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How long have you been a missionary?
About 2 years
What factors led to you becoming a missionary?
I came to know Jesus when I was 18, out of a pretty broken home with a very broken story. In college I fell crazy in love with this awesome God, who makes beauty from my ashes and who heals my brokenness. I heard about people going overseas to fulfill the Great Commission – that Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations... that there were entire nations where people largely had no access to the God I had come to know and love. Immediately I thought, “That’s not me. My testimony won’t be useful there.” But I kept hearing this message over and over again through different venues. Every time I read the Bible, I read about God’s heart for the nations. It’s there, everywhere – you just have to see it. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:4). “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you…I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’” (Genesis 12:1-3). Again, God told Abraham (Genesis 26:4), “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” The Israelites are told to follow God’s commands (Deut. 4:5-6) and to “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations.” In Joshua 2:9-10 Rahab told the spies, “I [Rahab] know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us…we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt…” “And all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26). God told Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:11), “Thus I will execute judgments on Moab, and they will know that I am the Lord.” And again in 29:6, “Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the Lord, Because they have been only a staff made of reed to the house of Israel.” (Most references are copied directly from The Traveling Team’s website, thetravelingteam.org; under their “resources” link.)
So the more I read these Scriptures and saw God’s heart, the more I knew that I had to go. I had to do what God was passionate about – bringing His gospel to the nations. Throughout the rest of college my plan was to go overseas, everything was in preparation for that.
How did you know this was the path God wanted you to take?
I read His Word – and saw it in there, over and over again. I don’t know that I would say “God called me to do this,” but rather, “God calls all believers to take the Gospel across cultures.” The biblical command is to go (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, etc.). Sure, there are other ways believers can be involved in the Great Commission. We can send missionaries, but I was not financially gifted to do so. We can pray – but I knew my prayer life for the mission field would be more effective on the field. We can mobilize other believers to go, but I felt that if I were called to do so at some point, I should at least spend some time living on the field myself first. Finally, we can welcome immigrants to the US and do ministry among them. This was the only other option I really considered. I had grown up around internationals and loved learning about different cultures. It was hard to choose to leave my family, my culture and my friends. Regardless, I knew that not many people were willing to go. Because I was, I should do so.
Because God calls all believers to take the Gospel to the nations, it could be said that not going is the biblical exception to the rule. I knew that I was not an exception to that rule. There was no reason for me not to go. I have family here who I love. Family that doesn’t know Jesus - but so do most other believers who end up going. We don’t have any health issues that would require us to stay. There was no biblical reason to stay, so we went.
What were some of the hardships you faced during the first year on the mission field?
While not all missionaries are in remote areas of the world, not all are without medical care or other luxuries, we are in one of those places. During my first year I had to learn how to cook (I know, I never learned before… can you believe it??) – and cook from scratch. There are no restaurants where we are for several hours so I had to cook from scratch daily, for every meal. I also had to learn how to watch for any kind of illness in my toddler since some sicknesses here can be fatal within 24 hours. Learning the language and culture, learning how to keep my house clean and cook decent meals has taken most of my time. I think the biggest challenge through all of that was the loneliness.
How did you overcome those hardships?
ONLY by the grace of God, although I have not overcome all of them! We are still learning the language and culture, I’m still figuring out how to cook and keep the house clean, and I still make mistakes when it comes to my childrens’ health. All of these things are getting easier though. What makes it a lot easier is that we’ve established relationships with other believers here, both missionaries and locals. Those relationships take time to build and that can be exhausting. Now that we have them, other aspects of life have gotten easier.
Was it what you expected?
It never is! Especially on the mission field. The only things that I did expect were the loneliness and isolation, and the raw reality of being in such a remote place without a doctor.
What surprised you most?
Maybe the fact that relationships with other missionaries were harder than I had expected, and that some of them had become so mentally and spiritually unhealthy. After the initial shock, I was surprised by my joy that my disciples were growing in joy and obedience to the Lord and by their willingness to sacrifice so much for Him.
Will you share a memorable experience?
On several occasions the women who are among the first consistent believers in our tribe have come to my house (it’s a 2 hour walk from their village), joyfully singing and dancing, worshipping our Savior with me. They just wanted to encourage and bless me. I was so humbled, touched and encouraged. This was a big surprise!
What scripture verse keeps you going during hardships?
“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). All of the verses mentioned above in Ezekiel. I spent a lot of time studying Ezekiel while on the mission field, and God’s heart for the nations kept me going and reminded me of why we were there.
How has your relationship with God changed during your mission work?
It takes a lot more work to grow, to read, to be reminded of God’s presence and remain close to the Lord. A lot more initiative. It’s something I’m definitely still learning. Especially with small children!
What would you tell someone thinking about becoming a missionary?
Work hard at being and staying healthy – mentally, physically and spiritually. Surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you, especially while you’re on furlough or on vacation close to “your” mission field. Expect to be changed, and expect your relationships to change – particularly relationships with family and close friends you had before you left. Be ok with the change, knowing that you are fulfilling the Great Commission and that it’s a beautiful, glorious, eternal investment.
While on the field, do everything you can to not give things away freely. So many missionaries do this, thinking they are making an eternal impact. After Jesus fed the 5,000 he went to the other side of the sea. When he arrived, those he had fed were there. What happens next is shown in Scriture:
“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.’ Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’ So they said to Him, ‘What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.”’ Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven”?’”
So Jesus initially fed them, as they had been following Him for a long time. But when He saw that their interests were in being “filled” physically but not spiritually, He stopped and urged them to seek the Lord. They even demanded a sign after He fed all 5,000 of them with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! In East Africa one of our most common problems is that missionaries have come before us and given away so many things, they are expecting us to do the same. People will come to Bible study and appear to be faithful followers – often for years at a time – but when they discover that we’re not giving things away, most of them stop coming. This is heartbreaking for us as missionaries, and creates a lot of problems because we end up spending valuable time and money getting to these individuals to invest in them, only to discover they aren’t interested in Jesus.
Did you have a team supporting you in prayer when you first were on the ground? How has this impacted you personally and your missionary work?
We have, and I know it has helped! They have been praying for our physical safety mostly, and we have been completely safe. We’ve had to spend a night on the road because our car was stuck in the mud, my husband and son have driven close to areas where there were bandits on the road, we’ve had snakes in our house and extremely poisonous snakes in our yard, we’ve been through a cholera epidemic in our area and much, much more. Yet we have never had to medically evacuate, we’ve never been in danger of any of the things above, and we’ve never wondered if we’re going to live to see the next day. God has been so good to us. It really is amazing.
Where have you served?
South Sudan, in East Africa. It’s the newest and most undeveloped nation in the world.
Did you “work up” to your current location with smaller mission trips?
Yes, I took a 2 week trip to Guatemala in 2003 and a 2 week trip to Myanmar (Burma) in 2009. Looking back, I wish I had done more long term trips, to better understand the dynamics of culture shock and how to get through it before going to a place like South Sudan.
Have you mentored new missionaries yourself before they went out on their own? How has this changed the way you view missions and your work?
No, we haven’t been on the field long enough.
How has your family supported your desire to be a missionary? Did their view of your work make it easier or harder for you to serve God in the way He has called you?
Initially it made it a lot harder – specifically while we were raising support and preparing to leave. My husband and I are the only believers on both sides of our family, and they are adamantly opposed to us taking their grandchildren overseas, living amongst the conditions that we do, etc. They have also told us that they are proud of us because we’re fulfilling the Great Commission – even though they don’t believe in Jesus themselves, they know that since we do, we are being faithful to what God has called us to do.
Now that we have been on the field for some time it has become easier. Living in South Sudan will either make or break a person – it’s essential that you learn to establish boundaries and keep them firm. This has helped in my relationships with my family a great deal! I’m able to set boundaries, keep them, not feel guilty about it and stay much more emotionally healthy because of it.
What culture shocks have you experienced?
Oh my – what a question! Perhaps the biggest and hardest for me were:
- Anytime we go anywhere, people expect us to give them something. In South Sudan (even amongst each other), if one person has a luxury that another doesn’t, they are culturally obligated to share when the second individual asks. Not doing so is seen as greedy and morally reprehensible. So if we’re in the car and my son is eating a snack, the culturally appropriate thing to do is for him to share with everyone else that we give a ride to.
- The way women are viewed, including myself. I had to learn to humble myself and be hospitable to those who didn’t treat me with respect, whether it was serving them tea, coffee, etc. If they came to discuss a matter (even a trivial one), they wouldn’t tell me what it was about. Only my husband. It was a lesson in Christ-likeness!
How have the local people welcomed you into their communities?
I’ve usually felt very welcome when going to people’s homes or going to help the women in their gardens. Sometimes (especially for special occasions) they will serve tea, soda or water. For a funeral or celebration of some kind they also serve food.
What was your scariest moment and how did God use this in your life?
My son was 12 months old when we went to the field. For the first year we had a doctor there, and we consulted with him at least once a week. All of us spent the first 6 months sick, catching every virus in the area. We were told this is normal and that every child experiences the same thing. After almost a year he had a febrile seizure. It was the scariest moment of my life, but the doctor was there and that gave me peace. Our Father was so kind and merciful to me. Knowing that he was leaving in a few months, I became terrified. I knew that people were praying for us, and decided to trust that God would take care of my sweet baby boy. He did not get sick at all until another team of doctors came for a visit, 6 months later. By the time they left he was better, got malaria once over the summer which was ok, and didn’t get sick again for another 3 months when the team of doctors returned for another visit. I know God’s hand was involved in this and I am grateful for His mercy, and for the prayers of our supporters!!
What advice would you give someone who is praying through God’s call to the mission field?
Go on short term trips. Go for extended periods of time – 1-2 years if you can. Look into different types of ministry and see what you are passionate about. Read books on missions – lots of them. One book I would specifically recommend is When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Surround yourself with emotionally and spiritually healthy people. Find someone you want to be like, and follow them everywhere. Seek counseling to work through any baggage that you have – from your family of origin or from somewhere else. If you are married, work through any issues with communication that you have – they will become major issues overseas. Follow Jesus passionately. Finally, do cross cultural ministry while in your country of origin. Find a group of refugees or immigrants from a culture that you think you are interested in, and begin church planting work among them. You can start by doing something called “Bible storying”. There are lots of books on the topic to help you know how to begin this process. Learn as much as you can about their culture and language. This is essential to teaching the Bible effectively! There are often a lot of cultural assumptions that they will take with each story – if you don’t understand the culture you will miss these and miscommunicate the stories you want to teach. Finally, get to know some missionaries in the places you would like to go. Keep in touch with them and learn from them. From their mistakes and successes.
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[et_pb_slide background_position="default" background_size="default" background_color="#ffffff" image="http://www.ericambasan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_0088.jpg" use_bg_overlay="off" use_text_overlay="off" alignment="center" background_layout="light" allow_player_pause="off" text_border_radius="3" header_font_select="default" header_font="||||" body_font_select="default" body_font="||||" custom_button="off" button_font_select="default" button_font="||||" button_use_icon="default" button_icon_placement="right" button_on_hover="on"]Hi, my name is Erica and I am a God-called missionary for Northern Uganda. It is my passion and life-calling to bring God’s word to the people of the world. Each and every one of us can do our part in spreading God’s word to people in need of Jesus’ healing touch and hope. Trying to figure out if God has called you to the mission field? Do you want to learn more about what it’s like to be a missionary? Check out my book, For the Joy Set Before Us – Insights Into the Missionary Journey today.