authentic community

Authentic Community

In this episode, Nik unveils a heartfelt tale that transcends borders and celebrates the profound beauty of cultural exchange. He teaches us about the Xhosa naming ceremony for newborns. What does the naming culture in Xhosa teach us about authentic community?

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Naming Culture in Xhosa

As the story unfolds, we find ourselves in the midst of a joyous occasion – the birth of Ruth and Nik Ripken’s third child. Little did they know that this blessed event would become a gateway to a transformative encounter with the leaders of a secluded rural village. Eager to understand the Ripkens’ unique culture and parenting style, these rural village leaders announced their decision to live with the Ripkens for two weeks:

After the baby came home… they got to watch us at our devotions… praying with our kids. They got to watch how Ruth and I acted towards one another. There was no rock they didn’t turn over. Nothing was off-limits to them.

For two weeks, the Ripken household became a hub of connection, understanding, and shared experiences. The village leaders immersed themselves in the rhythms of daily life, observing, absorbing, and seeking to unravel the intricacies of a family devoted to their faith. It was an opportunity for both parties to learn from one another, to bridge gaps in understanding, and to celebrate the common thread that unites us all – the love for our children and the desire to raise them in a nurturing environment.

And then, a moment of profound significance arrived. The village leaders, moved by the Ripken family’s unwavering gratitude and devotion, honored them with an unforgettable gift – a name for Nik Ripken’s precious newborn. This African story name, bestowed upon the child with immense reverence, encapsulates the essence of their shared experience. The name translates to a resounding declaration: “Siyambulela” (“We are thankful to God”).

What is Authentic Community in the Bible?

Authentic community refers to a culture of hospitality and accountability where people come together in genuine fellowship, unity, and love. This is based on our shared faith in God and our commitment to following His teachings. It is a community that reflects the values and principles found in Scripture, such as love, humility, forgiveness, and service.

The concept of authentic community can be seen throughout the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. In the early Christian church, believers were encouraged to gather together, share their lives, support one another, and worship God together. The book of Acts describes the early believers as being devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42). They demonstrated a deep sense of care for one another by meeting each other’s needs and providing mutual encouragement.

The apostle Paul also wrote extensively about the importance of authentic community in his letters to various churches. In his letter to the Romans, he encouraged believers to “love one another with brotherly affection” and to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). He emphasized the need for unity, humility, and using our individual gifts to serve the community.

Authentic community consists of honesty, transparency, and accountability. It involves bearing one another’s burdens, rejoicing in each other’s victories, and offering support in times of struggle. This is how we can find acceptance, grace, and spiritual growth as we seek to live out our faith.

Ultimately, authentic Christian community reflects the love and unity that should exist among us. Many of us already strive to follow God’s commandments and live in harmony with one another. Authentic community reflects the love and community we see in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This serves as a powerful witness to the world of the transformative power of the Gospel.

Who is my neighbor

Who Is My Neighbor?

Ruth Ripken offers valuable insights into how to live out biblical hospitality. By embracing different cultures, understanding the needs of others, and extending a helping hand, we can demonstrate the love of Christ and fulfill the command to love our neighbor.

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We Don’t Eat Worms

Surprisingly, Ruth Ripken served spaghetti and meatballs to Muslim men who mistook it for worms. Following the command to love our neighbor involved responding with understanding, patience, and grace. Instead of reacting negatively or with offense, the Ripkens explained the misunderstanding with kindness and humor, fostering a sense of hospitality and acceptance:

Nik came into the kitchen, and he looked very puzzled. He looked at me. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “They don’t eat worms.” I said, “I didn’t put worms on the table.” He said (again), “They don’t eat worms…”

The command to love our neighbor is directed towards all people we encounter in our lives. It includes our immediate family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers, and even those with whom we might have differences or conflicts. Consequently, it encompasses people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and ethnicities.

Ultimately, the command to love our neighbor requires us to go beyond our own preferences and biases, extending grace, empathy, and kindness to those we meet.

Biblical Hospitality Tips

Ruth believes biblical hospitality and building relationships with others depends on prayer. She suggests that the first step is to pray and seek God’s guidance in leading us to those individuals. Then, the second step is to ask God to instill in us a genuine love for these people.

According to Ruth, caring enough to share Jesus with others involves a genuine concern for their well-being. In other words, it means recognizing the transformative power of the gospel and desiring to share it with those who have not yet experienced it. Ruth reminds us to share the message of Jesus with humility, respect, and sensitivity, honoring the beliefs and cultures of others.

In contrast, looking the other way implies turning a blind eye to the needs and spiritual journeys of others. However, as believers, we are called to be attentive and responsive to the opportunities around us. In this way, we can seek out meaningful relationships and share the gospel in a way that resonates with others.

The Nations Have Come to Us

Ruth Ripken suggests many believers have failed to actively go and share the message of Jesus with people from other nations. Therefore, God has orchestrated circumstances where individuals from various nations have come to us. As a result, we have an opportunity to share our faith with those from different cultural and national backgrounds.

God works through different means to accomplish His purposes. For example, globalization and migration create opportunities for us to interact with people from different nations within our own communities.

By meeting with individuals from other nations within our own local contexts, we have the chance to build relationships. For example, we can demonstrate God’s love through acts of hospitality and kindness and share the good news of Jesus Christ. It is an invitation to embrace the diversity and richness of cultures and to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations.

Effective Cross-Cultural Communication

Ruth Ripken emphasizes the importance of curiosity, asking questions, being humble, and recognizing the value and contributions of people from other cultures.

Be curious

Cultivating curiosity is essential when engaging with people from different cultures. For this reason, we show others genuine interest in their customs, traditions, beliefs, and experiences. This creates a foundation for meaningful conversations and deeper understanding. Similarly, ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their responses. This can help bridge cultural gaps and foster mutual respect.

Ask questions

Asking questions demonstrates a desire to learn and understand. It allows individuals from different cultures to share their perspectives and insights. However, it is important to approach questioning with sensitivity and respect. It’s important to be mindful of potential cultural differences and avoid intrusive or offensive inquiries.

Be humble

Humility is crucial in cross-cultural communication. Therefore, it’s important to remember that we have much to learn from others and that our own cultural lens may limit our understanding. Specifically, approaching interactions with a humble mindset allows for open dialogue, mutual learning, and the development of genuine relationships.

Show how people from other cultures can help you

Recognize and acknowledge the strengths and contributions of people from other cultures. This creates an environment of mutual respect and appreciation. Further, embrace the idea that cultural diversity enriches our lives. Recognize the value of different perspectives to break down barriers and build bridges of understanding.

Follow Ruth on Instagram

Want to learn more about praying for persecuted believers? Then follow Ruth on Instagram at @6camelsthedesert for deeper insights and practical exercises. Gain valuable knowledge on how to pray effectively and engage in meaningful intercession. Expand your understanding of prayer and support persecuted believers.

Join Ruth’s Instagram community today! Be part of a movement that brings comfort, strength, and hope to the lives of persecuted believers around the world.

it's time to stop playing church

It’s Time to Stop Playing Church

In a world where the pursuit of religious activities can sometimes overshadow the true essence of faith, Nik Ripken suggests it’s time to stop playing church. He challenges us to move beyond the mere performance of religious rituals and delve into the radical call to authentic faith.

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Nik Ripken’s Journey of Faith

The power of a single moment can shape our understanding of faith and influence our spiritual journey. In Nik Ripken’s life, such a moment occurred on an Easter Sunday when he was just 11 years old. As he sat in the church service, captivated by the pastor’s sermon on the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a profound realization dawned upon him. However, his subsequent observation of the congregation’s lack of engagement led him to question the reality of the resurrection and view the story of Christ as nothing more than fiction.

An Upsetting Revelation

As Nik Ripken listened to the pastor’s message on the betrayal of Judas and the crucifixion of Jesus, a deep sense of upset welled up within him. Specifically, he empathized with the pain and suffering Jesus endured and felt a burning desire to share this profound revelation with others.

Disillusionment and Doubt

However, Nik’s excitement soon waned as he looked around the large church filled with people seemingly disengaged, doodling in their bulletins, and not giving much attention to the message. This disheartening sight led him to question the authenticity and significance of the resurrection story. He began to view it as a mere “once-upon-a-time” tale rather than a genuine, life-changing event.

Navigating a Crisis of Faith

The realization that many people treated the resurrection as a fictional story left Nik in a crisis of faith. As a result, he grappled with doubts and struggled to reconcile his youthful energy and anger about what happened to Christ with the apparent indifference of those around him. The depth of his faith was challenged, and he sought answers to understand the truth.

A Journey of Rediscovery

In the midst of his doubts, Nik embarked on a journey of rediscovering the reality of the resurrection. Later in life, he delved into Scripture, sought the wisdom of trusted mentors, and engaged in deep introspection. Nik pursued a deeper understanding of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Eventually, he began to encounter profound encounters and experiences that shattered his skepticism and reignited his faith.

Embracing the Truth

Through his exploration, Nik Ripken gradually embraced the truth. He realized that the resurrection of Christ was not a fictional story but a powerful, life-altering reality. He realized that the indifference of others did not diminish the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice. Instead, it revealed the brokenness of humanity and the need for individuals to encounter the resurrected Christ personally.

Impact on Nik Ripken’s Life and Ministry

This pivotal moment in Nik Ripken’s spiritual journey had a profound impact on his life and ministry. It fueled his passion to share the reality of Christ’s resurrection with others, particularly those facing persecution and hardships. He became a voice for the persecuted Church. To this day, Nik carries the message of hope and transformation that comes from an authentic encounter with the risen Savior.

It’s Time to Stop Playing Church

Nik Ripken’s experience reminds us that our understanding of faith can be influenced by the responses of those around us. However, through his journey of rediscovery, Nik Ripken found the truth of the resurrection to be a powerful, life-changing reality. His story inspires us to seek the truth for ourselves and to share this truth with passion and conviction.

Baptism on the mission field

Baptism on the Mission Field

The Great Commission instructs believers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Nik Ripken highlights the need to apply the Bible’s teachings in diverse cultural and geographic contexts. This includes the dry heat of Africa where water may be scarce or infested with crocodiles.

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Does Africa Have Water?

In regions where water may be scarce or difficult to access, the traditional method of full immersion may not be feasible. This is especially true during the dry season in parts of Africa. In these situations, pastors and missionaries develop creative alternatives to perform baptism in a manner that is both culturally appropriate and safe.

Nik Ripken shares his experiences of baptizing new believers in Africa where water sources were limited. Instead of using baptismal pools, Ripken immersed people in rivers and other natural bodies of water. He adapted to the local context and observed ways that local pastors were making the practice accessible.

In some cases, the water level may be too low for full immersion. Alternative methods such as pouring or sprinkling water may be used to symbolize the washing away of sin and the new life in Christ.

Are There Crocodiles in Africa?

Performing baptisms in certain regions of Africa can pose unique challenges due to the presence of fast-moving water and dangerous wildlife. During the rainy season in Africa, rivers and streams can quickly rise and become treacherous, making it difficult to perform baptisms safely.

Nik Ripken explains how a lead pastor took safety precautions. The pastor sent his staff downstream to catch people washed away by the fast-moving water. Then, he sent others upstream to watch out for and fight off crocodiles.

Crocodiles are a significant threat in many parts of Africa. They are responsible for a large number of deaths each year. Women and children, who often fetch water from rivers and streams, are particularly vulnerable to crocodile attacks.

Pastors and missionaries often take appropriate safety measures. Baptisms continue to take place in regions where dangerous wildlife and fast-moving water are present.

The Challenge of Performing Christian Sacraments in Africa

The work of spreading the Gospel can be challenging in many parts of Africa. Community leaders may face unique obstacles in their efforts to bring people to Christ. For example, there may be a lack of resources and support for performing baptism and marriage.

Some areas of Africa lack the trained pastors and missionaries needed to perform baptisms or conduct marriage ceremonies. This can discourage community leaders from pursuing the work of the Gospel. As a result, they may feel that they are unable to provide their followers with the Christian sacraments that they need.

In other cases, the lack of resources for baptisms and marriages may be due to broader issues such as poverty, lack of access to clean water, or political instability. Churches and other Christian organizations may struggle to establish a presence in the community. This affects their ability to perform baptisms and marriages.

How Christians Can Overcome Local Challenges in Baptism

Despite these challenges, Nik implies it is crucial for community leaders to persevere in their efforts to spread the Gospel. Community leaders need to focus on the core message of the Gospel and build strong relationships with their followers. This creates a foundation of faith that can sustain and guide their communities through difficult times.

Additionally, churches and Christian organizations can work to provide training and resources for baptisms and marriages to help support community leaders in their work. This may include providing access to trained pastors and missionaries, offering educational programs on performing sacraments, and providing funding and other resources to help build and maintain churches and other Christian institutions in the community.

Ultimately, the work of spreading the Gospel requires a collaborative effort between community leaders, churches, and other Christian organizations. By working together and adapting to the local context, Christians can overcome the challenges surrounding baptism. This is how we bring the message of the Gospel to those who need it most.

Sheep Among Wolves: Christian Missionaries in Somalia

Sheep Among Wolves: Christian Missionaries in Somalia

Nik Ripken spent seven years in Somalia, a country ravaged by war and famine. In this podcast episode, he shares his experiences of bringing teams of volunteers into the country and the impact they had as Christian missionaries in Somalia.

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Ripken’s Impact in War-Torn Somalia

Ripken explains that Somalia was a challenging place to work. The country was torn apart by conflict, with different factions vying for control. The people were suffering from famine, and there was a severe lack of resources. Despite these difficulties, Ripken felt called to help the Somali people.

There’s really good news and there’s really bad news. Because the need was so great, we couldn’t live there as a family. It would have been impossible. There’s 93% malnutrition. We would have been raided just because of what they would’ve thought we brought in to feed our children and to feed Ruth. We were in there for about a year before the military came in.

To bring volunteers into the country, Ripken had to navigate a complex web of relationships with local leaders and negotiate with armed groups for safe passage. He also had to find ways to provide food, water, and shelter for the teams.

Despite the challenges, Ripken and his teams were able to make a significant impact. They provided medical care, food, and water to those in need. They also started schools and provided training for teachers. Through their efforts, they were able to bring hope to a people who had experienced so much suffering.

It Takes Ability and Courage to Work in Conflict Zones

Nik Ripken faced enormous challenges in providing aid to the suffering people. He emphasizes the need for volunteers with both ability and courage to work in such difficult circumstances.

Ripken’s team operated five centers, each feeding 10,000 people per day. However, even the food distribution sites were not immune to danger, as they had to be surrounded by razor wire for protection. People would line up before dawn, and if the food did not arrive in time or the military was not present to provide security, the volunteers would have to quickly flee.

Ripken found that some of the nurses from the United States struggled with the harsh living conditions and the challenging environment, and he realized that this approach was not sustainable. He asked his leadership to lend him career workers from Southern Africa for one-month periods instead.

They had some toughness. They had developed some callouses on their hands, feet, and heart. Their adjustment, while it was difficult… it wasn’t like they were going to fall apart on us or anything. […] They hadn’t practiced that much medicine, but I could do it.

These career workers had already learned the local language and developed resilience, making them better able to handle the challenges of working in Somalia. As a result, they were more likely to be successful and less likely to fall apart on the job.

Ripken’s experience in Somalia highlights the need for volunteers with both ability and courage to serve in difficult conditions, and the importance of learning from experience to develop sustainable solutions.

Christian Missionaries in Somalia Provide Medical Aid

Nik Ripken’s experience at a village clinic in Somalia highlights the harsh reality of the healthcare situation in many developing countries. According to Nik, everyone he saw in the clinic had multiple health issues, including eye infections, ear infections, skin infections, malaria, and parasites. He observed that everyone needed antibiotics, as someone was going to have diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid.

The people of Somalia face tremendous health challenges due to the lack of access to basic healthcare services. The lack of resources, infrastructure, and trained healthcare professionals make it difficult for people to receive even the most basic medical care, leading to high rates of illness and death.

In the clinic, Nik noticed that there was a long line in front of every nurse, and the line in front of him was even longer because the people believed he was a doctor. However, Nik was not a medical doctor; he held a doctorate in ministry. Despite this, he listened to the nurses and followed their directions on how to treat each patient.

Nik’s experience highlights the significance of empathy, compassion, and collaboration when providing aid to those in need. By listening to and following the guidance of trained professionals, Christian missionaries in Somalia addressed a multitude of healthcare challenges.

Nik Ripken’s experience in Somalia underscores the importance of providing basic healthcare services to people in developing countries. It also emphasizes the value of empathy, compassion, and collaboration in providing aid to those in need. By working together and leveraging our resources, Christian missionaries improve the lives of those who are facing significant health challenges.

Still, Nik says we’re “2000 years too late” in bringing Christ to Somalia.

How Do Missionaries Learn Languages So Quickly?

How Do Missionaries Learn Languages So Quickly?

Even with the best intentions, language learning can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations. Nik has had his fair share of language bloopers during his time as a missionary, and he’s sharing them with us today.

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The Challenge of Learning a New Language as a Missionary

Learning a new language can be a daunting task, especially when you’re living in a foreign country with an entirely different culture. Missionaries face this challenge as they spread the Gospel to people of different languages and cultures around the world.

Nik spoke about his experience in Malawi, where his language learning experience felt rushed:

Sadly, the language requirement of Malawi back in those days was that you would have a tutor for a year. You would go through a Chichewa language book, and then no matter how far you got in that book at the end of the year, you were dismissed to your work site. So you didn’t have any competency test. After learning that language, we made sure that we weren’t released from language learning until we could do certain things. By the time we got to Swahili in Kenya, they had a very refined program.

He acknowledged that this was a challenging experience, but it taught him and his colleagues an important lesson.

Nik emphasized the need for a refined language program, such as the one he encountered in Kenya when learning Swahili. He believes that a well-designed language program can make a significant difference in language learning outcomes.

Patience and Perseverance in Language Learning

When missionaries enter a new culture, they need to immerse themselves in the local language and culture as much as possible. They should attend local events, participate in community activities, and make an effort to build relationships with native speakers. Nik stresses the importance of building meaningful relationships with the locals, as this helps to create a safe environment where language mistakes are tolerated and even appreciated.

Nik’s sons appreciate his language mistakes too:

Our boys have never forgotten that. Anytime they introduce me to new people or their friends, they say, “You need to know that the first time our father tried to order food at a restaurant, he asked the waiter to kiss him on the mouth, and the waiter tried to do it.” I wish that was the worst story. That just simply is the first story.

Nik also emphasizes the need for patience and perseverance when learning a new language. He suggests that missionaries should not expect to become fluent in a short amount of time. Instead, they should be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. It takes time and practice to become proficient in a new language, and the key is to keep trying and never give up.

How Listening Can Improve Language Learning

Another important strategy is to practice listening and speaking as much as possible. Nik suggests that missionaries should listen to the language being spoken around them as much as possible, even if they don’t understand everything. This helps to train the ear to pick up the nuances of the language. He also advises that missionaries should speak the language as often as possible, even if they make mistakes. The more they practice speaking, the more comfortable they will become with the language.

Nik explains how his learning style differs from his wife’s:

Ruth does so well in the class setting, but I do well in the market setting. She’s going to be word perfect before she uses it, just like she does in English. I just get up and wing it. But once we’re six months out of the language school, then I’m going to be ahead of her in language because I’m going to use everything that I’ve got. If I don’t have it, I’m going to make it up. People will help me and shout out the word….

Ripken emphasizes the importance of immersion in the local culture and language, building relationships with native speakers, and having patience, perseverance, and a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them. This is how missionaries learn new languages quickly while making meaningful connections with the people they serve.

Freedom from persecution creates disillusionment

Freedom From Persecution Creates Disillusionment

Nik tells us that out of every 10 persecuted believers brought to America, only one in 10 are still practicing their faith after 10 years. Ruth and Nik Ripken have observed this phenomenon while offering freedom from persecution to Christians around the world.

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Are Our Missionaries Safe?

For years, missionary safety has been of paramount importance for the sending church, sending boards, and churches that love to pray for missionaries. However, if missionary safety is the number one issue for families, churches, and agencies that send workers to the field, then there is only one logical conclusion. “We should stop sending them and bring them all home,” Nik remarks.

This may seem like an extreme statement, but if we truly value the safety of our missionaries above all else, then we must recognize the risks involved in sending them to unfamiliar and potentially dangerous places. We cannot guarantee their safety, no matter how much we pray for them or provide them with training and resources.

Nik’s Note on Western Christian Culture

According to Nik, Western Christian culture has attempted to sanitize faith and missions of their rough edges. We want to carry our cross, but we want it to be sanded clean, lightweight, and equipped with training wheels. We do not want it to be something that breaks us down and makes us fall under its weight, as it did for Christ.

But can we truly call ourselves followers of Christ if we are not willing to suffer and face persecution for our faith? Jesus promised that if we follow Him, the world will do to us what it did to Him. “Persecution will be our lot,” Nik explains.

By attempting to remove suffering and persecution from the heart of our faith, Western Christianity has neutered it, rendering it shallow and incomplete. As a result, Nik suggests that we have lost sight of the true cost of discipleship and the radical obedience that Jesus calls us to.

This doesn’t mean that we should deliberately put our missionaries in harm’s way or neglect their safety. We must do all that we can to minimize the risks they face and provide them with the support they need. However, missions can still be dangerous. Nik recognizes that our ultimate goal is not to keep our missionaries safe but to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, even if it costs us everything.

In conclusion, if missionary safety is our top priority, then we must seriously consider whether we should continue sending missionaries to the field. We must also be willing to embrace the rough edges of our faith and recognize that suffering and persecution are an inevitable part of following Christ. Only then can we fully live out our calling as disciples and fulfill the Great Commission.

A Western Perspective on Persecution and Faith

When these persecuted Christians arrive in a country of religious freedom, they often find that few people are willing to suffer or die for their faith. They wonder why they were willing to sacrifice everything for Christ in their own countries, while believers in the West seem to take their faith for granted.

The willingness to suffer and die for one’s faith is a central theme in the Bible. Jesus suffered and died on the cross, and He calls followers to take up their own crosses and follow Him. However, in the West, we have become so averse to suffering that we have removed the rough edges of our faith. We want to follow Jesus, but only if it is easy and comfortable.

This is a stark contrast to the experience of persecuted Christians, who have often lost everything for their faith. They have been beaten, imprisoned, and even killed for their belief in Jesus. Yet, in the face of such extreme persecution, they have clung to their faith and refused to renounce Christ.

Immigrant Christians Struggle with Disillusionment

When these persecuted Christians come to the West and see how little people are willing to suffer for their faith, it can be a shocking and disillusioning experience. They may wonder if this new country truly values faith, or if it is just a cultural accessory. They may also feel a sense of betrayal. Workers from these Western countries brought them to Christ, but the concern for the cross seems to be lacking.

As a result, many persecuted Christians who relocate to the West may continue to believe in Christ, but they may no longer practice their faith. They may feel that if they can have resurrection without crucifixion, then what is the point of the cross?

Nik calls Western Christians to take our faith seriously and to be willing to suffer or die for our beliefs. He reminds us that martyrs gave their lives to strengthen our faith. The willingness to suffer for Christ is a hallmark of true discipleship. This involves supporting our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, even if it means putting ourselves at risk.

Persecuted Christians are losing their faith after relocating to the West. This reminds us how much we take our religious freedom for granted. We must be willing to embrace the rough edges of our faith and to remember the cost of discipleship.

to go as a single missionary or wait to get married

Go as a Single Missionary or Wait to Get Married?

Going overseas as a single missionary and waiting to get married are both valid options. Ultimately, the decision depends on where God is calling you for this season of your life.

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Go as a Single Missionary

Going as a single Christian missionary can be an incredible experience. It can offer opportunities for growth, learning, and serving in ways that may not be possible otherwise. As a single person, you may have more flexibility and freedom to follow God’s call wherever it leads you. You won’t have the responsibilities and obligations that married people deal with.

However, going as a single Christian missionary also comes with its own set of challenges. You may face cultural differences, language barriers, and safety concerns that can be difficult to navigate on your own. You may also experience loneliness and isolation as you are away from family and friends for an extended period:

When I was a summer worker in Zambia, and I was struggling with what I was going to do, I realized that being in Zambia with a family… I was still lonely. I didn’t have somebody that I could confide in… do I go back? Do I finish my degree? Do I get on the field? What does God want me to do?

God assured me that if I would walk in obedience, He would be with me. It wasn’t that he was going to give me a husband to go with me. It was that He was going to be with me.

Before making the decision to go as a single Christian missionary, it is important to seek God’s guidance and discern whether this is truly where He is leading you. You may also want to seek advice from trusted counsel and carefully consider the potential risks and challenges.

Wait to Get Married

On the other hand, it can be wise to wait to get married before embarking on a mission trip. Marriage can offer stability, companionship, and support that can be beneficial when living and serving in a foreign country. It can also offer opportunities to grow in love and service together as a couple, which can be a beautiful witness to others.

However, it is important to remember that marriage is not a prerequisite for serving God. There may be other ways to fulfill your calling even if you are not married. Waiting for marriage should not be an excuse for inaction or delaying obedience to God’s call.

When considering whether to wait for marriage, it is important to seek God’s guidance and discern whether this is truly where He is leading you. You may also want to seek advice from trusted spiritual mentors or advisors and carefully consider your personal goals and priorities.

Single Doesn’t Mean Second Class

As a Christian, it can be challenging to navigate the cultural expectations and pressures surrounding marriage and singleness. In some circles, being single may be a lesser status. Single Christians may feel excluded or undervalued in the church community. However, this should not be the case. It’s important to value all believers equally and treat them with love, respect, and dignity.

If you feel called to go on a mission trip as a single Christian, don’t let the lack of a spouse hold you back. In America, single Christians are welcome in our community small groups, and they don’t need to feel like second-class citizens. The church should be a place where all believers feel loved, valued, and supported, regardless of their marital status.

One way to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for single Christians is to provide opportunities for them to connect with others and build relationships. Small groups, Bible studies, and volunteer activities can all be excellent ways for single Christians to feel part of a community and engage with others who share their faith.

Acknowledge the unique challenges single Christians may face. Provide them with support and encouragement. Singles often struggle with loneliness and feelings of isolation. It’s essential to recognize these challenges and provide resources and support to help single Christians navigate them.

Being single does not mean being a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God. Christ values and loves all believers. It’s important for the church to reflect this truth by treating all members with respect and dignity. If you’re a single Christian ready to go on a mission trip, don’t let societal expectations or cultural pressures hold you back.

Make a Difference in Someone’s Life

In the end, it’s a personal decision to go on a mission trip as a single or married Christian missionary. Seeking guidance from God and advice from trusted counsel is crucial in making this decision.

According to Ruth, the outcome can be an unexpected one:

I think God uses some women to call their children. It may be their children who step up and do what they dreamed they could do, but they didn’t get to do it. Their children take up the mantle and move forward with it.

Remember that both options are valid. Where God is calling you for this season of your life is the most important factor to consider. Either way, you’ll be making a difference in someone’s life.

are short term mission trips effective

Are Short Term Mission Trips Effective?

According to Nik Ripken, some Christians mistakenly believe that short term mission trips can replace being involved in the local church and evangelizing in their own communities. He argues that this approach is misguided. It does not address the ongoing need for evangelism and discipleship in one’s local context.

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When Helping Hurts in Short Term Missions

Short term missions can have a negative impact on vulnerable communities, such as orphans. When volunteers come into a community for a short period, they may offer love and support. However, they often do not have a long-term commitment to building relationships and supporting the community over time. This can lead to a sense of abandonment and mistrust when the volunteers leave:

We have modeled and taught orphans that you cannot trust love for more than two weeks at a time. They’re now 18 or 20 years of age. Some of the most hardened, street-wise, hard-hearted adults were children that church people loved with all our hearts. We sacrificed to get there. We told them we love them, that we will never forget them, and we will be back. And we don’t ever come back. We don’t contact them, and we don’t send letters back. After they experience that and age out of the orphanage, they’re some of the hardest kids on earth.

Furthermore, these volunteers may unintentionally model behavior that is not sustainable or appropriate for the community. They may provide temporary solutions instead of long-term solutions. This can create dependency and perpetuate the cycle of poverty or other issues that the community is facing.

It is important for volunteers and mission organizations to consider the long-term impact of their actions. Missionaries must work alongside the community to provide sustainable solutions. This may involve building long-term relationships, partnering with local organizations, and empowering the community to take ownership of their own development.

Witness in Your Own Jerusalem

Nik Ripken shares his experience of calling churches to thank them for sending volunteers who served him and his wife for over two years. He often discovered that these volunteers were not regular attendees or contributors in their own churches. He highlights the need for Christians to serve and be a witness in their own “Jerusalem,” and not just in foreign mission fields or short-term mission trips:

When someone comes to us and serves us for over two years… I’ll just call the church and thank the pastor for sending us the nurse, relief worker, or food distributor. Oftentimes that pastor will say to us, “Nik, I am so thankful that they served you so well. I don’t know if I would recognize them if they walked in the church door. I know who you’re talking about, but I know they don’t attend regularly, and I know that they are not a regular contributor to the life of the church financially. As far as I can tell, being a witness across the street in their own Jerusalem is something they have yet to work up to.”

Through Ripken’s example, we see the importance of being actively involved in our own churches, families, and communities. Serving in our local contexts allows us to build lasting relationships, share the gospel with those around us, and make a meaningful impact.

Ripken emphasizes the importance of being involved in the local church and building relationships with people in one’s own community. He believes that evangelism should be a lifestyle and not just a one-time event or a short term mission trip. While short term mission trips can be valuable experiences, they should be seen as a supplement to local evangelism efforts, not a replacement for them.

Avoid Being a “Missionary Tourist”

A common issue with short term mission trips is the influx of volunteers that can overwhelm and inundate communities. This happens particularly in urban areas. While volunteers may have good intentions, their presence can sometimes create more harm than good. Missionaries must align their work with long-term strategies and community needs:

From youth and high school all the way to retirees, these people are doing great jobs. But major cities are inundated with volunteers. Many make every effort to fit in with long-term strategies, while some unfortunately present that stereotype of the missionary tourist.

The “missionary tourist” stereotype can be damaging and perpetuate negative stereotypes about missionaries and their intentions. This can further hinder effective evangelism and community development efforts by creating a sense of mistrust and suspicion among local residents.

While short term mission trips can be valuable experiences, it is important to approach them with a mindset of humility and a willingness to learn from local communities. Volunteers should seek to build relationships with local leaders and work together to identify community needs and develop long-term solutions that empower local residents to take ownership of their own development.

Ultimately, short term mission trips should be viewed as a supplement to long-term, sustainable efforts to build relationships and support communities in their growth and development. By working together with local leaders and residents, volunteers can have a meaningful impact that goes beyond just a few weeks or months of service.

female missionaries outnumber men

Female Missionaries Outnumber the Men

For every one man on the mission field, Nik Ripken sees seven women. In tough areas where safety is threatened, Nik explains, the ratio of women to men increases. Still, it’s a misconception that God calls more women to the mission field than men. What’s causing the gender disparity in male and female missionaries?

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Men Tend to Become Pastors

Many mission organizations actively recruit men and seek to address the gender imbalance in the mission field. Yet the underrepresentation of men in the mission field compared to women remains a complex issue. Nik suggests that men still view the pastor-teacher model as the most common and accepted form of full-time ministry:

Men who want to do ministry only have one model. If they want to do ministry full-time as a profession, and they want to have remuneration for that type of service, they only have the pastor-teacher model to fall back on.

Cultural and societal expectations around gender roles can play a significant role in shaping career choices and opportunities. American men may be expected to provide for their families through more traditional career paths, whereas women may have more freedom to pursue alternative career paths, including mission work.

Nik explains that Christian organizations inadvertently train American men to become pastors instead of missionaries:

In layman’s terms, they’ve never applied their trade. Where do you go to learn to be an evangelist and a church planter? You learn it on the streets… Monday through Friday. You learn it by your elders, deacons, and church staff going out and modeling how to plant a church through your home and how to worship in your home.

According to Nik, men need to learn these skills “on the streets” through practical experience and mentorship. Formal theological training and education can provide a strong foundation for ministry. However, men need the practical experience and modeling by more experienced mentors to develop the skills and perspective needed to effectively serve in a variety of ministry contexts.

Nik adds that men face additional challenges: a desire to climb the corporate ladder, anxiety of protecting the family, lack of trust in divine providence, and online temptations.

Churches Must Break Bread Together

Nik reminds us that church staff members should have personal relationships and share meals with one another before attempting to plant churches in foreign nations:

Most of the church staff have not shared meals in each other’s homes. In the American culture, I’ll give us an A+ for raising up and training the pastor-teacher. At best… a D- for raising up and training the evangelist church planter that Jesus was quoted to talk about.

It’s essential for the staff to build community and relationships within the church. The ability to work collaboratively and learn from one another is critical for effective ministry. Creating opportunities for relationship-building and mentorship should be a priority for churches seeking to equip men for a variety of ministry roles.