We’re hugely grateful for all those who have partnered with us over the years - we’re usually pretty stumped to think of much more they could do to encourage us! But here are some thoughts on things we have particularly appreciated:
It is so encouraging to hear that we are being prayed for. That must be a big reason why the Apostle Paul tells those he writes to that he is praying for them. It is so encouraging when we meet someone and find that they have obviously been reading our prayer letters and praying about a particular issue. Just a one line email saying that you were praying for us at a recent church prayer meeting is very heartening and humbling.
Many have told us that they saw the ‘Do let us know how we can be praying for you’ bit on our prayer letter but didn’t want us to be deluged with emails or to burden us with their issues. But please, please, when you read a mission partner writing that, know that they really want to hear from you! It is a common experience for missionaries to email 40 or 50 people and get back only three or four responses - don’t worry about the deluge! Your mission partner really wants to be in genuine two-way partnership with you. We really do want to be involved in your mission where you are just as you are involved in our work. We really are interested. Churches and mission committees can help by sending the church prayer diary or a monthly update of pressing prayer requests. And it’s great to hear from individuals and families about anxieties and joys and challenges and opportunities in your lives. We try to pray regularly as a family for our partners and having something current and specific to pray about is brilliant.
Emails are good but calls are even better. There may be challenges of time zone and internet and fuzzy lines and scheduling (everybody is leading busy lives) but it can happen. When I first went to West Africa about 14 years ago you had to queue at a payphone in the street clutching your coins. Now there is Skype, Whatsapp and other clever things I haven’t worked out yet. A call with a Christian friend is a very special thing. A phone explanation of a sensitive situation you are dealing with at your church is much better than trying to communicate it in writing. If calling is difficult, it may be possible for us to send you a short video of life here (possibly to be shown at a church prayer meeting), but do also send us back a video of your life, family and church for us to watch at our family prayer meeting! A Skype video message can also work well.
It’s lovely to get a card with a picture of the church family. A packet of chocolate buttons is very special. A handwritten letter is a wondrous thing in the internet age. A postcard will be joyfully fixed to the fridge door. A subscription to Evangelicals Now (a kind older lady set up for us) has been fantastic. The key thing is to check before you send something. In many places in the world there is no door-to-door postal system so mail needs to be collected from a box in the city centre. If the package is too big for the box or looks ‘interesting’ to customs officials then it might incur a significant charge to collect it. So ask your mission partners what their situation is, what they need (in many global cities you can get marmite, tea and chocolate but there might be random things that are hard to get) and what sending option would work best. Christian books / theological / gospel ministry resources are often a brilliant gift as they are much easier to get hold of in the UK than elsewhere but it might well be best to send them with someone travelling across than to try to post them (which would probably be prohibitively expensive).
This is a big ask and it isn’t always possible but there’s nothing quite like someone visiting in terms of them understanding what we’re doing and just to have good quality conversation together. There are different sorts of visits, all of which can be good in different ways – both for those coming ‘out’ and for the mission partner receiving – a) the church team; b) the pastor (perhaps with them doing some preaching); c) those exploring-the-possibility-of-long-term-mission d) the church friends passing through or having a holiday nearby and catching up with us for a day; e) the friends coming and just spending time with us. Visits are costly and require a lot of communication and planning but they can be a great joy.
When we’ve been back in the UK it’s been lovely to have opportunities to share about the work we’re involved with and also just to be useful to churches we visit (preaching, reading, prayers, children’s spot). Certainly it’s a balance. We know some missionaries with 20 partner churches who all insist that they do a prayer meeting and they end up completely exhausted. But most Crosslinks missionaries only have about five churches and there is a danger of mission partners being under-used, perhaps because everyone is concerned about burdening them with ‘too much.’ Early communication will be key – six months ahead of a trip back to the UK, discuss what would be the best way for us to serve your church and help people who are interested to understand better what they are partnering with.
This is not an easy one. Some people have asked us great questions – e.g. What exactly are you doing? What cultural mistakes have you made recently? How encouraging is church for you? Questions that are less easy to answer would include, How is Kenya? How is your Swahili? Are you having a good time? Check out 10 questions missionary kids would love to be asked and 10 questions missionary kids dread.
We need that most of all. Whether it is by email, skype or in person. Missionaries overseas often struggle to get pastoral oversight and to find Christian friends who are really willing to challenge us and speak into our lives about putting to death self-centredness and looking to Jesus and not grumbling but fighting for joy in our great future hope. Share something you have been learning at church recently. Ask us hard questions. Talk about Jesus.
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