Organizations all over the world need volunteers to serve in 3rd world countries, dedicated to serving the needs of the people there. It is a unique opportunity in which volunteers have the chance to experience a new culture first hand, to understand what poverty really means, and to make new friendships, often for life. Being a missionary opens your eyes to the type of poverty that people living in first-world luxury are incapable of imagining, and makes you aware of what's really important in life. In addition, it is an opportunity to live the gospel, to bear witness to Christ's love in a very real way. Becoming a missionary is a significant commitment. Many volunteers spend 1 to 2 years or more living in a 3rd world country with a lifestyle roughly equivalent to that of those whom they serve. It is not an easy thing to do, nor one that should be done with out significant consideration and soul searching, prayer and introspection. If you are considering becoming a missionary, there are some things you should reflect on first. Try to discern why you want to go and what you hope to get out of it. Try to discern if you a capable of living a simple life on a tight budget. Consider: · How long you want to be away? · How and with whom do you want to live? For example would you prefer to live by yourself or with a community of volunteers? · What commitments do you have to your community here- family? outstanding debts whose payment cannot be delayed? (Most student loans can in fact be delayed while away volunteering) can you take off from your current employment for long periods of time? · What philosophy do you have towards mission work? To what degree do you want it to be faith-based and spiritual? · What talents and skills do you have that you can offer? Do you want to contribute manual labor, organizational skills, administrative ability? Do you work well with children? Can you speak a foreign language, and if not are you willing to learn one? · What formal education and professional training do you have? Do you have any medical training or educational experience? These are just some of the things to consider. When looking for a volunteer organization, try to find one that is compatible with you expectations, situation in life, and spirituality. With so many organizations, you will likely find one that is close. Find one that you feel is a good fit. Also when choosing an organization don't forget to consider the financial aspect. Pragmatic though it be, how will you afford to be a missionary? Does the organization provide room and board? A stipend of some kind? Are you required to fund-raise? Becoming a missionary is not without its benefits either. Such an experience provides · "a real life education," · cross-cultural experiences, which in turn foster tolerance and cultural sensitivity · the ability to adapt to new and challenging situations · a better understanding of poverty · a deeper relationship with God · a better understanding of yourself and a greater concern for others · appreciation for a simpler form of life · a new perspective on social justice issues · friendships · an impressive addition to your resume · a chance to explore, travel, learn a new language and a sense of adventure Being a missionary though rewarding is hard work. Before committing yourself, it is advisable that you talk with someone who has been a missionary, perhaps with the same organization that you are considering. Listen to what they say and consider if this is right for you. Becoming a missionary is certainly one way to serve God, but not the only way, and your calling may be someplace else. By the same token, if you feel that you are called to be a missionary, don't let fear or the difficulties of it keep you from doing it. Despite the hardships, almost everyone who has ever made a mission trip says that it is a positive and important part of his or her life. You may very well amaze yourself with what you are capable of handling and doing. Some good places to begin looking for a missionary organization right for you are the following website: www.vmmusa.org Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) is a Christian lay volunteer organization with programs in Central America, Africa, and parts of the United States. I have spoken with missionary Mary Ellen Neill of Lexington about here experiences serving as a nurse and teaching in Guatemala, and she has nothing but positive things to say about both the program and the experience. She speaks fondly of the people she met while in Guatemala and is trying to get back there to see them again. She recognizes that it wasn't always easy and that often it was frustrating not to be able to do more, but the experience was invaluable. There is a passion in the ways she talks about mission work and social justice that is truly inspirational. The program involves a 2-year commitment and the ability to live in 3rd world conditions, often more remote than with other programs (unlike some programs there is no established location in which they work, and thus there is less infrastructure). VMM also covers the cost of being a missionary and provides in depth training and orientation before you go. www.pallotticenter.org An excellent site to find a mission trip tailored to your needs and expectations. The St. Vincent Pallotti Center provides excess to any number of full time volunteer missions, both domestic and international. On average programs last a year, although some are longer and shorter. 98% of the programs are Catholic based. Conditions vary according to program. www.laymissionhelpers.org This is a program exclusively for the promotion of nonreligious missionaries. They prefer people with degrees who can commit to a 3-year mission. Lay Mission Helpers goes to 3rd world countries such a Guatemala, Cameroon and Uganda. They provide extensive training before you go.