Relationships between missionaries and those who send them are designed to be mutually beneficial. Today’s episode describes how to care for that relationship, and what the people back home get in return.

Listener Responses to Prior Episodes

The first one is from a missionary who served in Asia, and is now living in Germany. She responded to Episode 9 Shadows Connect Us with Each Other. “I was touched by the point you made about ‘healing takes time.’ It sums up last year’s journey for me in a nutshell.
~ R.G., Germany

Another former missionary, now living in CA, who works in member care with a large mission agency, responded to episode 10, Two Features of Every Good Relationship. “If we have an equal deeply trusting relationship, we’d better hang on to it! It’s rare… Some people simply are not capable of making deep relationships, and to expect more of them is unrealistic. It could be that by loving modeling, I can bring them along on the relational road. If that’s the case, I would normally expect to give more than my share.”
~ L.G., California

Finally, a current missionary who served in Asia for 30+ years, and is now on the executive leadership team of his large mission based in Florida writes: “Just listened to your latest episode. Thanks for your kind, heartfelt messages about such an important subject – relationships. Certainly teaching us to live!” He then writes, “Off now to a full day of meetings … and relationships here.”
~ L.G., Florida

We’ll read more listener responses from time to time. I would love to hear from more of you about what you find encouraging and helpful in our time together. Your feedback could encourage others.

On to today’s topic, Two ways to care for a missionary.We talk about relationships here all the time in this podcast, and one relationship I find especially interesting is the relationship between missionaries and the people back home who support and care for them. Let me start by telling you a story of two missionaries Janet and I have come to know and love. We’ll call them Larry and Jill. Not because we’re trying to protect their confidentiality, but because that really is what their names are – Larry and Jill.

We first met them at a mission emphasis week at a church we were attending about 20 years ago. It was a large church supporting a large number of missionaries at the time. At one of the nightly services during this missions emphasis week, the congregation was encouraged to sign up to host one or more of the church’s missionaries for lunch or dinner. So Janet and I went out into the lobby and signed up to host this couple, Larry and Jill, for dinner. We didn’t know them from Adam, much less anything about them.

When met for the first time we immediately clicked with them and started a journey of friendship with them, that after all these years, shows no sign of letting up. I’ll share just one event that speaks volumes as to why we love these two people so much.

In 2003 Larry and Jill celebrated 30 years of missionary service and they sent a letter to the people on their mailing list, where they said

“On March 16, 1973 we stepped off the plane in steamy, tropical Borneo, Indonesia, with $75 in our pocket and $100 ‘promised’ months support, and this rock-solid guarantee from the Lord Jesus ringing in our hearts: ‘I will always be with you.’ He who brought the universe into existence by the word of His mouth certainly could have promised us anything under the sun: total job satisfaction, steady income, comprehensive health coverage, big bonuses, great retirement benefits…but this was His best offer: ‘I will always be with you.’ Then He made sure that the next 30 years were filled with opportunities for us to decide over and over again whether that simple promise was enough…So on our thirty-year anniversary of service in Asia, we humbly join our voices with those down through the ages who have said with glad hearts, ‘He truly is more than enough.’”

Who wouldn’t want to care and support people like this? They do so much to encourage us to live a full, meaningful life, without ever saying a word about how to do it. You’re encouraged by just watching them, and becoming more like them. They’re probably blushing now as they hear this.

I hope you have a rich relationship with a missionary like Janet and I have with these two. If you don’t, look for one. There are more people like Larry and Jill out there than you realize. They’re all over the place.

To care and relate well to missionaries like Jill and Larry, and anyone for that matter, it’s important that we first think in two broad principles.

Know Them
Ask yourself, from what I know of these people, regardless of how little that might be, What must life be like for them? Considering this question will get you started on beginning to know them.

  • To know someone is to anticipate their needs, and not just wait for them to tell you.
  • Ask what ministers most to them?
  • Observe them. Take note of what interests them. What do they talk about?
  • Pray. Ask God what you could do to care for them.

Think in terms of Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. I’ll have a link to the book and information about this concept in the show notes below. His book has sold over 11 million copies (I wonder if he tithes on the book sales.)

Know Yourself
Reflect on what relationship skill comes naturally for me? What am I good at? How has God gifted me in caring for people. What comes easy for me? Am I good at very practical things, like handyman projects? Do I enjoy cooking and preparing meals for people.

What comes hard for me? What’s more difficult for me? Id listening to people share their struggles difficult and draining for me?

How might God be calling me to stretch myself and develop new relationship skills? What might he be calling me to do in order to stretch myself?

What are my priorities right now, knowing they can change at any minute. Every time I say “yes” to something, it means I’m saying “no” to something else.

To care well for missionaries, start with these two broad principles, Know them/Know Yourself.

After this, then consider the practical things you can do to care specifically for missionaries. Think in terms of a continuum of care.

Continuum of Care

Think of care as a horizontal line representing a continuum. On the left side would be things that require very little us, but at the same time would help make a missionary feel cared for. Something as simple as Welcome Back!

On the right side of the continuum would be activities that would require a great investment on our part, something like Arrange for counseling for a missionary family at a residential treatment center

There are all kinds of other things along this continuum that we can do that fit in between these two extremes. Moving from left to right along the continuum are activities like (I’ll have these listed in the show notes at the end of this episode):

  • Reply to their email updates and prayer letters
  • Send an email with news from back home
  • Mail a note or letter of encouragement
  • Pray for them
  • When they are back in your area, invite them to your home for dinner
  • Send a care package to them overseas
  • Send them money
  • Invite their MK in college to your home for Thanksgiving or Christmas
  • Call them overseas once a week
  • Start a prayer group for them
  • Send them to a retreat
  • Travel to visit them overseas
  • Listen to them
  • Refer to a local counselor
  • Meet with them weekly

Results a listener will experience when he/she implements the solution.

When you put into practice what we’ve talked about, your life will broaden and expand. You’ll learn about people and places you will never visit yourself. You will create opportunities to enrich your life with relationships like Janet and I have with Larry and Jill.

You’ll exercise your “relationship muscles” as you practice your relationship skills we talked about in recent episodes. The more you exercise these muscles, the more developed they will become.

Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence

When we truly know a missionary, and accurately know our self, the way we can best care for a global Christen worker will become obvious.

Here’s a way you can respond to today’s show

Ask God to show you a missionary you can reach out to that he wants you to know better. It can be a missionary you already know, or someone like Jill and Larry who at first will be strangers to you.

After that, take some time to know yourself and what you’re capable of in terms of caring for the missionary God is calling you to initiate with. The practical outworking of how you care for that missionary will fall into place.

Coming up next week

Next week, as always, we’ll be considering ways we can transform our relationships into the best they can be.

Quote of the Week

It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life's story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others' lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.
~ Fredrick Buechner


Thanks so much for listening in today. I’d love to hear from you about anything relationship related. You can leave your thoughts in the comment box in the show notes, or you can send an email to me, john {at} caring for others, {dot} org. You can also private message me in Facebook.

If you think today’s episode might encourage others who care for missionaries, please forward this episode on to them. If you or your organization would like to know more about caring for missionaries, we are available to put on workshops on this topic for churches and mission agencies. You can contact us through our missionary care ministry, Caring for Others. See the show notes below for how to reach us.

Until next time, make the world a better place, one relationship at a time. Bye for now.

Resources mentioned in today’s show

The Five Love Languages

Caring for Others. Contact us for  more information on our missionary care workshops.