Caring for Missionaries through Connection: The Three C’s

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A perfect illustration of “out of sight, out of mind” is that of the missionary serving overseas. We have heard this refrain many times in our conversations with missionaries in our church’s care ministry. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it this way: “not able to be seen, and so not thought about. Problems in remote places can be out of sight, out of mind for many people.”

Although connection may be one of their biggest desires, it is also one of their biggest challenges. A missionary’s support network usually consists of their family, friends, and church community. These are the people who know and love them and understand their purpose and work. They are key to their well-being on the field.

 

Paul expressed this same sentiment in his letter to the Philippians when he mentioned being “fully supplied” (Phil. 4:18 HCSB hereafter) and joy in his renewed care (Phil. 4:10). In this way, the dynamics of missionary work have remained the same over the centuries. So church, as much as it depends on us, as we send we must also support, and support means staying connected. Here are three key elements to consider in staying well connected to your missionaries.

Consistency

Your missionary should hear from you on a regular basis. With today’s myriad of communication apps, this is easily done. There is no better encouragement (perhaps outside an actual visit) for a missionary than to receive consistent communication from their support network. Regular contact allows you to get to know your missionary really well, and it provides a level of personal security for them to be vulnerable and share needs.

Make it your goal to be so consistent in your communications that your missionary can echo the words of Paul: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil. 1:3–5) That is the sign of an excellent partnership.

Community

Paul had a reciprocal relationship with the Philippian church that he highly valued, made evident when he said, “because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7).

This kind of relationship between the church and their missionaries can be a challenge, but there are practical, effective ways to make it happen. The following ways are taken in part from Mind the Gaps: Engaging the Church in Missionary Care by David Wilson.

  • Church-wide prayer gatherings
    With your missionary’s permission, include photos, profiles, copies of newsletters, and specific requests from your missionaries and their teams in the field.
  • Short-term mission trips
    Go where your missionary is serving. “As you might imagine, this is where people really discover the real stories from the life of the missionaries and their ministries. When you’re eating, traveling and serving together, it is a great partnership and time of bonding” (Kindle loc. 1471–1474).
  • Care team field visits
    These teams can be incorporated into short-term trips, or they can be separate ventures. “A field visit goes a long way to connect your hearts and build trusting relationships that show them how important they are to us. The visit opens up vistas into the challenges these tough soldiers are facing day to day for our Lord and we see it as critical to bridge the understanding and compassion gaps that can so easily exist with the miles, time, and differences in a foreign country” (Kindle loc. 1353–1354).
  • Introduction
    Have returned missionaries recognized in the worship services. In whatever way you can, make their presence known by putting together faces and names. This will bring them closer to the church community.
  • Care retreats and conferences
    This is an excellent opportunity for your missionaries to return home for a time of connection with the congregation and for rest and restoration. Involve the church community in planning and providing for this special time.
  • Group involvement
    Incorporate your small groups, Sunday school classes, youth groups, etc. Have them consider adopting a missionary. Their efforts do not have to be burdensome. Here are a few things any group can do.

    • Prayers: set aside time for praying for them and their needs each time you meet.
    • Photos: send one of your group.
    • Phone calls and packages: Know their birthdays and anniversaries, send Christmas cards and care packages. Read and reply to their newsletters. Let them know you have sincerely interacted with their lives through the experiences they’ve shared with you.
    • Preparations: if they are returning home for any reason, find out what they need. A welcome basket is always uplifting during this difficult transition period.
    • Participation: include them in your group time (Skype or in person).
  • Church resources
    Churches are usually well-equipped for meeting needs. Examples are access to counseling, housing, transportation, perhaps even a fitness facility. Appeal to the congregation for any professional skills missionaries may need like tax or legal advice.

With Care

Above all, caring through connection means a support network that is a safe place. This requires you to be careful. Many global workers serve in sensitive areas where communication may be monitored. When you have the opportunity, ask your workers the following:

  • What is their preferred method of communication?
  • What is the best time for communication with them?
  • What words should you use or not use so you do not inadvertently put them at risk?

Being a safe place also means a support network that is trustworthy, a place where your worker can be known and accepted. Look to Paul’s letter to the Galatians for how important it is for us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1–5). There should be a few people in the missionary’s circle of support who share a strong, trusting relationship with them. This is so issues related to emotional and spiritual health can be discussed in confidence and additional help on a more professional level can be pursued if there is a need.

Finally, consider holding an information session for anyone who is part of the support network for your missionary community. Training is key for a good missionary care ministry. Use this time to cover the three Cs of caring through connection.“I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

This article was originally published by the International Mission Board

Shirley Ralston (MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the missionary care team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches a Bible study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband, Jeff, now reside in Houston after several years living overseas. You can find her on WordPress and Twitter.

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A Hero’s Journey

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,  who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

“The beautiful thing about this  adventure  called faith is that we can count on Him never to lead us astray.” -Chuck Swindoll


She was 16 when we got the news of a possible move to the Middle East. It would mean forgoing her senior year of high school in the U.S. Her feelings about it weighed heavily on our decision to stay or go.  

‘Is it fair to put that much pressure on her?’, I thought, ‘Is it pure folly to move an upcoming high school senior to a foreign country?’  

Most teenagers would have considered the prospect a hands down, ‘no way!’ But to our surprise, and for many reasons, our youngest daughter saw the move as an answer to prayer and the right way forward for herself. Looking back on that time, she likens her situation to that of a character in a classic Hero’s Journey: 

“I left my ordinary life and answered a call to adventure. With God’s supernatural help, I returned home a transformed person.”  

Her statement rings true for my husband and me as well. 

God’s wisdom can go contrary to our nature, guiding us down a road less traveled. That road requires bold steps of faith and trust. I would be lying if I said my family never faced obstacles during our time in the Middle East. There were days when I questioned whether or not we had done the right thing or the reckless thing. We made a decision that on the surface may not have seemed wise, but the test of time proved otherwise. We all grew in our faith in ways we couldn’t have imagined. 

“…we need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature. Wisdom helps us understand how to use these circumstances for our good and God’s glory.”[1] 

The decision to uproot your family and move to a foreign country is a tough one. The times of doubt will come. When they do, ask God for confirmation and be assured of His faithfulness to you in the here and now. “He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19  

And remember, wherever He leads you, you are on the ultimate Hero’s Journey. 

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 340). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


Lord, I praise you for granting me the privilege to be part of your kingdom work on this earth. I pray for your wisdom to properly discern your will for my journey. Help me to see where my desires conflict with your plans, and where they run parallel. Thank you for your faithfulness in all I will encounter along the way. Amen.

Resources

Book: The Will of God by Charles F. Stanley 

Book: Finding God’s Will by Gregg Matte

This devotional was originally published by Thrive Ministry at https://thriveministry.org/connection/devotional/a-heros-journey

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Crossing Cultures

“…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings…”

1 Corinthians 9:19-23


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Adapting to a new culture can be a challenge in your life as a global worker. The initial honeymoon phase of any assignment can be replaced by isolation and loneliness as the strangeness of your new land becomes a reality. God has called you for a purpose to this place, but you also must live in this place. 

My own struggle to adapt to a new culture is encapsulated in a vivid memory. A representative from our local bank explained to me that, as a woman, I needed my husband’s permission to have a debit card and that he would get a text message each time I used it. “Yes, this is the law,” she explained. I would face other, similar issues during my time in this new land. Freedoms I had enjoyed and taken for granted in my home country were replaced by laws I viewed as regressive and unfair. Over time, this new way of life and I declared a truce. I came to accept my new surroundings, encouraged by the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9. 

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul indicates his willingness to become a participant in other cultures for the sake of the Gospel. He moved with courage among other people groups, his outer persona conforming to the surrounding environment–yet the truth of his message never wavered. Not surprisingly, he had an excellent teacher.

Jesus was masterful in his response to everyone he met. His interactions with Mary and Martha in Luke 10 and the Samaritan woman in John 4 are great examples. They illustrate how he spoke the truth to each one in a manner they understood, regardless of their social position. 

Are you struggling with cultural norms where you live? You are in good company. Jesus and Paul chose to step into the lives of others who were different in order to share the message of eternal life. Take heart, my friend, because you are a result of their work in those early days of the Christian faith, and you’ve been given the perfect example to follow.


Father, I pray for the willingness to set aside my freedoms in order to reach those in the culture where you have placed me. Make me alert to any opportunity to engage others with sensitivity and humility so that I can share the message of eternal life in a way they can understand. Amen.

This devotional was originally published at https://thriveministry.org/connection/devotional/crossing-cultures

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Meditation Amid His Majesty

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works.”

Psalms 145:4–5

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“The purpose of meditation is to enable us to hear God more clearly. Meditation is listening, sensing, heeding the life and light of Christ. This comes right to the heart of our faith.” –Richard Foster

In silence we made the steady climb up the Appalachian Trail. The cadence of our footsteps was accompanied only by the wind through the pine and poplar trees. Above, the sky was clear and blue, disturbed only by the wispy white trails marking the jet stream. Below, dappled sunlight bathed our path in the golden hues of autumn. 

As the traffic noise from Route 319 fell away, so did my anxiety about the eight mile hike. My husband’s long stride and fast pace always put him several feet in front of me so for the most part, I was alone with my thoughts. 

With the everyday noise and distractions of life stripped away, I became acutely aware of God’s presence. Amid the beauty of Appalachia, Romans 1:20 played out in real time, as I began to meditate on “His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world.”

Richard Foster describes meditation in creation as a type of “contemplative prayer… a majestic monotheism in which the great Creator of the universe shows us something of his glory through his creation.”

The glory of creation is a perfect setting for the Lord’s guidance. No matter where I have lived in the world, I have found this to be so. Whether it be majestic mountains, desert dunes, cliff-lined coasts, astounding sunrises and sunsets, or a dark night sky strewn with a million stars, God speaks through His creative majesty. 

Wherever God has sent you to serve, I encourage you to seek out a place of refuge in your natural surroundings. Contemplation will bring clarity as God guides your thoughts. Perhaps the burdens you carry will lighten and you, like me, will be humbled and renewed in purpose and calling. After all, if He can, with a word, create such unimaginable beauty, what can he not do in our own lives?

“Meditation sends us into our ordinary world with greater perspective and balance.” –Richard Foster


CLOSING PRAYER

God of Creation, help us to be mindful each day that we are surrounded by the work of your hands. The beauty of your world is also a reflection of the beauty you see in each one of us. Help us to pause, pray, and listen for your voice as you speak through the glory of your creation. We trust in your guidance and direction. Amen.

Resources

Article: Spiritual Disciplines by Meredith Cook

Book: Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster

Song: So Will I by Hillsong

This devotional was originally published at https://thriveministry.org/connection/devotional/meditation-amid-his-majesty

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The BestQuest with MissionQuest in Chile

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Chris and Jamie Suel – The Center for Mission Mobilization

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Shaun and Abby Suitt – Sports Friends Kenya

Grab Some Coffee! Well, first off, we do want to apologize that we have been silent for a while now.  We honestly have been dragging our feet to send…

Shaun and Abby Suitt – Sports Friends Kenya
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Jeremy and Ella Cole – Mosaic Church Dubai

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Serving in Spain – Vivian Ochoa, Member Care

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LOVING DEEP THROUGH THE UNKNOWN

Join me this week as we hear from Jenny Nuccio in Mombasa, Kenya. She writes about what it was like for her and the community she serves in those early days of Covid-19. Pray for Jenny, her family, their ministry and the people of Mombasa.

via LOVING DEEP THROUGH THE UNKNOWN

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