When I first became a missionary back in 2007 I cut the cord, almost drastically, to my ‘previous’ life in America. I did this because I was taught well the importance of fully entering into the culture of the mission field where I was sent. If I was to reach Italians I would need to leave behind my life and past in America and become as Italian as I could in order to win more souls to Christ. There is great value in this approach, but there is also value in keeping current with the times which are changing so fast nowadays.
It is said that in Italy about 90% of the long-term missionaries that come to serve Jesus end up returning to America within just 4 years. Most of those who return probably go for a variety of reasons like the lack of fruit from their evangelistic efforts and the constant bureaucracy having to do with legal documentation in Italy (something drastically different from that of the USA). Yet, for many it also has to do with not being able to disconnect from the previous life (and family) back in America. In the old days, when a missionary left for the mission field things were different. People didn’t just decide to become missionaries with an experimental attitude. To get to the mission field required getting rid of most of your possessions, saying farewell to loved ones without knowing whether you would see them again this side of heaven, purchasing a one way ticket on a boat and in some cases even packing your books and belongings into your own ready-made coffin… They took the call very seriously and when the left, they left.
Today things are different. A missionary can hop on a plane and be across the world in a day. Once there he can pull a device out of his pocket, hit a couple buttons, and see and speak instantaneously to loved ones to let them know that he/she arrived safely. All of this is great, but it does result in some missionaries not really getting into the new culture, and as a consequence not having the Gospel impact that God desires to have through them. For example, rather than feeling alone and discouraged, and then being motivated by it to go evangelize the lost who will be alone, discouraged, without rest and even tormented in hell for eternity unless they get saved, the missionary of today is tempted to simply connect with family and friends back home and find comfort.
I’m glad that in my missionary training I was encouraged to truly disconnect from my life in America and to take on my calling from God as a missionary to the Italian people. Those first several years as a missionary were highly formative and foundational for my career as a long-term missionary and church planter in Italy. I would have it no other way.
Only recently, have I begun tuning into the news and current events in America. It all started when a friend and supporter in the US (now also fellow PMc board member) informed me about a little device for $35 that I could put on our tv in order to play Youtube videos from a phone or tablet. This led me to be able to also watch the news in America. Amazing! It all happened around the time of the last presidential election and man, what an eye opener that was, to see the current tensions in America!
It’s good to keep up with what is going on in the US because so many of the trends and cultural shifts there end up finding themselves abroad in the months and years that follow. Like it or not, the USA is a strong influence on the rest of the world.
How do you go about getting news and keeping up-to-date while living abroad? This is the topic of this post. With all the “fake news” and the hundreds of news channels one can simply get lost trying to keep up with it all.
One solution that I find to be very helpful is listening to Al Mohler
on The Briefing.
I listen to him 4 or 5 days a week for 15-25 minutes (depending on the speed I play his podcast). Usually I listen to him while preparing coffee and breakfast in the mornings. He is an expert at following the news, trends and stories that shape history and he shares them with a Biblical Worldview. This ministry of his has been a great blessing and time saver for me while serving Jesus abroad, as I'm sure it is for many missionaries around the world. I pray that you too can find it to be a blessing in your daily routine. Here is the link to his podcast. Enjoy and God bless!