WRITTEN BY A CAFE 1040 STAFF
American Dream, Support Raising, Church: these are a few of the many obstacles that young adults experience in going overseas long-term. These were also my obstacles, but when I was 23, I did not know that I had obstacles. In fact, the term “obstacle” was unfamiliar to me. However, through a series of experiences overseas, this term revealed itself to me in a way that I was not prepared for.
My story with missions began as a little girl. Since I was 8 years old, I remember hearing missionaries share stories about living overseas. I felt my heart pounding and sensed that my life would look like theirs.
Flash forward 10 years and I am graduating high school. I still have a desire to pursue missions; however, I do not know any missionaries and have no direction from my church about how to pursue missions. I have heard about overseas missions my whole life, but now find that I do not know one practical step to pursue it.
My journey in missions started with short-term, one-week trips. For the first time, I heard people worshipping in different languages and I saw how big our God is. I saw that my faith is not about me, but about God, who He is, and His name being worshiped around the world.
My next step to longer-term missions was with an internship with a well-known, qualified missions organization. I can trace a lot of my confirmation to pursue long-term missions back to this organization as well as a lot of my confusion, despair, and my lack of maturity.
Many young adults have an idealized picture of missions. I know I did. I remember most days feeling like a failure at missions because I did not have the right expectations of what it looks like to be overseas long-term. The missionaries I was paired with were doing an amazing job serving in their different areas of ministry. I am very fortunate to know them. However, they were not overseas to mentor a young twenty-year-old in how to do missions. The missionaries were there to be missionaries!
This is the experience of many teams and missionaries with these types of overseas internships. Missionaries are tasked with doing everything to keep a ministry alive (without much church community). Their scheduling margin is minimal and a lot is on their plate. Taking on the mentorship of a young college student might not be something that most missionaries thought they would do overseas.
Through no fault of the missionaries, my internship experience suffered from the lack of margin. I was not trained in how to get my meals, how to wash my clothes, or how to ride the local bus system. I did not know what streets to go on and which ones to avoid. There were many days that I did not know where my meal would come from, what I was supposed to be doing that day, or where to go. One night I remember not knowing where I was going to sleep. I traveled to an unsafe town with a local pastor. I made many mistakes that could have been damaging to myself and also to the ministry of the missionaries.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to connect and live with a native Christian family who were church planters and disciple makers. They took me in and helped me navigate how to live in this foreign land. They told me I was like a daughter to them. They forever changed my life in understanding what it means to be a Christian and disciple-maker.
Unfortunately, I was not aware of a previous relationship that this local family had with missionaries there. I was also not aware of the conflict between the different missionaries in the field. I was unaware of so much. My naivety led to a lot of damage that may have been avoided with preparatory training or mentorship.
I came away from this experience thinking that missions was not for me: I was a failure, I did not have what it takes. What I did not realize is that many missionaries feel this way.
It took a year of wandering and questioning my faith and asking God, “Did I hear you right? Am I really supposed pursue overseas missions?” After a year of soul-searching and doubting, I came to a conclusion, the same conclusion God first showed me on that first short-term mission trip. Missions is not about me, my experiences, my success, or my failures. Missions is about God and who He is. Missions is about God’s plan for the world and I get to be part of it.
Even after this internship of failed attempts to “do missions” and a year soul-searching, I still didn’t know the practical steps to take to move forward and did not have direction from my campus ministry, my pastor, my mentors. I did not know missionaries who could help me take a next step.
What surprised me is that my experience is not unique. Many young adults desire to obey God in this area and move overseas long-term, but are unaware of the obstacles in front of them and how to move forward.
Enter Cafe 1040. When I heard of Cafe 1040, my first thought was, I wish I knew about this program when I was in my early twenties. It seemed that my questions that were unanswered by my pastors, mentors, or friends were addressed in this program. The entire vision of Cafe 1040 is to mentor young adults to provide them with clarity and confidence to pursue long-term overseas missions. Through mentorship, Cafe 1040 helps young adults face their obstacles and know how to move forward despite those obstacles. Daily, I get to meet with several students who ask the same questions I asked myself when I was in my early twenties.
Obstacles do not disappear.
To step out into the unknown of long-term missions takes faith and willingness to dive head on into obstacles that may seem to overtake us. With mentorship and wisdom from someone a few steps ahead of us, the process to face those obstacles is less defeating. Mentorship allows us to go further and thrive longer. Mentorship leads to better and stronger possibilities. I am thankful that our students get to learn the lessons of missions and faith through empowering mentorship. Our students are going to some of the hardest-to-go places on earth. Our God is on a global mission. Let’s help them get there.