Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How to Pray for a Missionary

In the past ten years, I've had alot of opportunities to visit overseas missionaries in the environments in which they work, some in closed countries, some in 'open' ones. Though their personalities are all over the map, I've yet to meet one that I didn't regard as a friend after having spent time with them, watching what they do and how they live their lives. I've discovered that they are "real people". They aren't superstar Christians. It's just that they have received a call that they can't not answer. They simply have to do what they do. They realise, in their situations, what most of the rest of us often don't seem to get a grip on: dependency. They are weak, only they know it. They are confronted by their own weakness and powerlessness every day.

I've met several missionaries whose children aren't yet saved. You'd think that children of missionaries, in closed countries especially, would watch what their parents do at risk of deportation at the least and imprisonment or death at the worst, and get a sense that their parents are pretty focused on something that is beyond themselves. You'd think they would stand up and take notice. Often they don't, and their parents worry about this. Many times the child will return for college to the States, the country that they are "supposed" to identify with, and have a perfectly awful time. They aren't really American, but they aren't really from their abroad country either. They may not notice that they often have a pride problem ("I have had so much more experience of the world than these yahoos!") and fail to notice that their Stateside peers are just as "real" as the native children that they grew up with. The culture is different, but they call it false. It can be too... but so was the one they came from. Such children need alot of gentleness and love, and people to be genuinely interested in them for who they are and what they have experienced, which is not inconsiderable. Grace is paramount. To walk alongside such a child in loving, listening friendship and discipleship is to bless the missionary parent. Pray for their children's salvation, and ask after this. Know their names, and try to get to know the children. Ask the children, even the unsaved ones, what you may pray for them.

I've heard of missionaries who become suicidal. They love the Lord, but His sending church forgets all about His sent ones as soon as they are out of sight. Some missionaries never hear from their 'supporters'. When they come home to raise funds so they can stay where they are to do His work, they are met with lukewarm saints who, if they even remember their names and faces at all, regard what missionaries do as second-class work-- as though these saints couldn't get a "real" job. They don't like hearing about the need for prayer and money. Your treasure is where you heart is. When you give money to a missionary, you invest in the Kingdom that will never perish. Give your wallet a chance to invest in a missionary, and your heart will follow. Pray when you write that check...ask for prayer requests and think on how you might tangibly fill a missionary's needs. It isn't always money. It might just be the worthy books you've enjoyed reading that they are hankering after. There aren't too many libraries full of English books in East Asia.

Many missionaries live in isolated areas. There may be few other believers or there may be alot. I've seen loving communities of missionaries who understand that they need to feed one another, to serve one another. They recognise that no believer is without a gift, and they depend on one another to be strengthened, and they consider it an obligation to be a servant. They don't pick and choose opportunities the way we decide which parties to attend, they seek them out, knowing that there are always needs. Pray for friends for them, and for a spirit of peace to reign among them. And seriously consider visiting them where they are, even if it's at the tail end of a business trip. I promise you, you'll see their country like few Americans ever see it from a tour bus.

Those are just a few ways to minister to missionaries. Can you think of others? They are doing a job just like you, and they have the same aggravations, failings, and needs that you have. They have bills to pay and children to educate, medical and dental bills, and others to whom they must be accountable. They're just people, but they can teach you how the Lord hears all His people. What's true for them is also true for you. You are needy, I'm needy. Let's think as the missionary does, with humble dependence on the One Who supplies all the needs of His own. Let's ask for food, so we can feed it to someone else..

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