Monday, August 18, 2014

Contact, Contact, Contact

I was all set to write another post: "7 things your missionary wishes you would do."  And then I realized there were two problems.  First, when I started doing some research among the missionaries I knew, there weren't 7 things; there was 1 thing with variations.  The second was I'm not sure you actually have a missionary of your own.

Do you have a missionary? 


I never did.  Although I enjoyed the lesson that the visiting missionaries brought, and I was very glad that our congregation was involved in missions (short-term and long-term), it was not until I was abroad myself that I realized that the relationship between a church and their missionary* should be far more than financial - it should be a great blessing to both of them.

So who is your missionary? I bet your church supports at least one.  (If not let me refer you back to "Lord of the Harvest" where we mentioned two in dire need of some help!)  If that person or family is like the ones I interviewed, there is one practical thing that they wish folks in America would do for them.

Can you guess?

Contact.

They long for contact with you.  They are a long way from home and they wish you would contact them. 
Martin Robert Johnson put it this way:
"It is so encouraging when people watch, comment, like and subscribe to our blog and YouTube channel. Interact with missionaries online. Ask questions!"
You can find Martin's blog here  and his YouTube channel here

I spoke with another missionary who told me tears standing in her eyes, "I just wanted someone to email, or send a card.  I felt forgotten." 

Still another anonymous missionary mentioned that she regularly sends home updates that seem to be disappearing into cyberspace.  No one comments on them, emails her back, or acknowledges that they got them.  She is very discouraged and hardly knows if she should go on sending them.

So instead of 7 things your missionary wishes you would do, let me offer you 7 ways to do the one thing your missionary wants - contact them.
1. Snail mail.  Although it can take weeks (6-10 for some far flung locations), you can still mail a card or a letter to your missionaries abroad.  The whole congregation, a single Bible class, or just your family could sign and send.

2. Packages are especially valued. One missionary I spoke to said humorously, "Bonus points if they ask what you need!"  In some areas essential and basic things that we would never think of (like baking powder) may be hard to come by.  Also be sure and let the person know the package is coming.  Although it seems like a good idea to surprise them, certain local postal services may send the package back if it isn't picked up immediately.

3. Skype!  If you've never used Skype, it's remarkably easy.  Just download the app onto your smart phone, tablet or computer and then as long as you have a speaker and a microphone (already built into your smart phone or tablet and some computers) you are able to video chat.  This is an especially cool way for Sunday School classes to connect with their missionaries!  A tablet, wifi and an email to set up the appointment and your third grade class could be talking to a 3rd grader whose mom and dad are missionaries anywhere in the world.  (Facetime will work the same way if you and your missionary both have Apple brand tools)

4. Text.  This will require a quick phone call to your cell provider but many plans with unlimited texting will allow you to text back and forth with your overseas friend for little or no money.  Think how much a text on their birthday, holiday wishes or better yet a question of how you can pray for them today might mean to them. 

5. Email.  If the texting won't work out, email is free!  Shoot them a note to say you care. 

6. Connect with them when they are home.  Pay for dinner, have them over, invite them while they're in town out to a movie.  The missionaries I spoke to felt isolated even when in their hometowns because everyone around them had moved on.

7.  Respond to what they send you.  Lots of missionaries maintain blogs and would love to see your comments.  Others send home letters listing things they hope you'll pray for.  Others regularly email updates.  If you respond by any of the methods we've talked about by just letting them know you are reading and praying, I guarantee they'll be thrilled.

Pick a missionary.  If you don't know one, leave me a comment and I'll be happy to provide you with an introduction.  Then get busy.  Like any servant-leader in the church they need your support and encouragement.  It won't take much time but it will make a big difference!

Helene

* Lots of churches also support local workers abroad (say for example a Honduran doing work in Honduras).  If that's what your church does, this list is less applicable to you.  Their needs and desires are certainly different from westerners living abroad.  Leave me a comment and we can brainstorm together ways that we can reach out to encourage and support them.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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