Living six months in Thailand serving as volunteer missionaries with Danielle allowed me to see firsthand what life is like for many missionaries. Over the years I have had the pleasure of calling missionaries serving all over the world friend. These missionary friends come from different nations, different churches and sending agencies. Yet they all have something in common. They need encouragement.
Son of Encouragement
One of my favorite people in the Bible is Barnabas. His name means “son of encouragement”. Actually that wasn’t his birth name, but he was such an encourager it became his name.
I love this passage in Acts 11 as it’s read in the Message bible. It not only describes Barnabas, but also gives us a great definition of encouragement:
For some reason we treat missionaries as if they are superhuman who never have a tough day. We don’t let them have a tough day. It is as if we feel that since they signed up for this job, then they should be able to handle it. Yeah we put their prayer card on our fridge and attend their reception when they are in town on furlough (if it fits into our schedule). But if we are honest, we don’t think about them very often. We pray for them even less. And we hardly ever encourage them.
I will let you in on something. Those who serve as missionaries are not superhuman. They are not even extra-ordinary. They are just like you and me. They get tired, discouraged, tempted, and even frustrated.
I think that missionaries often feel that they can only share positive reports with those who send and support them. Yes we do want and enjoy hearing the good things that God is doing around the world. But our missionaries need trusted friends who will listen to the tough times too and encourage them.
Why do we need to encourage our missionaries?
- We sent them. It isn’t just the responsibility of the missionary to reach the nations. We are in this together. If you are not on the field, then you have another role. You might not always have time to go to where a missionary is serving. You might not have financial resources to send (I think we all have something to give by the way), but you can always encourage. With the ease of communication in today’s world, you can send encouragement to a missionary anytime serving anywhere in the world.
- Cross-cultural ministry is hard. Language. Cultural norms. Isolation. If you want to learn more about this read 13 Challenges Missionaries Face.
- The enemy will do anything to get them to quit. We don’t wrestle with flesh and blood. Yes missionaries serve in places where governments, other religions, and worldview fight against them. However, the reality is that we are really fighting against a supernatural enemy who wants every missionary to fail. He will try to discourage, tempt into sin, destroy relationships…really any way he can do it, he will try.
I hope you’re convinced and compelled to encourage missionaries that you know. Not sure how? Let’s look back at that Acts 11 passage. What did Barnabas do?
3 Ways We Can Encourage Missionaries.
- He threw himself in with them. I love this phrase. You can do this in different ways, such as, working with them in country, setting up regular times to talk in person, become a trusted friend, and most importantly, intercede for them often.
- Got behind them. Find out if they have a support team…if they don’t ask them if they want one. Financially support their work. Host them when they are home on furlough.
- Urged them to stay with it. Sometimes you will “speak the truth in love”. Rejoice with them over what God is doing through them. And other times you will simply listen to them during tough times.
Question: Do you have any relationships with missionaries where you can encourage them in a way that urges them to stay with the work God called them to?
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