One of them was an article by Jennifer Su McIntyre titled: 6 Ways You Can Support Missionaries.
Jennifer starts off by framing the discussion as ways to support missionaries other than sending short term teams. While short term teams have their role, they can be a large drain on the missionaries and not really serve the overall task very well at all.
I would also like to add that this is especially true for missionaries working among unreached people groups since they are often working in security sensitive areas. Hosting short term teams can be a massive drain, security risk, and downright foolishly risky. Although the number of unreached people groups is shrinking, over 40% of the global population is unreached. This means that if a church focuses on supporting missionaries they send short term teams to, it is most likely they will end up ignoring the 40% of the world that is unreached.
Keep in mind also that you may be one of 30, 50, or even 100 supporters of this missionary. What would you expect them to do if all their supporters wanted to pay a visit?
1. Pray for your missionaries regularly. Then tell the missionary you’re praying for specific prayer requests.
Missionaries certainly need to do a better job of communicating prayer requests frequently and concisely. However, it is also true that many prayer requests are ignored!
Before you want to get involved “hands on” with a missionary, try a missions prayer group. Once people have been regularly praying for a missions effort, then they can broach the subject of becoming more “hands on.”
2. Commit to regular financial support.
As Jennifer writes, it is a blessing for you to give. Also, communicate clearly about your plans to give. If you plan on giving a one time gift, say it is just for one time. If you plan on giving once annually, say so. If you have to stop giving, please let the missionary know as far as advance as possible. Otherwise, the missionary is wondering if you forgot to send the check, or if there is something you don’t like about their ministry.
Jennifer is right: regular monthly giving is the best. Automate it so you don’t forget. It really does help the missionary focus on the task at hand instead of checking the donor report each month wondering if enough came in!
Don’t allow others to denigrate financial giving. “Oh, you only give and send a check regularly?” Giving money is serious stuff; it’s real skin in the game, and God sees it and rewards it – even if that is “all” you do and even if your giving is taken for granted.
3. Help combat homesickness.
Yes, care packages rock!
And you know a great way to get some real bang for your buck? Send a care package at a time other than Christmas.
Also, since peanut butter is oddly American, any chocolate with peanut butter will probably be welcomed by the missionary.
As far as shipping, flat rate boxes from USPS are often the way to go. Be sure to cover every last inch with packing tape though!
Be ready to fill out an itemized list of the contents for customs. It is a hassle, but it is also a huge blessing.
4. Help missionaries during their “furloughs.”
Please don’t think of “furloughs” or ” home assignment” as an extended vacation. They’re not. Although most missionaries are happy to see friends and family, most of them also prefer to be on the field. Moving kids in and out of school can be tough on the family. Also, the missionaries work schedule of visiting with supporters and possibly raising more support is irregular.
As for practical helps, it seems like missionaries almost always need housing and a car while back in the States. Buying and renting either of those can be a real challenge if it will only be for a few months or a year at most.
5. If you do want to visit the missionary overseas, be mindful of their point of view.
Amen sister. (See also my comments above in the introduction about short-term teams).
“The pastor’s visit encouraged us because he came with the goal to pray, watch, and learn.”
A visit by a few supporters who simply want to know how to best share the vision back home and to pray can be very powerful. Again, remember that not all 100 supporters can come visit for a short time to watch and pray, so please be understanding if you aren’t able to visit!
6. Send a “medium-term” missionary to help be part of a long-term vision.
Jennifer is right that a two year missionary can be a huge help for the long term. Some professionals may be able to make a project possible that could have some long-term benefits.
Also, educational professionals can have a huge impact. I haven’t found hard stats, but anecdotally I know many missionaries who have left the mission field because their children had special needs that could not be met on the field. A 2 year missionary with some skills in special education could probably help keep several families on the field.
Little Act, Big Effect
One little act of supporters that has a big effect for me is when somebody replies to our prayer email. If somebody replies and simply says, “I’m praying for XYZ,” then that is a huge encouragement.
The little things do mean a lot!
Do you have any other ideas that effectively support missionaries?