Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Preparing To Be A Missionary

I have been asked by several people (especially those with a desire to become missionaries) if I could tell them what they need to study in order to better prepare themselves for being a missionary.  My normal response is to say – Study every subject that you have opportunity to study.  Everything you can learn now will make you a better missionary then. 
                Of course if you are a young teen-ager, you should at least finish High School.  A College degree is required by most mission sending agencies if you plan to become a career missionary.  Having a Master’s Degree in Religious studies is better and a Doctor's Degree is even more valuable.  The more formal education you have, the easier it is to obtain a work-permit type of visa.  Foreign government leaders do look for those who can perform tasks that their own people are not qualified for.  I was asked once by an African government official, “Why should I give you this work-permit if there is someone in your church from our own country who can do the job you are doing?”  No, our calling is not to be compared with a secular job – but his question did make sense to me. 
I don't think I was at any time consciously preparing to go to Africa. Looking back from this vantage point, I can see how God was preparing me in many ways; some little some larger.  As best I can understand it - the preparation started when I was 8 years of age and had that dramatic conversion experience which I have blogged about previously.  As I explained in that blog, my Dad felt “called” to preach at the age of 20 and started pasturing small churches near where he lived.  As a result, he soon realized that he needed more education so moved to Seveirville, Tennessee so he could attend our Church’s Bible Training School (now Lee University).  After much experience I believe that when anyone has the opportunity to preach from the pulpit he/she soon recognizes the need to be a better communicator.  There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 10:10 that says, “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.”  One translations says, “Be wise therefore and sharpen the blade.”  If you have ever cut wood for burning in a wood stove, you have a better understanding of that principle than others.
At the age of 11 years, I felt in my own heart that someday I would be a preacher.  Dad was now pasturing a church in Jellico, Tennessee.  Jellico, on the border with Kentucky, was a small mountain town with it’s own unique culture.  I did not make a public announcement about that call but did share it with Mom and Dad.  They were very wise and did not push me out front but chose to allow me to be the first to say anything publicly about that call.  I attended the 6th grade here, and entered the local spelling bee, won the county reading contest, and sung in a school choir.  All of these things were shaping my future. 
This is my High School Graduation picture
At 16 years old, while Dad was pastoring the church Spain Street Church of God in New Orleans, Louisiana, we had a visitor from South Africa who shared his slides with us about some of his work among the Bantu tribes in Southern Africa - and that started an awareness that I should try and help those who were less fortunate than me and who had never heard the gospel of Jesus.  In New Orleans, I learned how to adapt to a foreign culture.  I learned from the “Swamp People” and from the Cajuns of the big city.  While I had been very popular in the small school in Jellico and Campaign, Tennessee where my Dad was well known by most folks in those little towns, we were now in a town of a half million people.  My school (Francis T. Nichols High School) alone had more than 300 students.  That was as many as the whole town of Campaign, TN where I had been in the 7th and 8th grades.  God was preparing me for diversity.  In New Orleans, I was able to study French as a regular school subject.  This would not have been possible in the country churches we had just come from.  Little did I know at the time that I would be able to use that French in Africa while serving our Church as Field Director for 32 countries.  Twenty two of my countries officially spoke French.  No – I was not fluent in French but was able to understand much more than I could speak. 
Thank you for taking your time to come by and visit with me today.  I realize this blog may have been a little lengthy but thanks for enduring to the end!  Well - really there is more to the story which I hope to share with you on another day.


Ginny said...

This is all real interesting, Fred! Especially the French connection, amazing.

jack69 said...

I remember Fred and Frances. We were neighbors in a trailer park in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. I also remember a trip to new Orleans where you guys introduced us to the Nawlins, we would come to love.
Funny how our lives crossed. You guys made a impression on us that has never diminished. It is so great to be able to read, of your past and to know where you are now.

And yeah, we do want to come bck up that way to visit and get some more Molasses.

Kiss my love Frances, she is one wonderful lady. Hi to mom and the kids!
Take care.

George said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us. It is truly amazing how God prepares for the tasks he had in mind for us to do. I have often been surprised in my own life at how some seemingly small event turned out to be very important when I was doing the work God had for me to do.

P.S. Happy (Belated) Anniversary.

~mel said...

The post may have been lengthy; but you drew me in and kept my attention right through to the end ~ leaving me wanting more. Yes! You're a good speaker, writer, preacher man:) Thanks for sharing Fred ~ it was very interesting.

JDS said...

Very interesting background. I just found your blog this evening and am looking forward to reading your archives.

Dar said...

Fred and Frances, Happy Belated Anniversary. I am so far behind on my reading, but hope to fix that.
As for your 'bringing up,' what a lucky guy you are. Your journey has been so interesting., I can only imagine a sit-down visit with you someday. I will continue to be inspired by your dedication to our Lord. Thanks for sharing your life through your heart.

Joyful said...

I'm so glad I found you! You left a comment at my blog and mentioned you were praying for little Kigen, the boy from Kenyan whom I was helping to get medical care. Thank you so much for praying for him. I can report that Kigen can now see out of one eye as a result of the surgery he received. God is good. I very much enjoyed reading about how you got into the mission field.

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton