Do you support any missionaries as a family (or an individual)? Most of us probably just assume our churches are doing enough… but what if we each chose one missionary family to encourage on our own? After all, you need the encouragement and support of fellow Christians outside of Sunday morning services. Why would missionaries be any different?
There are so many ways to support missionaries as they dive deep into spiritual mines across the globe, and prayer is perhaps the single most important way:
- We can pray generally for missionaries.
- We can remember specific challenges they face.
- We can consider personal appeals for prayer support.
- We can pray for returning missionaries.
But just as prayer is not the only way to encourage your local church body, it’s also not the only way to support those spreading the Gospel around the world.
Here are 5 simple ways to further encourage missionaries:
1. Support them financially. Sending small financial donations each month can be a wonderful way to bless your missionaries. Large gifts are great, for sure, but knowing they can count on you to send something every month — even just $10 a month — can ease their mind and let them focus on why they’re there, instead of being distracted from their ministry by the need to raise more funds. Plus, small gifts can add up! And a lot of small gifts — say, $10 from 100 people — may make the difference between whether they can stay on the field or need to interrupt their work to raise more support.
2. Send their favorite food(s). Have you ever moved from to a new part of the country and discovered how hard it was to find a certain food you really enjoy? For instance, I grew up in Massachusetts eating hot dogs, baked beans, and canned brown bread — but brown bread is impossible to find here in South Carolina! I can only get it when I go back home to visit my parents. Now imagine moving to a totally different country: how many more foods would be hard to find? No, it’s not a crucial need; but think how hard it must be to go years without your favorite brand of coffee or chocolate. They might be longing for something as simple as a favorite spice, boxed macaroni and cheese, or cans of cranberry sauce. It doesn’t take much to find out the foods (or other personal items) they’ve been missing, and pick up a few of whatever the next time you grocery shop.
3. Remember their birthdays. There’s a sweet lady at our church who keeps track of all our missionaries’ birthdays and anniversaries. Every month when she brings birthday cards for us to sign, I can’t help but think how much it must encourage the missionaries to simply be remembered. Have you ever spent a holiday or birthday feeling forgotten? Now imagine you’re on a foreign field with no access to the people who care about you – different time zones, different continents – and surrounded by people who don’t care why you’re there and maybe won’t even speak to you. Again, it doesn’t have to be big – simply receiving a card from someone “back home” is enough to put a smile on any missionary’s face!
4. Send a “just because” note. Birthday cards are great, but you don’t have to wait for a special day to let them know you’re praying for them! Do you receive their newsletters in your email? Hit reply the next time you get one, and just let them know you read it and will be praying for them. Pick up an inexpensive “thinking of you” or blank card, and jot a quick note inside. All it costs is about $1 for the card and 49 cents for postage — or less, if you send a postcard. Even a college student can afford that! It doesn’t have to be long, eloquent, or profound: just enough to let them know that they aren’t forgotten. I promise, the dividends will far outweigh the costs.
5. Be there when they visit your church. Missionaries are in the habit of being at churches where nobody really knows them, whether on the furlough circuit or on the mission field. Not only are they virtual strangers, but their presentations interrupt our normal Sunday routines and their messages often feel disconnected from the pastor’s regular sermon series. They don’t know you personally, and perhaps they won’t notice if you skip out on them. But maybe they’re fighting discouragement because nobody seems to care about the lost souls in Ghana or Papua New Guinea or Utah. Maybe all it would take to encourage them is one more person giving them a heartfelt handshake and asking how their deputation or furlough is going. Maybe all it would take is a handful of focused listeners during their presentation. Your attentive presence can be a huge encouragement to them. Even better if you can walk up to them after the service with a big smile and comment on something they shared!
You don’t have to make some grand gesture. Sure, they appreciate big gifts — but it’s the little ones that often have the biggest impact. It’s the occasional note, the consistent $5 every month, the small box of candy, or the heartfelt conversation that can encourage them enough to keep staying the course.
It’s the regular encouragement that reminds them there are others holding the ropes, so they can keep diving deep into the spiritual mines.
How else can we encourage and support our missionaries? Leave a comment with your ideas!