Question about Guidance for missionaries:

"How can I prepare for missions when others try to discourage me?"

"Listen, be patient, read the Psalms."

Answer from Jack Voelkel, missionary-in-residence with the Urbana Student Mission Convention; originally published on the Urbana website. Previously Jack served thirty years with Latin America Mission in Peru and Columbia. Find other answers and articles from Jack and others on the Urbana blog.

It is not surprising that the enemy might want to dissuade you, and sometimes he even uses those around us. The way to defeat him is not to rail against individuals but to call on the name of the Lord, ask for his protection, claim his armor (Ephesians 6), and trust him to make "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:29).

The Scripture says that "faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Proverbs 27:6). Listen carefully to the criticisms of your detractors, even if they come across as harsh. Their criticisms may contain some truth. Ask older, wise friends to help you understand what you should learn from what you're hearing others say. People often don't say things to our faces because they lack the courage; therefore they talk behind our backs. However, we still need to learn from their words. None of us is perfect, and the Lord uses many different types of experiences to shape us.

Above all, ask the Lord for patience. Perhaps the Lord is preparing you for missionary service through this experience. You will suffer far worse opportunities for discouragement once you get involved in cross-cultural missionary activity! Staying humble, not talking back, learning from criticism, and placing this situation before the Lord are powerful means of spiritual growth.

Spend time reading the Psalms. Note how the psalmist experienced attack after attack, even from his closest friends.

"Look beyond concerns for safety and short-term effectiveness."

Answer from Greg, who has served in mission for more than thirty years and currently serves with Anda Leadership, an affiliate of Allegro Organizational Solutions.

Recently a Christian organization in a war-torn nation pursued me to fill a certain position. When we told trusted friends about the opportunity, the universal response was negative. Even though I faithfully shared the strategic value of representing Christ in that place at this time, not one counselor encouraged us to go for it. I was disappointed with my friends' advice.

My dissenting friends fell into two categories: those concerned for our safety and those who disagree regarding the strategic opportunity.

Those who were fearful on our behalf were motivated by love for us. But I urged them to remember the people who live there - people who have figured out how to live lives that are normal for them. They have learned to adapt to their circumstances. Thousands of expatriates have also figured out how to achieve levels of "normal." Just as in Chicago, New York, and L.A., they learn to take precautions. By no means is it assumed that our heads would have been whacked off within two weeks of our arrival as my mother feared.

More importantly, we are not motivated by safety. We don't expect to always be in safe circumstances. Sometimes God calls us to risk and even lose our lives for the sake of the gospel. We were willing to accept the risks in that country if that was where the Lord called us to serve.

To those who disagreed that the opportunity was strategic, I acknowledged that it was a place of "hard soil." However, maybe it is hard because God's ambassadors have failed to adequately work it. If we continue to under-resource the work in that part of the world, it probably will continue to appear unresponsive. Shouldn't we go there to prepare the way for the Lord?

I know my friends meant well as they discouraged us from pursuing this ministry opportunity, but my perspective was different.

"Discouragement is a part of life."

Answer from Denis Shuker in New Zealand, a recruiter and sender with OMS International.

We live in a fallen world, and things like discouragement happen. This is true for all of us. The key is to stay close to Jesus Christ. Spend quality and quantity time reading his Word and praying and waiting on him – communicating with our commander in chief.

Part of the problem is often low self esteem, also a result of our fallen world. Deal with childhood issues. We all have some of these. See a Christian counselor if necessary, and learn to trust Jesus in everything and for everything no matter how dark the path may seem.

Pray in the name of Jesus against Satan and his hosts, commanding him to leave you. Not all discouragement is from our enemy. But it's good to pray against this possibility, and it's good to put him in his place.

Call upon the Lord and spend time praising him. Ask for strength and peace and joy that only he brings. And may the God of peace be with you.

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