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Stories & Blog

What to Expect Your First Year on the Mission Field

What to Expect Your First Year on the Mission Field

If you’re preparing to move overseas to live on mission, you may have a mix of emotions: excitement about the new things you’ll experience, sorrow in leaving loved ones, fear of the unknown, and probably many more.

But what will those first 12 months really be like? Of course you can’t know everything, but what can you reasonably expect?

We asked three Crossworld disciple-makers celebrating their one-year anniversary to talk about their first year on the field.

What expectations did you have going into your missions journey?

Lauren: I thought I didn’t have expectations but I was wrong. I pushed my expectations on people that didn’t share the same goals, and I had to learn to extend grace and surrender those expectations. My supervisor told me when I arrived, “You are a learner.” I put it on my mirror and I look at it every morning. That is the one expectation that I would continue to have. You’re not going to know the language. You’re not going to know what to do in your job. You’re going to be completely reliant on others. Take the attitude of a learner and life will be easier.

What has been difficult this year?

Chelsea: There’s so much you think about when moving to another country. You think all the problems will be related to the country itself because it’s new and different. But most of the hard things I’ve run into this year have had very little to do with this country. I never had trouble making friends before. It was easy growing up and in college, and somehow that skill left me when I moved here. I never had to work at it before; it just happened. Here, it doesn’t just happen. It’s harder and it’s taken a long time. You have to work at it and give yourself grace that it’s not the same and that’s ok.

Carrie: Yes, restarting community in a new context has been difficult. We’re not kids on a playground where everyone has something in common. Back home, you had proximity or interest or something to build on. Here you’re digging up the ground. Part of that digging up the ground is digging into myself. There’s a lot that goes into relationships that I didn’t really think about back home. But if I really value it, will I make the effort?

What have you learned about God?

Lauren: I’ve learned that he does not need me. He is gracious and merciful to those that have never heard the gospel. He can make himself known in many ways to the people of this country and he provides when I least expect it.

Carrie: Good things have happened back home that never happened when I was there. The pressure is off me. It was never on me, but I took it on myself. I’ve been able to see that God is present everywhere and that’s been encouraging.

Chelsea: For me too, there were difficult situations with people back home that got better after I left. It was comforting to know they’re okay — that God has called me here and he will take care of them without me.

What preparation paid off?

Chelsea: The Crossworld training and the five years that followed helped prepare me for things that could have derailed me otherwise. I’ve learned to be more flexible than I used to be, and to be okay with things not going okay. A lot of things have gone wrong, but I’m still here.

What would you tell yourself if you were to start this year over?

Lauren: Slow down and be flexible. Everything takes time.

Carrie: Ask for help. It’s ok to be ignorant because you are. You don’t know what you’re doing and everything is new. I got lost in my neighborhood after living there six months. Asking for help saves a lot of stress, energy, and unnecessary conflict.

What’s your best tip for newbies?

Chelsea: Get a language tutor early.

Lauren: Find a place to make “home” in your new setting. Also, one of my cheerleaders back home challenged me to write down 1,000 blessings in a year. Some days they’re small and some days they’re huge. It can be a horrific day, but it challenges me to think, What has God done today?

How have you changed?

Lauren: If there was a picture of my life before compared to now, I don’t know if I would recognize we’re the same person. At first I didn’t understand why God called me here, but now I know it was so that I would become more like him. I am more gentle, more dependent. I’m a slower speaker and better listener. I’m so young and inexperienced, but I’ve learned it’s not a weakness to ask for help. I’m more in tune with my emotions, and I’ve even changed in my tolerance for hot weather. There have been many days of tears and heartache when I realize my best friends here will not be with me for eternity. It’s been uncomfortable to not know the language and stressful when things haven’t met my expectations. But I’m incredibly thankful for every crazy, embarrassing, challenging moment of my journey.

Your first year on mission may look different than you expect, but we’re here to walk with you all the way. Talk to the Crossworld team to start your journey.

The people in this story are real, but some names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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