13 Challenges Foreign Missionaries Face

We send them to every part of the world. We support them financially. We pray for them from time to time. But do we know what challenges they face?

Sometimes I think that we view missionaries as different than we are. Maybe more spiritual or gifted differently. I don’t think they are any different than you or me.

The one thing that I notice is different between someone who goes to a foreign mission field and someone who doesn’t is…Availability. It’s not just availability. It is a willing and submitted heart.

It is important for us who are senders to understand the best we can what the challenges are that our missionaries face so we can effectively pray for and support them.

As I have said before…We all are a part of this mission.

I reached out to a few of my missionary friends and asked them about the challenges they face. Everyone shared with great vulnerability. They want you to understand enough so you can interceded powerfully for them.

As you read through this list, think of missionaries you know personally, maybe even support financially. I encourage you to reach out to them and ask them if they want share anything with you so you can intercede on their behalf.

13 Challenges Missionaries Face:

  1. Language acquisition. Of course it is important to learn the language so you can share with them. This takes time and effort. However, most missionaries struggle with learning the language.
  2. Not trained for the work they are doing. Can you imagine the frustration trying to do work you didn’t get training for? Missionaries who work in closed countries have to have a legitimate reason to live there. Often these missionaries go from one business idea to another until they find one that works.
  3. Character issues. Anytime a person is in a pressure cooker situation, character issues will surface. The most common for men is porn addiction. For women it is unforgiveness and comparison.
  4. Team Struggles. Every missionary responded with this one. Team dynamics can make a missionary’s work stressful and distract from the actual mission. Common struggles are disunity, lack of leadership, mismatched personalities and talents, unwillingness among members to compromise, and culture shock related stress.
  5. Lack of financial support. Most missionaries need to raise financial support. Some sending organizations won’t send a missionary until they are 100% supported; however, some will send before. This makes it challenging when a missionary has to continue to raise support while adjusting to a new culture, learning a new language, and working.
  6. Lack of resources. Different from personal financial support.
  7. Flexibility. You might hear that it’s good to be flexible like a rubber band. One missionary friend put it this way,
    “a rubber band will eventually lose its elasticity or break. A missionary needs to be fluid.”
  8. Culture shock. If you have traveled or worked in a foreign country, you understand this. For a missionary it also includes downsizing of personal space, limited access to amenities like medical services, reliable utilities, and so on. Another cultural challenge is misunderstanding because of different cultural norms.
  9. Disappointment. Anytime a person begins something new expectations are high. This is same for a missionary. Over time disappointment settles in. A missionary eventually has to either moderate their expectations or they become disillusioned. This is one thing that contributes to a missionary leaving the field before they see tangible results.
  10. Isolation. Another common response I got was isolation. This happens because of a lack of ex-pats, infrequent contact with friends from home, and lack of longterm relationships. A missionary also suffers from spiritual isolation that can lead to a crisis of faith.
  11. Marriage tension. Take the challenges of marriage and intensify it manifold for a missionary couple serving overseas.
  12. Parenting. Deciding how to educate, teaching social skills, finding friends, criticism from local culture, helping children navigate their own culture shock all make parenting challenging for missionaries in a foreign country.
  13. Spiritual attack. Of course with the reality of spiritual warfare, the last thing the enemy wants is for a missionary to have success. Many of these on this list are caused by spiritual attack at some level.

If you are a missionary, and you want to comment or add to this list please do so in the comment section if you can.

I hope that those who read this that have sent or support missionaries in foreign countries will intercede for them with a better understanding of the challenges they face. We need to do well at sending!

Want to listen to a podcast episode where I expound on this list and suggest ways to respond? Click Here to get to the podcast.

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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