What Keeps a Missionary Going in a Time of Crisis?


In the media today, we observe a wide spectrum of human responses to the current global pandemic. People’s reactions range from humor, as they create or share funny memes, to expressions of loneliness, frustration, and fear.

We — the members of a cross-cultural missions community — may experience a certain range of feelings as well. 

Someone said the other day that we missionaries are tough. We don’t panic!

And I can witness to the fact that this is true.  

Almost every day we at the Institute of World Mission and the Missionary Care team hear from different members of the Adventist international community of missionaries sharing news and updates.

I loved how one brother said, “We are making each day count as we look at events unfolding.”

But the Challenges Are Still Felt

At the same time, in no way do we want to discount the challenges this crisis is causing. It’s difficult all around. 

  • Some families are separated. 
  • Others have to deal with bored children in an enclosed space. 
  • Yet others have to figure out how to do the work from home.
  • Some experience racism, anger, and xenophobia.

In a moment like this, I ask myself a question: 

What keeps us going as missionaries in such an uncertain time?

The Unique Worldview of a Missionary

Several years ago Dr. Cheryl Doss, director of Institute of World Mission, coauthored a paper entitled “Missionary (Religious) Expatriates” in the Research Handbook of Expatriates with Dr. Braam Oberholster from Southern Adventist University.1 Together they looked at the characteristics of the modern missionary expatriate community. 

One of the things I loved about the article is how they describe the unique missionary worldview.

They begin by saying:

The fundamental uniqueness of research based on missionary expatriates centres on the deep-rooted mission worldview held by missionaries that permeates their entire expatriation process and experience.

We missionaries are different from other expatriates.

We are motivated differently. We stand for a different cause and purpose. And this reality has certain ramifications on all spheres of our lives.

The Building Blocks of a Missionary Identity

So what drives our identity? And what is it that has all the potential to influence our responses to the current crisis?

The authors speak about motivation, purpose, calling, obedience and ethos. Each of these components adds a new perspective about what makes us who we are.

What follows is a very short overview. As you glance through, keep the central question in mind.


It’s the quest to understand what keeps us going forward as missionaries even at a time of a global pandemic.


Missionary motivation is a large subject. But the reason(s) we are in the field have everything to do with the direction of our thoughts and feelings in a crisis.

The authors suggest several possible motivations for missionary service. Each is a quote from the article:

  • Answering an inner urge to serve and tell others about God
  • Responding to a humanitarian need
  • Filling an institutional or denominational responsibility
  • Seeking a more interesting or fulfilling place of service

We go just a little deeper into the issue of missionary motivation in an interview with Dr. David Tasker on the IWM Podcast. The interview provides additional beautiful details, including biblical examples on this subject.


Beyond motivation, missionaries are unique because they serve cross-culturally for a very significant purpose, to say the least. As missionaries, we are prepared to cross time and space in order to:

  • Serve God
  • Serve the world in need
  • Share the message of God’s will and God’s love for all people

That’s what makes our lives and ministries full of meaning, isn’t it?


Another multifaceted subject is the spiritual call for missions. In a recent post, we took one small step toward uncovering the subject of missionary calling.

It’s this specific lifestyle and ministry among people of a different culture and in a foreign community that we find ourselves in — all because we are called and brought there by our Lord.

We go because we believe God called us.


Obedience to Jesus’ command — the Great Commission by Jesus to make disciples of all nations — is another reason why we might be currently serving in the field.


“Christianity is a missionary-sending religion,” assert the authors. So is the Seventh-day Adventist movement. The urge to go to the ends of the world is deep in our ethos, our theology, our history, and our very Adventist culture.

We look forward to meeting Jesus. We believe this will happen soon.

That’s our core.

So, What Is It That Keeps You Going?

What gives you strength?

As you ponder these questions, you might want to check out an interview with Cheryl Doss on COVID-19, published on the IWM podcast.

And let’s talk in the comments. 

What is it that you personally feel is your anchor at this moment? 

If you’d like a copy of the article, send me an email message by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “What Keeps a Missionary Going in a Time of Crisis?”

  1. My anchor at this moment is that Jesus loves me and died and rose for me. I want to let others know that Jesus loves them too, and wants to give us eternal life. I don’t yet know how to do that here in our country of service, and especially during this Covid-19 distancing time, but I will keep praying and reaching out through text messages and smiles when I do go out to get groceries.

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