REALITIES OF SERVING OVERSEAS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Going overseas is not giving up your career.

In the old days, “going overseas to save the lost” might simply mean putting our careers “on the altar” and going to seminary to study the Bible so we could preach to the heathens.

Today, the great majority of the unreached peoples live in the 10/40 Window where most of the countries do not welcome religious workers from the West for historical, political or religious reasons.

However, if we have the skills to contribute to the development of business, education, technology, health care, etc. in these countries, we will be welcome. If we work for a respectable corporation or a non-government organization, we may go to many countries and reach people who otherwise may never meet a Christian.

To offer relevant service overseas in the 21st century, instead of “giving up everything,” we want to make the best use of our education and career, and be all that God has made us to be so we can serve effectively.

And it does not necessarily mean going to the jungles.

In the past, there were many more people living in rural areas all over the world as farmers and herdsmen. But today, the rural poor are flocking to the cities with this resolve: “If I don’t make it, my children will. If my children don’t, my grandchildren will.” Economic migration is how Shanghai has grown to 18 million, and Mexico City to over 20.

As a result, the year 2000 marked an important milestone in history when half the world’s population became city dwellers. There are still many unreached people groups in rural areas that should not be neglected. But to reach the 10/40 nations today, we must not overlook the concrete jungles. That is good news for those of us who prefer indoor plumbing.

The world has become flat.

When we first began to promote tentmaking 25 years ago, we said: Be sure of your calling. Count the cost. And when you need to come home for whatever reason, be prepared to step down in your career or even change jobs because you might no longer be competitive in your field.

But, with the internet and workflow software today, the technology gap between the U.S. and many Asian countries is fast closing. Not just IT, but even R & D jobs are being outsourced overseas. In fact, having a few years of overseas experience could be advantageous for career advancement in some fields.

Most important of all, God is faithful.

Over the years, one of the greatest rewards of sending and supporting tentmakers is to witness first-hand Father’s faithfulness in the lives of His children. Over 120 of our associates have come back from overseas after two, five, eight or ten years. By God’s grace, they have all successfully reentered their professions. Among them are teachers, doctors, engineers, IT professionals, you name it. This is true not just for those we came home in their 20s and 30s, but also in their 40s and 50s.

With the recent economic downturn, one returned associate had to wait for over a year before her “dream job” finally turned up. Another was already struggling with his career direction before he left, so he is still exploring a year after his return to the U.S. But the majority had to wait only a short time. A few even came back to better positions that what they had left behind when they went overseas.

All our associates have challenges in their jobs overseas as living out one’s faith in the workplace is never easy anywhere. But, God has truly been gracious, especially in providing their employment needs when they come home. We are thankful to witness his extraordinary grace in the lives of ordinary people who walk in trust and obedience.