I have often been asked, "How can our church, small group or family better serve missionaries?” I get lots of churches that ask similar questions. They start with great intentions and have poor follow through.
Missionaries…obviously…are human…we miss home, we sin, feel neglected, raise our kids poorly, have bad prayer lives, etc. Just like we did when we weren’t missionaries. The hard-to-swallow truth is…out of site, out of mind. Our friends, family and brothers in Christ don’t see us every day, their lives move on without us, and we become forgotten by those who used to care for us and love us.
Most missionaries knew this would happen when we left for the mission field. People don’t sign up to be missionaries for the fame, glory and additional friends. It is no surprise, but I am shocked at how much it hurts me. I am surprised how much it hurts to be forgotten.
If I could ask for one thing of a church or small group or a family it would be for them to show some interest in my family and me. Send a small care package of stuff we miss twice a year. Give me a call once every other month. Send my kid an electronic iTunes certificate on her birthday and Christmas so I can be reminded someone other than me cares a little about her. Ask me about my marriage and my spiritual life…because, both are probably suffering. Send me an occasional e-mail and tell me you prayed for my family today.
That being said, my family and I would continue to do missions work if we never heard from another person in the U.S. And, I know that is the same for all eight missionaries on my mission team. But, we are sinners, we want to be loved and we want to know people are thinking and praying for us. If my team members were reminded that others care and pray for them, they would have the strength to go on, on the hard days.
As a Team Leader of a mission team and an ex-Elder in my home church I would love to see each missionary on my mission team have at least one church that loves them and shows interest in them. In my four years on the field half a dozen churches have told me that their church has a new plan to better care for their missionaries, and, "…I have been assigned to care for your family." And, few have followed through. I pray that each missionary serving on the field has one church, or small group, or pastor that shows interest in them…their lives…their faith…their struggles.
When William Carey volunteered to be a missionary, he implored those who sent him, "but remember that you must hold the rope." Missionaries must go and senders of missionaries must remember to hold the rope.