Life on the field can be challenging, exhausting, and difficult. In the midst of that, many missionaries feel forgotten by their church and friends back home. The Great Commission is not a solo task. Even the work of individual missionaries is not solo work. We are all called to engage. Sending is the role that some will play. It is the work of a community of believers.
So how can we be great “senders?” How can we care for those who are serving overseas?
Here are seven practical ways to care for missionaries:
1. Commit to Prayer (Acts 13:3)
- Let them know specific things that you are praying.
2. Give Sacrificially (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)
- Consistent, ongoing (monthly) support shows real commitment more than just a gift now and then.
- Respond to specific needs as they arise with generous financial partnership (ex: ministry projects, car repairs, expenses for new housing, computers, etc.)
3. Commit to Regular Communication
- Read and respond to their regular updates.
- Reach out regularly for conversations or just to see how they are doing. Don’t be a burden that they feel obligated to appease but an outlet and friend to them.
- Tell them about your life and what’s going on with you. Missionaries are regular people and enjoy hearing about regular things that are going on.
4. Send gifts
- Ask missionaries what they miss most. Some of the things you think are good gifts may not be needed as much as other things you would never think of.
- Because of the logistics of mailing gifts, send them through visitors or short-term teams if possible. Shipping and receiving the gifts may be expensive, so keep that in mind.
- You can give so many great gifts that don’t need to be mailed: credit towards online music (iTunes, Spotify, etc.), Kindle books, digital magazines, Netflix subscription, Audible.com credit, etc.
5. Help Plan for Stateside Assignments
- Furlough, STAS, home assignment, whatever your church calls it – we often think the time that missionaries spend in the States is just for resting and having fun. In reality, these can be really stressful months.
- America is expensive. Help them find a car to drive, cell phones, food, childcare, counseling, etc.
- Schedules in American can be crazy. Missionaries feel pulled in 100 different directions and don’t have a real “home” to rest and recharge. Help them find a home where they can have space for themselves while they are in the States.
- Usually, missionaries have to spend a large amount of their time in the States raising support. You can help by introducing them to new potential supporters or offering to take care of their kids while they are meeting.
6. Listen and Ask Questions
- Ever traveled overseas on a mission trip? How did you feel when you came back? Did it seem like people cared? Imagine that feeling multiplied for someone who has moved their entire life overseas. Many people don’t ask questions or seem interested in their overseas life. That can be isolating and become really lonely.
- Ask open/positive questions. Don’t assume that their new culture is miserable. Remember, America isn’t their “home” anymore. “I bet you’re so happy to be back!” can be a hurtful thing to say.
- Ask things like “What is your favorite thing about the culture?”
7. Visit Them Overseas
- Short-term mission trips have the potential to be a huge drain on long-term missionaries. Your mindset in visiting long-term workers must be checked before you go. These people have full-time jobs and responsibilities. Being a tour guide is probably not one of them. Go with the mindset of blessing and encouraging the long-term workers serving there.
- Don’t expect to go on a short-term trip and change the world. Go on a short-term trip to serve your missionary and to gain more understanding of their lives, their country and the people they are working to reach.
- This type of trip can have real impact: the worker can be refreshed, you can understand how to pray better, and you can help educate others in the States that are interested.