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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Do You Know Your Missionaries? Eight Ideas

Photo by: africa

Your missionaries send out newsletters—they call them prayer letters—every month to three months. Their letters include pictures of their people, the work, the church building where they minister, and a list of prayer requests.

Sometimes, churches mention these requests in a church service. Sometimes, they pray for the requests in prayer meetings. Sometimes.

Do you know your missionaries?

If they walked through the door of your church, would you recognize them? Would you be able to intelligently converse about their ministry?

(Some of the churches that support us also support a hundred or more other missionaries. This post is not about them! There is no way anyone in the church—besides maybe the pastor and the missions secretary—would know all their missionaries.)

But, if you’re in a church where you support ten, twenty, or thirty missionaries, you can have a good idea who they are, where they serve, and something about the needs on their particular field. (If you’re in a larger missions church, become familiar with some of your missionaries.)

Here are eight ideas for you—the average person in the pew—to help you get acquainted and stay acquainted with the missionaries your church supports:
  1. Read their prayer letters. Some churches post them in the hallway. Some run off copies. Some have a list of missionary needs that’s given out at prayer meetings. Make sure you make the effort to read about your missionaries’ works and prayer requests, and that you take the time to actually pray for them.
  2. Write an e-mail. In almost every place in the world—except “creative access” countries—you can write to a missionary, assure him you are praying for him, and encourage him. It will take around five minutes to compose a short e-mail. Here are some ideas for what to include: your name, church you’re from and where it’s located, something about your family, “I am praying for you” (nice if followed by specifics), and “We appreciate the work you are doing in (country).” You could follow up with a Bible verse you love and a sincere closing. You’d be surprised how few times missionaries actually hear from the people back home.
  3. Send a card. Even an e-card is great. Remember their birthdays and anniversary.
  4. “Friend” them on social media. Most missionaries are on Facebook. Message them so they know who you are. Mention which church and state.
  5. Send a gift. It doesn’t matter what it is. (Ask the missionary first—before going to the expense of buying anything—if it’s okay to send packages to their particular field. Sometimes they pay as much in customs as the items are worth. This doesn’t help them at all!) It is sometimes better to send a money gift to their mission board than an actual gift. But, where customs (or robbery) isn’t a problem, missionaries love packages from home. (Never send foodstuffs in the same box as anything perfumed. We got soap-tasting grits, once.) Even an extra $10 one month will be a special blessing to your missionary.
  6. Think of creative ways to keep your missionaries' faces and needs in front of your church family. Make sure children’s Sunday school classes pray for missionaries. Make sure adults are aware of missionaries’ fields and needs. Think of some way that people can actually see the faces of their missionaries regularly.
  7. If a missionary comes back on furlough and visits your church, welcome him. Shake hands, smile, ask questions, show genuine interest. Get to know him. Don’t be shy. (Missionaries don’t bite! They are people, just like you.)
  8. Think about sending your pastor and his wife on trips to visit the missionaries your church supports. This is a two-way blessing—for the pastor and for the missionary.

A couple of don’ts:
  • Don’t judge your missionary by his clothing. Unless you’ve lived overseas, you probably don’t understand this, but it’s true: there are very different ideas of fashion in other countries. What looks perfectly normal in Africa, the Pacific islands, or Europe might not look as normal in the United States. Do you realize that many missionary men haven’t worn a suit in years? Do you realize that many missionary women haven’t seen people as sophisticated as the ladies in your choir since they left?
  • Do not ask:              
                Do you like it in (field country)? You might get tears from a missionary who is still trying to adapt to the very real hardships. (You have no idea!) You might get a funny look from the older missionary who has literally invested his whole life in that country. It’s not a question of “liking” the country; it’s about lost people who need the Lord.
                Do you notice how bad things are getting in (sending country)? For your missionary, his sending country is much more Christian than where he serves. It’s like a breath of fresh air for him to go from church to church and fellowship with hundreds of believers. It is wonderful and almost shocking for him to overhear people talking openly about the Lord. Believe me, a mission field is a mission field. If you think things are bad at home, think again!

What can you do to encourage missions?
  • Pray—Pray for each missionary by name and for their prayer requests, specifically. Pray for their health and safety. (They don’t always mention their aches and pains and how the people drive in their country of service. They don’t tell about poisonous animals and violent neighbors.) Pray for their children. A huge part of a missionary’s effectiveness on the field is due to the prayers of God’s people.
  • Help—Could your ladies’ group make or collect supplies for crafts to be used on a foreign field? Could your vacation Bible school take up a penny offering for a project? Could a Sunday school class get together enough money to buy a book or a subscription to a Christian magazine for a missionary? Is there any way you could help them with supplies? Ask.
  • Give—Missionaries simply cannot be on the field without offerings from God’s people at home. Missions is a partnership between churches and missionaries.
  • Go—Have you considered going on a missions trip? Have you thought of taking a team to help a missionary? Have you ever wanted to be a blessing to someone in another country? Are you called to be a missionary? Pray about going.

Do you know your missionaries?

If not, start getting acquainted today!

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