The second installment in this “helping new missionaries” series takes a look at how “veteran” missionaries can help out “new” missionaries. I can tell you from experience, the more people involved me in their lives, the more I felt comfortable in Germany. It has allowed me to concentrate more on how I can impact others for God instead of wondering how I would make it through 2/3/4 more years.
- Dinner – Ok, this is an obvious one, but invite new missionaries into your home for a home cooked meal. One of the hardest adjustments for me was getting used to knowing what I could cook, what things are called and quite frankly going into a grocery store full of items in a different language can be a wee bit stressful. Providing a home cooked meal, no matter how talented you are in the kitchen, can provide a huge amount of stress relief.
- Invite them to places – This covers a huge range of options. If you are headed to the grocery store, invite someone along. If you are going to go for a walk, invite someone along. Honestly, if you are going anywhere, no matter how small or undesirable you think it might be, invite someone. Even the invitation may be enough to help them feel loved.
- Tell them about places nearby – After 3 years here in Germany there are still a bunch of places I did not know even existed, or at least, how to get there. Partially this was my fault, but some of the places I was never told about or shown how to get there. Take the time to show new missionaries your favorite places, and shoot, even your least favorite places!
- Introduce them to missionaries and non-missionaries – You have friends, they don’t, need I say more? Probably not, but I am going to anyway. A great way to introduce new missionaries to new people is to combine this with #1 or #2. Don’t make it weird or anything, but if you notice they have something in common with someone you know, set up a time for them to meet and maybe that will provide them with the friends they need.
- Celebrate with them – Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and anything else that deserves celebration should be celebrated in community. I doubt anyone wants to be home alone on any major holiday, so invite them over. If you have a family, you might not be able or want to invite them over for the whole day, but why not for a couple of hours? Being away from family on days when family are normally together is difficult, so help ease the loneliness and invite them over.
- Let them do nothing – There will be days when new missionaries need to literally do nothing. Their brain will be filled with a truck load of stuff and if they are forced to do anything, talk to anyone or even look at “foreign” things they might break. So give them the space they need to take a day and recover, to watch their favorite show, read a book or stare at the wall. Who cares what they do, just let them take a break every now and then.
- Listen – don’t fix or judge – New missionaries are going to have problems. Their pains and struggles may be similar to some that us “veteran” missionaries experienced, but they may also be different. The key is, they need a safe place to talk out their issues, with no fear of judgement, but also without feeling like they need to be fixed. Yes, you can certainly give suggestions, but let them ask instead of assuming they want them. They may need to talk about their problems and nothing else. Let them adjust and let them vent.
- Love them – Don’t think about when they may leave – This is a tricky one here. It is well know that missionaries come and go and in the back of most people’s head is the natural thought that they may not know these people for long and so, why would they pour a large amount of time into someone who is only going to be around for a couple of years. It’s tough, I know, but suck it up! No matter where you are you don’t know how long someone will be there, but we aren’t called to love people who will be in our lives for a long time, we are called to love people…period!