Christmas is coming!
You’ve likely seen stores already putting Christmas stuff out, and the shopping season gets longer. I started seeing Christmas stuff in late September. . .
During this time of year, many churches put together various outreaches to care for their community. We have done various shoebox programs and angel tree programs – all to help complete strangers with something they wanted or needed.
Right now, we are gathering clothing to hand deliver to Nicaragua via a friend who is travelling there. But that is completely anonymous help for people our church will likely never know.
Don’t forget your missionaries this Christmas
Along with those outreaches, I want to encourage your church to remember your full time missionaries who are on the field.
Many of your churches support missionaries with monthly or annual gifts and lots of prayer.
Your gifts enable full time servants of the Lord (often living in cross cultural mission fields) spend themselves on behalf of the gospel of Christ.
They sacrificially live on the margins to enable the gospel to go forth to as many as possible.
(If your church does not yet support missionaries, I can connect you with a few recommendations. Just email me via the contact form).
When supporting your missionaries at Christmas . . .
Christmas is a great time for your church to provide some personal care of their family, plus a chance to strengthen your ties with them.
I want to remind your church of three things about doing this.
1. Focus first on the missionary’s family, rather than their field projects.
Living cross culturally can be extremely stressful. Learn about what the family needs and how your church can provide care them as people.
Talk with them, find ways to pray for them and then do it.
After you have found ways to bless your missionary personally, then talk about some their projects.
If your missionaries have been away from your church for a while, they can feel lonely as well. Encouraging phone calls and letters from home may have slowed way down. Some missionaries never hear from their supporting church other than a check that shows up in their account each month.
Personal contact means a lot to your missionary on the field.
Use this Christmas time to focus on their family needs and perhaps rekindle that personal relationship.
2. Work directly with them on how to get what is needed.
It might be easier in some cases to send money so the missionary can buy local.
I know of one group that wanted to send their missionary some clothing they had gathered, but didn’t realize that the missionary needed to spend $300 to pay for import duties and taxes. Another group wanted to send 40 lbs of stuffed animals. That would have cost the local missionary $225 to receive that box.
Simply sending a heavy box with $500 worth of stuff may be more harmful than helpful.
Talk with your missionary to find out how to get stuff to them.
3. Work with your missionary to coordinate with other churches.
Many of your missionaries may have various supporting churches.
Keep clear communication open so that your missionary doesn’t receive 17 of the same thing.
After your conversation with your missionary, settle on a few particular needs that your church will take on.
Let me suggest 5 ways you can bless your missionary:
Here are 5 ways how to find out what missionary needs
1. Talk with them by Skype or Telephone.
Find a way to connect and have a conversation.
A call from church members is an emotional boost. This doesn’t have to be the missions chairperson. It could be anybody. When a missionary has been away for more than 12 months, those contacts slow down and leave the missionary feeling somewhat disconnected.
Have a cup of tea with them over a skype video call. Find ways to pray for them as a family.
2. Ask the missionary about personal family need that you can fix.
What is something that would take a “rough edge” off their life for which they simply don’t have available funds?
- Perhaps they have a broken piece of furniture, but no available or budgeted funds to fix it.
- Perhaps they need a dishwasher.
- Perhaps they need funds to fix a window, paint a room, or replace a toilet.
You might send them funds to fix it, or if practical, send a team to fix some of these things.
I know one missionary who wept in gratitude when a church helped them with a new pair of sandals, a box of Victoria Secret perfumes, and a particular napkin holder for their table.
What is something they need that would reduce a constant stressor in their life?
3. Donate frequent flyer miles.
A missionary family should be able to visit with their home churches and family members on a regular basis. But getting flight for a family of four can run anywhere from $2000-$4000 or more.
Frequent flyer miles can go a long way to enabling this kind of member care. Work with your missionary to find out how to make that happen.
Help them see their family or make their trip home for their partner development
4. Ask if there is a technology product or service they need.
Many missionaries live off of donated and terribly outdated equipment.
Perhaps they could use an updated / upgraded mobile phone. Perhaps an Ipad or Amazon Kindle. Maybe your missionaries are functioning with a 7 year old laptop with outdated software.
Maybe the humidity in some climates has destroyed their old computers from rust. Maybe they need that video projector for their training events, or even a video camera and wireless microphone for some of their work.
You get the idea. Find out what they need and work with them to acquire it. Remember, it might be easiest to acquire locally rather than shipping it.
Find out what your church can raise funds to upgrade or provide.
5. Ask if you can provide a “mental health” weekend.
Living cross culturally can be extremely stressful and a weekend away at a nice place can bring a sense of restoration back to your missionary.
Most missionaries I know live on such a shoe string budget that spending a weekend at a resort or in a mountain vacation home is hardly ever on a calendar.
Perhaps there is a nice place within a 2-3 hour drive from where your missionary lives. Ask about the cost of a full weekend at a nice place, and include the cost of transportation, gas, and food and tips.
I’m not talking about $20,000 family vacations, but maybe $500-$1000 for a weekend somewhere.
What can you provide to give your missionary a respite break?
Encourage these gospel workers
Encourage your missionaries this Christmas season. They are giving themselves away on behalf of the gospel, often at the high price of living on the margins.
These don’t have to be overly expensive projects. Living on the margins is stressful. Work with your missionary to find an appropriate way to bless them with something practical this Christmas.
Hopefully with these thoughts, you are well on your way finding out what your missionary needs.
What are some ways that your congregation has directly blessed its missionaries?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.