How to Encourage a Missionary
To paraphrase a movie I once enjoyed, the key to a missionary’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time. And like the best gifts, these ideas are mostly FREE.
*Respond to a newsletter.
Missionaries send out HUNDREDS of newsletters. I send out about 1000 newsletters each month via email, and on a *good* day I’ll get back *two* responses. But when those two responses are words like “We love you!” or even “We believe with you for these needs,” it makes my day. I know you might receive a lot of these emails; I get it, believe me—all my best friends are missionaries, too and I get ALL their newsletters. But when I can, I try to send a quick response so they know at least one person cared enough to read it. In fact, if you really want to bless a missionary, email them or FB message them just to say “Hello” and “We’re praying for you!” without waiting for their newsletter first.
*Contact THEM for a service/meeting/coffee.
If you know a missionary is coming home for a furlough, offer to host them or meet up with them. If you can offer them a service at your church, great! If you can offer them a place to stay while they’re traveling, awesome! If you can book them even for a prayer meeting, a small group, or a simple coffee while they’re on the road in your area - it’s wonderful when you initiate the offer. It’s one of the most awkward things in the world for us to constantly call pastors, friends, and ministry leaders and ask for a service or a meeting. It makes me personally feel like I’m bothering people, interrupting their day with my neediness. But when someone calls ME to ask if I can come do a service, it makes me feel like a rock star!
*Tell someone else about them.
I once heard a friend say that he can tell his wife every day that she's a good cook, but when he tells everyone else how good a cook she is, then she knows he's really serious. If you are a church leader, tell other church leaders, "Hey, we had missionary X at our church, and he did a great job! You can definitely trust your Sunday service to Missionary Z because our church just loved their family! Missionary Y was wonderful last month! You should have her at your group meeting!" New missionaries especially need the credibility in the region or they need some good PR to build momentum. And it only costs you five minutes to mention it in a pastor's meeting or any other group you influence.
*Send a card ‘just because.”
It costs $1.15 currently to send a standard size/weight card anywhere outside of the United States. Slap on a few forever stamps if the Post Office is inconvenient, or purchase some international stamps. For less than $15, you could send one card to a different missionary every month of the year. My mail box in Spain only gets bills and ads for new Chinese restaurants down the street, so getting “real mail” from a friend with an encouraging note or a reminder that a church is praying for me means so much! And it’s so RARE, that I can pretty much count on two hands the cards or letters I’ve gotten in the past four years. True story: one of the ladies who loves me in my home church used to collect the sudoku and crossword puzzles from the daily newspaper, and when she had a little pile, she’d mail them to me. Such a little thing, but I’ve never forgotten that gift (and I did the puzzles too!).
*Making a visit?
A lot of people come to/through Europe on military service, business trips, and even personal vacations. I’ve had quite a few requests to meet up with people from supporting churches or even “friend of a friend” type of encounters. Most of those visitors were strangers to me prior to our meeting in downtown Madrid, but NOW, they’re friends! We bonded over “churros con chocolate” or a “cafe americano” in Madrid.
(And many of these folks came with surprise gifts, too! They took a few minutes on my social media to learn that I like coffee, or that I’m passionate about my hometown, for example, so they brought gifts that surprised me—and touched me deeply—because they went that extra mile. One person even contacted my mother before her trip to Spain, so she could bring over some treats from the woman who knows me best! That’s going above and beyond! I’m not saying we expect gifts, of course—all I expected was to meet someone who asked me have lunch with them, but getting coffee, canisters of Old Bay seasoning, AND a new friend out of that encounter —WOW!)
*Pray for me.
Pray for US—all the missionaries you know. Keep a list of our needs (available in our newsletters or FB groups) and lift up those needs. Be warriors on our behalf, so that we have the protection, power, and presence of God with us every day as we work against the darkness in our countries of ministry. In the “Files” section of this group, there is a document you can use for prayer groups. I love that my home church prays for me EVERY Wednesday, so I try to update my FB group on Tuesdays so they have the latest news for their intercession group. I have individual partners who pray for me DAILY, and I can tell! No matter how bad my day was, or how frustrating the Spanish bureaucracy is, or how worn out I’m feeling, I always know I have people who are my prayer support, interceding for me personally and professionally.