We often think of our missionaries as spiritual giants. They have no need of earthly pleasures, their life is so sold out for the Kingdom of God, earthly things are of no consequence. If there are any needs, it’s probably just financial, right?
Missionaries are just like you and me. Missionaries have good days and bad days. They have struggles, and miss comforts from home.
Missionaries need support – financial, spiritual, emotional, moral, and physical support.
Ideally, this should come from the local church – but that does not mean that it must come from the paid church staff. There are many ways that Christians can support missionaries, even if they are not the missions pastor.
The Bible declares that Missions and word evangelism is a partnership between missionaries and senders. Romans 10 speaks of those that go, and those that send.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The entire book of Philippians is basically a thank you letter from Paul to the church in Philippi, thanking them for the assistance they sent to Paul on multiple occasions. Chapter 4:
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
It is our responsibility to support and send our missionaries well. Again, this is not just financially we are talking here. We must learn to support in as many ways as we can.
The government understands this principle well. About 80-90 percent of the jobs in the military are non-combat occupations. That means for every troop deployed to front-line operations, there are anywhere from 4-9 people behind the scenes supporting them – intel, logistics, chefs, mechanics, medics. Friend who is a chaplain in the military – pastor to the troops.
As Christians, we love seeing missionaries head out to the field. At Refuge, we have our missionaries stand in the “Crossroads” where the aisles all come together, for prayer and commissioning. But once they are sent out, we still need to be behind them, just as the military is behind the grunts on the ground.
So how can we practically support our missionaries?
On the Field
• Maintain the flow of information. Missionaries love to hear about what is happening back home, and back at church. Churches often require missionaries to send reports back to keep them informed; Churches should be taking it upon themselves to keep the missionaries informed about what is happening at the home church. Personal notes from the pastor, secretary, staff, or volunteer can let the missionaries know what is happening, so when they come visit they aren’t surprised.
• Personal letters don’t have to come from the pastor to be meaningful. Personal letters from church members are cherished. When we were in Kenya, we would keep letters from members of the church, and reread them throughout the year.
• Don’t forget cards! We taped up all of our Christmas cards in our kitchen, and kept them up until the tape weakened and they started falling off the wall – in June. Birthday cards are fun to send, as it shows your missionaries that you think about them more than just at holidays – you even remember their birthday! In order for your missionaries to receive them on time, mail cards 7-10 days before birthdays, and Christmas cards 3-4 weeks early. International mail takes more time around the holidays.
• Skype or Facetime with missionaries. Set up a time to just check in and see how they are doing. Email and messages are great, but they don’t show emotion as well as a face to face.
• Respond to their newsletters. We had one lady in our church respond to every single newsletter. It was usually very short, just a message that they read our newsletter and were praying for us. Even these short messages meant so much to us.
• Support their families. Missionaries are separated from their family, and struggle when they have a family member who is sick or needs help with something. Volunteer to bring a meal to their family member; or help them move on behalf of your missionary.
• Furlough is the time when missionaries return to their home country for fundraising, break, etc. It is not the same as a vacation – missionaries often need a vacation after they return to their host country!
• Make sure your church is helping bring home missionaries every 2-3 years at least. Furlough is expensive on a missionary budget – a family of five can cost over $5000 from some countries to return home – which can equal multiple months of support!
• Educate yourself before they return; reread their newsletters, find out about current events in their country, etc.
• Remember everything is expensive for them – they are still paying rent and ministry expenses in their host country, and then costs in their home country. If you want to get a meal with them, offer to pick up the check. And let them know that you are treating them in advance, so they don’t stress out before the meal.
• They will need a time of rest and regrouping before jumping into ministry and sharing. Can you offer a vacation spot? A cabin, Airbnb, or timeshare?
• Provide a car for them. If you have an extra car, make sure that the insurance and registration is current, and loan it to them for a time. Reach out to them before they leave and offer it to them, so there is less stress once they land.
• Gas cards and gift cards are great ways to bless missionaries – they will most likely be driving a lot, so gas and Starbucks cards are amazing!
• Get together for a meal. If the missionaries have kids, it’s better to invite them to your home rather than a restaurant. Adults can sit for a coup[le hours catching up – kids, not so much.
• Engage the children! Kids are often the forgotten part of ministering to missionaries. Ask about school, their friends, favorite foods, sports…
• Don’t say – “I bet you are glad you are home,” which can be confusing for missionaries, especially kids. Where is home? I’ve been back for two years, in my “home town,” and still occasionally have to think about how to answer the question, “So where are you from?”
• Visit missionaries!
• Send representatives in small numbers to field to be a blessing and to better understand the situation they live in. This should not be to evaluate the work – which we, who are living in a different country, in a different culture may find hard to understand why things are done a certain way.
• Make sure it is during a time that limits the disruption of their lives. If your missionaries work in a school, Exam time would probably not be a good time to visit.
• Don’t be a financial burden. Yes the trip is expensive, but you most likely still make much more money than the missionary does.
Care Package Do’s and Don’ts
Before you send a package –
• Make sure that what you want to send can’t be purchased there. It is very expensive to mail a package overseas – so fill it up with treats that are not readily available in their host country.
• Find out if there are items that are off limits. Sending a case of Christian literature into a closed country may get your missionary in trouble.
• Find out if they will they be charged any duty or tariffs for receiving the package. Some countries will charge import tariffs on anything you send.
• Ask what specific items your missionary wants or needs. (favorite candy, treats, or books that the missionary would like)
What to include –
• Cooking/baking items
o Seasoning packets were a tradable commodity Chili, ranch, French onion, taco seasoning…
o Cake mixes
o Mac and Cheese
o Peanut Butter
o Coffee or Tea
• Note – be careful with sending spices and strong scented items with other things. We once received a box of allspice tasting chocolates.
• Games and coloring books
• HAND WRITTEN NOTES!!!!