that we’ve wrestled with, reasoned over, prayed over and prepared for. She decided to apply for law school early and told her parents she would defer a year to go on STINT; which helped her parents be more accepting of her going. However, I don’t know if that’s for everyone, unless you truly feel called to a particular field.
Ideally, it would be great to have them understand us and send us off on missions with their acceptance and blessing. However this doesn’t always happen. The number one thing I’ve learned in this area is: We cannot expect our families to be blessed through our disobedience. Jill, who went on STINT to London, says that even now (after she’s returned) her mom will make her feel guilty for going on missions. But through all this the Lord taught her that there can still be ways to honor her parents even if she doesn’t do everything they think she should. She’s learned that her parent’s will is not always in line with God’s will.
Even though my own mom reluctantly supported my decision to serve on STINT, I think she was hoping the mission bug would just pass. When I told her that I wanted to go back, she had a fit–stamping her feet and sobbing, and telling me to just go and never return. And I went anyway. She did not come around for many years. But since then, her faith has grown tremendously, and I know that if I had not gone overseas, she could not have been challenged to trust God for my future. I still remember visiting her church after joining staff with the Epic Movement. She brought me around to all the different aunties at church and proudly introduced me as her daughter, a full time missionary! I will never get over how amazing that is!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Barriers to Missions – Support Raising.