It’s easy to forget about your church’s missionaries. Life is busy and the distance and time difference make keeping in touch difficult. But sending churches have an obligation to encourage and hold their missionaries accountable to their God-given task. Conversely, it’s easy as a missionary to feel neglected. Over time this can grow into bitterness towards the church and end in leaving the field early. Here are a few practical ways to support your missionaries and keep unnecessary burn-out from happening.
- Respond to email updates. When I lived overseas I had around 200 people on my email update list. Usually I would get 5-10 replies. Even if they were just a few sentences, they greatly encouraged me.
- Write a letter. Letter writing is a dying art and sometimes difficult depending on the reliability of your missionary’s postal service, but it can be a great way to encourage your missionary to persevere. Emails are easy to ignore or miss, but letters are touched, reread and cherished.
- Have video calls. Use programs like Skype or FaceTime to have periodic face to face video calls with your missionary friends. Engage them in conversation like you would any normal person, they are normal people! Ask good questions and listen well. Do not be afraid to ask the hard questions and be ready to hear hard messy answers. Don’t just talk about them; make sure you share deeply about your life and the world you live in as well. Use these calls to be present in your friend’s life and affirm the fact that they have not been forgotten.
- Send periodic care packages. Everyone loves getting a package in the mail. Receiving a few missed items from home can turn a discouraging week around. For me it was coffee from my favorite roaster, for my roommate it was beef jerky. However, be cautious about sending too many packages, which can make missionaries dependent on outside goods and interfere with adjusting to the culture.
- Use social media. Re-tweet, post comments on photos, or mention how you are thinking about them in status updates. But be sure to be cautious about security if they work in a sensitive context.
- Pray. Of course this is the most important point and should permeate all the other ones. Stick their prayer card on your fridge. Make their photo your computer wallpaper. Get a tattoo. Do whatever it takes to remember to pray for your missionaries- and let them know you’re praying.