Recently I was sitting in a class, listening to a missionary teach the importance of missionaries sharing their stories and experiences while overseas. He explained that missionaries who are still overseas or who have come back from their time spent abroad are excited to share their stories with their friends, families, and church. All too often, however, they are asked, “how was it?” But no further information is learned beyond the reply that “it was/is great!”
The reason for this is that most people are very busy and don’t take the time to listen to all the details of the missionary’s experience while away. However, it is so very important to take the time to value another’s story and what can be learned from it.
This is why I have written this post, it will help those seeking answers to questions they have before heading overseas as well as to help you take the time to really listen to your missionary friend or family member’s story.
What are the top questions to ask a missionary?
- Misconceptions you had to be overcome?
- What’s the best way to prepare for missions?
- What is most helpful to you while overseas?
- Specific ways life has been richer because of cross-cultural service?
- What are the best and worst parts of missions?
- How can I pray for you?
- What has God been teaching and showing you recently?
- What Struggles are you experiencing right now?
- What was/has been the most meaningful experience?
- What helped you to persevere in the hard times?
These questions are not in order of importance but have been placed at random, so let’s dive into how these can help us and our missionary out.
Top Ten Questions Unpacked
Being a missionary is a difficult task, especially when you are separated from all of your friends, family, and all that you have ever known. Receiving a letter, email, text, or phone call from a friend back home then, is no small thing, so I encourage you whether you are speaking to them face to face across a table, or through a phone across the ocean, ask these questions to really get to know how they are doing or how their time was spent.
1. What are some misconceptions you had to overcome?
Everyone knows that before you head overseas, you have all kinds of ideas of what the country you are going to will be like. Media paints pictures of the people, scenery, and daily living, that can either be affirmed or shattered upon arrival.
Ask a missionary what misconceptions they had about both the country and missions as a whole. This is a great way to really get deep with them as well as to learn about some misconceptions you may have.
2. What best helped you prepare for missions?
This can tie in with misconceptions, as they can share what they did to prepare and grow, but now that they are either overseas or back, they are able to share new information that came from real experience which can help you to prepare better than perhaps they did.
This also is a great way to really listen to the events and daily living that they have gone through and learned from.
3. What is/was most helpful to you while overseas?
It can be easy to really want to help someone and so you help in the best way that you can. But sometimes we can miss it and help in the wrong way, but with good hearts.
So to help in the most effective way possible, ask the missionary what they need and what would be most beneficial to them. This can save time and money and in the end, really aid your missionary friend or family member.
4. How has living overseas positively affected your life?
Asking this question goes beyond small details and touches on how God has used the experience to positively affect them for the rest of their life.
Living overseas doing missions work is a life-changing experience and the full scope of what God does in a missionary’s life cannot be covered fully in a passing conversation.
5. What is the best and worst parts of missions?
Don’t be afraid to get to the nitty-gritty. Missions is not all sunshine and roses, and it is often more difficult than not. If you are looking to jump into missions, this will be an extremely helpful question.
Additionally, missionaries have plenty of good and bad experiences they would love to share and laugh through.
6. What did/do you miss most while away?
When a missionary moves overseas they give up a lot of things. Ask them what they miss(ed) most while gone.
Maybe it’s something you can send in the mail.
7. What has God been teaching and showing you?
This is always an applicable question to any Christian alive, but for the missionary who has come back or is still overseas, they are full of things learned that they are sure to want to share with their friends and family. Especially if they are in a setting where churches and people who speak the same language are scarce.
This can be one of the most difficult things for missionaries as they often feel isolated and unable to share what God is doing and teaching, so reach out and take the time to listen to their hearts.
8. What struggles are you experiencing right now?
This is a big one, and it requires sensitivity. But really take the time to listen to the struggles so that you can offer support through prayer and encouragement that comes from simply listening.
9. What has been/was the most meaningful experience?
Find out what they cherish in their hearts, above all the other experiences, during their time away. Whether it was a ministry opportunity, seeing a friend come to Christ, or riding an elephant, they have something close to their heart to share.
10. What helped/helps you persevere in hard times?
This is important for anyone, but for missionary’s living overseas is extremely difficult. Ask them what sustained them, what methods they took to persevere and keep going.
Ask about the difficulties they had to overcome and how they dealt with them with a good attitude and pressed on in their mission.
Things to Think About
The following passage is speaking of Paul and Barnabas who had just returned from their first missionary journey. It shows us two lessons to take to heart.
And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.— Acts 14:27-28
One, listening to the story of our missionary brothers and sisters is a way of praising the Lord as we become earnest to hear what He did through them.
Two, they were family; the early church was very close, they cared deeply for each other, and this coming together is a display of that love and care they held for Paul and Barnabas.
Taking care to listen, rejoice, and mourn with our brothers and sisters is one of the greatest displays of love that we can take part in.