A crucible is a vessel employed for heating substances to very high temperatures and can also be a metaphor for a severe, scorching trial.
When we refer to the crucible, we usually mean the first term of missionary service which is often characterized by a time of high transition, significant stress, and intense pressures. Physiological issues such as different time zones, climate change, noises, dirt, and different foods have a significant impact on a first term missionary. Emotional struggles such as loss of identity, stability, security, belonging and language fluency can have serious consequences. The leaving of family, church fellowship, familiar worship, longtime friends, and spiritual support can lead to discouragement and doubt. This is a time when the missionaries self-worth is questioned, their spiritual life is tested, and their identity is undermined. However, these first weeks and months in a new land are highly formative and foundational in the development of patterns of thinking, attitudes, and behavior in the new culture.
That is why a new missionary to the field must be trained to manage stress, build behavioral reinforcements into the new life, grieve their losses, re-train the brain, maintain and promote spiritual formation and re-identify their fundamental identity. BMM takes this type of training very seriously and we work intentionally at making sure our missionaries are well equipped by those working within the BMM family and by others who specialize in some of these areas.
To flourish in that crucible period, a first term sojourner must have a strong sense of God’s calling, have developed patterns of perseverance, possess well-honed spiritual disciplines, have a robust theology of suffering, the ability to access help from their mission board and sending church and have learned valuable lessons from past failures. These resources will enable them to not only survive this period of intense adjustment but will ultimately allow them to flourish in their new surroundings.
A truth that often goes unnoticed or at least taken for granted in a missionary’s preparing for the crucible period is the work of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. I am reminded of Acts 1:8 where Jesus lasts words to the disciples were “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” This aspect of preparation was and is so important that in Luke 24:49, Jesus told his followers to “stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high.” No missionary will be able to thrive during this crucible period without the presence, power, and filling of the Holy Spirit. More than all the training, tools, and strategies made available to the missionary worker, this power from the Holy Spirit is what is most needed to transition well and navigate all the obstacles and hurdles one faces during the crucible period.
Our hope and prayer is that each and every sojourner will accept the refinement of the crucible, hang their identity on the cross and become a grace-filled missionary who thinks and lives like a citizen of heaven.
Field Administrator for Africa & Europe
Steve Gault & his wife Beth are former missionaries to Cameroon. He serves as BMM’s Field Administrator for Africa & Europe. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more ways to serve.