six ways to support missionaries
Taken from Serving as Senders, by Neil Pirolo*
· Encouraging your missionaries. As your missionaries work in the harvest fields, a thousand opportunities and ways to minister will bombard them. Encourage them to keep their eyes focused on the simple, straightforward ministry of Jesus. Urge them to listen quietly to the direction of the Spirit out of all the godly counsel he is receiving (Proverbs 19:20-21). Remind them to keep going on step at a time.
· Actively listening. The art of active listening is a foundation of moral support. While emotional isolation is already a major problem in
· Making it personal: Read, in its context, the story of each of the individuals in the Bible referred to below. Place next to their names the relationship of the people who could have been of moral support to them. Then choose one of the stories. In your won words, retell the story as if those people had given moral support.
o David- 1 Samuel 30
o Jesus- Luke 22
o Mary- Matthew 1
o The blind man- John 9
o Paul- Acts 21
· Ways to support:
o Confirming and encouraging spiritual growth. Sadly, some statistics report that for all their preparation, for all their “hearing God’s voice, and for all their support, up to 50% of cross-cultural workers do not complete their first term of commitment. Too many don’t make it because of spiritual drought. They are trying to give out more than they are taking in. You can help by sharing in spiritual accountability, doing Bible studies together through correspondence, sending Bible study resources, among other ideas.
o Attending to personal details. Support your missionary by keeping up with needs he or she may have back at home. While those sent through mission agencies often have several bases covered, there are still many personal details to be managed on the homefront.
· Making it personal:
o Make a list of all the things in your life that would need attention “back home” if you went away for two years. These are probably the things your missionary has to find someone to handle when he leaves.
· Three areas of biblical stewardship:
o Giving. The discipline of tithing leads a Christian to a deeper commitment of “generous, cheerful, hilarious” giving (2 Corinthians 9:7) which grows into the willing mid principle of 2 Corinthians 8:12-14: “That there may be equality!” When we enlarge our vision to encompass the world, the principle of equality has us giving and giving some more since the poverty level in is in the top 4% of world family income. Giving of our financial wealth is an act of intelligent worship. “Let every man who will do it willingly from his heart bring an offering” (Exodus 25:2). What do we learn from his Word? That generous, cheerful, hilarious giving is not an awkward interruption to worship, but the very essence of it.
o Lifestyle. Did you know that Americans pay as much for pet food in 52 days as they spend annually on missions? Does our lifestyle, as Jesus said, tell us where our heart is? While pursuing comfort we can easily ignore Christ’s warning in Scripture, “He who would seek to save his life would lose it” (Luke 17:33). Any good cross-cultural training teaches the missionary to adapt as much as possible to the lifestyle of those he is ministering among. Senders might experience a new sense of belonging and a new vision on their part in rescuing the perishing if they, too, would adopt a lifestyle that approximates that of those they are sending. Senders who take on this challenge often find that somehow their quality of life usually improves.
o Managing Wealth. Christian stewardship can be exercised behind the front lines of the mission field in several ways. Some examples include: Cooperatives, Thrift stores, Multi-level sales, Mutual fund investing, estate planning, grant fund, matching funds, income tax and equity. Get financial counsel about any of these suggestions from trustworthy people who understand money well. In all of these above areas, the influence of one person is small. But it is one by that we will stand before Him and give an accounting of our actions: “Wood, hay, stubble” or “gold, silver and precious stones!” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). We are to become “faithful… in the unrighteous riches” so that the Lord will “commit to our trust the true riches” (Luke 16:1-2).
o Making it personal: Paul had quite a bit to say about his financial support (or lack thereof)! Read each of the following passages and try to determine Paul’s philosophy regarding financial support: 1 Corinthians 9; 2 Corinthians 12:13-19; Philippians 4:10-19; Philemon 18-22.
· Prayer is the arena of spiritual warfare. Those who enter there are in touch with a world in need. Those who enter there regularly know the scars but also the victory of battle. Prayer is where the action is- supporting and sustaining those on the fields of the world. It is vitally important for your cross-cultural worker to have a strong prayer support team every step of the way. A challenge for the prayer warrior is the distance from “being there,” which may cause the prayer needs to seem remote or unreal. To make your prayers more specific for your missionaries, here is a prayer list to give you a good start in understanding the areas of need:
o Adjusting to the language, foods, customs and climate.
o Protection in travel, health, accidents, dangerous situations.
o Family concerns, schooling, friendships, living standards.
o Loneliness, homesickness, lack of fellowship.
o Interpersonal relationships dealing with one’s own (and others’) prejudice, selfishness, depending on the faithfulness of others to meet one’s financial needs.
o Effectiveness in ministry, whatever the assignment.
o Functioning of the tools in ministry.
o Lack of visible results.
o The people being ministered to, the national Christians and the leaders of the country.
o Need for stability, wisdom, compassion, self-discipline, boldness, power, love, to be filled with the Spirit of God.
· Making it personal: Begin or become part of a missions prayer group where you can learn to participate in the power of united prayer.
· It is hard to imagine the importance of communication from home until you have “been there.” When a person establishes a new life on the mission field, real loneliness can set in- a feeling of isolation and being out of it. When you communicate with your missionaries, the content is vital.
o Say things that really matter.
o Share your thoughts and feelings- what is really going on in your life. Be realistic and honest, but don’t use them as your counselor. Remember, you are their support.
o Get involved in their lives on the field as much as you can.
o Express interested in the concerns of their hearts.
o Ask questions about their lives and respond to what they have mentioned in previous letters.
o Share how God is leading you to pray for them.
o Share things that can be mutually encouraging to them in the Lord.
o Don’t forget to have your kids write to the children of the missionary family. This is good training for them to become aware of and involved in missionaries!
· Ways to communicate: You can communicate through phone, email, written letters, and even audio or videotape letters! Care packages are priceless investments for your missionaries, and it is amazing how meaningful it will be for them. Personal visits are not to be forgotten, either! Consider serving with them on a short-term mission trip, which can double as a missionary encouragement visit.
· Making it personal: Contact EEMN for ideas on how to communicate in special ways with our EEMN missionaries.
· When a missionary returns home, whether for visit or longer, there is an initial shock. The stress of coming home is another issue. To add even more, the missionary will face spiritual challenges as well. As a supporter, you can help your missionary through the challenges of re-entry by taking the initiative to reach out. Help your missionary through this transition time as the Lord leads and provides opportunities.
· Making it personal: Talk with missionaries who are on furlough or those who have returned more permanently about the challenge of re-entry. But be prepared for some tears! Many missionaries, unless they have an extraordinary support team, have bottled up emotions. As you listen to these people, try to identify symptoms of challenges that you can help another missionary through in the future.
*Pirolo, Neal. Serving As Senders.