We know that choosing to become a missionary is a big decision. It means leaving behind the comforts of life at home and venturing out into the world for Christ!
Of course the whole purpose is to share the gospel with those who’ve never heard it before.
But what about all the practical things that go into life on a missionary outreach? Things like learning to adapt, take a bucket shower, sleep anywhere, and eat anything?
That’s why we wrote this blog. Whether you're considering becoming a missionary, about to do your DTS, or you've been a full-time missionary for years, here's a list of 21 things that all missionaries should know how to do when on outreach. Enjoy!
A missionary's favorite word is flexibility.
Adaptability is key, especially when we're dealing with a different culture and a possible language barrier. Things don't always go quite as planned! One moment you think you're about to have the opportunity to preach the Gospel, and the next thing you know, your host is trying to take you to karaoke.
Maybe you thought you were going to a church to preach, when in reality, they have you outside painting a fence while the service is going on.
Don't be offended! Roll with the punches. You'll face the annoying, the bizarre, and the unexpected, but in between those moments, you'll have incredible times of ministry.
Let's just say that there might not be a toilet (or toilet paper) everywhere you go. Time to get creative! And don't forget to keep your hand sanitizer on you at all times.
Not everyone in the world has access to running water, and even in some places where they do, bucket showers are still the norm.
So when you get to your next outreach location and you see a big barrel of water in the corner of the bathroom—yes, that’s how you’ll be cleaning yourself for the next few weeks.
Just in case there’s not even an option for a bucket shower, baby wipes are an excellent substitute. You have to stay clean somehow! Baby wipes also come in handy when needing to wipe down dirty surfaces like before or after mealtimes.
Some cultures may not say as much with words, but your actions will speak loudly. This means it’s crucial for you to think about what you might be communicating above and beyond your words, especially if words tend to be your main/cultural form of communication.
Try to observe what the people around you are doing. For example, does the host who serves your team’s dinner always wait until you’re done eating before she eats? Do the people in your host nation always greet one another with a kiss, while in your home country the people don’t even shake hands? You can learn so much from just watching!
There are few ways to feel more like a local than to wear their traditional clothes. Whether it's an Indian sari or a traditional Mexican huipil (tunic dress), dressing like the locals shows that you're interested in and respectful of their culture.
It might even open the door to sharing the gospel with someone who wouldn't otherwise talk to such a strange-looking foreigner!
What’s something you can find in nearly every corner of the planet? That’s right—mosquitos. While gearing up with pants and long sleeves will help you, that’s not always going to work when it’s 45°C with 100% humidity.
Instead of bug spray, opt for cream insect repellent instead. It guarantees more coverage than aerosol sprays, and will save you from lots of itchy bug bites!
A water bottle is an essential missionary item. Make sure to always drink purified water, and lots of it! The last thing you need is to get weak and dehydrated.
Also, try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables whenever you can, and be wise about the snacks you choose. Pack lots of vitamin C to boost your immune system. You’re going to need that energy!
Speaking of sleeping, learning to sleep anywhere is a must-have skill when you’re a missionary. Remember your hosts are probably going to show you as much hospitality as they can, but that looks different for everyone.
You could end up sleeping on a bamboo mat, in a hammock, on a plane, in a tent, on a cold church floor, and sometimes, believe it or not, in a 5-star hotel. Regardless of where you find yourself, being able to sleep anywhere is guaranteed to come in handy!
You might get to an outreach location and your hosts literally place your bed in your hands—a hammock! This is where knowing how to properly hang a hammock comes in handy. Someone nearby will probably be able to help, but in case not, just make sure to pick the strongest trees!
Camping! Sounds fun, right? Well to make your “sleeping in a tent” experience the best one possible, you should probably pack a travel sleeping mat—just in case you end up on a tent floor somewhere. An air mattress is probably too much to pack around with you.
Ah, and wearing socks inside the tent will help keep your feet clean so you don’t get any dirt inside your sleeping bag!
In a river, in the bathtub, in a pot over the fire—you get the idea. Washing machines are a luxury item that few people in the world have access to. Who knows? You might even enjoy washing your clothes by hand.
While you’re at it with the practical skills, why not know how to start a campfire? As a missionary you never really know what living conditions you’ll end up with. Knowing how to start a campfire may come in handy for keeping warm, purifying water (by boiling it), or roasting marshmallows after a long day of ministry.
If you’re blessed enough to be staying in a location with hot water, that’s great! However, chances are you’ll need to know how to light the boiler to gain access to that hot water.
Some boilers automatically turn on when you turn on the tap, but every so often you’ll have to venture outside to the boiler and manually light it! It’s not hard to learn, but definitely a skill you’ll want to pick up early in your missionary adventures!
Yes, we agree that saving water is something that everyone should do. But what about when you have to save water because if you don’t, you actually, you know, run out of water? Learning to shut the faucet off when you’re brushing your teeth is a great place to start!
Everyone likes to eat, right? How about learning how to cook the local delicacy? Or reflecting the servanthood of Jesus by helping the person preparing your meal?
So much love, care, and sacrifice goes into the work people put in to host missionaries, so learning how to make yourself useful in the kitchen could go a long way!
When you join missions, you learn how common it is to not “have” a dishwasher, but to actually “be” a dishwasher! Just like the meal prep times, meal cleanup times are just as important and a great opportunity to serve in a practical way.
Even if your outreach host insists on cleaning up, make sure you get in there and show love in a practical way!
There may come a time when you have to swallow your food, smile at your host, and gush about how delicious it was, even when you have no idea what you just ate.
Conditions can change quickly on the mission field—one day you could be eating the best, home-cooked meal you've ever had, and the next, you're trying to choke down iguana.
No matter the circumstances, you must be gracious. And who knows? If you go in with an open mind, iguana could end up being your new favorite meal.
From Taiwan to Japan, Guatemala to Hawaii, rice is a universal food. Knowing how to make the perfect, fluffy rice will automatically give you an in with the locals. You never know where you’ll end up—and rice might be your only option.
There’s no question that missionary work will keep you busy. Preaching, teaching, serving, cooking, cleaning, worship, studying, planning, praying, discipling, you name it. Put all these things together and you’ve got yourself a full plate! It’s just as important to learn how to rest.
Resting doesn’t necessarily mean “not doing anything” or “avoiding work at all costs”. But it does mean finding those things in life that recharge your batteries, help you disconnect from the busyness of daily life, and pressing deeper into your relationship with Jesus.
Maybe it’s a day at the beach, a Sunday brunch with close friends, or naps on a Saturday afternoon. Whatever it is, make sure you’re learning how to care for yourself in the midst of caring for others around you!
Missionaries are used to giving up their rights, and one of those rights usually has to do with having your own living space. Communal living means you’re subject to your roommates sleeping habits, so you’ll discover quickly who the snorers are.
Pack some earplugs and get to sleep first before the snoring makes it hard to get some rest! Besides, you’re going to need the extra shut-eye for your next big day of ministry.
So there you have it: 21 things that will help you thrive when you’re on your missionary outreach!
If you think you have what it takes to become a missionary, why not sign up for one of our Discipleship Training Schools and start your journey in missions today!
Whether you’re a short-term or long-term missionary, remember that it's always important to take time to prepare, gather the right equipment, and be flexible. You never know where God might call you next!
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