How to Encourage a Missionary

I still remember being a 6 year old kid with both eyes and mouth wide open in excitement and joy as our friends opened their bags full of presents for us. Did they really come ALL THE WAY from the States to bring us chocolate chips, peanut butter and glow-in-the-dark star stickers?! My parents have been missionaries my whole life and we lived in North Africa for eight years. To this day one of the things that I most vividly remember are the visits from people from other countries. Sometimes they were friends, sometimes they were strangers, but, almost always, they would come bearing gifts for us. They weren’t huge or expensive things, but they sent a message to my young heart: I was seen, I was important, and even though I was far away, I was not forgotten.

Do you ever look at the missionaries you know and wonder how to bless and encourage them? Here are some ideas from someone who’s been on the receiving end.

Let them know you’re praying for them.

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Don’t use the “I’m praying for you” card and then forget to actually do it (we’ve all done it, don’t give me that look). They’ve heard that a lot, and sometimes it can start to lose meaning. Don’t wait for them to share, we’re called to initiate when it comes to loving others, just like Jesus has done with us! Take time to ask them what their needs are, how you can better pray for them, and follow up. Sometimes, they can feel like they’re fighting alone, like they’ve been forgotten. When you reach out to hear about what is going on in their lives and then actively pray, you also remind them that they are not alone, that we are a family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten (name the movie!). But seriously, prayer not only changes things, it lifts up the weary heart and helps it to persevere and keep on going.

What is God saying?

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There is something very unique and powerful about getting words of encouragement that are specific to the situation or season someone is in. The only way of being able to offer this is to ask God what they need to hear, listen attentively and then share boldly. Sometimes we hold back the blessing because of our own fear and our worry of sounding silly. A few years ago, while I was living in Spain (Have I told you my parent’s are missionaries?), I received a phone call from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while. It took me by surprise. As we were talking she said, “I just want you to know that you’re not alone, and if you ever need to talk, I’m here. God says that you are not invisible and you haven’t been forgotten.” How could she know that I had been struggling with deep loneliness and the feeling that I had no one to share my pain with? I guess she actually took the time to allow God to speak the truth my heart so needed to hear.

You’ve got mail.

Am I the only one who gets excited when I see a letter in my mailbox? Emails, text, Facebook messages, yes they are fast and convenient, but there’s just something about receiving a handwritten letter, a card, a little note; it speaks of intentionality and effort. I’m not even talking about two-paged letters or beautiful cards with sweet words and lots of glitter (I don’t really like glitter, but hey, no judgment here if you do), a simple note that’s filled with truth, a scripture God gave you for them, why you’re grateful for them – it has an impact that sometimes we can’t imagine. Never underestimate the power of your words, whether spoken or written, when received in a time of need. I’ve been there, and it makes all the difference.

It’s the little things.

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Chocolate chips, peanut butter and glow-in-the-dark star stickers, truth is they might not seem like anything grand, but what carried weight and made that memory stay with me wasn’t the sugar and the glow, but what they represented: I am not forgotten, I am seen by God, and He cares. My dad has a saying, “There is nothing that is too big for God’s power and there’s nothings that is too small for His love.” When you go out of you way to send a gift to a missionary, no matter how small, it comes as a reminder of the fact that God sees us, He sees our heart and He really does cares. Plus, who doesn’t like a little gift here and there?

Honestly, I think one of the biggest blessings you can give to missionaries is the message, “You are not in this alone, and you haven’t been forgotten,” expressed in many different ways, but with the same heartbeat: to fight alongside them, to cheer them on, and to simply love on them. We are called to encourage, to build one another up, to carry each others burdens.

Let us be people who eagerly and joyfully go out of our way to do so, for this impacts lives deeply and brings joy and glory to God.

 


Gail Pineda
Murcia, Spain

Gail’s family is from Mexico and has served as missionaries in North Africa and Spain, so it’s no wonder that the YWAM lifestyle called her name – it’s in her blood! We’re glad this free-spirited nomad has made Louisville her home. Gail is a gentle sunbeam, bringing warmth and beauty to those around her through joyful creativity and deep relationship. She’s a worshiper through and through, whether it’s writing songs that honor Jesus, delighting in his creation with her photography, or celebrating what God has done in the people around her. Gail has many talents, but she’s quiet about it, so you might have to bribe her with Chik Fil A to get her to show them off.

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