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How to Become a Missionary

Updated on January 13, 2017
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about American life, holidays, politics and other topics. She has written hundreds of articles for online & print publications.

Missionaries provide service to others

Humanitarian and church missions extend helping hands across the water and span boundaries.
Humanitarian and church missions extend helping hands across the water and span boundaries. | Source

Serving a mission in a foreign country

Have you ever thought about volunteering your time to serve a mission in another country?

There are many opportunities to serve people in disadvantaged countries, either through humanitarian service, medical service or spiritual outreach.

While many 'missions' are affiliated with churches, not all are church-related opportunities.

It's true, though, that many church groups of all faiths will organize and send volunteers to other countries for various periods of time.

Here are some ways you can volunteer for this type of service:

What do missionaries do?

This thatched roof is typical of the type that is often replaced during a mission in an overseas country.
This thatched roof is typical of the type that is often replaced during a mission in an overseas country. | Source

Humanitarian missions in foreign countries

One of the most needed and popular ways to serve a mission is to volunteer for a Humanitarian Mission in another country.

These missions are organized to send groups (ranging from a dozen or so people to perhaps 30 or more) to help improve the infrastructure and housing in third-world countries.

Often, the missions last only one week (a small amount of time, but a lot can be accomplished with many willing hands!). This makes the time commitment doable for those who work and have only a week or two of vacation available.

While there, your group will probably donate time in such things as helping a community capture and purify water (to protect them from disease), pouring cement floors in huts that have dirt flooring, venting fireplaces to rid the dwellings of smoke, and installing metal roofing to help avoid diseases caused by parasites and insects that often set up camp in thatched roofing.


If you speak the language of the area, you might also help in their local school, or help with medical screenings.

Angel Relief Missions in Africa

How to find short-term missionary opportunities

Many churches have missionaries stationed in foreign countries across the globe, but they are often assigned there long-term and spend their careers in this service.

However, some opportunities are available for shorter periods of time, for humanitarian, medical and also religion-based missions. Many churches that send volunteers to help with infrastructure needs also offer worship services or Bible studies to the villages they serve.

There are a number of church-related mission programs through such operations as Baptist Medical & Dental Mission International and organizations serving specific countries, such as mission needs in Honduras or other areas.

If you're interested in doing mission work in another country and would like to do it in a church atmosphere, check with your local church leaders to see what opportunities are there. You can also sometimes volunteer for week-long missions through a church in which you have friends or relatives.

Video on how medical missions are organized

Medical missions in Third-World Countries

Many of us have seen heart-wrenching stories of doctors, nurses, dentists and other medical professionals donating their time to help those in other countries.

There is always a great demand for skilled health workers to travel to other countries to perform surgeries, screen for common disorders, give immunizations, offer dental care and to provide all the other medical services we take for granted.

In many cases, the area in which medical missionaries serve sets aside that entire week to refer persons of all age groups for care, since it might be the only time in their lives (certainly the only time that year) that they can get vision care, dentistry, help for chronic diseases and other assistance.

Although the majority of the mission team will be medically qualified, there is also a need for translators to help communicate to the local residents. You do not need to have a medical background for that role (although some basic knowledge is helpful), you simply need a good enough grasp of the language to communicate between the doctor, dentist or nurse and the patient.

Persons who serve in Medical Missions literally transform the lives of those they touch. Often, they screen and discover health issues that can result in blindness, shortened lives or other poor outcomes.

You'll work long and hard hours, but you will feel a sense of accomplishment and you'll go home knowing you made a difference in someone's life.


What Do You Think About Missionary Service?

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Personal missionary experience

Several years ago, I did a weeklong humanitarian mission in Honduras through a church in my area. The church organized volunteers for a period of years to travel to a small village in Honduras and pour concrete floors, install tin roofing and help in their school.

Naturally, it would have been nearly impossible for a church based in the United States to independently locate and coordinate with a place to serve. So the church went through one of the organizations serving in Honduras, which had a great program in place to help church groups provide service.

The organization provided dorm space on a ranch (which they developed) in a remote area of Honduras that did not even have paved roads. They provided safe food for us, bunk beds (a dorm for women, and a dorm for men) and transportation to one of the dozens of villages in their mountainous area that needed help.

Each day, we rode in the open bed of a Korean War vintage Army truck, literally bouncing over the rocks, across the mountain, to the tiny village we served. The people were wonderful - so happy for the help, excited to have us as 'visitors,' and very loving.

It was back-breaking and exhausting work, but well-worth the time and money. As with most volunteer missions, you pay your own way in many cases. So I had to pay for airfare and the food, lodging and local transportation. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

It was a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Anyone who has ever thought of helping others through a mission should investigate opportunities. You will not regret giving of your time in that type of service.

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

    That's a great sentiment, Aesta! When people serve others as a fulltime calling, you can tell their hearts are in it. Thanks for commenting here. I agree - missionaries deserve our admiration!

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    We work in many countries and always try to do good when we live there but I admire the many people who volunteer their time and skills to make life better for people.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Blossom! Thanks for your kind comments here! Yes - missionary work is incredibly rewarding. I feel so honored to have served or helped others, even in a small way. I hope those who are interested will look into it.

  • BlossomSB profile image

    Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

    A really good article that may be helpful, especially to young people who would like to serve God overseas for a short term, but are not sure how to go about it. It's really worthwhile, but it needs the right motivation, too.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Sis! What a story! I know people used to freely travel to Cuba, but not for years. Your cousin had a unique experience that may never be offered again - and certainly not with the underprivileged situation they served. Our village in Honduras was very primitive, too - I feel so blessed to have had that opportunity. Thanks so much for sharing about your cousin's experience!

  • Angela Blair profile image

    Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

    Excellent article. My only association with anyone who has served in the mission field is my cousin, her husband and two grown sons went to Cuba for several years (this was some years back) and served for a couple of weeks each summer. As the kids grew up and had jobs my cousin and her husband continued to go and apparently it was pretty primitive duty in remote areas. Their last trip resulted in the Cuban government saying they were trying to indoctrinate the Cuban citizens with American ideas and it was only through some fancy footwork by our American officials that this couple stayed out of a Cuban jail. Obviously, they've not returned to Cuba -- although they felt blessed by their work there -- but have accepted work in other countries without incident. Thanks for all your great information and direction as to service in the missionary field. Best/Sis

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