In college, James*, knew that he wanted to serve in a creative access nation. To prepare, he (along with his wife) purposefully pursued a college degree that would equip him with business skills enabling him to enter this type of mission field. Read his insights in this month's edition of Serve.
I was walking home for lunch one day, drenched in sweat from the oppressive humidity and lost in my thoughts when a car pulled up next to me on the street. My first instinct was to jump back, but as soon as the car window rolled down I knew exactly who it was: the principal of the nearby public school. He had been pursuing me for the better part of a month. “Would you please reconsider my offer? We are desperate my friend,” he pleaded. “We’ll work around your schedule and pay you well.”
The school in my town was in the same predicament as many of the public schools on the little island my family and I were ministering on: they were in desperate need of English teachers. While I would have loved to have helped my friend with his staffing needs, my wife and I were already running a gym to build relationships in the community as well as planting a church that met in our home. It did however make me stop and think. Here we were, living among a people group that is 99 percent Muslim, trying to think of ways to build relationships and share the gospel, and this principal was offering to pay me a salary to interact with students and parents. Not to mention it could have been a means for gaining our visas and entry into the country.
Teaching can provide a pathway to legal entry.
Fast forward a few years. Due to a new anti-religion law passed in the country, we were devastated when we could not renew our visas and had to leave our island. The Lord opened doors for us to serve in a neighboring nation, but we were once again confronted with the problem of obtaining a visa into this creative access nation. Long story short, my wife was able to get a job teaching and working as a school nurse at a local school, providing us with work permits and residence visas. She has now been at the school for a year, and I have been working with a local brother in planting a church in a small Hindu village. The experience has solidified in my mind the original thought I had after talking to the school principal: education and teaching can be excellent avenues for entering and ministering in creative access nations.
Teachers have wide open doors to relationships.
While advantages and drawbacks both exist, I do believe the positives often outweigh the negatives. First is the relational aspect. Teachers interact with unsaved students (and ideally their parents as well) on a daily basis. This isn’t “stuffing a tract in a person’s hand and walking away to never see them again evangelism.” It’s life-on-life, long-term relational evangelism—something vitally needed in countries that are more hostile to Christians. Teachers also tend to be highly valued and appreciated by communities, making residents more likely to want your presence there and more willing to listen to what you have to say. Another huge advantage is the possibility of gaining a work/residence visa through teaching. More and more countries are becoming closed to the idea of allowing mission workers from abroad to freely enter their country to proselytize their people. With teaching, these same governments often will not only provide all your paperwork but also pay you to interact with the very people you are hoping to minister to. Not a bad proposition!
There are definitely drawbacks to teaching overseas as well. It can be very time-consuming and take you away from other ministry opportunities in the local church. Teaching in other cultures can also be discouraging if education is not highly valued and students are not motivated to work hard or behave in class. Another complaint I have heard from teachers overseas is that, while they have lots of interaction with students, it can be difficult to build relationships with the parents or interact with them in a meaningful way. While these potential drawbacks should be considered and factored into one’s ministry strategy, I remain convinced that teaching and education can be a marvelous method for advancing the Kingdom among the nations.
So what about you?
Have you ever considered teaching overseas? BMM offers a variety of both short-term and long-term opportunities, and we would be happy to share more on how you too can be involved in this exciting and impactful method of sharing the gospel and making disciples around the world!
*”James” is a pseudonym that we are using in place of this missionary’s real name in order to protect James’s ministry in a creative access nation.