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Preparing for the mission field

God took me down a long, meandering path of preparation as he led me to become a missionary. That included attending a mission-minded church as a child and a short-term trip to Southeast Asia.

At my childhood church I developed friendships and role-models who were to be important as I pursued God’s call to mission. One of those was a couple involved with The Leprosy Mission (TLM). When I applied to go on a short-term trip with OMF I wrote to them to tell them how God seemed to be leading me. They were excited and advised me to read missionary biographies, to pray for missionaries, and to go to mission-minded events.

That year, 1993, as I applied for this short-term trip, I had to start to tell people what I was doing. Mission trips weren’t as popular in the ’90s as they are now. Telling people I was going on a mission trip was a little bit like admitting I had an infectious disease. People seemed to treat me differently.

Another step was telling my parents about my plans.

During the short-term trip I discovered that missionaries struggle and that they are ordinary. It was a study tour, so we were given assignments and responsibilities. We gave presentations to the team, read books, and told our stories. We also wrote prayer letters. All these contributed to my understand of, and preparation for one day being a missionary myself.

I went on the trip asking, “Am I called to be a missionary?” and anticipated a lightning-bolt answer, but it simply didn’t happen. In fact, I came away certain that I never wanted to live in that particular part of Southeast Asia! The biggest surprise of the five weeks was learning more about myself.

The first six-months after the trip were bad. I struggled with a full-time practical placement for my university course. I suddenly hated my church and felt isolated. In the midst of this, mission seemed a long way away. I became consumed with finishing my course and worry about what I’d do after graduation.

Fast forward to a year later and I had a job, but it was a lonely job in a small town. I was the only Occupational Therapist for a large rural area and I lived alone. I was also the only young adult in the church I attended.

In my last post I wrote about the next part of the journey: not wanting to be a single missionary, dating my husband, God’s leading via a missions conference.

As a part of our application to OMF we had be assessed by psychologist. That also taught me many helpful things about myself. I also took up cross-stitching as a result of that assessment: a stress-management strategy that’s proved valuable.

Our nearly two-years of deputation (January 1999-October 2000) prior to leaving for Japan were preparation too. In 1999, my husband, David, worked full-time as a teacher, and our first child was also born. In addition to all of this we were working on raising support. We visited churches telling them about Japan and our call. This nearly pulled our marriage apart and at the end of the year David quit his job to give more time to visiting churches. That year he only took on substitute teaching work. For that whole year we had to rely on God for all our finances, for a place to have a holiday, for churches to visit, aeroplane fares, etc. We learned a lot about trusting God that year.

Looking back, it wasn’t me who took most of the steps to prepare, it was God who led me through various life-experiences and taught me much as a result.

The next post is about the process God led me through during our first four years in Japan to lead me into my current ministry.

Wendy is an Australian who has been in Japan with OMF since 2000. She’s married to David who teaches maths and science at the Christian Academy in Japan. She’s an editor and writer. In this nine-part series she answers searching questions about her experience of life and ministry as a missionary.

Read all the posts in the series:

Missionary Calling

How did God call you to mission?

Preparing for the mission field

How did God lead you into your current ministries?

What’s your ministry in Japan?

My experience of culture shock

What’s difficult about living in Japan?

How do you maintain spiritual zeal?

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