How to Become a Missionary - 22 Things I'd Tell A NEW Overseas Worker

22 Things I’d Tell A New Overseas Worker

You might be wondering how to become a missionary or you are a brand new overseas worker.

You’ve requested the paperwork, are busy with interviews or have just finished the process.

The mail came and you received your envelope saying you’re approved to begin raising your budget.

You might need to resign your job or your church staff position. It’s time to think about your house, your car, your kids’ schooling and so on.

You tell your family and friends that you are moving across the ocean to live in a foreign land.

One morning with coffee in hand, you sit and look in the mirror saying, “This is it. We’re doing this. I’m a full-time career cross-cultural worker.”

Now what?

You have a seemingly never-ending road ahead to raise a large budget, prepare your family, sell your belongings and travel like a crazy person until the job is done.

Then, when that job is done… more jobs begin. Learning a language, a new culture, multiple moves, figuring out your realistic ministry focus, winding down from a whirlwind 18 months to 2 years of traveling from church to church to church to church. It truly is quite a process.

So, what would I tell someone who wants to know how to become a missionary?

What do you need to know if you are just starting the long process of moving overseas?

What would I say to someone who asks, “How can I be an overseas worker in another part of the world?”

What advice do I have for someone starting an intense furlough or itineration?

I don’t have all the answers for how to become a missionary or raise a budget.

I can’t promise that what worked for us will work for you.

Unfortunately there isn’t a “Do these things and this will happen” formula for raising an overseas budget or deciding how to become a missionary.

It truly is up to God and His faithfulness for you to reach the end. He enables. He gives. He sends.

But, here are a few things we’ve learned in this process of how to become a missionary.

How to Become a Missionary - 22 Things I'd Tell A NEW Overseas Worker

This advice is for those just beginning but honestly, it’s something we call can come back to again and again.

1. Stay positive. No matter what happens. Do not let the enemy have his way by sulking, pouting or whining. Stay positive. Get Joy. Fight, and you will have to fight some days, for a good attitude. Talk positively about pastors and churches and experiences… especially in front of your kids!

2. Trust your instincts. Just because someone else is doing it to raise support, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Pray for guidance and creativity and new ideas that will reach pastors and people in your circle of influence.

How to Become a Missionary - 22 Things I'd Tell A NEW Overseas Worker

3. Don’t undermine your hard work online. Here are 18 ways you might be doing that. People really are reading and watching you. Your online voice is vitally important to how you come across to those learning about you, your mission, and deciding on whether or not to be a part of your support team. It’s like walking a tightrope. Do it well.

4. Connect with people. Life doesn’t stop just because you are raising support. Talk to the people who come to your table. Pray for pastors over lunch. Ask about how things are going at their church. Be willing to offer help without expecting anything in return. Build relationships that are real. Continue relationships that have nothing to do with raising support or building your budget. Help people. Share your life… connect in real ways by letting people get to know you.

5. Take time to enjoy the travel. Stop at museums and parks. Find fun restaurants. Visit new places. Make memories! Even on a budget, there is a lot for your family to experience while traveling and itinerating!

6. Keep looking forward. What you are dealing with right now will not last forever. This season will end. Remember the end goal and keep working towards it no matter how long it takes. Do the next beautiful thing on your list.

7. Stay grounded. Do your devotions. Read. Grow. Be discipled. Bloom where God has planted you.

8. Travel well. Plan. Think things through. Schedule with wisdom. Pack right. Be prepared for anything. Keep your costs low. Accept help. The experiences you are having are funny, stressful, weird, unique and exciting. Travel well. Even on the bad travel days, you’ll have a story to tell of God’s faithfulness and protection.

9. Do not compete. This is not a competition. You are on your own journey of how to become a missionary. Help others. Support other missionaries financially, relationally and prayerfully. Never compete. It is a trap you do not want to fall in to. ever. We are all on the same team.

Can I star and underline #9?? Go read it again.

Ok… move on…

10. Make home wherever you are. Having home away from home becomes a way of life. Embrace it. You have an invisible foundation beneath you that is sure and strong. Hold on to God and to each other.

11. Work well. If you are married, you will be working with your spouse like you never have worked before. Working well together takes time and effort and patience. The togetherness is a gift. You will have some organizational differences… work through it. And laugh. And love.

12. Don’t be afraid to share what you need. With people and churches. People need to know how to help and how to support.

How to Become a Missionary - 22 Things I'd Tell A NEW Overseas Worker

13. You are on a roller coaster. Hold on! From the moment you ask how to become a missionary to the point where you take that first donation to the moment you leave, you will be on a crazy roller coaster of emotions and situations and experiences.

14. Stress. You will face crazy stress. And you will know more stress is coming. Figure out how you can cope best. Go running. Get sleep. Relax. Eat healthy. Breathe deep. Trust God. Believe. Have Faith. Build good stress coping skills now because the stress is NOT going away. What is your fight song?

15. Depend on God. He is your provider and He WILL provide. Walk with Him at His pace. Don’t rush ahead of what He is doing. Then, in the waiting, wait well..

16. Missions brings unexpected gifts. Watch for them. Take note. Be thankful.

17. There are days you will feel like you are giving your whole life away, sacrificing it all. Because you are. But remember, your citizenship is in heaven anyway! You’ll literally feel the sacrifice for the gospel. And that is a good thing. Even when the sacrifice is unexpected, even then.

18. Never look down on any gift no matter how small. Little things matter.

19. One step at a time. The to do lists are HUGE. One thing. One step. One day. No more than that. People might not understand everything there is to do. Keep working anyway.

5 Ways to Prepare for Long-Term Overseas Service by TEAM

20. Remember, just as you are willing to be the feet that go, others are willing to be the hands that send. Do not be discouraged. God is leading people to give in His timing. Everything will fall in to place.

21. You are saying goodbye. A lot. But you are also saying hello to new things, new people, new adventures.

22. God has been preparing YOU for this!!! Yes, you! Remember that. Lean on it. Trust Him! How to become a missionary? Ask Jesus to help you get started and go one step at a time.

So every time a phone call goes unreturned or an email unread or a facebook message ignored…

Every time you feel like the pledges and offerings will never increase.

Every time you are overwhelmed as a new overseas worker.

Every time you pack those suitcases for the 5th time that week.

Every time you wonder how to become a missionary and make it through the process.

How to Become a Missionary - 22 Things I'd Tell A NEW Overseas Worker

Every time… Keep going. Move forward. Trust Him.

Live your own overseas journey. Let God do His thing!

What is something you’d tell a new overseas worker?

What advice do you give when someone asks how to become a missionary?




  1. This was so good and eye opening!!! Our family of 4 is planning on Moving to Haiti when our debt is paid off!!! 3 years is our goal and I am thankful to have found your blog!! So many good things and advice and I have just started reading!!! 🙂

  2. I really feel like the Father brought me here today for a reason. I am preparing to go to Ethiopia in April, never having really done any proper form of mission work but also reaching a point where I can no longer deny what God has been saying for years now. Fast forward passed the finally deciding it’s time, the application process, getting accepted, to the first few weeks of fundraising and networking and I feel like a complete mess. I don’t come from a big church or a big support system of believers, with no one to really look to who has gone this route before, and well, it’s left me feeling like I’m walking alone on unknown territory not knowing whats round the corner or even if the way I am doing things is correct, so believe me when I say this came at the right time. I feel like this is where I’ll be spending the rest of my afternoon, delving deep into the God-breathed pieces of advice and wisdom. I’m crying tears of relief to have found someone who has gone before and shares in so much detail. Thank you so much! Soon, I’ll be living in the spout of the teapot 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you were lead here too!! God is so good. Yes, feel free to browse away and ask questions if you need to. I’ll help if I can! God bless you on your journey to Ethiopia. Enjoy that tea!

  3. Thank you, I am not going into full time missions… as of YET who knows what God has planned, but I am leaving on my very first mission trip in 6 weeks. I am excited and looking forward to what God is going to do in Haiti. This list was helpful to me as a single person going and doing what God has asked of me. I am thankful to have run across this list today, it is what I needed to hear as I am facing some fears. Thank you so very much and bless you!

    1. How exciting! 6 weeks is a great time frame to learn and grow and allow God to speak to your heart. I’m so glad this post was helpful to you! Blessings!

  4. A few things I would have done: a) made my budget smaller; b) in my attempt to build a home away from home I’d not build my little American kingdom on earth because now I have the means (let’s face it, lots of missionaries can afford much more overseas than they can back in the US); c) look at the way an average teacher lives and live like that; d) try not to promote myself as the one who’s doing all the sacrificing. There’re lots of people ministering in the States who are sacrificing a lot, we just don’t know them; e) taken off (if I can, but it’s going to be a hard one) the stigma that a missionary is the one who leaves his country to go overseas. An average firefighter who’s doing his work for the Lord or a Christian teacher working in a bad neighborhood is a missionary, too. Or in a good neighborhood, whenever he shares the Good News, whether in word or deed he is a missionary already. Because of this stigma people serving in the States can not get support as churches are accustomed to say, “Well, what kind of missionaries are YOU?” Finally, I would learn a foreign language without the incentive of going on a mission field. We’re too isolated in the US and for some reason we’ve told ourselves that we CAN’T (or don’t need to) learn another language. That’s a shame. Thank you for your post and I hope all goes well for you in Senegal.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I guess we have a little bit of a different view, although I do agree that some of the stigmas need to be talked about. I don’t think our budget could be smaller… life here is just expensive. Everything is expensive. And for the all around health of our missionaries, to live just like the Senegalese isn’t practical, healthy or even expected. In fact, here, they want us to live in a way that contributes to their economy. By us hiring craftsmen for furniture and an electrician for our battery system and so on… this adds to their economy, builds relationships, gives opportunities to get to know local businessmen… the benefits are great. I’m not saying excessive… I’m saying in a way that keeps our family healthy physically and mentally… that is how we will succeed in the long run in a very different culture from our own. Our home is an oasis, a place to be an American family, because we are an American family. It is our differences that allow us to make a greater impact in our community. Our differences open conversations and allow for fun ministry moments we wouldn’t otherwise have! As for sacrificing… I do understand what you are saying. Yet, I also believe firmly in the calling of a missionary. A person who crosses cultural boundaries in every way to bring the gospel to a place that has never before heard, a place that has very little access to other Christians or churches, a place that is far from home. I’m not saying that one is better than the other but I also don’t believe that they are the same. A fireman has an amazing witness in the workplace… but he also goes home to his family, in his language and in his culture. With that said, I do love our home missionaries and those who are called to a specific place (college campus, Native American community…) and we should do what we can to help with their support. But speaking of language, I agree! I believe that Americans should learn more languages! But, for us, the mission field is the driving force behind our desire to learn French and Wolof and Serer.

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I am currently a missionary in Houston, TX and am wrapping up my three months. I only wish I had found this post sooner – maybe then I wouldn’t have wasted three months hoping, wishing, worrying, stressing, etc. But thank you. This.. this was everything I needed to hear. I pray that your missions are beautiful in every way.

    In the blood of the Lamb,

  6. Thank you for this post. I’m 17 years old and I’m planning to go to bible college next year, and eventually become a missionary. This post is encouraging to me and I expect that I will re-read it later when I’m struggling with a different missionary problem. I’m going to follow your blog.

  7. Great article! My wife and I are looking to start deputation in about a year when I finish my masters, then off to Costa Rica! We would love to be in contact with you guys as we all are on our journeys!!

    Clayton and Jodi Watkins

    1. yes, please stay in touch with your journey! looking forward to hearing more about how God is leading you in missions. Thanks for saying hello!!

  8. This made me cry… We are preparing to finish the last phase of our missionary training in 2 weeks, and I am scared at what lies ahead. I really dislike partnership development, upheaval, etc. Add to that, we go to a church where the majority of people have no idea how missionaries are supported. Thank you for your advice; I am printing this out to keep in my Bible as a reminder!

    1. Yes, please print and share and let God use this as an encouragement. I can tell you that I’ll be coming back to read it often myself!! This is a hard job we are doing and we need to encourage each other! Thanks for taking the time to say hello. Have a blast at training!!!

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