A day in the life of…an international missionary trainer

JK Harris

Kathy and John Harris, International Teams trainers and BST graduates.

For the many thousands of families who have served and are serving as missionaries around the world, we all share in some common challenges: raising financial support, navigating the education/homeschooling options for your children, learning the language, adapting to a culture that is so different to your own, leaving family and friends behind, securing visas and learning how to work in team ministry with complete strangers!

After spending the last 13 years in cross-cultural ministry, we are completely in awe of God’s grace and provision. There were definitely many times along the way when we were stretched and challenged.

My husband John and I have been working with International Teams since 2001, a few years after we graduated from BST (back then it was Bible College of Queensland). We’re both passionate about teaching and training. Our vision comes from Ephesians 4 – that we are gifted to train and equip God’s people for works of service. We live out this vision in three ways: 1) training new and existing missionaries; 2) providing pastoral care for Australian missionaries in Europe; and 3) being part of the leadership team of Thousand Hills International Church.

From 2001-2006 we were based in Donetsk, in Ukraine teaching at a Bible college.  During that time we also home-schooled our boys, which was exciting to be so connected to their education. But when the opportunity came to work in the Netherlands in 2007, it was certainly challenging to uproot two home-schooled boys who were teenagers at the time and place them in a huge Dutch school. It was a highlight for me to see them grow wings and fly in that place! Our move to the Netherlands has had a few setbacks, especially our six year battle in trying to obtain permits to stay. As a mother, seeing the struggle and confusion on your sons’ faces was heartbreaking. Naturally, at times we asked ourselves, “Is this God’s will for us?”

Only recently we were able to finally secure our three-year permits to continue to live and work in the Netherlands, which is a huge relief for us knowing that we can continue to serve there. We envision continuing in the same roles for at least the next three year. In 2017 the family will apply for permanent residency which will allow our sons to be independent of our visa and make their own way in the Netherlands. This will then free us up to explore any other plans God may have for us.

So what does our “typical day” look like? It’s definitely not glamorous, which I suspect could be true for many missionaries! Every Monday we start with devotions with our team of six in the International Teams Netherlands office, based in the small Dutch town of Ermelo. We discuss our weekend, share a devotional and then look ahead to what’s happening in the office and who might be off on a trip somewhere.  The rest of the day sees us hunched over our computers either preparing for a training course, or a retreat or maybe doing logistics and planning for a conference. It may also entail a Skype call with an Aussie missionary somewhere in Europe and provide them with member care, advice, resources or just encouragement.

A slightly less ‘typical day’ but still one that happens quite a few times throughout the year, is that we could end up flying or driving to Austria, Spain, Scotland or even the Balkans to visit with missionaries, run team retreats or do some extra team training.

On Wednesdays (when we aren’t travelling), we are busy working at the Thousand Hills International Church office in the city of Hilversum. As part of the pastoral team, we are actively involved in pastoral care, team meetings, mentoring, planning events, working on sermons and many other aspects that help to serve the life of the church.

So what have we learned along the way? 

If you or your family are thinking about serving in cross-cultural mission, we encourage you to go with a mission organisation. Their collective experience, knowledge and network of people can help form a really strong support base to encourage, guide and keep you on track as you serve throughout the world. Life will not go smoothly on the field and having a sending organisation to advise, help, hold you accountable, encourage etc is a must!

We have also found how important it is to set aside a good length of time to learn the language.  We didn’t do this initially and regretted it!

Finally one of the main things we’ve learned over the last 13 years is that life is an amazing adventure with God. We may never know what is next around the corner but we know the one who is with us and that makes it an exciting adventure.

Are you thinking about training for mission? Come along to our open night on Wednesday 3 September.