Recently I've really been wanting to die to self and my dream desire is to live in a really poor area, hopefully in China -- not the U.S. It's hard to be an evangelizing Christian in the U.S. where it's so wealthy and most people already know Christ. However, I don't know how to go about doing that. My major is social work and I plan to work with underprivileged people, but I want to go full-time into missions. I love reading missionary blogs and biographies, recently loving Amy Carmichael's biography. I already talk and dine with homeless people on the streets here in Austin perhaps as preparation.
Do you have any advice for my future? I'm so confused as to next steps to take because I've googled ministry opportunities and still unsure how to do this, the finances involved, and jobs. Thank you so much.
"Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35).
One of Jesus' points is that by focusing on future potential opportunities we miss the needs that are immediately in front of us. Yes, many think they know Jesus, but few actually do. Sin is rampant throughout the world and people need to be lead out of it an into salvation wherever you are.
It is wonderful that you wish to go to a difficult area of the world and spread the Gospel. The Lord needs many with your zeal. But in preparing for that time, don't limit who you teach where you are at right now. Each discussion is preparation for the next. You are going to find yourself dealing with problems and answering questions that you never thought about before. As you solve each one, you will be better prepared for the next that comes your way. That is what Christianity is all about -- a constant growth as we mold ourselves into the likeness of Christ.
What I find sad is that so many approach foreign work as short-term efforts. Better is to plan on extended efforts in an area. Only then are you going to see what the needs truly are and be able to not just bring people to Christ but also ground them in the faith. To "convert" people and then walk away to leave them flounder and fall back into the world is not serving the cause of Christ. You see this in Acts and in the epistles. Paul and others spent months, sometimes years in areas. They made sure others followed after them to continue the work. They returned often to check up on the progress being made.
In a country like China, they do not allow preachers or teachers to come just for missionary work. In fact, if they got word of that, your visa will not be granted. You need another reason, so apply for work there in your field. I suspect that your knowledge and your ability to speak English and the local language would be considered valuable. Moving there will be expensive, so talk with members of your church about helping with the costs. Don't expect much, however. I find that many are more willing to help after there is evidence that you are able to make an impact. You need to start with an attitude that you are going to do this on your own and then be pleasantly surprised when others make it easier for you than you had expected.
Teaching is a big responsibility. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). Don't get so caught up in the romance of going that you forget that this is really about the substance of the message being brought. Learn all you can and put it into practice now, before you go. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Study up on things like salvation. See "Things that Accompany Salvation" for a list of verses to learn.
Learn about the issues where you want to go. What is lacking in the culture that makes serving Christ hard? What religions are dominant? What sins are prevalent? How do you persuade someone that those sins are harmful and that there is a better way? How are you going to handle opposition? Put together lists of passages that address these issues to take with you. I'm positive that you will quickly find your list inadequate because you didn't realize what the situation would really be like, but those lists will give you a starting point to learn more.
If at all possible, I strongly suggest that you don't go alone. Everyone needs support. You're going to have bad days when everything seems to be going wrong. Again, if you read through the Bible, you find that the apostles and preachers went as groups. Even when Jesus sent out the disciples to teach, he sent them in pairs. If for no other reason, while you are teaching others you can sharpen each other. You need to plan on how you will grow as well. In additon, especially at the beginning, you will need others with whom to worship. Even better, find someone who has experience in teaching in that area and ask to accompany him on his next trip.
I agree very much with what you said about preparation. I think during my college years I must be patient and train spiritually to be more deeply rooted in Christ. I've also been learning and have been put in a position to answer hard questions about Christianity and God, so you're right about that. Yes, I'll also keep in mind about finding a job in places that need God without the "missionary" title, yet still live evangelistic. But if He wants me to have a "normal" life in the U.S., I'll be fine submitting to that. I just have a penchant for poverty and the brokenness that comes with it. I'll remember to look back on your answer and the awesome salvation link for future reference! Thanks again!