Imagine you are a new missionary.
Living in a foreign land and adopting a new culture for the sake of the kingdom is a dream — one that you’ve worked toward for years.
However, before too long, feelings of culture shock and isolation begin to set in. Language barriers and foreign social etiquette make you ache for renewed connections with friends and family back home. You may even wonder if you made the right decision in coming.
This scenario is fairly common for those serving abroad and can easily lead to burnout.
That’s why it’s up to us as supporters to make sure missionaries don’t feel alone. Our support of missionaries is vital to the growth of the kingdom.
Here are some commonly overlooked ways you and your home church can support missionaries overseas:
1. Initiate conversation.
Instead of waiting on a monthly or quarterly newsletter from missionaries, be proactive in reaching out to them to catch up or ask how you can pray for their personal and pastoral well-being.
“One of my friends and I have set up an accountability relationship,” says TEAM missionary Jared Riepma. “We Skype several times a month, and that has been a great help to me, as I live in a very isolated area in Indonesia.”
Setting up regular times to video chat or call via MagicJack and other apps is a great way to show missionary friends that you haven’t forgotten them.
2. Always reply to updates.
Imagine you spent hours every month updating people on your life and ministry — and never heard back from anyone. Pretty soon, you’d wonder if anyone cared, much less read your newsletter or prayed for your requests. Unfortunately, missionaries experience this all the time.
Even just a short reply, either by email or snail mail, will remind missionaries that they really do have people backing them.
In your reply notes, tell the missionaries that you are praying for the specific requests they mentioned in their letter, and ask about the happenings or people they wrote about.
3. Offer help to missionaries on home assignment.
One of the easiest times to show missionaries support is when they’re on home assignment, which is a season of updating supporters, like you, and raising additional support.
When missionaries return on home assignment, they often do not have a car to drive or a place to stay. If you are in an area the missionary might pass through, offering to let them borrow an extra car or stay in a spare room can be a huge blessing.
On a smaller scale, you can bless missionaries by babysitting their kids so they can have a date night or taking them out to their favorite American restaurant.
“One pastor’s wife had a special spa day for the missionary ladies and had snacks, did manicures and pedicures, and just talked with us,” says TEAM missionary Denise Carter. “It was a really special time!”
4. Pray intentionally for missionaries.
Nowadays, it’s easy to share prayer requests through international apps. For example, TEAM missionary Beth Chadwick uses an app called Voxer to share prayer concerns with a group of women who are committed to praying for her family.
Intentionally praying for the specifics of an overseas ministry provides missionaries with divine protection from the spiritual warfare they’re bound to experience on the field.
General prayers are great; specific prayers are better. Always be sure to let the missionary know what you’ve been praying for, and don’t be afraid to ask for updates on specific situations. This lets missionaries know they have someone continually presenting them to the Father.
Keep up with our monthly prayer focus for more ideas on how to pray for your missionaries.
5. Give to the supporting missions organization.
While most people know missionaries have a sending church, many don’t realize missionaries usually have a sending organization, such as TEAM, behind them, too. These organizations support missionaries in ways most individuals and churches can’t, including on-the-field counseling, retirement planning, evacuation during emergencies, medical advice and many other essential services.
Missionaries Tim and Tammy Evans shared about a time TEAM helped them carry on despite discouraging obstacles: “We were at an all-time low in our ministry. We were burned out by stress, lack of success and conflict with another couple. After a year and four months on home assignment, conflict resolution and rest, TEAM approved a [large] grant … for our ministry one week before we were supposed to head back to Brazil. We were just amazed.”
Always find out which sending organization your missionary uses, and see how a donation there could enhance your missionary’s impact on the field.
6. Coordinate with missionaries on the field when planning visits.
Short-term mission trips and occasional visits from friends and family go a long way in maintaining deep connections and partnerships with overseas missionaries.
However, this blessing can easily become a struggle if trips aren’t properly planned with the missionary.
Whether you are a church sending a short-term mission team or a friend going for a visit, always be sure to actively coordinate with the missionary in the area as much as possible.
Make sure there are specific projects the missionary needs help with and that you’re coming when they will have the time and energy to host you well.
Also, remember that not every trip has to be about work. Your church may not be able to send a whole team, but funding occasional visits from close friends or family members can be tremendously beneficial and refreshing for someone who’s serving away from home.
7. Don’t forget the kids!
Forgetting the kids is an easy trap to fall into as a supporter. But as a missionary kid myself, I know firsthand how special it is to receive a letter or a care package created especially for you.
“When our kids were small and with us, one church would send Christmas gifts to them each year,” says TEAM missionary David Stoddard. “That was very meaningful.”
Missionary kids often encounter their own sets of cultural dilemmas and struggles with loneliness. Feeling cared for by those they left behind when they moved to the mission field is deeply encouraging and something they will never forget.
Gifts during holiday seasons, like Christmas or Easter, is always a particularly nice surprise for children who are living away from home.
What are your favorite ways to support missionaries you know? If you’re a missionary, what special ways have your supporters shown you they care?