8 Ways to Help New Missionaries (From Home)
As our friend and colleague Jacob celebrated and reflected upon his “3 year Deutschiversary” (anniversary in Deutschland), he put some thoughts into blog format and started some great conversation about helping newcomers to the field. Whether you’re a new(ish) missionary and are looking for someone who can relate, or whether you love a missionary and want to show them that you are behind them, this conversation is worth exploring.
Take a look at what Jacob had to say after his first 3 years and crossing the “veteran missionary” threshold:
In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said to his disciples, “‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
I’m no Bible scholar, but I’m pretty decent at math and I can tell you that if missionaries don’t stay on the field very long then we have to keep sending more and more missionaries to make up for the loss while still trying to play catch-up to how many are needed.
Pause right there, and join Jacob in reflecting upon these words of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Most of us read those words with conviction and a sense of duty. That is good. But it’s also worth reading with a sense of unity — a dedication to one another and a principle to support those few workers.
So what does that look like? How can we do that? Jacob gives 8 practical tips:
Freedom to travel
Respond to newsletters
We asked missionary Ashley F. to weigh in on these 8 tips as well. Are the missional support needs in other areas of the world different? What is universal?
Obviously missionaries need prayer for all aspects of their life just like anyone else, but receiving a note letting them know you are praying for them can be a huge help on tough days. A simple e-mail saying “I’m praying” can mean a lot, but praying without sending a note is also greatly appreciated. – Jacob
I think with prayer, it’s incredibly encouraging to not only know “people” (in a very vague way) are praying for you, but when one person actually emails you or sends you a card letting you know that they are in fact praying for you. Even a one liner like, “Just wanted to let you know yesterday or today I was praying for you”, is really encouraging. And then even if they ask if there any specific way they can continue to pray is also encouraging. -Ashley
2. Care packages
Care packages don’t have to be anything amazing. They don’t have to cost a lot of money or any money outside of the shipping itself. Sending some artwork done by young family members or recent pictures of friends/family will also brighten the day of your favorite missionary. Some places are really difficult/expensive to send packages to, so make sure you discuss the best way to send something with the person to which you are sending the package. Care packages also do not have to be physical items. Consider sending a digital code for iTunes/Google Play or Amazon so they can treat themselves to music/movies/books. Trust me, they will love that too! -Jacob
Care packages are nice, but it’s best if the person sending the package either knows the person well and/or knows the area they live well (like what sort of things the missionary can buy there, etc.). Otherwise the missionary will end up getting a lot of things either they don’t like or don’t have a need for, etc. Which is fine and still encouraging because of the thought behind it, but it would be even better if you get a package full of things that you actually like and/or have a real need for. If the person sending the package isn’t sure what to send, it’s good to ask the missionary what kind of things they like or need. -Ashley
This isn’t so different from care packages, but letters are easier to send and can be way more personal than a care package. Sending cards for birthdays or holidays are great, but also consider sending a random letter on a random day. I bet you God will use it to bless the missionary who receives it and it might just come on the exact day he or she needed a boost. -Jacob
Letters are great, easy, and go a LONG way! It’s so encouraging to go to the mail box and pull out a letter specifically for you. Especially when it’s a surprise or unexpected. If people aren’t sure what to write about, it’s nice to have Bible verses written in them and/or just to hear about what that person is up to in life that moment even if they are a stranger to the missionary. -Ashley
4. Freedom to travel
This is a tricky one. Missionaries who live on financial support are given a salary just like any other job, but unlike any other job that salary comes from individuals who have chosen to partner with them for a specific ministry. It has been known to happen that some people get upset when they see their missionary traveling to “exotic” locations and doing things that for most people would be a once in a lifetime thing. What I’m saying, though, is wherever your missionaries are, they can travel places where you may never go, but just because they are taking a vacation it doesn’t mean they are being poor stewards of your gifts. Give them the freedom to travel and let them enjoy the location where God has sent them to work. -Jacob
I’m not sure what “Freedom to travel” means…I live 12 hours from the nearest airport. -Ashley
5. Respond to newsletters
In addition to the day to day tasks that come with their ministry, missionaries have to send newsletters on a regular basis. Some missionaries love writing them and others struggle with them. Either way, one of the toughest things is taking the time to create and send a newsletter regularly and then hearing nothing back. Send your missionary a little virtual love and send them an e-mail saying…well saying really anything at all. -Jacob
It often feels like you send newsletters into space and unless anyone responds to them, it feels like no one has read them and that you might even be wasting your time sending the updates. -Ashley
This one may or may not be tough depending on your financial situation, their location, etc., but if you are able to visit your missionaries when they are on the field or when they are “home” then I highly recommend it. Talk to your missionaries first though…please! [emphasis added] Oh and if you do visit them, ask them what you can bring from “home,” they will love a few treats to make it into your suitcase. -Jacob
Visits are really encouraging as well but depending on the missionary and their living arrangements/location, visits end up being a greater burden than good. For example, I live 12 hours from the nearest airport so if anyone came to visit, I’d have to take vacation days to travel up to the capital to meet them, spend a few days there to rest from the long trip up to the capital, show them around the city, then travel back with them to where I live, then provide for them and “entertain” them while they are there, and then take vacation time again to return them to the capital, etc. It’s really hard to continue your everyday work life when visitors are there so the missionary almost has to take vacation time if someone is coming for a visit. I think if anyone wants to come to visit, it would have to be by a special invitation by the missionary. It doesn’t hurt to let the missionary know they are interested in visiting sometime though. Then the missionary can put it in the back of their mind if they are ever feeling up for a visitor, they can contact that person. -Ashley
7. Get excited
This is simple. Show enthusiasm when your missionary shows enthusiasm. Nothing stinks more than when you are excited and all you hear back are a bunch of crickets. Don’t fake enthusiasm, but if you are excited by something they say or do, then let them know! – Jacob
It is really encouraging when people outside of your mission get excited for the work God is doing through the mission. It’s fun when people “adopt” your work as their own in their hearts even if they aren’t on the field with you! -Ashley
I’m not even going to apologize ending with this one. A good chunk of, but not all, missionaries raise their own financial support. This means that most of their lives depends on the financial contributions by individuals. When those contributions don’t come in, they take a pay cut which might mean they have to get creative in how they squeeze a few extra dollars out of their budget. Even if you can’t contribute on a monthly/annual basis, contributing special gifts may help them out more than you even know. This is a part of the life we decided to live when we followed God’s calling and we accept that, but it doesn’t make it less of a need. Any financial gift is greatly appreciated and will help keep your favorite missionary on the field for as long as possible. -Jacob
And financial support is also really, really important. Without the finances coming in, the work can’t go on. Even if people can give a little bit, it will go a long way. I think what is most important in giving is giving for the long term and not just a one time gift. Missionaries are in need of a monthly salary, so if the person can give each month whether a lot or a little, it really helps. -Ashley
We’d like to keep the conversation going. What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself wanting to bless your missionary in one of these ways? Do you disagree with any point? If we agree that the workers are few, then let’s always look into ways that we can support one another in this commission of sharing the news of Jesus.
CC image courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI | Changes made