What concerns or worries do you have about serving in missions? Those thoughts can make you feel isolated or embarrassed. Maybe you’ve even wondered if “real” missionaries even experience doubt.
You’re not alone! Everyone has to work through their fears about serving in missions — even our Wycliffe recruiters! Meet Sam, Chuck, Ed, Kris, Dan and Wendy, and learn how they’ve struggled through six common concerns and with God’s help, overcame them.
1. How do I know what to do next?
When Sam contemplated leaving his career in the U.S. Navy, he didn’t know where to start. So he and his wife decided to read through the Bible in a year, pray together and seek the advice of close Christian friends. “We were just looking for God’s leading and … [were] trying to discern the Lord’s will,” Sam said.
During that time, Sam thought he would like to work overseas as an engineer. But even after sending out dozens of resumes, he didn’t receive a single reply. He was frustrated.
“Then I realized, ‘Why should I get frustrated about going to some place that wasn’t God’s will?’” Sam said. “So we sent out my resume domestically. Immediately we got invitations!”
While Sam was working in his U.S.-based software engineering role, he joined the missions committee at his church. There he discovered that his software and engineering skills were crucial to missions! Sam was blown away. He had never imagined he could use his skills in Bible translation. Finally the timing was right, and God opened doors for Sam to join Wycliffe.
“When you don’t know what to do, search Scripture, pray and ask Christians who know you well,” Sam said. “Then just start moving and see what God confirms or blocks. When it is his timing, you’ll walk through [an open door]!”
2. How can God use my skills in missions if I’m not an evangelist or teacher?
All Chuck had ever wanted to do with his life was run grocery stores. He had gone to school for food management and had a successful career. But then Wycliffe held an event at his local airport. Chuck was curious about Bible translation, so he decided to attend.
When he saw people flying airplanes, working radios and turning knobs, he was shocked. “I couldn’t believe they needed practical skills in missions. These people were using their hands!’” Chuck said.
As Chuck chatted with the Wycliffe pilots, they learned he was a grocer. “Could you help us get food for our event next year?” they asked. Chuck agreed, and the next year as he delivered the food, he felt more deeply drawn to the mission of Bible translation.
Later Chuck and his wife connected with a recruiter, still skeptical his skills could be used in Bible translation. To their surprise, the recruiter showed them a small grocery store in Papua New Guinea that supported the missionaries serving there. “Our store manager is retiring,” the recruiter said, “and we need someone to fill [the role]!”
“I knew immediately where God was calling us,” Chuck said. After 36 years with Wycliffe in a variety of roles, Chuck is confident in one thing: “If God can use a grocer, there’s nothing that you do that he couldn’t also use!”
3. How can I leave my family and friends behind?
Ed didn’t want to leave his mother. After his father left, Ed was dedicated to caring for her needs. But Ed also felt passionate about translating God’s Word for people groups still waiting for Scripture in their language.
As he started to pursue his education in linguistics, he was hit with doubt. Ed said, “I turned to Mom and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mom. I can’t do this. I can’t leave you alone like this. I feel like I’m abandoning you. Who is going to take care of you when I’m gone?’”
But Ed’s mother never wavered. She told him, “Ed, God took care of me in the Netherlands during World War I. God took care of me during World War II. … God took care of me when we didn’t have even a penny to our names. God took care of me when [your ] dad walked out, and God will take care of me again, right here, right now.
“If you don’t … start your studies to become a Bible translator, you’ll be disobedient to God. … God will take care of me.”
4. Will my children become resentful or suffer as a result?
When Kris and her husband first explored serving in Bible translation, they were worried about it adversely impacting their children. At the time, their Wycliffe recruiter encouraged them by sharing her own experience of raising kids overseas. So the couple cautiously moved forward.
“Now decades later, both we and our children can testify that serving God overseas in Bible translation was the best possible path for us,” Kris said.
Kris saw her children were enriched by learning multiple languages, interacting with other cultures, developing deep international friendships and being nurtured by a loving community.
“We grew especially close as a family as we faced hardships and saw God work,” Kris said. “Our children are not resentful. … They’re grateful for growing closer to the Lord [through] such an enriching childhood and youth.”
5. What about financial stability and partnership development?
Wycliffe missionaries build a team of prayer and financial partners who give generously to provide for all their financial needs. The process is called “partnership development,” and it not only enables a missionary to develop a critical relational support system, but also gives other people the opportunity to get involved in God’s global work.
But when Dan and his wife began building their team so they could serve as teachers in Peru, some of his closest friends questioned him. “Three different friends told me they didn’t believe in supporting missionaries and wanted us to get side jobs instead,” Dan said. “They ultimately cut [the friendship] off.”
Dan was taken aback: “I started to wonder if other people were getting offended and we should stop.” But later that summer, his in-laws sat down with him. “They pointed to Scripture, encouraged me and showed me how individuals and churches should support missionaries,” Dan said. “I didn’t need to be fearful anymore because it was a biblical model.”
Now Dan felt free to be bold: “We ended up getting our full [financial partnership] really fast!”
6. What if I get sick or hurt?
When Wendy first went overseas with Wycliffe, she never imagined she might get sick. “I thought ... that if I just [had] faith and trusted in God, since this is his work, he was just going to protect us all,” she admitted. But after years serving in a translation project, Wendy got sick with chronic fatigue; she and her family had to change roles.
“I had to learn to give up my desire of what I thought God had planned for my life,” Wendy said. “I had to trust him in the dark days when I was sick. And then I saw how he showed up.”
As she looks back, Wendy can see how her illness not only deepened her faith but how it also sent Wendy and her husband on to other positions in Bible translation they never would have even tried. And she and her husband ultimately thrived in those positions!
“It’s inevitable that we all get sick,” Wendy reflected. “We have to trust that God wants our highest good. ... He has purposes we can't even see.”
Coming Alongside You
Whether you’ve experienced these exact concerns or others, Wycliffe recruiters like Sam, Chuck, Ed, Kris, Dan, and Wendy are eager to listen to you, encourage you and come alongside you in your journey. After all, they’ve been where you are!
Tim Scanlon, the associate director of recruiting, agreed. “If you’re afraid or have concerns or questions, you’re normal,” he said. “But there are Wycliffe mentors ready to help you. … Many people have gone before you. It’s going to require faith to step out and do something. … But if it’s God’s plan for your life, you couldn’t do anything better!”