No Christian worker, whether at home or overseas, can go it alone but needs the support of a team. God may not be calling you to go, but He may have put mission on your heart as part of His work around the world.
What can you do to support missionaries in your church?
The automatic response to the word 'support' is to think of money. Yet financial support is only a small part of what churches and individuals can do.
How can you offer support?
You can show Christian compassion and share the message of Christ around the world. You can pray — for an individual, a country, or a specific group of people. You can show your concern for those yet to hear the gospel by giving finances — whether for Serving in Mission's ministry in general, a specific project, or an individual missionary — making a difference for eternity.
Perhaps your skills are practical and you can distribute a missionary's prayer letter, send news from home, or keep an eye on their house. The ways to support and encourage are many and all can be part of Serving in Mission! Neal Pirolo's article Raising the Standard of Missionary Care (used by permission) focuses on the significance of supporting and caring well for those who go.
Encourage missionaries in the big step of faith they are taking. This may counterbalance some of the less positive comments that they may hear such as 'Why throw away your education?' or 'Why don't you get a real job?'
Praying and attending a service at their church are great ways to show support during this time of transition.
You could volunteer to act as prayer co-ordinator, sending out prayer letters and being a contact point for news. If you have the space, you could store belongings, or look after their house whilst missionaries are overseas. You could send church newsletters or a subscription to a favourite magazine.
You can also offer support by visiting elderly parents, providing a second home to university-age kids, and serving as executor of the missionary's will.
ON THE FIELD
Prayer support can literally change the world. You can pray more intelligently and specifically by reading the missionary's prayer letter and using Operation World, helping you to get beyond the 'God bless the missionaries' stage.
Find a system that works to help you pray regularly for mission. Why not start up a prayer support group for missionaries in your church, or find one or two other people to pray with you? Pray for missionaries ‘unceasingly’ (Ephesians 6:18) as you go about your daily life — whilst ironing or doing the washing up, for example. Sending a note, an email or a text saying simply, 'I prayed for you today', will really encourage those on the field. Finally, as Jesus said in Matthew 9:35-38, pray for more ‘workers for the harvest’.
Keep in touch with missionaries and don't be overwhelmed at the thought of writing a long letter. Buy postcards, send an email or a text for a quick update. Or you could phone or use Skype. . . . What would you miss if you were abroad? Chocolate bars, tea bags, a book, a CD . . . all say, 'I care!' Be creative . . . let missionaries know that they can ask you to send things. Paul had this kind of relationship, and felt free to ask in 2 Timothy 4:13, 'And when you come, please bring the cloak . . . the books, but especially the parchments.'
BACK AT HOME
Readjusting to life back home is often more difficult than learning to live in the foreign country, so re-entry support is vital. Professionally, financially, culturally and practically, a missionary faces much change and values sensitive support. Debbie Lovell-Hawker's article Coming Home gives an insight into the struggles missionaries face when returning from overseas.
A missionary needs a car and a home when they return. They need someone to listen, and enjoy looking at their photos. Opportunities to speak to small groups about their experiences will be welcome. Even someone to take them on their first visit to the supermarket could help too — Sainsbury’s can be daunting to those used to haggling in a local market!
You are a vital part of world mission and now is a great time to 'adopt' a missionary. and we can put you in touch with someone in your area.
Neal Pirolo's books 'Serving as Senders' and 'The Re-entry Team: Caring for your returning missionaries' are both available through the Oscar website
'Burn up or Splash Down — surviving the culture shock of re-entry' by Marion Knell (published by Authentic Books). Go to the Oscar website to see a list of on-line booksellers.