I've been a missionary for almost 7 years, and one thing that I have noticed while on the mission field is that there seems to be a disconnect between missionaries and those back home. One would think that in the age of social media and instant conversations, that connecting with international and local missionaries would be easier than ever! But sadly this is not the typical case. Sure, you may see a missionary friend's instagram photo and double tap to show a little love, or you may see the map or flags or flyers in the church foyer with names of missionaries and wonder if they are still working in their local ministries or countries. It seems though, that the personal connection just isn't there. And we get it! We live a very different lifestyle than you do! You have a lot of things on your plate! And learning how to connect with a missionary can seem like a bit of a daunting task. So, I want to make it easy for you. Here are some practical ways you can engage with your missionaries, no matter where they are. (Note: These are just a few of many ideas, I have included links articles at the bottom of this post that may give you more inspiration. Also, prayerfully seek God before diving into this or other lists!)
Connect with us
Missions can be a lonely work-field at times, but there is really no excuse to not be able to contact a missionary these days! You have Facebook, Whatsapp, iMessage, Messenger, Marco Polo, and that is only a fraction of the messaging services out there! But the question may be, what do we talk about? How can I make that personal connection? Well, every missionary is different. Some like to have big long conversations about how they are, what projects they are doing, and others are content with a simple "Hey! I'm thinking about you!" The main idea behind contacting a missionary is for them to know that God has a team assembled to encourage them and that they are not alone in what He has called them to do! There have been times where I have been contacted by someone wanting to chat and get a life update, and it was an unbelievingly encouraging experience!
Pray for us
It is one thing to stick a picture of a missionary on your fridge and pray for them during meals times, and quite another to intercede for specific needs. Please! Ask your missionary what specific things they need prayers for! Often! I am so blessed to have a friend who checks up on me and asks for my prayer needs. It makes me feel like God has someone else fighting a spiritual battle alongside me. Prayer is an excellent way to get to know your missionary and what their needs are. They honestly would not be able to do what they do without your prayerful support.
Advocate for us
You have contacted us, you have asked what our prayer need are. Now what? Does the relationship stop there? It doesn't have to! Another thing you can do to engage with your missionary is to advocate for them! Do you notice that they are going through a rough time in their ministry? Ask others to join you in prayer for that situation. Is your missionary's car on its last few miles? Maybe host a fundraiser to help them offset the cost of buying a new one. The possibilities are endless in this area!
Support us financially
Depending on the missionary, they may receive a salary from a missions organization. Others, (Like in our case here at YWAM Port of Peace) may rely on generous supporters and partners to be able to live and thrive on the missions field. It can be very stressful for a missionary on the field to worry about paying their bills, and sometimes it can keep them from being able to fully engage in their ministry, or even cause some burnout. Maybe pray about supporting them on a monthly basis? Or even sending them a one time gift?
If you are able to, and if it is safe to do so, you should really consider visiting your missionary! I can guarantee that going on a missions trip will be a life changing experience. Being able to tangibly see and experience the work your missionary does and give you a whole new perspective on what they do. And you never know, you might even find yourself being called to missions!
Bonus- Love languages
This one could probably be inserted into any of the other ideas above, but I think it a cool enough idea to stand on its own. If you are just wanting to love on your missionary in a way that encourages them the most, you can try to figure out what their love language is! (If you don't know what love languages are, I definitely recommend looking it up!) My love language is receiving gifts, and there have been a few times where friends, family or supporters have sent thoughtful care packages or letters or simple candy bar that have filled up my love tank to the max! I remember once, a fellow missionary friend that handed me a chocolate bar in passing saying "I was just at the store and I was thinking of you!" This occurred probably 4 years ago, but I remember so vividly because it made such a huge impact on my day.