Developing Sent Ones: Their Stories, Part Three

Interview by Andy Jansen

This series of interviews zooms in on the development stage of the Sending Church Pipeline. Developing Sent Ones is one of the indispensable Sending Church Elements for being a healthy sending church. At Upstream we value listening to others in order to hear about the reality beyond the theory. Previously, we have focused on church planters. This week, we pass the mic to a prospective missionary, who plans on working in the marketplace. Our interviewee prefers to remain unnamed.

Andy Jansen: Tell us some of your story. If you are currently in or planning on serving in a cross-cultural setting, how did the Father move you in this direction?

Marketplace Worker: My wife and I are in the process of job hunting for jobs in Germany. We came to the decision to search for normal jobs rather than going over as traditional missionaries as the result of many discussions with our closest brothers and sisters in Christ as well as several leaders in our church that we respect.

These discussions focused on where we should go and how we could serve. Once it was revealed that we were called to Germany, however, God made it obvious that there is a desperate need for people with jobs to be present in the community to be a living example of what it means to follow Christ and to be a witness. Traditional missionaries—especially in Western cultures with advanced economies—need marketplace partners because they have a limited context and means of reaching people.

AJ: Sometimes when believers are called overseas, they feel pressured to fit into a “traditional” model of service. Has your church affirmed and supported you in the direction you are pursuing?

MW: Our church has walked beside us since starting this process and has been a tremendous source of encouragement and wisdom. Several key people, including our missions pastor, have asked us questions that forced us to reexamine of how we were thinking of doing missions. This is actually what encouraged us to start thinking about marketplace missions.

AJ: Has anyone seemed confused or surprised when you explain your vision to them?

MW: Yes! There have been people who have been confused by what we are doing, and it has pretty much been anyone we have told who is not in our immediate circle of friends or the pastors helping us. Even after explaining it there are those who feel that this isn't really "missionary" work.

AJ: How do you anticipate work life and ministry goals can be balanced to fit into your limited schedule? Do you see these things as competing or complementary parts of life?

MW: I see work life and ministry goals as being complementary. I see ministry, missions, evangelism, and witnessing not as events but as a lifestyle. The work place is going to be the biggest place for ministry for any missionary that goes overseas as a marketplace worker. And the only way to be effective there is to live a life that reflects the gospel.

AJ: What are some pros and cons to remaining in the marketplace? What opportunities might be available to you that aren’t available to a traditional sent one?

MW: I think the pros and cons truly depend on what country you are serving in.The three biggest pros I have seen:

  • You have a reason to be in country.
  • You have daily access to the same people to form relationships with in order to witness to them.
  • You have a source of income that is not dependent upon people supporting you.

The cons:

  • It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind.
  • It's easy for others to assume you don't need support (especially prayer support).
  • You have limited time to do traditional ministry.

AJ: Do you see yourself as playing a unique part in a larger team? What gifts and perspectives do you add that were lacking?

MW: The unique part I see us a playing is that of a couple there to live normal lives and to be a part of the community. Honestly, we don't know what gifts and perspectives will be added until we know what team we will be a part of. 

AJ: Are you planning to work using some expertize you previously developed, or have you had to learn new professional skills in order to prepare for work in a new context?

MW: I am planning on using my background in accounting, finance, and business to secure a position. 

AJ: What is one important lesson you have learned in your current season of development?

MW: Be ready for culture shock. Make sure that you have a game plan in place to keep yourself engaged with the culture for the first few months you are in the new city.  

AJ: How would you encourage others with a similar vision to invest their time in development?

MW: If you know where you want to serve, then start researching companies that hire expats on a regular basis. Make contacts with people in the US, who may be able to help. Research recruiting firms that might be able to open doors for you. Make sure your CV is up to the local standards. And begin learning the local language and culture now.