I was always interested in missionary work, but didn’t make any serious steps toward it until my last year of college. I was a part of a Southern Baptist campus ministry called Christian Challenge (the Baptist Student Union). And one night we had a guest speaker from the International Mission Board share his experiences with us.
He told us about the IMB’s “Journeymen Program” for college grads. Journeymen go on two-year missions terms to get exposed to missionary life, and something like half end up returning for life-long missions work afterward.
I studied journalism and public relations in college, and that didn’t seem particularly applicable to missions. So I figured I would have to take a professional hiatus in order to be a Journeyman. But I signed up anyway.
Then, at an orientation for new missionaries, I found out the IMB actually does have use for journalists. They have communications teams stationed on four continents, who create videos and articles about the work missionaries are doing in the field. These materials are then used by churches in the States to raise funding for the missionaries. (IMB missionaries are fully funded by Southern Baptist churches.)
The South American communications team just happened to be in need of a writer. So I studied Spanish with a small group of new Journeymen in Guatemala for three months. Then I moved to Chile where I lived for the rest of my term.
From there, I got to travel to the DR, Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay. I lived through a major earthquake, interviewed a drug lord in Rio and flew over the Amazon in an experimental airplane. More importantly, I met and interviewed some amazing people who are making big sacrifices to build the Kingdom of God.
But as exciting and enriching as my time in missions was, it was also really hard. Because my work was in missionary support, my Spanish never got strong enough to build any deep relationships with the Chileans. And because I was the only single 20-something on our team, I didn’t build many deep relationships with my fellow missionaries either.
It ended up being the most isolating experience of my life. God used it in some important ways, but it wasn’t healthy for me to stay in that lonely environment. So, even though I was given the rare offer of extending my term, I chose to come home when my two years were up.
Loneliness is actually really common among missionaries, and it’s something you should keep in mind when you pray for them.
Still, I’m grateful for the experience. It was a time of learning and growing for me personally. And I’m honored that God would allow me to serve His Kingdom in that way - even if it was for just a season.
Thanks for the question.
Peace, love and Jesus,