We are missionaries, but a good portion of what we do is missionary support. As we travel, we are blessed to see the many different ways the Lord works around the world. We also have the pleasure of getting to know, support, and encourage the awesome people who are joining him in his work.
I often hear people wondering and discussing reaching out to missionaries. There are some very simple and practical things you can do as individuals, families, and Bible classes to encourage a missionary.
Five Ways to Encourage a Missionary
First and foremost, PRAY. Knowing that you have people lifting you and your work up to the Lord is a powerful motivator.
Stay in Contact with the Missionary
COMMUNICATE. If you do take the time to pray, tell the missionary. Knowing that someone is thinking of you, can change the course of an entire day or week. Loneliness is one of the most common things missionaries experience.
Show an Interest in Their Lives
When missionaries visit, TAKE TIME TO LEARN ABOUT THEIR LIVES. Listen to the stories, ask about the culture, challenges, triumphs, and needs. It is hard enough coming back. No one likes to feel that no one notices or cares.
Send a Thoughtful Note
In this technologically driven world, receiving a handwritten note in the mail is like finding hidden treasure. Again, this shows that we haven’t been forgotten and that we matter. Take the time to SEND A HANDWRITTEN NOTE.
Send a Special Care Package
MAKE A SEASONAL CARE PACKAGE. Celebrations vary around the world. They are also so much a part of culture that being a part of them becomes a part of who you are at times. Many missionaries miss these moments the most. Be mindful of the season and make a holiday care package. Send some things from home that are seasonal. For example: candy corn at Halloween, Peeps at Easter and candy canes at Christmas. If there are kids, a few stickers could bring happiness for days. Even better, send things that aren’t so easy to get outside of the US. Here are a few common things people miss:
- Canned Pumpkin
- Evaporated Milk
- Peppermints (that don’t taste menthol)
- Brown Sugar
- Seasonal Napkins
- Cranberry Sauce
- Girl scout Cookies
Whatever you do or think of will be a blessing. These are just ideas to help get you started.
What are some things you have done or heard about in regards to encouraging missionaries?
It was February. I was about seven weeks pregnant for the second time. As I prepared to leave for the Bible class I was teaching, I knew something was wrong. I ran to the bathroom and I was bleeding. I took several deep breaths, said many prayers, and rushed off to the church.
The next day I went to the doctor. They confirmed there was a problem, told me to rest, and take testosterone for a few week. I did. At the next checkup, they told us the heartbeat was gone.
I was devastated. The doctor instructed me to go home and wait to miscarry. After it happened, I was to call and let them know.
Seven weeks passed and my belly continued to get bigger. So did my hope.
I decided there was some medical mistake. They were wrong. Clearly, my baby was growing. About this time, I started to get sick. I had never had morning sickness this strong and I figured this was just a part of it.
My doctor called to follow up since I never called. She asked me to come in. They looked and said I had a missed miscarriage. The baby was gone but my body wouldn’t let it go. I had to come back the next day to surgically end it.
When the surgery was over, I woke up deeply saddened by the loss of our child, but physically feeling great. Two weeks later I had follow-up tests. Within days, my doctor called my house. I remember thinking how nice she was to call me. She said,
“I took the liberty of running some extra tests after your surgery to try and figure out what happened, and again at the follow-up. Now that all the results are back, I need you to go tomorrow to meet with this doctor. He is a specialist. He can help you, and they will explain it.”
“If you were my sister I would ask you to see my friend at OU Medical Center. I have taken the liberty of making you an appointment.”
After agreeing to the appointment I hung up the phone, rolled into a ball on the bed, and cried. I was hurting for the lost dreams. Secretly, I had named the baby Noah. It hurt to think of all the things he would never experience or become. Even though I only knew he existed for fifteen weeks, he was mine and I loved him.
I called my dad and just sat on the phone with him and cried. My own strong attachment to the baby I lost puzzled me. Grief is a funny thing, but somehow just knowing my dad was listening on the other end comforted me.
Not many people knew I was pregnant because the pregnancy was troubled so early. So I tried to handle my emotions in secret.
Now, there was something about losing him that required me to go to a specialist because my doctor didn’t feel she could explain it? How much more could I take? I called my husband and he made plans to go with me to the appointment.
It didn’t take long to figure out what was coming once we got to the specialist’s office at OU Medical Center. He was in the department of oncology. They asked me to fill out a thirteen page registration form. Most of it had to do with cancer. I just lost a baby. So why were they asking me so many questions that did not apply to my situation?
They called us in, and we met with a team of doctors who explained that I had a rare form of cancer. It prevented the proper development of the pregnancy. In our case it was really rare because I had both tumors and a pregnancy. I would begin chemo the following day.
We were in shock. I had to slam the brakes and shift gears. Though they assured me the cancer was very curable and that I would only need chemo for about three weeks, I was scared.
My thoughts turned to getting through this and focusing on maintaining my life and surviving for the sake of my two year old. Also we were planing to move onto the mission field so I needed to keep it all together.
I suppose now, as I am crying while sharing my story, I probably never fully mourned the loss. It happened as a mixture of the fear of the unknown loomed over me. The reality that no matter what happened next I would never go back to a life that didn’t include cancer.
The next day I gathered up all of my courage. As we walked out of the elevator at the hospital, I said goodbye to all that could have been. I needed all of my energy to focus on hope and move forward to create a new definition of what could be.
As it turned out, three weeks turned into eight months. Countless doctors, four different kinds of treatments, a clinical trial, several scares, constant bleeding, tumor growing, and countless nights stretched out on the floor crying out to the Lord.
While my situation took twists and turns like a roller coaster, God remained at my side and gave me strength. Many things in my life fell apart during that time. I changed, and lost parts of myself that have still not returned.
God is faithful, and he gave me a peace I still can’t understand to this day. Even if I was asked to, I couldn’t explain it.
In some ways I still hurt, and I don’t expect that to change. I still think about what could have been. What would that baby would have been like? They told us chemo was the only way we might be able to preserve my ability to have more kids. But they could not make any promises.
God knew my heart’s desires, and four years later, shortly after moving onto the mission field of Vienna (not Poland as originally planned), I became pregnant with a baby boy. He was born strong and healthy here in Vienna. When he was about eighteen months old, I discovered I was nine weeks pregnant with another baby. My youngest was born here in Vienna as well.
God is faithful. He heard my prayers and answered in his own timing.
I know that he is near to the brokenhearted because he was near to me. I carried most of my pain in secret during that time for various reasons.
During this time, I learned to lean on God alone. I learned what it meant to be in the arms of faithful God as my world fell apart again and again.
If you have gone through the loss of a child, and all that goes along with it I am sure you can relate. If you have survived cancer, I know you know his providence. I pray you experienced his peace as well.
If you are in either of those places now, I am here. Feel free to message me or comment below. I will gladly pray and stand alongside you. Never forget God is faithful, able, and good. He wants that for us. He longs to give us hope and abundant life. Snuggle into his arms and let him pour the peace that is beyond human explanation into your soul. Know you are his treasured creation and he will not abandon you.
Be encouraged by these posts as well!
Have you ever prayed so hard for something, only for God to answer no? I have. More than once.
I am 40 now, and I mentioned at the beginning of last year that I want to be a prayer warrior. I have thinking a great deal about prayer and remembering my journey so far.
When I was younger I dated a guy who had promised to marry me. We lived life with this plan in the back of our heads. He was ten years older than I was. After a year, the relationship became abusive. Still, I prayed and begged God to make my dreams of marrying him come true.
One day, one of my friends noticed my bruises. She moved in with me to help me leave the relationship. God said “no” to marrying a bad guy, and “yes” to reaching me at my lowest. This is where my journey in prayer began.
When I sat broken, scared and alone, he met me there.
We started to talk. Really talk–not me bringing my requests like a grocery list to him.
When I look back on this time in life, I can clearly see why God didn’t answer my prayers to give my life to this man.
That unanswered prayer was to help me learn to long for him.
Almost ten years later, I spent eight months crying into my pillow each night. I was praying this time for the Lord to rid my body of cancer. Treatment was meant to be only 2-3 weeks and it lasted eight months.
During this time, I learned about God’s peace.
During this time, I also prayed and fixated on my prayers for us to become missionaries in Poland. We built a team that fell apart and soon after that it became clear this was another no.
During this time, I learned to trust him.
He said no to Poland because he had a larger plan for our family. One that included Poland and many other countries as well.
Now, I am no longer afraid or upset about unanswered prayers. I have always learned something about myself and the Father when my prayers go unanswered or are answered in an unexpected way.
Can you think of a time when your life was more richly blessed because you didn’t get what you prayed for?
Why is Church unity important? What does it mean exactly?
We travel to churches in various parts of the world each year. We meet with the churches we partner with and are constantly building relationships with new ones.
It is really one of my favorite things to do. Each church has its own unique set of characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. I like to think of it as fingerprints. No two are the same, and they are indicative of who you are.
Unity is one of the things I always look for. Unity in Christ crosses cultures and any other boundary we put in its way. When the body of Christ is unified it looks the same in the U.S., Africa, Honduras, and Germany.
When we are of one mind and working in one accord as the Lord has asked, it is unforgettable and in some cases truly life-changing.
Here are some of the things I have learned as we have witnessed the power of unity in Christ.
Five Characteristics of a Unified Church:
Take advantage of everyone’s gifts and strengths. They allow everyone the blessing of giving their gift back in service of the Lord, knowing that it will benefit and grow all of them.
They confront whatever threatens the body of Christ. If someone is stirring up disunity or hurting the spiritual development of individuals, they put an end to it.
They pray defensively. The things on the prayer list are more about edification, encouragement, and vision for the church and its members. When someone struggles with faith or in life, they all carry the burden and bring their concerns to the Father in prayer.
They do not brush issues under the rug. They confront them, deal with them, and move on. The first time I witnessed this, we were at a family retreat in Croatia. A woman who had an issue with the behavior of another member asked the speaker about it during a session. One of the church leaders stood up and facilitated a discussion that helped both sides to work through it.
They don’t allow fear to stop them. One of my favorite churches to watch, hear about, and fellowship with is the church in Athens. It is the most diverse group of Christians I have ever seen. They hold multiple services, Bible studies, and events to spread God’s love to the many different people groups that gather there. As a matter of fact, last Sunday, the church in Athens baptized nine refugees traveling to build lives in Europe. While many fear all the unknown things that come with such a large group of people on the move, this church is taking advantage of joining God in meeting the people in some of their darkest moments. Keep in mind, this is a church that within itself has multiple nationalities. Aside from the many obvious differences they work together to bring others to Christ.
So what does this mean for us? What is our call to action?
Church unity begins with each one of us. When we decide to use our gifts to edify and develop the church, we are living as the body of Christ. When we forgive, have hard conversations, and pray blessing and success on one another, we are building up the church. Each one of us has the responsibility of ministering to one another and the world.
A Road Map to Unity
Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us a road map on how we need to behave to grow in Christ and foster unity. Take some time today to read it and think about what role you have to play in your church.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gently; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Are there ways you bring about disunity?
What are your talents and how can you use them to build up the church?
The Shunammite Woman
Do you remember the story of the Shunammite woman? You can find it in 2 Kings 4:8-41. It is a beautiful story full of selfless actions. She is a woman who had great means. She used what she had to bless the servant of the Lord without being asked.
God took notice and blessed her in kind. Even when tragedy struck, she responded with grace. She was able to say, “It is well,” and walk forward with hope and trust. She knew who she was dealing with and behaved as one who had expectations that the LORD could do all she thought he could. Not only did she believe he could, everything she did was evidence that she believed he would.
Last year while having breakfast with my dear friend Leslie, I heard of women in India who have this kind of faith.
Leslie is an amazing and inspiring woman whom I met about four years ago. We bonded by talking about creative projects. She lives in Ireland, but she and her husband minister all over the world so we cross paths often. My husband was there preaching about three weeks ago. He returned excited about the projects Leslie is involved in. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to hear about them myself.
She spends her free time trying to support women in India who could greatly benefit from very little. As she was talking to me about the things she does, I thought, why couldn’t I join her and we could help more women? I have decided not only will I join her, but I would like to invite other creative souls out there to join as well.
Let me tell you what she is doing. The first project brings us back to the Shunammite woman. There are women in the Indian villages who need jobs. They are people who can and will work in a local craft. They want to start their own business in their craft, but they need start-up money. The organization is called SWAN and was named after the Shunammite woman. All of the women enrolled in the program have already committed to give 10% of their earnings to support the local preacher. How much money is needed depends on the craft and the village.
The second project is a more personal one. They have a rice project in the village of Pavara in Andhra Pradesh. They provide daily rice for about 150 widows and orphans. During this year’s trip, Leslie noticed an elderly couple and asked for their story. In their culture, the son would provide for them as well as his family in their old age, but their son is really poor and can barely care for his own kids and grandkids. So they collect wood and sell it. The husband chops and the woman pushes the wagon. For the past two years they have been unable to make this journey.
They should both be getting a pension, but for some reason the government is only paying him one. So they work. The pension they receive is 14 Euros ($14.87) a month. They can’t live on it. The amount of the pension for one year is 200 Euros. Leslie was able to sell crafts this past month to provide for her for this next year. I would like to raise 200 Euros ($212.36) to give her another year of pension.
Do You Have a Heart for Giving?
If you have a heart for giving and a passion for crafting, would you think of a way you could make and sell something to help these women? Women who are making so very little. Women who are willing to work hard to get the smallest amount of money to help their families and others.
I have set a goal this year to make 200 Euros to support this woman for the next year. Whatever I make beyond that I will give to the Shunammite Project in India. This will allow me to help women have the joy of creating, selling, and sharing to further the spread of the word of God in their villages. Everything made or collected for these women is 100% used for these purposes. It is all very well organized and professional. I will be painting, making beads, and felting. You can do anything you love. If so, comment below and we will begin in January. Also, if you aren’t interested in making or selling something but would like to donate money, I know that would also be welcome.
Would you be willing to join me?
You can get involved by purchasing these great books written by Tony Coffey. He is Leslie’s husband. I read Once a Catholic before traveling to Europe on a mission trip for the first time. I recently created a cover for the Croatian translation of Answers to Questions Catholics are Asking. He gives the proceeds from his books to the works and ministries in India as well.