Evangelism and Missions go hand-in-hand, so this week, we’re taking a break from our standard “how-to” fare and taking a foray into a world which, for many believers, is… well, foreign: the world of a missionary.
It wasn’t until I entered this world, myself, that I began to realize just how different it is. Even without having left the U.S., it became apparent to me that the struggles associated with full-time missions (especially faith missions in which workers must raise their own salaries through partnership with other believers) are distinctly different from those which I faced working a regular 9-5 job. In between setting a budget that would work with a “flexible” salary and deciding which of my precious books wouldn’t be going with me, I came to the realization that there were many ways that a person could support and encourage a missionary beyond just offering prayer or contributing to their financial well-being. Take a look at the list below for a few ideas!
- Going to the field can be a lonely business. One missionary reluctantly confessed that in seventeen years overseas, he and his wife had only received ten letters from their supporters. That’s less than one a year! Writing a letter periodically lets your missionaries know that you haven’t forgotten them and that they’re more to you than an automatic withdrawal from your checking account each month. Missionaries want to hear about your life as much as you want to hear about theirs, so don’t hesitate to share about the major (or minor) events taking place in your home. You may even want to send a few pictures!
- Don’t have time for a letter? Why not send a card? Just a few sentences may be enough to cheer a heart that’s longing for home! (Yes, missionaries get homesick too!)
- Because missionaries are often in the field for long periods of time, they can begin to feel disconnected from their home churches. A CD of a sermon or conference, a copy of the book currently being studied by the women’s group, or even a Sunday bulletin (one that indicates that they are on the church prayer list would be an excellent choice) can go a long way towards helping them feel that they are still a part.
- Got time for a phone call or Skype? Missionaries enjoy hearing the voices of those they’ve left behind. Take the time to connect and let them know they’re loved.
- Send a text. A simple “I’m praying for you today” can make a huge difference in a missionary’s outlook!
- Find out what they miss about home. Sure, going to the field is a great adventure, but sometimes we all need a bit of regularity. Many missionaries find that they have only limited access to the things that they need or want. For example, a friend of mine from Papua New Guinea confessed that it is difficult to find decent shoes in their local marketplace. A new pair of sneakers lasts just a few weeks before it needs to be replaced. Why not make good use of that “Buy One, Get One Half-off” shoe sale and send a decent pair that will last for several months?
- Don’t forget conveniences. Another friend of mine headed to Mali was saddened to discover that there is no Starbucks there. You can guess what I’ll be sending her for Christmas. Something as simple as a New York Times Best Seller or a CD from your missionary’s favorite band can feel like a breath of fresh air. And don’t forget the kids either – a card game or a stuffed animal can go a long way towards helping someone feel loved!
- Remember that most missionaries live on a limited budget and are trying to honor both God and those who partner with them through their frugality. This often means that they don’t have the funds to enjoy common activities like a dinner out or a night at the movies. A surprise gift designated for such pleasures can relieve the guilt that they may feel when it comes to spending their regular ministry support on recreational activities.
- Don’t forget your home missionaries! While missionaries living in the U.S. don’t usually have much difficulty finding decent shoes or a cup of coffee, they are often faced with similar feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness. Take the time to ensure that they feel connected with you and with their home church just as you would with a foreign missionary. Your efforts will make a bigger difference than you can imagine!
You can probably come up with a few other ways to help your missionaries feel connected, so take the time to brainstorm, then make the commitment to act. Make a difference in the life of a missionary today!