“Help! I’m Torn Between Doing Missionary Work and College!”

    Hi Olivia. I’m 16 and a high school sophomore. I’m starting to think more and more about my future—not a day goes by without someone asking what I’m planning to do. But here’s the thing: I have a lot of potential in the college department. Like, possibly Ivy League (I’m not saying this to brag, I just want you to know where I’m coming from). But I’ve also felt a call to the foreign mission field—which is also super awesome! I’m just trying to figure out exactly what God wants me to do. I want to be of maximum assistance wherever I end up. And, to be honest, I will probably end up working in an orphanage in Africa or Asia. The big question is should I go to college first? Part of me wants to take off across the world the second I graduate high school. But, like I said, I want to help in the best way I can. And that’s where college comes in. Possibly med school or some kind of counseling degree. But even as I say that, I think, “Isn’t, oh, EIGHT YEARS a little long for a kid who needs help to wait?” I know I have two years to sort this out, but this has been weighing heavily on my heart lately and I was hoping you could help. Please pray for me!

    Hey, girl! I know it can be tough when it comes to deciding your future. It’s your future, after all! Plus, you’re totally on fire for the Lord, and looking to do His will is ultimately every Christian’s goal.

    I totally understand that you want to go out and get straight to work. And yet, becoming more skilled in the field can only be more valuable to the cause, right?

    I really don’t want to tell you what to do. Plus, I’m not familiar with your situation. But what I will suggest are ways to help you get the answer yourself.

    So here’s what I think you should do:

    1. Talk to people you trust. It’s really important to get perspectives that you can work from. So speak to family members who you feel have your best interests at heart. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, aunt, priest or pastor, getting various perspectives allows you to see the choices from all angles.
    2. Speak to a missionary about your dilemma. A person who actually does missionary work will give you better insight about whether to go straight to work or wait and strengthen your knowledge and skills before heading out. There’s definitely something to being stronger in your knowledge, right? So find out from someone in the field whether waiting and getting valuable skills is smarter than throwing yourself into the field without the education.
    3. Research whether there’s a way you can help others while you’re studying. This way, you can get to work helping others while studying a specialty that will likely be of immense value when you’re done. It may not be helping children in Africa or Asia, but there are children in need all around the world, including your town or city or state. Get involved in mission trips in the U.S. There are tons of opportunities to help build homes, minister to children or partake in disaster response organizations.
    4. Pray. God will guide you. He made you for a purpose, after all, so pray hard and listen carefully, and the answer will eventually come to you.

    Good luck and God bless!

    Need some advice? Ask your relationship questions in the Ask Olivia Girl Talk forum or in the comments below and I might answer them in a future article!

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    Got a question about boys, your besties or God? I'm here to help! As the girl all my friends always came to for advice, I've turned my girl talk, level-headedness and love of Jesus into a job -- one I love because I was a teen not long ago, too! Click into Ask Olivia in our Girl Talk Forums to ask me a question!


    1. My suggestion would be to attend a Christian college that sends out missions trip. I am a student at Southeastern University in Florida. This school year my school is sending out over 60 missions trips! As long as you can raise the money, you can go on as many trips as you want. In a situation like that you can attend college and gain experience with missions work. Plus, at a Christian college you can take classes specifically about being a missionary

    2. I would recommend reading “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It really put some things into perspective for me. I’m a senior in high school and I’m going to med school and want to live overseas as a medical missionary so I know how it feels to think about the time spent in school could be
      used to help people. However, in most cases, that time is needed to gain maturity and useful knowledge and skills in order to help effectively. Also, remember that you can definitely study abroad and do internships in third world countries and go on missions trips with organizations like Mercy Ships to get experience and adjust to working on the mission field and still go to school

      • I would recommend Missions of Hope for internships. I just went to Haiti with them in March and really love the way they want to empower the Haitian people to grow crops, run businesses, become nurses/teachers/translators/ect for themselves and not just rely on aid

    3. I was in that same situation in high school and now I am a Junior in College and I am doing both academics and missionary work. I attend a (Christian) University called Southeastern University ( and I am majoring in Pre-medicine/Biology and minoring in Missionary ministries because I want to be a missionary Doctor. Southeastern has an excellent pre-med program and has a great Missionary department that helps their students go on mission trips all over the world (regardless of what they are studying). I have been on several medical and non-medical mission trips through my university and recently (November) went on a mission trip to Haiti to teach Community Health and Hygiene.

      It is Great that you want to go into the health field and be a missionary and if you let God guide you and work hard you can do it. Even through the journey to become a Doctor may seen like it will take forever, you can still do mission trips during breaks.

      Also, there are other schools that offer the opportunity to study and do missionary work and even if you decided to attend a College/University that doesn’t, you can still do missionary work during breaks.

      Good luck and may God Bless you and Guide you!!

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      \outl0\strokewidth0 \strokec2 I actually recently went through that decision! I did exactly what Olivia said to do! I am about to graduate college next fall and will be becoming a missionary after that. Every now and then I wish that I didn’t go to college but majority of the time I am so thankful. Although college takes time and patience I believe it is worth it, even if you just get an associates. College has helped me learn so many things besides what my major focuses on. You learn how to deal with different people, you have the opportunity to make your faith your own, and get overly involved in a church. College has also given me the opportunity to have experiences outside of the church. I am a pastors kid so much of my experience is through church organizations, although they are great when being a missionary you won’t always be engrossed in a church environment. I will be graduating with a bachelors degree in child development which has made me incredibly knowledgeable. Someone very wise gave me some amazing advise when I told him that I wanted to quit and become a missionary. He said, ” waiting is not wasting.” I think that if you desire to become a missionary prepare yourself fully for your calling. Whether that means taking bible classes, college classes or taking time off to prepare your heart through time in the word or all at once. One thing I wish that I would have done when I was first preparing to be a missionary was expanding my connections with people. I wish I talked to everyone and soaked in as much wisdom as I could. I am so excited for you! Having Gods call on your life is an amazing feeling! Never forget that through the hard an good times because it won’t always be easy 🙂

    5. Wow! I read this and was shocked because I’m in the exact same situation. I’m a sophomore in high school. I hope to be a missionary overseas, somewhere in South East Asia (maybe Cambodia). I desperately want to get on the missions field and begin my own orphan/adoption ministry. However, I know college is something I need to consider because of my potential to be more effective on the field. My parents keep urging me to look into medical missions, but I’m still not sure since going to med school would take forever. I want to begin my missions sometime this summer, but it’s hard to establish long term relationships with kids overseas and then have to leave for college or school.

      To any girls in this situation (or any looking for an amazing book), I recommend reading Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis. Her story on the missions field is truly amazing. Reading her book is what made me consider missions, and I believe the Holy Spirit used it to open up a whole new world of possibilities for my future. Another book I recommend is “Wish You Happy Forever” by Jenny Bowen. It’s her memoir of starting up Half the Sky, an organization that ministers to orphans and women worldwide. Although Bowen isn’t a Christian, her book is a great look into starting in the missions field from scratch.

      Keep praying and asking the Lord to show you His way! Just remember that you have plenty of time to serve Him and that He will bring the opportunity in His timing. I’ll certainly be praying for you. It’s great to know other girls are thinking about the same things I am. 🙂

    6. I can say I was in those shoes and it can be very confusing and not clear, but ask God to show you specifically and clearly where he is directing you. For me it was not until my senior year spring break in highschool that the choice was clear. Be open and listening. I have just recently graduated from the school of missions and can say there are no regrets. So, the path was not always clear but I prayed and God lighted the exact way all while I was diligent with what was in front of me then. Hope this helps and I know it will soon be clear 😉

    7. So I was totally in this same place a few years ago. I wanted to go to college because I thought I needed more “training/education” to be adequate enough for the calling God placed on my life as a worship leader and reckless lover of Him. Everything was so beautifully in line for college.. The perfect school, the perfect location, a tennis AND softball scholarship to play d2.. And then I was spending time with The Lord one day in just our regular quiet time routine.. And he told me to go look up the “world race”. I had no idea what that even was, nor had I heard of it before, and when I did I came across the “gap year” a nine month mission trip to three different countries. This was two days after high school graduation and two weeks before college orientation. I said yes even when my mind was screaming no. It’s scary to go against the norm and not do the American vision by going to college and getting your degree right away. But man obedience to Gods calling in that moment wrecked my life in the most incredible beautiful ways for good. What I learned out on the field taught me more than I could EVER learn in a classroom. The Holy Spirit became so real and evident, Gods love and my identity in him burst through in freedom like nothing I could ever explain. And the doors he’s opened for worship leading and setting his kids hearts on fire for him have been more amazing than anything I could’ve imagined before saying “yes” to him.

      I got home two years ago now, and the journeys just beginning. I never felt led back to college, and am living exactly what I’d go to school for right now. A lot of friends from the trip went back, and a lot will finish actually before their original classes (haha go Jesus).. But sister friend, just pray. Pray and follow wherever the spirits leading you because I promise you there is beauty and purpose there. It might be scary and it will be hard.. But it’s SO worth it.. Saying yes to wherever God leads is always worth it. Just trust him, dear one, be present in where you’re at, seek his face, do what makes you come alive, and trust Him. He’s so faithful, and its okay to be weird 🙂

    8. to whatever girl asked the question:
      Dont worry 🙂 I also feel led to be a missionary and as I was looking in to it I found many opportunities for college students to do mission work during the summer. That way, you could do both and it wouldnt feel as if you were making the wrong choice either way. You would be helping during the summer and improving your ability to help in the other seasons of the year.

    9. I think it’s good to remember that you can learn things in college that will help you be a better missionary. You could learn how to be a teacher or a doctor or nurse. Then you could be useful in any country and you would be able to help people. While you’re in college you try a few short trips doing different kinds of work in different places, and you could get a better feel for what you like best. I do think college is important though, because God might have you use those skills to help other people.

    10. This was great! I am the same age and have been having almost the same problem. I have been called to the missions field and am trying to decide which route getting there is best- thanks for the advice!! <3

    11. Hi PI! Could you pray for my friend Daniel? He thinks God is calling him to leave college for New Zealand and become a missionary. Could you keep it in your prayers that He follow God’s will for His life?

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