A note: this is just meant to be funny. We really love meeting people at churches. We always meet kind, engaged people who confirm our calling and encourage us in this strange process we call prefield. Hope you enjoy Chris’s humorous take on it all.
Most people have never had the opportunity to go into long term or career missions, which means they have never had the opportunity to ask for support. Depending on who you are, this is either unfortunate or spectacular. Usually those views align with whether or not you’ve been a long term or career missionary.
Each visit with an individual, family or church is called a “ministry visit.” We are ministering to others with the encouragement that it is our calling and desire to serve God. A big part of each visit is sharing our need for financial support, so we call them “asks.” But that sounds like we are only doing it because we need money and we would never have invited ourselves over for dinner to begin with.
Church visits are very busy days for the entire family. Generally speaking, we need to get up at 4 am so we can shower, get dressed, wake the children, eat, feed the kids (yes, that is a different step) and drive to said church. It seems crazy to get up this early in the morning but there are many factors to this:
1. I will need to wear a tie. This seems minor, but I’m from the Pacific NW and we don’t typically wear a tie to church. But I want to make a good impression. This means that I have to tie my tie at least 10 times because while I know how to tie it, getting the length right is tough. At first the back of the tie is longer than the front which is completely ridiculous (although I’d love to try it sometime to get the sympathy support). Then the front is longer than the back, which is good except when it hangs down to your knees.
2. We need to make sure our kids are going to behave. With an infant and a toddler, this essentially means an extended period of time spent in prayer. “Oh Lord, I pray that our kids will sit still and be quite while we are presenting. We pray that they will use their pleases and thank you’s. Even the infant. We pray that they would not lie on the floor or lift up their dresses and other such activities. Essentially Lord we ask that you lavish miracles upon us today. Lord, if you help us out today we will become missionar–Oops. Oh yeah. OH LORD, PLEASE HELP US! WE’RE MISSIONARIES!”
3. We need to arrive on time. Any and all GPS units give an estimated drive time of 45 minutes regardless of where we’re going. Seattle to San Jose? No problem. Only 45 minutes driving time according to Garmin. Of course we know that is wrong, so when we plan a ministry visit in Tacoma, we question the drive time and leave on Thursday.
4. We need to gather our presentation material. It doesn’t matter if we used our presentation stuff last week. It still isn’t all in the same place and something is always missing. “Honey? Where is the presentation material?”
“All of it.”
Like anyone in an unfamiliar environment, we make snap judgments when we arrive at the church. Pulling into the parking lot, my brain plays a little game with me.
“Wow, this place is big. CHA CHING!!!
“What strange layout.”
“Where’s the front door?”
“Can I park in the pastor’s spot today? After all I am giving the sermon…”
Once inside (we always park an appropriate distance away from the church, even though we have two small children, a laptop, a trifold display board and a box of display contents), we begin to set up our display and meet the pastor and others.
I’m a short guy so most pastors are taller than me, which sometimes adds to my nerves for some reason. Like if he doesn’t like something about my presentation, he’ll squash me like a bug. I know it’s weird but this is the kind of thing that goes through my head in these occasions.
Thankfully, we get to leave our small children with strangers in a strange building so that’s not stressful at all.
Usually during Sunday school we present our ministry to the adult Sunday school class. Sometimes we show pictures and talk about the country we serve in and answer questions afterwards. The question part is the toughest because we can’t control what people ask or how they respond.
Church member: How come your Bible isn’t in Spanish?
Missionaries to Spain: Because we are here with your church and you all speak English.
Member: But in Spain they speak Spanish so you might want to think about that.
Member: Do you speak Spanish?
Missionary: Not yet. We’re working on it and we have to go to a language school before we begin our ministry.
Member: In Spain they speak Spanish so you might want to think about that.
Member: My cousin lived in France for two years and really liked it. She says it’s right next door to Spain. They speak Spanish in Spain and not French so you might want to think about that.
Missionary: Yes. Thanks.
After Sunday school comes the big time! If you are the man of the house, you give the sermon. Not all of us missionaries come from backgrounds in ministry. In fact most of us had regular secular jobs before going into missions.
So, my first church experience went something like this:
OK, they just introduced me so here I go. Look confident. No! Don’t pee. That doesn’t show confidence. Look at all those people!!!
Actual church size: 45 people.
What is my sermon about again? The Bible, I’m pretty sure. My notes don’t make sense anymore. Here goes!
“I’m glad to be here with all of you. God is really great and good and so is His word. I have a copy of it right here on this pulpit. He’s sending us to Spain and we’re nervous but He is God so… Let’s pray. Lord, I pray for stuff that is needed today and some stuff for later and this church and all of the people I met. Amen.”
I sit back down and my wife leans over and says, “Good job. Maybe work on a few things for next time. I’m proud of you.”
Huh. I wonder she could possibly think needs work. That sermon was awesome.
At the end of this mighty successful visit, the pastor comes up and shakes my hand and gives me the love offering. This is the money people have given so we don’t run out of gas on the way and have to hitchhike home. He then says, “the missions team and I will discuss possibly supporting you guys. We know you want to get to the field as soon as possible so we will be having our next meeting in 2026. We’ll let you know how it goes.”
We leave, the tie comes off, and we drive home hoping to sleep for days because after all of that, we are exhausted. Of course we have kids so we can’t sleep for three days. We nap for a few minutes and get ready for the next visit. Some kind folks whose names we don’t remember from the church we just visited want to meet with us individually.