May - Using your Degree Overseas

May 2007

A little over a year ago, I sat down with a student who was interested in learning more about missions. We walked through an illustration showing God’s heart for the nations in His word, as well as sharing statistics on the world and ways to be involved in God’s mission. We were starting to wrap up and I asked him if he has any questions. He told me that he was studying fire, arson and explosion investigation as his major. I was impressed as I had never heard of such a thing. He then asked this question, “Can my degree be used overseas?”

This is a question that I am commonly asked by students. I think they ask this because they are wondering one of two things: 1) If I go overseas, is all this debt I am racking up on college loans really worth it if I can’t use my degree overseas? And 2) I would love to be overseas reaching the nations and I would also really love to be doing (fill in the blank), but are the two compatible? If they are not compatible then one is torn as to which to choose. When many of us think about doing missions we often think about going to a Bible school and a seminary before finally going to the mission field. There is nothing wrong with furthering your understanding of the Bible, in fact, it will be extremely useful; however, we live in a time where many of the countries that house the unreached people groups of the world do not permit missionary visas any longer. This is has been a growing trend over the past decade or two. So how then shall we go about reaching the unreached without a missionary visa?

Good news! This is where your degree comes in handy. OK, let’s go back to the guy I was telling you about at the beginning. He asked, “Can my degree be used overseas?” I answered, “Yes, in fact, I know a guy with a mission agency that has challenged us to find a major that they couldn’t find a place for overseas.” Secretly, I had no idea how his major could be used overseas, and I actually thought I would be the first to stump my friend at the mission agency. I called him, and I asked if he had anything for a guy who was studying fire, arson and explosion investigation. I kid you not, thirty minutes later he called me back and said, “OK, Bryan, this was a tough one, but I asked a couple of people if he had anyone working in a related area. It turns out that we have a guy on staff with us in East Asia who is training police forces how to investigate fires and arsons. Will that work for you?” I thought, “Are you kidding me?!?!” I was glad to tell this guy that he could definitely use his degree overseas. No missionary visa either! Using the marketplace to advance the kingdom of God among the people groups of the world is a priority in missions, and it is one that I hope and pray you will strongly pray about and consider.

The challenge for you is not whether your degree can be used overseas, but will you be excellent at what you do. These countries don’t want people to come in with no experience who actually do more damage than good for them. They want people with master’s degrees and work experience. “Ok, wait a minute,” you say, “are you suggesting that we don’t all leave as soon as we graduate and go head long into the mission field?” I am saying that 1) your major can and should be used for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom among all peoples, 2) if you go overseas to use your major you should study hard, get the necessary degrees and/or work experience, and 3) above all you should follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life and the body you are connected with and serve. You have not been called to a location but to a Person. He will lead you in what you need to do to prepare and where you need to go. Just place your “Yes!” on the table and let Him put it on the map.

I want to challenge you to visit the link below and scan through the mission agencies that partner with us to see what different ways they are using the marketplace (and your major) to advance the kingdom of God among the unreached. What you are studying now does not need to be done so in vain; rather it should be studied with excellence because it can and will be used for His glory in all the earth.


Bryan Padgett