The following article is written by K, a current student of the Our Generation Training Center:
Preparing For Missions, Lessons Learned From An OGTC Student
What preparation does a missionary need to have before he sets off to the mission field? What skills does he need to focus on learning? While I am not an expert, as I am still training for missions myself, I do want to share with you a few lessons that I have learned being an OGTC student preparing for ministry. I hope that you will be able to learn from my mistakes. First, I will tell you about what I thought was important to learn and then I will tell you what I found to be important to learn in preparation for ministry.
What I thought!
To function as a missionary, you have to be able to talk the language of the people you are trying to minister to. There is no way around it. It is absolutely necessary! Unfortunately, however, many people like myself make this the first step in their preparation. They think, “I want to be a missionary, so the first thing I need to do is to learn the language of the place that I want to go.” Instead of learning how to do ministry, before reading their Bible through, instead of taking Bible classes; people will try to learn French at the university or take Spanish lessons from a friend. I remember the time when I got back from a long mission trip to Brazil and planned to go back there full time as a missionary. I was ready to get to work preparing. So what did I do? Me, who needed tons of Bible teaching and ministry experience, instead of going to a place where I could get that, went and worked at a canola vegetable oil refinery where I knew some Brazilian friends. What a bad idea! It didn`t work out. Instead of getting time practicing Portuguese with my friends, I spent hour after hour cleaning up oil spill after oil spill. It was horrible. Don`t make my mistake. There will be a time for language school. You will study the language when you get to the field. That is the best way to learn it. Spend time now getting the other preparation that you need.
2. Life skills:
I had the opportunity to spend a few months in one of the least populated states in Brazil, and many of the rural roads were nothing more than “tracks” in the rain forest. Even the paved roads were not good. As you can imagine, cars would constantly have “problems” I thought,
“Wow! It sure would be handy as a missionary to be able to know everything about cars and be able to fix the problems that they have. Maybe I could even witness to people as I help them with their car problems. When I get back to the States, I am going to buy some old junkers and get good at fixing them because that is something I need to learn in preparation for the mission field.”
So, I did just that. I bought an 89 Honda Accord, a 93 Toyota Camry, and then an 87 Honda Accord. I learned a whole bunch and spent a lot of frustrating time fixing those cars. I started to grow tired of it. One time was especially bad. My brother and I spent three days pulling the motor out of the Camry, fixing a seal, and putting it back together. We got the motor put back in and surprise, surprise it still didn`t work right. I learned something through all the frustration: learning how to fix cars doesn`t help one become a good missionary. I quickly realized that I could spend my time doing more profitable things rather than spend hours trying to loosen some dumb bolt on a car. Having mechanical skills is a great thing, but it is not what a missionary spends his time doing. A missionary preaches the Gospel. That is why he raises support, so that he can pay someone to fix his car while he keeps doing the ministry. I could spend the whole day fixing a car, or I could spend it doing the work of the ministry. Often you may have a skill that you are interested in or perhaps an area you are talented in and you want to spend time studying that. You hope that you can use it as a missionary one day. Maybe it is business, computer programming, or medical skills, but whatever it is, here is what you have to realize. A lost person can do all those jobs. You can be just as successful of a missionary not knowing those skills as you can knowing them. Don`t waste your time of preparation learning things that won`t directly help you in the calling God has for you.
These are simply lessons that I have learned. The things I focused on were good things, but they were not the most important things that a student preparing for missions should focus on in his time of training. I picked the wrong things to worry about, but there are things that I need to work on. I would like to share with you two areas of training that I believe everyone training for ministry should be concerned about.
What I found Out!
You need to learn the Bible. At the OG training center, I have been constantly challenged to get into the Bible. I am challenged to read it numerous times. I am challenged to memorize it. I am challenged to do Bible word studies. All of this is a great encouragement. Often in my teenage years, I would think about going to some Bible Institute or College so that I could learn more about the Bible. A good idea except for the fact that I was barely reading the Bible each day. I wasn`t becoming familiar with it like I should have. You will only be more tomorrow of what you are today. I needed to be reading lots of the Bible instead of thinking about studying it one day. As a missionary, you need to know your Bible. It is our only rule of faith and practice which means that no matter what man says, the Bible is the word of God and is only source of truth that we build our lives on. You will not be able to rely on famous preachers to give you the truth, but you must find out what does the Bible say? A missionary builds his life around trying to follow God`s book and teach its truth to others. How are you going to follow and teach the truth if you have never read the only source of it? You can learn all about how to adapt to the culture. You can learn how to win friends and get people to come listen to you preach. You can learn the language, but if you do not have any truth to teach them after you do all that, then you haven`t got anywhere. That is why you need to learn as much of you can of the Bible.
You need to practice doing ministry. More than reading books about how to do ministry, you need to practice it. Ministry on the mission field is not going to be much different than ministry here in the United States. It may seem easy to teach a Bible study, get new people into church, lead people to the Lord, disciple people etc., but it is much more difficult than you think. It is one thing to think that you know how to do all those things; it is another actually to do them. I am learning this each and every day. I have benefited greatly from doing ministry. Lately, I have been able to teach Thursday night children`s church, head up outreach on Saturday mornings, lead a Friday night Bible study, etc. I am in no way an expert. I feel like I am just starting out, but I have learned that this is very important. Don`t just talk about doing things, but find a way somehow to get your feet wet.
I am not an expert. I am still learning every day as I prepare for missions. There are hundreds of things I still need to learn, but I do know that if you can learn your Bible inside and out. If you can start doing ministry where you are at, then you have a head start on your way to being a missionary. As an OGTC student, if you are planning to take a similar path and train for ministry, then I encourage you to focus on these things.