GMT: Good Missionary Training

old missionaries

When we were “newbies” in missions, we counted on the veteran missionaries to teach us the ropes. Often, following a disaster or setback, a grizzled missionary would look upon our plight and say, “GMT.” We learned that was short for Good Missionary Training. For example, if you had a low donor month and were unable to buy food for your children, an old timer would growl out, “GMT.” GMT was just a way of telling the new recruits to stop whining and pray. We sure appreciated the encouragement.

The following pictorial posting is for new missionaries who need more than hearing someone say”GMT”. This is information that can preserve you through a long missions career. The closest I could come to actual photos of missionaries demonstrating these skills was from “The People of Wal-Mart” website (with the exception of two photos). Not surprisingly, no celebrities were used in the compilation of these lessons for missionary living. The people of Wal-Mart and missionaries are practically interchangeable.

Enjoy the training. Don’t over think the entries. When you’ve been in missions as long as we have, it’s okay to make fun of your own kind. It is one of the few privileges of membership….

demin family

One of the absolute necessities for mission’s success is a good “prayer card.” Your prayer card keeps your likeness in front of your donors especially when it is affixed to a frig door with a magnet. The prayer card can have a nice denim theme…as illustrated here. Others have relied on all plaid or stripes or ethic themes. Word of caution: Make sure everybody is fully dressed for the photo. Potential donors won’t say, “Oh look hon, the missionaries need more money for clothes.” If that method worked, you’d see more prayer cards like this one.

free car

When you drive up to a church, make sure your vehicle is modest and appropriately crummy. Never too new or nice. Donors don’t like to see their missionaries or pastors in decent cars. The above people have the right idea. The lawn mower and cart is probably donated. Regular cars don’t fit in the missionary barrel.

free shirt

When preaching to an American audience, always wear your “Sunday best”. But, that breezy little number you got at the doctor’s office isn’t the best choice. I know: It was free and it is the newest shirt you own. But dig a little deeper in the missionary barrel and come up with something with a collar and buttons in the front.

grinch boxers

The Christmas prayer letter photo usually has a nice “reason for the season” message. Please remember “The Grinch that Stole Christmas” is not in the Bible. So, rather than wearing Grinch boxers for the photo, try a tacky but seasonally relevant sweater. People may give you money to not wear it again.

hair candy

Supporting churches often ask the missionary to deliver the children’s sermon during the worship service. You may not get much lead time so be prepared. Kids will overlook a boring missionary story if they get candy when it’s over. Weaving Jolly Ranchers into your hair is one way to keep the kids on board throughout the presentation. Helpful hint: Go easy on the hair product that day and you’ll be fine.

boots and shorts

Your donors love to see their missionaries in authentic ethnic clothing. Still, you will want to closely monitor your authenticity with good common sense. Churches prefer seeing you in a grass skirt (that you would never wear) to the boots and shorts you wear every day overseas.

hair extensions

Wearing a fur to a supporting church is never okay. Even if you killed the animal in your house on the mission field and have a great story to tell…don’t go there. Possible exception: If you can incorporate a beaver or tree kangaroo pelt into your hair style…do it. Nothing says missionary chic like cascading animal hides.

icecube afro

Keeping up with fashion trends is hard when you’ve been away for four years. Even though hair styles change while you’re overseas, it is never okay to have a bigger ‘fro than Ice Cube. That is a universal missionary axiom going back to Hudson Taylor. Trust me.

i've got issues

Supporting churches don’t mind if you’re honest and vulnerable about your struggles during that last field term. Nobody is expecting a missionary to be perfect. But it’s not a good idea to advertise that you’ve got issues. Most people will notice your sketchiness without the T-shirt.

Jesus clothes

Oh my…the all Jesus hoodie and cap is a bad idea. Who could possibly criticize you for being so bold and up front about your faith? Well…everybody. Please don’t put this outfit back in the missionary barrel for someone else to take. Dispose of it discreetly. Thank you.

keep it short

When you are given a “mission minute” in a morning worship service please keep it short. You ruin it for the rest of us when you go past your allotted time. Less is more when you’ve been given valuable pulpit time. Think short and you’ll be fine.

learner's attitude

Every pre-field missions training course emphasizes the importance of a learner’s attitude. You will want to display it in a big way for everyone to see. As a matter of fact, when you walk by, people should say, “Wow, that person’s attitude is hard to ignore.”

missions tattoo

Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s okay for missionaries to have tattoos. The best missionary tats are discretely located and tell a story. Tribal body art that represents the indigenous culture’s core values is one way to assure your donors that you have tastefully “gone native.”

not new boots

Waste not, want not. If one of your boots is worn out you are NOT allowed to throw away the pair. The other boot is probably fine. Missionaries are called to a life of austerity. Before you ask for a “raise” in donor support, make sure you’ve done your part as a good steward of the Lord’s bounty.

not okay

Strangely, most churches in the USA have working indoor plumbing. Getting “squared away” before you speak to that Sunday school class doesn’t need to happen in the church parking lot. Simply ask one of the local people for the location of the water closet or dunny and enjoy the response.

purple lady

Uh oh…another missionary fashion error. Of course you want to look elegant and in style when you speak at the ladies’ prayer breakfast. But looking like Barney’s prom date is not gonna get you a hefty love offering.

the king of missions

The Elvis impersonator look doesn’t even play well in Las Vegas churches. When supporting churches talk about The King, the reference is always about Jesus. That doesn’t mean you can wear the all-Jesus hoodie and ball cap to a covered dish social. Khaki’s and a polo shirt…even though really vanilla…will generally stave off fashion Armageddon.

towel vest

And finally, just because you can make a vest/poncho out of a towel doesn’t mean you should. Those disposable hotel shower caps, airline eye masks, and paper hospital slippers in the missionary barrel are not for your daily use. Just send your thank you notes and file that stuff away with the used tea bags.

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One thought on “GMT: Good Missionary Training

  1. Just came across your post while trying to find ideas for a prayer card. What a hoot!

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