Get to know the missionaries your church supports so you can learn more about missions.
It is not as important as you think that you get to know the missionary. Rather should I say that it is not as practical? The missionary gets to meet thousands of people and cannot remember all of them. However, people get to meet fewer missionaries than the missionary gets to meet people. Therefore, the people more often know the missionary better than the missionary knows them. This is the sad and practical truth.
Too often a missionary presenting their mission to your church is undergoing a type of interview to see if you would support them. If you do like him, his presentation or his wife and children, he will get the monthly prayer or financial support. But if there is some reason you don’t like him, then he doesn’t. So, missionaries would like for you to get to know them. That’s what deputation is all about–getting support. And, he cannot get support if you don’t get to know him.
The most common way available for any churchgoer to get to know a missionary is to ask him questions. Missionaries are passionate about missions. They are even more passionate about the field they are going to. Like you, they love to talk about the things they are passionate about.
It is a fundamental principle of communication that the more you listen the more you learn. The Bible says that a wise man is, “…swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath:” (James 1:19). The more the missionary talks and the more you listen, the more you get to know him. In fact, this principle can be applied to all communication. Ask him questions.
When the missionary writes a newsletter and sends it to your church, read it. Too often the missionary newsletters are posted on a wall or filed in a cabinet making it easier for the administrator to do their job, but difficult for anyone wanting to read what the missionary has to say. Some churches read the letters from the pulpit, some make copies for anyone asking them, very few put a copy of each letter into the hands of every member. Ask your pastor if you can do such a ministry. If he agrees, then every member of the church can take home a copy of the letter and read it at their leisure. Whatever way is available to you, read the missionary newsletters, especially the missionaries you want to get closer to. They don’t write them so you have something pretty to hang on your wall. If you read them, you will get to know the missionaries your church supports.
The very best way to get to know the missionaries is to walk with them. What I mean to say is to “walk in their footsteps.” This is difficult to do, but not impossible. You can walk in the missionaries footsteps by researching the field they are going to, just as they did as they were preparing to go there. Learn as much as you can about it, just like they did. This will give you a greater understanding of what they are saying when you communicate with them, and therefore you will get to know the missionaries better.
Walking in a missionaries footsteps is not always confined to just learning about their field. It can also be by going to the field yourself. It is better if you can go and visit them on the field and stay with them for some time. Of course there are some things to consider before doing so. First is that you may be on vacation, but the missionary is not. He is working and when you are there, you can either be a burden or a blessing to his work. Try to be a blessing and help him in any way he asks. Try not to make him do anything out of the ordinary to accommodate you. Secondly is to not be a burden to his family. All too often they are home schooling, shopping, cleaning, learning a new language, etc. Your presence there can again be either a burden or a blessing. Finally, don’t go with any preconceived ideas of what things will be like, or what you will, or will not do. Be completely open for being used in any way that he feels you will be a help. This is how he had to go there and if you are going to walk in his shoes, you should do the same.
If you have the privilege of going to a field to spend some time with a missionary. Your heart can be forever knit together with his. You can understand and sympathize with his correspondence better because you can identify with what he says. When he talks about people or places, you will have a clear mental view of what his letters are saying. You will be touched with him and his family in a way that you would never have been able to be if you hadn’t gone to visit him on the field.
When I served on the foreign field, there were a few people that came to visit us on what is called a “Short term Mission Trip.” In fact, my pastor and his wife came to visit us. He was able to preach to people behind the curtain of communism and see the hunger for the word of God. He was able to witness our day to day trials and triumphs. I am sure if you ask him, he will tell you that it changed his outlook on our field and us in general. There is nothing like living with someone to get to know them. One step further than that is you can go back again on annual trips.
Like I mentioned before, going on short term missions trips to get to know the missionaries is impossible for most Christians, so all they have available to them is the short time that the missionary is in their church to present his ministry. But, if you are clever, there are ways to get a little more time with them. You can ask your pastor if he wouldn’t mind if you took the missionary and his family out to lunch, or invited them over to your house. Most pastors are happy that members of their congregation are showing interest in missions and would appreciate such a request. There are even times when you can make that spare guest room available for the missionary to use anytime he is coming through your area. Just keep in mind that the missionary appreciates a place where he can kick his shoes off and let his hair down. In other words, there is no pressure on him to play the guest in your home. So, the more you allow them to come and go as they please, the better it is for them. And I am sure you can see where I am going with this: The more he gets to let his hair down, the better you get to know him on a personal level.
The closer you are to the missionary; the more you cohort with him; the better you communicate, are all factors that will help you get to know him. Although this is brief, and there are not many ideas presented, the hope is that I have been able to prick your heart into starting to think of ways that are open to you. If you want to get to know the missionaries better, you will find a way.