I became a Missionary Candidate in April of 2009 and arrived in Tanzania in April 2010. A one-year candidacy is about average; my wife Daphne’s was only four months, and others can last two or three years.
The first step of candidacy is NCO- “New Candidate Orientation”- at the OCMC offices in Saint Augustine, Florida. Daphne and I did NCO together this past June along with seven other candidates for mission fields in Africa, Asia and Europe.
NCO is kind of a missionary boot camp. You’ve prepared through study, prayer, and the missionary application process. Now you spend two intensive weeks learning the ropes. Guest lecturers teach you about everything from Byzantine-era missionary work to team dynamics to basic health-care precautions. (“This is not a petting zoo. Don’t touch the wild animals!”) OCMC staff orient you to the mission center, and coach you in the upcoming step of support raising. And you spend a whole lot of time in prayer and fellowship with other future missionaries.
Now comes the biggest and most exciting part of preparations: support raising.
Being a missionary is tough. You’re going to need lots of help. You will survive by the grace of God, anchored in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, buoyed by the prayers of the saints, nurtured both by your new community overseas and by your faithful network back home.
It’s time to develop that network “back home” which will be there for you in the coming years- interceding, sending an encouraging text message or care package, loving you and taking care of you. One of the ways they’ll take care of you is by paying your salary.
Brass tacks: Folks send money to OCMC in your name. It goes into an account for you. You get paid from that account.
In January 2010 I outlined this process in a letter to supporters:
Orthodox Christian missionary work across the millenia has been funded in many ways. Some missionaries have been salaried by the state or by wealthy patrons. Others with independent wealth have funded their efforts out of their own pockets. Yet others are paid by a missionary society that solicits funds from the faithful. Our American model, whereby missionaries go out on the road raising support for their own assignments, is uniquely suited to this time and place.
One great benefit of this approach to support-raising has been the opportunity to witness the faithful glorifying God in so many different contexts. Observing and participating in your lives has been both encouraging and instructive; I do believe this experience will better equip me for becoming part of yet another context in East Africa. Thank you for all you've shown and taught me. And do keep in touch.
Next time: details of support-raising.