When a missionary stands up in Church and asks for support there is usually an audible gasp – people assume that it is either financial or prayer support that they are asking for. Everyone ticks the “I will pray for you” box on the support sheet, sighs a sigh of relief and never thinks of it again… But there are a whole myriad of practical ways to support a missionary.
And if you are looking for a book on this topic I read this book a while ago:
And it really opened my eyes to the real needs of a missionary both at home and abroad. The book is really focused on missionaries returning home from the field on furlow, but it is packed with practical ways to serve a missionary.
Because of this I thought I would write a list of se7en ways we have used to support a missionary:
- Get to know your missionary: The best way to support a missionary is to know them, talk to them ask them about their work and the people they work amongst. Ask them what the easiest part of their average day and the hardest part is. Ask them what their favorite things are: movies, sweeties, magazines, books. Oftentimes I have been really surprised by these! They are actually humans not super-spiritual beings floating above the crowd. We have a bit of a game in our family and we always ask missionary friends about a favorite “something” when we interact… For example, it helps to know their favorite food for when they are next in town.
- Pray for Them in their Daily Life: Of course you can pray for a missionary from a prayer list, but it really helps to know your missionary to pray for them meaningfully. If there is a struggle that they face daily: a grumpy neighbor; a difficult transport system; homesickness, and they know you are praying for that thing specifically, how empowering is that for them? Often it is things that are not related to being a missionary at all that are the hardest to cope with, parenting issues, lack of sleep with a new baby and so on, in a foreign place these problems are just exacerbated.
- Open Your Home: Often times when a missionary is home on a break they no longer have the the connections they once had at home, people they used to be friends with have moved on, times change. And now they are home and nothing seems familiar. Ask them over for meals with a view to letting them relax – they don’t always want to meet fifty new people and talk about their work! Serve familiar food, they eat exotically all the time. Experience has proved that these are the most appreciative guests!!!
- Help Them At Home: When they are home ask them what they need as support, sometimes it is practical: some books to read, or a lift to and fro. Maybe they just need you to store a couple of boxes for them between home visits. Sometimes they just want to be befriended and if you are going on an outing invite them along. Sometimes they need to host an event for supporters but don’t have a clue how to do this. Offer them your home as the venue – this sounds more alarming than it is! We have quite often done this just let our missionary friends invite their supporters round for coffee – we have always been encouraged and met the most amazing people when we have done this. Not to mention our kids have met people from far and wide.
- Send Them Letters and Gifts: They actually aren’t asking for the world it is usually small familiar items that they are longing for. You will be surprised at how grateful they are for anything – even a postcard. And if you don’t know what to write just tell them a few things about a day in your lives and that you have been thinking of them. That is enough to remind them of home and encourage them. These are a couple of things that we have been asked for: Christian books (because they usually can’t get them in the country they are working in – ask about these first because they may not be allowed Christian literature); familiar magazines from home, newspaper cuttings, familiar candy – in fact we had a friend who just wanted the Saturday Sport Scores emailed to him – now that’s really doable, but if you didn’t ask you wouldn’t know!
- Remember Who You are Serving There is no point in sending a missionary encouraging letters and gifts and letting them have the use of your home and car when they are home, if all the while you are expecting something in return. You will be rewarded by their friendship, but often times their work is arduous and at the end of a day of doing a hard and different job to your normal job, in a foreign and difficult language they may not be up to sending copious letters of gratitude in response.
- Pray for them in General: The better you know your missionary the better you can pray for them specifically. But missionaries need consistent and general prayer too. They also need to know that you are praying for them. If you have a weekly prayer plan then tell them – often times that will open the communication door and they will give you specific things they need help with in that area. There are countless general resources on the web for praying for missionaries, lists of ideas and weekly plans and so on. Here are se7en of the best of them:
- Praying for Missionaries, Using the ABC’s – this is my favorite and great to use with your kids – it’s fun and practical and you could use it from one end of a month to another.
- Praying hands for missions This is a great resource, full of ideas to help you and your children remember how to pray and also lists to remind you of what to pray.
- Wycliffe Prayer Resources These resources are for a specific type of missionary: Bible translators. These resources are brilliant and I use the kids pages with my kids all the time.
- How to Pray for Missionaries, by By Paul G. Zimmerman This pamphlet explore 15 ideas for praying for missionaries – beyond the “Please Lord, Bless all the missionaries today” kind of prayer.
- Getting Beyond “God Bless the Missionaries” This is a useful weekly prayer plan for praying for missionaries.
- Praying for Missionaries This is how to pray for missionaries specifically. Getting going with prayer for them and aspects of their physical and spiritual needs.
- Praying for Missions As well as having a weekly plan this has a prayer list for the atributes of your missionary.
I always thought that people with young kids wouldn’t be very useful in serving missionaries – turns out it is a brilliant way to teach your children about having a servant heart and a little bit of geography on the side. And our missionary friends seem to like being inundated but a steady stream of prayer partners and little letters of encouragement.
So everyone’s a winner and we as a family look forward to a missionary standing up at the front of church asking for support.