For many, the idea of serving on the mission field is daunting and too full of unknowns to even give it a second thought. With this in mind, GMI has created a list of FAQs about becoming and serving as a missionary with us. It might just get you thinking more about missions as you realize some of those tough questions are not that tough after all.
1. Am I qualified to serve as a missionary with GMI?
If you are reading these FAQs you may very well meet the first requirement—that you have a desire to become a missionary (1 Timothy 3:1). Going beyond the desire, do you have a God-honoring Christian testimony at home, at church, or in the community? Another requirement is that you agree with GMI’s doctrinal statement which you can find HERE. GMI also requires U.S. missionary candidates to have a college degree and the equivalent of a year of biblical education.
2. How do I know if God wants me to be a missionary?
It is interesting that as Paul writes Timothy about the qualifications to be a pastor, the first thing Paul writes is, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). So, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you desire the good work of serving the Lord in a foreign country as a missionary. If this is your desire, and you are qualified, go for it! As part of this process, you should ask the Lord to help you search your heart to determine if this is what you really desire and if you are qualified according to His standards found in His Word. Also, ask other mature Christians who know you and understand missions what they think. The Creator God made us in His own image. He designed us with the ability to be creative just as He is. It brings honor to Him, as it would for any good Father, for us to develop and grow in our passions and desires to serve Him. The reality is there are many ways we can do this. Mission work is an excellent way to present ourselves as living sacrifices unto the Lord (Romans 12:1).
3. What are some options to receive further biblical education and training?
It is not uncommon for a person to meet all the qualifications to become a missionary, but to be lacking the requisite biblical or theological education. GMI would recommend you look into institutions such as Grace Bible College or the Berean Bible Institute. In fact, GMI offers a scholarship to both of these schools. You can learn more about these scholarship opportunities by clicking HERE.
4. Do I have the gifts and talents necessary to serve as a missionary?
One way to answer this question is to step back and ask, “What am I doing right now in my local church or in other ministries where the Lord is using me to serve Him effectively?” Serving the Lord as a Christian is not a vocation, but it is our calling (Ephesians 4:1). Typically, those ministries we are doing in the local church are the kinds of ministries we can also do on the mission field. Having said that, many people, from a variety of vocational backgrounds, have become missionaries by using the skills and talents they have learned to spread the gospel and support the ministry on a particular field. They have combined their skills with their passion to share with others the gospel of Jesus Christ to create new and innovative ways to reach the lost.
5. What about taking my kids on the mission field? What are the schooling options?
By all means, take your kids! In all seriousness, our missionary kids are some of the most talented, well-rounded, service-oriented, God-honoring individuals you would find in any church anywhere. Serving together with your family on a daily basis on the mission field is one of the most incredible blessings your family will ever experience. You learn to depend on each other as you watch God do some amazing things!
Your kids will get to learn another language, become familiar with other cultures, and greatly expand his or her view of the world and what the Lord is doing in it. Many missionaries home school their children. There are vast resources of homeschooling curriculum available to parents including a wealth of online materials. Other families place their children in private schools or boarding schools where they typically interact with children from other cultures on a daily basis. The life of a missionary kid is rich with life-forming experiences.
6. How does fundraising work?
Once you are accepted as a missionary candidate with GMI, we will walk you through the fundraising process. Your faith will be stretched, but you will continue to be humbled and amazed by the ones the Lord will raise up to join your support team. At first it seems daunting, but at the end you will be able to look back and see how the Lord has provided.
The GMI Home Office sets the budget for the missionary candidate. This includes a monthly budget and a budget for one-time setup costs upon arrival on the field. One hundred percent of a missionary’s budget should be raised prior to leaving for the field. There are many different ways to promote your need. Initially, you will create a mailing list which should include 200+ family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who may very well be interested in your overseas ministry. You will write an initial letter explaining the desire God has placed on your heart to serve with GMI on the mission field. The Executive Director of GMI will accompany your letter with a letter he writes explaining your financial need and how folks can join your team. GMI will take care of sending out your mailing. Aside from this initial letter, you and the Executive Director will write and send a few more letters before your departure date letting people know where you stand financially, how the Lord has provided so far, and how much more you need. You will also want to consider email and other social media as a way to communicate your need and provide an opportunity for people to give. GMI would also provide text and links which you can insert into these social media updates to make it easier for folks to join the effort to get you to the field.
Another part of fundraising is visiting churches and sharing your needs with congregations across the U.S. GMI’s Director of Field Operations will schedule you to visit churches with which we have a relationship. Also, you will likely know of churches through family members or friends who would invite you to share with their church your burden and financial need.
Meeting with small groups or with individuals to explain your support goals and how they can invest in your ministry is another effective way to raise support.
Typically, fundraising takes a year to a year and a half after acceptance by the GMI Board as a missionary candidate.
7. Do I have to raise my own salary? What all is included in the support package?
When the GMI Home Office sets your monthly budget, this will include items such as a monthly stipend, funds for retirement, health insurance, ministry funds, rent, education costs for your children, taxes, and funds set aside for your periodic home assignment. This monthly budget is what you will raise as you write letters, visit churches, and meet with folks to share your burden to serve as a missionary.
8. What is the role of my home church?
It is a privilege and a blessing for a church to send one of its own as a missionary. It generates excitement about missions and helps the church understand how it can have a global impact. At the same time, becoming a sending church might be relatively uncharted waters for a church which is new at this. We have produced THIS document to give your church a better idea of the ways it can get behind you as your sending church.
9. What about health care?
Part of your monthly support budget includes a line item for health insurance. All health care procured overseas is covered 100%! Any health care provided in the States is subject to a deductible.
10. Where can I serve? Would GMI assign me to a country or do I decide where I’d like to serve?
Ultimately, the decision of where you would serve is up the GMI Board. However, we want to know where you want to serve and where the Lord has burdened you. Many potential missionary candidates come to us with an idea of where they would like to serve. Others would like our recommendation. The bottom line is that we want to work with you in order to determine where the best place for you and your family would be to serve taking all factors into consideration. You can also take a look GMI’s missionary needs around the world by clicking HERE.
Depending on previous missionary experience, education, and/or the field you are going to, GMI may offer different kinds of pre-field training and orientations which could include cultural adaptation, church planting, evangelism, etc. While the GMI Home Office provides its own agency-specific orientation regarding its procedures, expectations, policies and philosophy of ministry, there are other organizations which conduct orientations touching topics and areas of ministry which we believe will be beneficial for the missionary candidate.
More likely than not, you will have to learn another language. In order to communicate effectively in the ministry, build relationships, and conduct day-to-day transactions, you will have to learn the local language which is almost always something other than English. Fortunately, there are language schools and tutors in or near the countries where GMI is working. Depending on the language and your prior knowledge of the language, language school can take up to a year to complete. Even after language school is over, you never stop learning!
You can do either. Both have advantages and both singles and married individuals have successfully served on our fields. A lot will also depend on the kind of ministry you would like to do on the field.
Ideally, you want to be debt free, but this is not always possible. Recent college graduates often face this conundrum. Depending on the amount of debt, it is possible to restructure your support package so that you can pay off your debt. For example, instead of investing in an IRA, these funds along with a portion of your stipend could go to pay off your student loan with the goal of retiring it within ten years.
Locally, the missionary is answerable to the Field Director who is one of your co-workers serving on the field. In addition to the Field Director, GMI’s Director of Field Operations works out of the Home Office overseeing and interacting with the missionaries regarding their day-to-day ministries. The Executive Director of GMI, among other things, is charged with leading the mission to accomplish its overall strategic initiatives and goals. Ultimately, the GMI Board is the governing authority over all mission activities.
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Grand Rapids, MI 49509