With the new year comes new goals and fresh starts. And whether your plans for 2014 already include supporting missions, or if the idea is new to you, take a moment to consider these valuable insights that I hope will spark new ideas about supporting missionaries.
1. Make It a Two-Way Connection
Missionaries are constantly reminded that they are strangers in a strange land, and news updates are their major means of staying connected with the people they have left behind at home. The connection, though, usually flows only in one direction.
Recently, we had someone email us just to tell us that she had read our latest mission report from start to finish and that she loved every word of it. We were ecstatic to know that someone on the other end was really paying attention and that she valued our work enough to tell us so. That ounce of response delivered a ton of encouragement!
If you’re already on a missionary’s mailing list, make the effort to respond to their reports from time to time. If you don’t get reports from the mission field, search for a missionary whose work interests you, and ask to be added to their mailing list. Imagine the thrill it will be to them to have someone else initiate the relationship.
2. Pray for Their Unspoken Requests
The challenges and warfare that come against missionaries are extreme. Just like Moses who needed Aaron and Hur to fight against Israel’s enemies, your prayers are essential to the welfare and success of a missionary. But guess what… even if you get regular prayer updates from the field, chances are they’re holding back, not wanting to burden you with an avalanche of requests, especially when it concerns their own well-being.
Remember, missionaries are on the front lines; you won’t be intruding by inquiring how they’re holding up in the battle. I can tell you from experience, your “getting personal” won’t be a coincidence. It most likely will occur right when the missionary needs it most. It could actually be the difference between going on or giving up.
3. Don’t Ignore Those Fundraising Letters (or This Section)
For most missionaries (this one included), fundraising is an agonizing exercise because we fear being misjudged or burdensome. But the truth is: no money, no mission. But what if you just can’t give, or you’re already maxed out in your giving? Missionaries understand that. We really do.
Maintaining a meaningful relationship is what’s important, so let the missionary know that you’re not put out by their request (that’s a real genuine concern to us). You don’t have to go into detail as to why you are not able to financially support them at the time, but do make the effort to let them know that you support them in other ways. Assure them that you care about their mission. That way, they won’t worry that they’ve lost a friend because of “the money thing.”
4. Remember Important Dates
Tanie and I have actually been on the field working with missionaries who receive no word from family or friends back home, even on special days. Do you know the birthdays and other significant dates of the missionaries you support? Take note of these special dates, and make it a point to send cards or packages (ok, that might cost you a dime or two). Be creative. Include others. You might even consider instituting a “Love a Missionary Just Because Day” for no reason other than to surprise them with an unexpected blessing.
5. Consider Them To Be Family
Make the effort to adopt the missionaries you support as part of your family. Keep their pictures on your refrigerator. Share their updates at the dinner table with your family. Send photos and updates of your family to them. Plan a Skype visit with them. Let others know about them and their work. The possibilities can be endless.