Don’t Call Home for 30 Days!

I often tell new missionaries leaving for their field of service not to call home for 30 days (except for a quick “I arrived safely” call). That statement usually gets some raised eyebrows, pouty faces and questions with a desire for clarification.

The first month on the field is critical as patterns set during the first month often continue throughout the missionary term or career. In our technological time, it is quite easy for missionaries to remain strongly connected with family and friends in their home country through phone calls, text messages, Facebook, Skype, and other means. Since those are established relationships, it becomes easy for the new missionaries to default to communicating with those back home during down time or challenging circumstances instead of building a new “local” support network and community. It is vital for the overall ministry for the new missionary’s roots to go deep.

The first month on any field is full of new experiences, challenges, surprises, and unmet expectations. When a new missionary communicates with family and friends back home, those on the other end of the conversation may have little understanding or ability to help. Often, their only answer may be to advise the new missionary to return home or to introduce negative attitudes about the new country. Missionaries need to rely on God, teammates, national believers, and others on the field as their main source of strength. Communication with friends and family back home is great but if it keeps the missionary from “putting down roots” in his new environment then the help can quickly become fatal to the missionary’s ministry.

So, call home upon arrival to let them know you made it, and that you’ll resume a more normal communication in 30 days. You’ll be glad you did.

Things to Learn in Your First Month on the Field

Now that you have what you need to survive, it’s time to buckle down and become a learner.  You need to meet people, ask questions, and write things down.  Here is a simple list to get you started.  This is taken from “Getting Acquainted with Your New Home” by Orville Jenkins.

Things to learn

  • How do I say hello?
  • How do I say goodbye?
  • How, what, and when do people eat?
  • How to behave as a guest in someone’s house?
  • How much space is personal space?
  • How late is late?
  • What is immodest?
  • What clothing is appropriate?
  • What are appropriate and inappropriate relationships toward the opposite sex?
  • What are appropriate and inappropriate gestures?
  • What are appropriate and inappropriate forms of physical contact?
  • What are the roles of family members?
  • What are the rites or special occasions during someone’s life?
  • What are the defining parts of the history?
  • What aspects of history or politics should not be discussed?
  • Who are the majors heroes or figures who have shaped the nation?
  • When are the holidays?
  • What is the structure of the government?
  • When are the elections?
  • What is the relationship between the national and local government?
  • What are the major political parties?
  • What are the titles for those in authority?
  • What is the legal process?
  • How should I respond towards the police?
  • What things would I need permission for?
  • What rights do I have?
  • What should I do if I am involved in a vehicle accident?
  • What should I do if my house is broken into?
  • What is the budget for an average family for one month?
  • What are the main industries?
  • What is the main source of news?
  • What magazines are widely read?
  • What are the major radio stations?
  • What are the marriage customs?
  • What are the burial customs?
  • What are the religious customs?
  • Where are the places of worship?
  • What are the folk beliefs?

Things To Do In Your First Week On the Field

Even though you are stilled jet lagged there are some things you will need to take care of right away when you arrive of the mission field.  Here is a list to get you started.  This is based on  “Getting Acquainted with Your New Home” by Orville Jenkins.

Get legal

  • How long can I stay in the country?
  • What documents should I carry with me?
  • What documents do I need to drive?
  • What taxes, fee, or duties will I need to pay?
  • What should I do in case of an accident or emergency?
  • What laws relate to hiring workers?
  • Register with the embassy

Get online

  • Get a mobile phone
  • Get an internet connection

Get money

  • How can I change dollars to local currency?
  • Is it recommended to use credit or debit cards?
  • Where is an ATM machine?
  • How will I receive my financial support?
  • What expenses may be reimbursed and what is the procedure?
  • Will I have a cash advance for work or medical treatment?

Get moved in

  • Where will I live?
  • Will I have house help, yard workers, or a guard?
  • Are there any crime or safety issues related to my residence?
  • How much are monthly utility costs?
  • What should I do if there are housing or utility problems?

Get around

  • Where should I shop?
  • How much should I expect to pay for common goods?  Should I bargain?

Get prepared

  • Where is the hospital or clinic?
  • Where is the pharmacy?
  • What doctors do you recommend?
  • Where is a safe place I can go if case of emergency?