I love this question. It may be my favorite part of visiting parishes as Daphne and I prepare for deployment to our missionary assignment. I love this work, and it’s great to meet others who want to join in.
This week, Daphne and I are at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in St Augustine, Florida. We’re in the final stage of preparation before heading to Tanzania, and I’d like to tell you how it all works.
I’ll start at the beginning, and in upcoming posts will talk about each stage in the process. Stage one is discernment.
In the spring of 2008, I was asked to seriously consider missionary service. At the time I believed my life was pointed in a very different direction, but I convinced a friend to drive over to Saint Augustine with me and visit OCMC anyways. We toured the office, met the staff, and had lunch with the Missionary Department. I was asked a lot of questions, and asked a lot of questions myself. At the end of the day, as my friend and I drove back home to Gainesville, FL, I had not changed my mind:
I was not going to be a missionary.
But, I also knew, I could work with these people.
If you’re not blessed enough to live among the swamps and springs of North Florida, you might not be able to swing a day trip. But you can start a conversation over the phone or email, and you can keep an eye out for OCMC Missionaries and staff- chances are somebody will be in your neck of the woods before long. As you begin a conversation, your sense of a calling might be confirmed. You might know for sure that it’s not your calling. Or you might, like me, think, “I could work with these people.”
I discussed this at length with my spiritual father. He said yes. I wouldn’t have pursued missionary service- and you shouldn’t either- if my spiritual father hadn’t been willing to send me.
For some years I had been giving regular financial offerings in support of missionary service. Christ says that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21), and without realizing it, I had placed a tiny piece of my heart in missions.
If you think you might be called to missions, place a bit of your heart there. If you have an income, pledge a little regular financial support of missionary efforts.
Pray for your own discernment of course, and also pray for specific missionaries and for specific fields. Get involved. Sign up to receive a missionary’s newsletter. Correspond with a missionary. Ask questions. Listen. And pray some more.
I kept busy over the summer, but never got any closer to where I thought I was headed. I stayed in touch with the mission center and was sent an application. One afternoon, I sat down and looked at it.
It’s a long application. It makes you think. And pray. I spent a few weeks working through it. By the time I sent it in, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to be a missionary. But I knew that it was a good (and realistic) possibility.
If you’re not pretty serious, you’re not going to get through the application. That was how I realized I was serious about this missions thing: I made it to the end of the application.
So: you think you might be called to missions. Your spiritual father has affirmed this. Your prayers, your heart, and your treasure are already involved. You’ve talked with OCMC, you’ve applied, and you’re still serious.
You wait a few months. And then there’s a phone call.
More on that next time.