Tuesday Topic: How can churches/individual encourage missionaries?

Cindy in California: I currently serve on the Missions Board at my church in California.  We are trying to raise the bar with “Missionary Care” for the missionaries we support.  I would love to know what has been an encouragement to the women who participate with Missionary Mom’s in terms of what a church (or individual) has done in the realm of missionary care.  I know there are “Care Packages” and birthday cards but what else?  I know we want to care for missionaries while they are on the field, but what should we consider doing when someone is coming for home assignment or even leaving the field permanently.  I’d like to know things that might be directed toward the entire family, as well as the “mom”, the “dad” and the “children”.

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


8 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: How can churches/individual encourage missionaries?”

  1. 1 Ashley L April 4, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Hi Cindy!

    One thing that has been especially encouraging to our family is when we get an opportunity to share in person about our ministry with the congregations of the churches that support us. These churches are an absolute life-line to us in many ways while we are on the field, and we feel very encouraged when we have a chance to share with them about the work that God is doing through our mutual work. I am not sure how large your church is, but sometimes the larger churches that help send us do not seem to have time for this, but we always wish that the body who is faithfully and generously investing in prayer and financially would have a chance to see pictures and know about what God is doing through their investments, even if just for a few minutes. It really encourages us to be able to celebrate together with our partners in ministry about the things that God is doing through our partnership.

    Another thing is that one of our sending churches threw a baby shower for us a few years back when we had come back for the birth of our 2nd child. I think at that time they did this for all of the expectant mothers in the church, and I felt so loved that they considered me a part of their church family still even though we were no longer a part of the daily church life. I was so amazed and encouraged that the women in the church would be so thoughtful. It wasn’t at all about gifts but just to know that we were loved an thought of even though most of the time we are very far away. I enjoyed the fellowship with the women very much.

    We also have a senior’s Bible study who has adopted us and who write to us from time to time and pray for us often. We hear about this through my husbands parents who attend the group. That makes us feel very loved too.

    We also LOVE receiving post cards and letters as after years it can feel like we are often forgotten by those “back home.” Cards and care packages came often in the first year or two, but now they are very rare.

    Another thing that we particularly love is when our ministry partners and supporting churches share their prayer requests with us. We often send prayer letters and updates and are blessed to receive prayer, but we love to have the relationship go both ways by being able to pray for the specific needs of those who send us out.

    I hope other ladies will share their ideas too as I know there are many things I haven’t thought of! Thanks again for this wonderful and caring question! The missionaries sent by your church are blessed to have you!

  2. 2 Jessi Cormier April 4, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Ashley touched on my idea briefly. We love it when pastors and people in the churches send us “prayer letters” and update letters every so often to let us know what is going on in the church and how people are doing there. One lady even includes their last few church bulletins in her letter! It brings us so much closer to that church and to the people in that church who are faithfully supporting us and praying for us.

  3. 3 Kara Coe April 4, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Our church last year paid for us to attend a week-long ‘Debrief and Renewal’ Conference (Missionary Training Int’l- http://www.mti.org/dar.htm) near Colorado Springs.

    It is so important to have some time to debrief during every furlough, and this made us set aside a whole week to spend with God and one another. The children’s program is EXCELLENT, and helped our kids embrace the reality of their unusual lives. I wish we could do it every furlough!

  4. 4 Phyllis April 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    This is a really huge one, and I know that not many churches could afford to do this, and certainly not very much, but I’d love to have visitors from our home churches. Just to visit, talk, encourage, see how we live, and let us get to know each other. I wonder if a church could handle a goal of sending someone to one of their missionaries each year? It could take a while to cycle through all the missionaries, and it would be a big, expensive undertaking, but I think it would be wonderful!

  5. 5 Phyllis April 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    (Kara, my sister-in-law just went to that DAR and loved it!)

  6. 6 Kara Coe April 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I’m all for care packages as an easy way to bless. One of our churches used to send a box every Christmas. They were so organized that in August someone would email to ask what they could send.

  7. 7 Cindy in California April 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Thank you for these wonderful ideas and things to think about. Our church has about 400-500 people who attend. We support about 15 missionaries (families or singles) and are the sending church for seven of them. It is difficult to give them much time during our Sunday morning worship services when they are in the area. They always are introduced and have a few minutes to share. We try to get the scheduled into various adult fellowships (Sunday School) and small groups to share. I am interested in ideas of what else we can do to help give missionaries time to share. Ideally, each missionary would be “adopted” by a group within the church. I have found that it is difficult to maintain this at times due to changes in leadership of the group and probably “out of sight, out of mind” can be an issue, too.

    One of our pastors visits overseas missionaries in their field of service almost every year. When geographically possible, they may visit several during one trip. I did not realize how important that was to those who are serving.

    We have a missionary family permanently returning to the US this summer after serving 15 years at an MK school. I have thought about having a shower for them and will proceed with that idea. They will ship some things back the US but will need all new electric appliance because what they have will not be compatible.

    Thank you for the idea of also sending prayer requests to our missionaries.

    We used to send cassette tapes or CD’s of the sermons, but now they are available online. I realize this could be an issue in some areas where the internet is slow. Any thought on this?

    Please, keep the ideas coming! We want to do things that are helpful and appreciated, not just what we think are good ideas. It’s great to get input from people who are free to really share openly. I hope our missionaries also share openly but realize they may be somewhat reserved.

  8. 8 Tammy April 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    It is typical that one of the first things I need when I get back to the States are new clothes. I remember one furlough styles had changed and I just didn’t like anything! It was such a help to have my pastor’s wife take me shopping and help me find things that would work. It is quite overwhelming to shop after an extended stay on the mission field. Having her with me really helped! So I would suggest taking her for a day of shopping. Keep it short, since she might feel overwhelmed. Don’t take a bunch of ladies with you, but just one or two.

    Not only is shopping for clothes overwhelming, but going to the grocery store! So, if you could have their kitchen stocked with some basics that is always nice.

    One thing that often gets overlooked are the missionary kids. I’ve been a missionary since 1995 and even I get surprised at things my kids don’t know or understand. (Just this week I was showing my 14yod some Easter candy that a friend sent me to give away at an upcoming missionary get together. She even sent some grass to put in the bags of candy. Funny thing is that my daughter didn’t know what it was! And she didn’t get why Americans would want to put it in a basket either.) So it is hard for MKs to “fit in” when they return just a few months every few years. Maybe there are some kids in your church that are mature enough to take them under their wing, sit with them in church, invite them over for an afternoon, etc. This is especially true for teens. What helps my daughter is that she has been friends with the same girls for years. Every time we go home she picks right back up with them. I also would suggest someone in your church – maybe you – read the book Third Culture Kids to better understand them and find ways to help them feel comfortable. This would be most applicable to those who are returning to the States to go to college. (I know this first hand since I have two sons who have returned to the US.)

    One last thing…LISTEN. Encourage people to ask questions about their ministry and also daily life. I’ve found that people don’t really want to hear about my life. In fact, I find that the unsaved are more interested in my life in Africa than the average church member. After all these years I’ve just learned not to talk about it and try to delve back into their lives as much as I can. However, I would highly suggest that before a missionary family returns that people are encouraged to ask questions and be interested in their lives.

    Just let me say that it blesses me to know how much you desire to minister to your missionaries when they are abroad as well as when they return!

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