As I approach 3 years as a missionary in Germany I’ve begun reflecting on what has been good and what has helped me make it this far. The sad truth of the matter is that 3 years as a missionary makes you a veteran. That doesn’t mean that you’ve adapted to the new culture, that you’ve mastered the language, that you never dream about living a “normal” life back home (wherever that is) without having to raise support or even that you don’t long for (insert your favorite food item here, for me it’s definitely hamburgers) every now and then. What it does mean is that you have been on the field longer than some and that’s about it.
That being said, most likely, people did things that helped you stay where you are despite the food cravings, the longing for home and the dislike of the people/culture/language (yes, that is normal). What they did and who they are will vary from person to person, but I think there are some things that are universal.
In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said to his disciples, “‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”
I’m no Bible scholar, but I’m pretty decent at Math and I can tell you that if missionaries don’t stay on the field very long then we have to keep sending more and more missionaries to make up for the loss while still trying to play catch-up to how many are needed. Over the next couple weeks I want to look at a few different angles to how we can help new missionaries stay on the field.
This week I want to look at some ways that people back “home” can support their favorite missionaries.
Those at home and those on the field are a partnership, supporting each other, so let’s walk arm in arm together, serving God and helping others see His love through us.
8 Ways to Support Your Favorite Missionaries:
- Prayer – Obviously missionaries need prayer for all aspects of their life just like anyone else, but receiving a note letting them know you are praying for them can be a huge help on tough days. A simple e-mail saying I’m praying can mean a lot, but praying without sending a note is also greatly appreciated.
- Care packages – Care packages don’t have to be anything amazing. They don’t have to cost a lot of money or any money outside of the shipping itself. Sending some artwork done by young family members or recent pictures of friends/family will also brighten the day of your favorite missionary. Some place are really difficult/expensive to send packages to, so make sure you discuss the best way to send something with the person to which you are sending the package. Care packages also do not have to be physical items. Consider sending a digital code for iTunes/Google Play or Amazon so they can treat themselves to music/movies/books. Trust me, they will love that too!
- Letters – This isn’t so different from care packages, but letters are easier to send and can be way more personal than a care package. Sending cards for birthdays or holidays are great, but also consider sending a random letter on a random day. I bet you God will use it to bless the missionary who receives it and it might just come on the exact day he or she needed a boost.
- Freedom to travel – This is a tricky one. Missionaries who live on financial support are given a salary just like any other job, but unlike any other job that salary comes from individuals who have chosen to partner with them for a specific ministry. It has been known to happen that some people get upset when they see their missionary traveling to “exotic” locations and doing things that for most people would be a once in a lifetime thing. What I’m saying though, is wherever your missionaries are, they can travel places where you may never go, but just because they are taking a vacation it doesn’t mean they are being poor stewards of your gifts. Give them the freedom to travel and let them enjoy the location where God has sent them to work.
- Respond to newsletters – In addition to the day-to-day tasks that come with their ministry, missionaries have to send newsletters on a regular basis. Some missionaries love writing them and others struggle with them. Either way, one of the toughest things is taking the time to create and send a newsletter regularly and then hearing nothing back. Send your missionary a little virtual love and send them an e-mail saying…well saying really anything at all.
- Visit – This one may or may not be tough depending on your financial situation, their location, etc. but if you are able to visit your missionaries when they are on the field or when they are “home” then I highly recommend it. Talk to your missionaries first though…please! Oh and if you do visit them, ask them what you can bring from “home,” they will love a few treats to make it into your suitcase.
- Get excited – This is simple. Show enthusiasm when your missionary shows enthusiasm. Nothing stinks more than when you are excited and all you hear back are a bunch of crickets. Don’t fake enthusiasm, but if you are excited by something they say or do, then let them know!
- Financial – I’m not even going to apologize ending with this one. A good chunk of, but not all, missionaries raise their own financial support. This means that most of their lives depends on the financial contributions by individuals. When those contributions don’t come in, they take a pay cut, which might mean they have to get creative in how they squeeze a few extra dollars out of their budget. Even if you can’t contribute on a monthly/annual basis, contributing special gifts may help them out more than you even know. This is a part of the life we decided to live when we followed God’s calling and we accept that, but it doesn’t make it less of a need. Any financial gift is greatly appreciated and will help keep your favorite missionary on the field for as long as possible.
Let’s be honest, while this will help new missionaries, all of these things are great for any of your missionaries. Think about how you can brighten the day of missionaries you care about.