“I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.” These words were famously said by William Carey before he set sail for India. No successful missionary goes overseas alone, for behind him stretches a line of men and women who are “holding the rope.”
The second skill you need to develop, to prepare for overseas missions among the unreached, is developing partners (To see the first skill—training in godliness—click here). Specifically, there are two categories of partnerships that need to be developed. First, you need to develop stateside partners, and second, you need to develop partners on the other side of the world."Specifically, there are two categories of partnerships that need to be developed. First, you need to develop stateside partners, and second, you need to develop partners on the other side of the world." -One Link International… Click To Tweet
Developing Stateside Partners for Overseas Missions
There are three different types of stateside partners that need to be developed.
I do not claim to fully understand prayer, but I do know that prayer moves the heart of God in ways that nothing else does. By developing a team of people who will pray for you, pray for your trip, and pray for those you will meet and share the gospel with, you will exponentially increase the fruit of the work that you go to do.
It is not hard to get people to say they will pray for you. The hard thing to do is to get them to actually pray. I do not know why, as Americans, prayer is so hard for us. However, I find that it’s true of myself and almost everyone I know.
Tell Stories to Your Prayer Partners
In order for your prayer partners to successfully pray for you, they need to be able to see and understand what you’re doing. It’s very hard to pray for an unknown, unnamed, unreached people group. It is much easier to pray for somebody they can see and someone they can connect with emotionally. I recommend sharing stories to help do this. Give them a picture of what it feels like to be lost and separated from God, to be caught in the snare of “the thief who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” Give them a glimpse into the joys you feel, as well as the pain.
People in sales have long known that people make decisions based on their emotions rather than on logic. While it’s nice to present statistics and what it takes to finish the task, this will not help your people engage in prayer. You must connect with your people emotionally so that they may better pray for you.
Send Stories to Your Prayer Partners
From a pure logistical standpoint, you need some method of delivering your prayer requests regularly to those who pray for you. This can be considerably complicated by security measures when you work in countries where missionaries are not allowed. Your host overseas or training organizations, such as OneLink International, can help you navigate these concerns in a way that protects you, the long-term overseas workers, and the local believers.
The two easiest ways to share prayer requests from overseas are to use email through a program designed to send mass emails, such as MailChimp, or to communicate through a trusted intermediary who will take your information and distribute it. The second method is great for short term summer teams.
The second kind of partner you need to develop in the States is your financial partners. These are the people who will support your ministry and help fundraise for your trip. Often, there will be overlap between your prayer partners and your financial partners. Those who are willing to support you financially will be some of the people who pray for you the most.
I know very few people who like raising funds, but it is a great exercise in faith and a powerful way to see God work in your life. To my knowledge, in nearly 30 years, we have never had a student not be able to go because they couldn’t raise funds. For short-term trips, sending support letters and setting up face-to-face meetings with people you know are usually the place to start.
The nuts and bolts of ministry fundraising for longer-term missions would make another post series in and of themselves, but your sending agency should have resources to equip you. You can also utilize resources like the book Funding Your Ministry or the organization Fully Funded Academy.
The final kind of partner you need in the States is a training partner. It is no small task to go overseas and try to share the Gospel with people in a second language, across another culture. It’s even harder to go to places that don’t allow missionaries. To do your task well, you need somebody who’s gone before you to train you and help jumpstart your journey. OneLink International specializes in doing that through our simulations based training.
Developing these three kinds of stateside partners will build a foundation for you that God may very well use later in your life. These are the people who will pray for you and support you as you do ministry, whether that’s on this side of the ocean or the other.
Developing Overseas Missions Partners
Screening and developing partners overseas differs slightly. While there are ways you can do this individually, it is much better for your campus ministry or church to develop this partnership. This involves developing a new network rather than going through the network of people you already know.
One of the things we have discovered over time is that great missionaries don’t always make great team builders. Some people can forge a new trail as pioneers but don’t do well at mentoring and discipling those who come after them. When you go overseas, you want to go to a partner who will develop you and train you in the work there. Thus, it is crucial to find a partner who can effectively equip you for that specific overseas work. A marker of that would be if they have a strategic purpose and training plan for your team.
It’s important for a church or ministry to develop a strategic relationship with a long-term overseas partner. Every place in the world has lost people and desperate needs. But some places have NO access to the gospel. We would encourage, exhort, and implore you to go to places with less access to the gospel.
In the mid-1990s, Luis Bush, an Argentinian-born missionary strategist, coined a term called the 10/40 window. This term refers to a geographical region between 10 degrees South and 40 degrees North latitude from Africa to Japan. It is considered to be the most unreached area in the world in terms of Christian evangelism. OneLink International was born out of college ministries that wanted to send their students to regions just like this, and we’ve been doing so for nearly 30 years.
Image credit joshuaproject.net
Mutual Benefit of Long-term Partnerships
Maybe you’re a student reading this, and your church or ministry doesn’t have this kind of strategic partnership. You can be the catalyst for your college ministry or church to build long-term sending partnerships to an unreached place. Meet with your campus missionary or pastor. Show them this article. And start praying for God to reveal the people and place He wants you to partner with.
There is so much gained by sending people to the same partner, in the same place, year after year. It changes the dynamic of your ministry when a team from your ministry goes to one place and comes back all together with shared stories and experiences. Just like the best person to reach a college student is a college student, the best person to recruit a college student for a summer trip is a student who went on the same trip the summer before. When a new person comes into your ministry and finds that everyone they meet has been to Central Asia, it builds a culture that says, “this is a normal experience of people who are in this ministry.”
For the campus ministry, it’s strategic to know that your students are being used to fulfill the Great Commission around the world and important to know that you are sending to a partner who will partner with you in discipling your students to grow as followers and devoted members of the Kingdom of God.
For the overseas partner, it is vitally important and strategic to know that every year they’re going to get a well-trained, discipled team that will faithfully pour time and energy into their task. These people are the best audience for them to cast vision to and the best pool from which they can recruit to come back as two to three-year journeymen and women.
The Harvest is Plentiful
Each year, OneLink International has more overseas hosts who would like a team than what we can supply. It is not surprising, because Luke 10:2 says,
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
We would ask you to do just that. Pray with us, that out of Missouri college students God would raise up and send out laborers into His harvest field.
In our next article, we’ll talk about a key skill you need in order to successfully serve overseas—living and sharing the good news cross-culturally.