Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Princess and the Letter


Are you a missionary or a missionary supporter?
I have a story to tell you that may change the way you do something. I will make this as pleasant and fun as possible. (Who doesn't love a good story?)

****

Long ago in a land far away there lived a princess.
(Actually, it was a missionary, but princess stories are more romantic.)

The princess and her family had exciting news to share. She knew that her friends and family in distant villages would be thrilled to hear the exciting news. She sat down at her royal writing table. She picked up her royal quill and ink well, and pulled out 300 of the finest quality papers. She began to write. (OK, so it was a computer and printer, but that isn't as fun as ink and quill, is it?)

The princess began writing 300 letters to the people she thought would care the most about this happy news. She poured hours into the letters. Her excitement graced every swipe of the pen. She didn't leave out any details. The princess, after all, was known for being verbose. When the letters were finished, she carefully addressed each one and gave them to her royal messengers. They quickly dispatched each letter. The princess was a fountain of energy anticipating the responses to the letters.

Months passed by and the princess grew discouraged. Of all 300 letters written, only five people took the time to reply. She was heartbroken. She could not figure out what had gone wrong. Did the people not care?

****
Did you know?
The average missionary has around a 3-5% response rate to prayer letters.
That means for every 100 letters that goes out, only 3-5 people take the time to reply.
****

The princess visited the wise old woman in the royal clock tower.

"Why did so few respond?" the princess asked through tears. "Have they forgotten me? Did I do something wrong? Do they not care?"

The wise old woman sat in her rocking chair. She was silent for several minutes. The chair squeaked as she rocked back and forth. The princess's sobs were interrupted when the woman's voice creaked through the air.

"Princess, you must search out the reasons, for each reason has hidden lessons all their own. Disguise yourself and travel to these distant lands."

So the princess put off her princess gown and donned the threads of a peasant girl. She purchased an old mare and galloped away in search of answers. (Alright. I posted some questions online, but the princess on the mare is definitely more fun to read.)

The princess first visited a farmer friend. He was busy working in the fields. She struck up a conversation with the man. After a few minutes, she gained the courage to ask, "Did you receive a letter from the princess?"

He continued hoeing and breaking up the sod as he spoke. "I did, but the letter was so long I have not read it yet. I am so busy in the fields all day. When I finish working, I am too tired to sit down and read. I hope the princess does not think I have forgotten her. She was always so kind to our family. We pray for her every night."


Keep It Short and Simple

As the princess left the farmer, she was deep in thought. She never realized people would be too busy to read her letters. As she wrote, she always added in every detail and even added details that had nothing to do with the news she wanted so desperately to share.

****

Soon the princess, still dressed as a peasant, arrived at her next destination. As she approached the artist, she noticed he was painting a lovely landscape as he sat beside a pond. She began talking with him. Soon she asked the artist if he had received a letter from the princess.

"Oh yes. It is on my table waiting to be read, but I must admit I struggle reading the princess's letters. I love portraits and landscapes more than hundreds of words. When I see a picture I am captivated. The writing comes to life. I just struggle reading things when I can not see what it is talking about. But perhaps the princess does not draw like me."

Include Lots of Pictures to Bring to Life the Details and the People

The princess was stunned. She had never thought about how pictures could also tell the story. She loved to draw.

****

She continued her journey down the road and came to the home of a woman with a dozen children. The children were clamoring around the house as the woman hung laundry outside. The princess began to chat with her. Then it came time for the question. "Did you receive a letter from the princess?"

"I certainly did! I read every word to the children the very night I received it! It was such happy news!"

"Did you reply to the princess?" the princess casually asked.

"Oh no. The princess probably does not want to hear from me. I doubt she even remembers who I am." The princess was surprised at this answer. This woman was the kind lady who helped the princess one day when she had fallen from her horse. The princess had played many times with the children.

Dear Friend, Your Reply Means the World to Missionaries

"I am quite sure the princess would be very encouraged by a letter from you. I am very close to the princess and know her well."

****

The princess continued on to the bridge keeper's home. The guard at the bridge stopped her before she could cross.

"Stop right there young lady! You may go no farther!" The princess was surprised by his gruff voice.

"But I need to see the bridge keeper," the princess pleaded.

"Sorry. No one or nothing may pass this bridge without my permission."

Make Sure Your Missionary Has a Current Address

The princess looked down and saw a box. Sticking out of the box was her letter.
The outside of the box was labelled:
Stock Pile All Messages
Apparently the bridge keeper never received her letter because it had been captured into this box by the guard. The princess sighed in frustration.

****

The princess had one more place to stop. She came to the seamstress's shop. "Surely she read my letter," thought the princess.

As she approached the seamstress, she saw the seamstress busily stitching a garment. She sat down on a stool near the seamstress and began chatting. Soon the princess asked, "Did you get a letter from the princess?"

"I am sure I did, but I did not read it."

The princess was surprised. "Why ever not?"

****
Did You Know?
The overwhelming number one reason people read a prayer letter
is that they have personal knowledge or connection with the missionary.
****

"Well, I have been receiving letters from the princess for many years, but here lately every letter the princess wrote was asking for something. The princess's letters began sounding more like business propositions than a letter from a friend. I have given so much time and effort and money for the princess's projects that I have nothing left to give. The past three letters I simply threw away. She was probably just asking for more things. Sometimes I just wish the princess would write to me as the friend she used to be to me."

Missionary, sometimes people become wearied when they are constantly asked for money.

The princess was deeply saddened by this last visit. She had not realized how impersonal her letters had become. She wanted a closer friendship with these people. They had done so much to help her throughout her childhood.

****

Immediately the princess returned to the castle and pulled out her ink and quill. She began to write all of her friends again. This time she wrote with their needs in mind as well. She was considerate of their busy lives. She focused on the important details. She even drew pictures. She made the letters very personal because she was writing to dear friends and family. She didn't ask for anything but simply shared some happy news. Then she closed the letters with a simple sentence:

"It would mean so much to me to hear from my dear friends
so that I know I am not forgotten."

****

This story was a lighthearted look at a real situation. Missionaries spend a great deal of time working on prayer letters. I asked a group of missionaries what their response rate was to these letters. The conclusion was that few people respond. The truth is that missionaries are greatly encouraged when people take the time to reply. It helps us know that we are not forgotten and that our supporting church family and friends are doing their part to help us by praying and staying connected with us.

For the supporter:
Take the time to read the letters. It matters to us. We are sharing news from the field that you are investing in. We see you as part of the team. Then after reading the letters, take time to reply even if it is only a few words.

"Praying for you!"
"Great prayer letter!"
"I am excited to see what God is doing there!"

For the missionary:
Be considerate of the reader. People are busy and don't have time to read a prayer letter book. Keep it short and to the point. Make it personal. Use pictures to make it come alive. Pictures really are worth 1000 words! Consider bulleted highlights. Don't ask for something in every prayer letter. (You start sounding like that relative who only comes around when they want something.) Consider using social media to help supporters get to know you personally so that there is a connection. When on deputation and furlough, do your best to meet people in supporting churches and allow them to become familiar with you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Bulldozer and the Butterfly



Once upon a time...

(Isn't that how all good stories are supposed to begin?)

There was a bulldozer and a butterfly. They were close friends. They were so very different, though. No one could understand how they could be such good friends. There were even times they asked themselves how the friendship could have blossomed into such a lovely arrangement.

The bulldozer was strong and confident, sometimes loud. The bulldozer was a mover and shaker. She accomplished many things, and her favorite things were neatly organizing mountains, creating straight roads, and being productive.

The butterfly was quiet and happy, flitting from here to there, bringing joy and beauty to everyone she lighted upon. She was sensitive and kind, gentle and fragile. She loved bright, happy colors and happy orange pumpkins. Her favorite things to do were to enjoy sunshine and to bring smiles to those she encountered.

There could not have been more opposite friends, and yet they treasured each other dearly.

*************

This story is actually a true story. Well, it's not literally true, but it is about two very real and extremely opposite friends serving on the same mission field.

If you haven't guessed, I am the bulldozer. The butterfly is a fellow missionary wife and treasured friend serving here in the same country as me.

We are as different as night and day. Yet we have a thriving friendship. How is that possible? After all, missionaries on the field often struggle to get along in general, much less ones who are so different!

Cultivating a Bulldozer Butterfly Friendship

Appreciate Differences

My friend is beautiful like a butterfly. She is a flutter of generosity, hospitality, and compassion. She has the ability to truly weep with those who weep. If someone is hurting, she aches with them. People come to her to pour out their hearts, seeking encouragement and hope in their crisis. I imagine the Shunemite woman who prepared Elisha's chamber was much like my butterfly friend. (2 Kings 4) The Shunemite woman thought of everything to make Elisha's visits pleasant. The chamber was perfectly set up for his needs.

Me? I am whirlwind of activity: organizing, planning, preparing. I love the physical labor that often comes with ministry. I love the schedules and calendars. People often come to me for practical counsel.

"How do you balance home and ministry?"
"Do you have homeschooling advice?"
"I need help being more consistent in my devotions."

I imagine Phebe was probably a bulldozer, working behind the scenes to get things done and assist Paul and other believers. (Romans 16:1-2)

Butterflies and bulldozers each have a beauty of their own. They minister differently. God designed them for specific ways to serve Him. Do not compare butterflies and bulldozers in their individual ministries. When we do that we devalue both. Appreciate the differences.


Identify Potential Weaknesses

Along with beautiful strengths also comes potential weaknesses. Bulldozers, in their excitement and zeal, tend to push and run over people. They may have great intentions, but their approach is sometimes overbearing and aggressive. As a bulldozer, I have often had to apologize for these kinds of actions. Sometimes it presents itself as unsolicited counsel or advice. Sometimes its taking control when I shouldn't. Sometimes it's a lack of meekness and compassion.

Butterflies tend to perceive injury when injury was not intended. They are sensitive to the needs of others, but they are also tenderhearted. That leaves them vulnerable to being wounded easily. They tend to be more passive and avoid conflict.

Bulldozers can run over butterflies, and butterflies can be intimidated by bulldozers. But if they both recognize their own weaknesses, they can learn from each other and make a beautiful team. Bulldozers can learn from butterfly friends to be more sensitive to the needs of others. Butterflies can learn from bulldozer friends to be more confident.

Proverbs 27:17 "Iron sharpeneth iron; 
so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

Embrace the Ministry of Confrontation

Confrontation? A ministry?

Absolutely! Most people do not enjoy confrontation. But when there is division, injury, or sin, God's Word teaches us to go to that person. It's really the ministry of restoration and reconciliation. The goal is to help bring the person back in fellowship with either the Lord or yourself.

Be careful though. Butterflies tend to avoid confrontation while bulldozers tend to confront without meekness.

I love the counsel God's Word gives:

Galatians 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

Butterflies, God's Word teaches us to confront.
Bulldozers, God's Word teaches us to confront in meekness.
And the key is "ye which are spiritual." When we walk in the Spirit, we will embrace the ministry of confrontation because we realize it is the ministry of reconciliation.

If you want to flourish in a bulldozer/butterfly friendship, you have to learn to talk things out the right way when division creeps in. Good communication is key to any relationship.


***********

And they lived happily ever after...

That's how good stories end. And this one is no different. My butterfly friend and I will live happily ever after. Christ is preparing a place for us. That's the unifying factor that helps our relationship grow. We may be complete opposites, but we have some things in common. Christ died for us. His blood cleansed us. We have the same heavenly Father and are part of God's family. The same Spirit dwells in us both. Our hearts are both thrilled by serving our amazing Saviour. I sure am glad we get to do it on the same field.



So, which one are you? Are you a bulldozer or a butterfly... or a crazy combination of both?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Results from "Ask a Teen MK Survey"


Missionary teens from all over answered a ten-question survey. Here are the results:

Q At what age did you go to the mission field?
A        I was born there. 14%
1 month-4 years  43%
5-10 years  21%
11-13 years  14%
older than 13  7%

Q Do you speak any language besides English?
A        No. 14%
Yes, I speak 1 language besides English.  64%
Yes, I speak 2 languages besides English.  21%

Q Do you feel accepted by the teens where you live?
A       Yes. 23%
No. 0%
Most of the time. 31%
Only sometimes. 46%

Q What kinds of activities do you do with your native friends (not MKs) on your field? (Check all that apply.)
A      Hang out, go on walks 38%
Go shopping, go out to eat together 38%
Do ministry together—help others 77%
Visit each other’s homes 46%
Play sports 62%
Ride bikes, motorcycles, or quads together 15%
Play board games 54%

Q What would you say is your biggest personal need?
A      Acceptance 21%
Better personal relationships 43%
Educational issues 7%
Financial 29%

Q Do you have personal devotions (Bible and prayer time) daily?
A      Yes, every day. 57%
Yes, most of the time. Sometimes I forget or get busy. 36%
No, I just don’t. 7%

Q Are you active in your parents’ ministry and in your church?
A       Yes. 100%

Q If you answered yes to being active in church, check all of the ways you personally do ministry.
A       Music 93%
Cleaning the church 79%
Evangelism (tract distribution, personal witnessing, etc.) 79%
Teaching children 57%
Baking, cooking, serving tables 79%
Driving people to church 7%
Keeping the nursery 43%

Q Are you happy?
A       Yes, most of the time. 100%


MK Comments:

“For the longest time I didn't realize there was a difference between me and any other kid, on and off the field. But when I was about thirteen, it hit me, and I hated being a missionary kid. I struggled with this for about two years until God showed me how amazing it really was! I get to travel all the time and meet some pretty important people. My other friends don't get to experience this life that I live. Even though I don't have a ‘group of friends’ and I really don't fit it anywhere, it makes me grow closer to God, and just love Him more. It makes me look forward to my heavenly home even more! I absolutely love being an MK and hope I can encourage other MKs to be happy where they are in the world.”

“As a missionary kid, we don't fit anywhere really. We're the odd duck. But even as strange and hard as it is, I can't imagine my life any other way. Our Lord and Savior is worth the risks and hardships that come, and it isn't all bad. Almost all of the experiences that have shaped who I am have been experienced on the mission field, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.”

“Sometimes it gets lonely.”

“Being an MK is tough. Often we leave our homes, culture, family, and friends to go to a strange land in which we have none of the above. The struggle is real and painful. The devil uses this struggle to plant seeds of discontentment, bitterness, rebellion, and hatred within. Please pray for your missionaries—especially for their children. They . . . We need it. 1 Thessalonians 5:25.”


Encouraging observations: 

Just look at the potential! These kids are musicians, servant-hearted, can speak two and three languages, and they read their Bibles and pray. Every one of them is active in ministry and generally happy.

The needs:

It looks like a lot of these teens are sometimes lonely and have some struggles with belonging. Almost a third said their biggest need is financial. I don’t know what that indicates, but I suppose that MK teens are looking towards the future (college, training, etc.) and they are well aware of their lack of funds. More than anything, MK teens need prayer.


How can you help Teen MKs?
  • Prayer. The verse the one teen shared in his comment is, Brethren, pray for us. It doesn’t get any clearer than that!
  • Help them belong. I understand the difficulties. They don’t seem to belong where they are, and they don’t fit in in their parents’ home country, either. As parents and people in ministry, I think it’s important to keep our eyes open to what’s happening around the teens in ministry and help them not feel out of place. Sometimes, it means introducing them to other teens or making sure their clothing is appropriate. It’s involving them in the ministry and treating them as young adults instead of like babies. It’s building bridges and making friends. I believe everyone needs to feel valued, and of course, our teens need that the most.
  • Sacrifice for them. What can you do to help the teens in your ministry group? Be creative. Give. There’s no harm in buying an unexpected pizza or throwing a party. Encourage MK teens!
  • Love young people. Teens can feel genuine Christian love. Make sure part of your ministry is to minister to the young people around you.

Let’s close with a few Bible verses about young people:
  • For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works (Psalm 71:5, 17).
  • Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
  • Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

Thank you to all my MK Teen participants—and to their mothers who doubtless pushed a few to answer my questionnaire. I appreciate all of you and pray that God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).


  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Learning to Sweep

One day a young missionary wife went to seek counsel from a veteran missionary woman that she respected greatly.

"I want to be a good missionary and I want to reach my neighbors, but I am struggling. I try to visit my neighbors and share the Gospel with them, but they will not even let me in the door. I haven't been able to give them a single tract. They all refuse them! How can I be a better missionary?"

The wise older lady stopped and thought for a moment. Then she walked away. The young missionary was left sitting on the sofa confused.

In a few moments, the older woman returned with a broom in hand. It was a traditional broom like the people of their country used.

"If you want to be the best missionary you can be, learn to use this broom properly."

With a quizzical look on her face the young lady took the broom in hand. How hard could it be? If this would make her a better missionary, she was determined to learn to use the broom. She thanked the older woman and traveled back home.


Nepal

The young missionary set out immediately to her task. She began sweeping her house with the short broom. As she bent over to sweep, her back began to ache. She stood up many times to stretch her muscles and rub the sore spots. This was nothing like the broom she was used to using. She wanted to give up and use her own broom, but she persevered.


Zambia


For an entire week she used the new broom. The more she used it, the stronger her back became.


Wales, U.K.


That Saturday she went to visit her neighbors again. Once again, door after door was shut in her face. Tract after tract was refused. The young woman became discouraged. She returned to the home of the older missionary with the broom in hand.

"I did what you said and nothing changed. Here is your broom."

"I am sorry you are discouraged, but you have not completed the task. You have not learned to use the broom properly," replied the veteran.

"I used this broom and nothing else for the entire week. My floors are immaculate!"

"If you want to reach these people, you must learn to use this broom."

The young woman sighed, but took the broom in hand. She didn't understand, but her heart ached to reach the people. She returned home.


Belarus

One day, the young woman was outside sweeping her patio with the short broom. Neighbor after neighbor passed by, stopped for several minutes to watch the young woman sweeping, and then moved on. As another neighbor, arms loaded with vegetables, stopped to stare, the woman stood and greeted the neighbor. The neighbor smiled shyly.

"You are using our broom," the neighbor said. Then the neighbor quickly walked away. That was the most any of her neighbors had said to her kindly.

That Saturday, the woman went to visit her neighbors. She had great expectations, but once again the doors were closed to her.


Samoa

She returned home crying. That following Monday she took the broom back to the older missionary.

"It isn't working," she declared.

"You have not learned how to use it."

"But my house is spotless and even my patio area is perfectly cleaned. I don't think I could use this broom any better than I already have." The young missionary was exasperated.

"Please, take the broom again. You will know when you have truly learned to use it." The compassion in the veteran's voice and the love in her eyes compelled the young missionary to once again take the broom.


Zambia


That week, the young woman again swept her house every day. She could now do it in half the time. Her back no longer hurt as she used the broom. Again, she swept her patio. Neighbors stared and smiled. She greeted them and they passed on quickly. She continued to sweep the patio, determined to learn to use the broom and unlock its hidden lesson.

As she was finishing her patio, she looked across the street to see her elderly widow neighbor sweeping her own patio. As she observed the grey haired woman, she saw the woman stop her work and quickly sit on the ground. The old woman closed her eyes and began to weep. Compassion welled up in the young missionary. She dropped her broom and walked to the widow's patio. She sat down beside her and began speaking gently.


Basque Spain


"Is everything alright? What can I do to help you?" asked the young missionary.

"I am sorry. I do not mean to weep like this. But I am so tired. Since my husband died I am left alone. There is so much work to do, and today I do not feel well." The exhaustion dripped from every muscle of this poor widow.

"My work is almost done for the day and I have time. May I help you with your tasks today?" The young missionary reached her hand out and placed it on the widow's hand. The widow in return patted the top of the young woman's hand.

Paraguay


The missionary helped the woman to her feet and helped her sit on a makeshift seat on the patio. The missionary picked up the widow's broom and began sweeping the patio. She looked down at the short broom. As she swept, suddenly her heart was filled with joy. She smiled as a tear threatened to trickle down her cheek.


Georgia (Europe)

When the patio was done, the widow invited the young woman into her home for tea. The widow held open her door for the young woman to enter. They had a lovely afternoon talking. Before the young missionary left, the widow invited her to come visit again.

That week the young missionary returned the broom to the veteran for the final time.

"I finally learned how to use this broom," the young missionary reported with joy as she told of the events of the past few weeks.

The older missionary smiled. "Indeed, I think you now know how to use this broom. You had to learn to persevere even when it was difficult. Your back ached and you wanted to quit, but the more you used the broom the stronger you became.

"You also had to learn to value the people for who they are. We are different than them. We look different. We talk different. We are not here to make the people Americans like us. When they saw you were sweeping with their broom instead of your American broom, it planted seeds that you weren't trying to force your American culture on them. You are beginning to understand them as a people.

"And the most important lesson that you learned is that sometimes you have to use a broom before people will listen to your Bible. The love of Christ can often open doors that are closed. Let the people see Christ living and loving through you and then they will listen to you."

James 1:27  "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ministering Around The World- Part VII; Asia

Asia

The big area of the world that is made up of beautiful areas, thriving economies, some very authoritarian governments and is home to a lot of ours favorite food; is Asia. This area consists of large portions of the world's populations and exports many resources. It has always been largely on the world scene. From their parts in World Wars, to current Nuclear threats, their many highly trained professionals immigrating abroad and also the competitive rates they sell goods, Asia has been a major player.

But beyond the world view we would like to see what it is like for the families who have dedicated their lives to share the gospel with these billions of people. This month I have been able to talk to ladies in South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Japan. Let's jump in and see a glimpse of their ministries and lives.

The main religions in this area are Buddhism, Shintuism, and ancestor worship. These are the root religions that have molded their society, but in many ways in everyday living they are very atheistic. Most all of these countries still have many temples, festivals and rituals that are performed, especially in Japan. But these are generally not followed with devotion.

These countries in Asia are very, very populated! Hong Kong is an island of 8 million people. The real estate is so over-crowded that the costs are astronomical and the space excessively small. Many children remain living with their parents a large portion of their life due to the inability to financially afford their own homes. It is very common for 6+ people to live in 500sq.ft. I have seen pictures of the poorest people living in bunks with cages around them that they rent as their home! Due to the heavy burden the financial economy has placed on them the drive for education, work, and money is their first priority! Children will go 12 hours a day to school, often as young as 4 years old. People generally don't want to take time for church or the Lord.

In Japan you will be surrounded by 126 million. China has its ginormous population of 3 billion and counting. The staggering population resulted in their famous 1 child law. Korea comes in with the smallest population with a mear 51 million!

Most of these countries report 1% of the population claiming Christianity, except South Korea, which has 25% that are professing Christians of some kind. It is rumored that Christianity is on the rise in China as the stress of the communist regime presses in. We have friends who serve in China that are doing a great job reaching their area but also are plagued with regular government interference. That has made their church have to meet at different locations constantly. To avoid the authorities, the missionary family also is also transient,living on the move in different church member's houses. Prayers are definitely needed for those serving in restricted countries!

From the ladies I spoke to, Japan has the most missionaries at 21-40. China it is quite hard to gauge the amount of independent baptist missionaies since they are mostly serving underground, but under 20 seems to be a safe bet. The same can be said for South Korea. Hong Kong has farely strict regulations on church workers. A degree for teaching is needed to teach. A professional degree and training in another field or a sponsorship through a religious agency is necessary to obtain a visa. There aren't very many sponsoring agencies, further complicating matters. Hong Kong has less than 10 missionaries. The missionaries' visas are definitely an area that should be a matter of prayer for those serving there. Without visas their ministries are non existent. We must pray that God paves the way for them and opens the necessary doors.

The average time for someone to accept Christ, I'm hearing from all the ladies across Asia, is 1-3 years. All of which begin with relationships. Many times other ministries draw them in such, as English classes. In Japan, Becky Winters told me they have had a lady coming to church for two years now who still is not ready to accept Christ. It takes a lot of patience to serve in places like these. It is very unwise to push for professions or be impatient with these people. Doing so easily results in false professions, from people who don't mind giving you the answer you want, and "converts" who don't know they are "saved" and who won't be seen again. I think that most missionaries would attest that patience is one of the number one areas the Lord continues to build in us to be effective where we are called. Missionaries are led to fervent prayer for open doors in the hearts and minds of these people. Without God's intervention true conversions are impossible.

As always, I asked the ladies what is some of their greatest struggles where they serve and these were their replies. Hong Kong was language difficulties. The Abrams are serving in Hong Kong. They feel led to work with Cantonese living there, so they have been learning and studying Cantonese. Which by the way is rated one of the hardest languages in the world! And I've heard it! Whew, Lord help! Not only is it difficult to learn but all of the language schools are done through public universities. And being a modern country, that would be the equivalent of attending a college here in the States. That is a hefty cost for a missionary. So they have been faithfully working through study and private tutors but it is a long road to fluency. Praise the Lord, He has allowed them to make great strides thus far.

In China, the missionary wife spoke of her greatest struggle being far from home and loved ones. All missionaries love their families and is definitely an adjustment to be away from them and all the special events that make up their lives. Sometimes the Lord allows us to return and attend large events in our families lives but just as many people who live far from family that isn't always the case.

In Japan Mrs. Winters, talked about the struggle to get people to see themselves as sinners. Japanese people see sins as only those large things which get people sent to jail. And as of course most of them aren't in jail, that can cause a difficulty in their thinking. But praise the Lord their is faithful missionaries there consistently declaring truth to those confused hearts. In Korea amongst the higher percentage of professing Christians brings another set of issues. The prevailing form of Christianity is very water down, which makes true Christianity viewed as a cult. So sharing a clear plan of salvation and following up with discipleship is a big struggle for the Songs who are serving there. They often use dinner invites to make new acquaintances in order to share the gospel.

It is normal practice as we have discussed, for missionaries in these areas to find ways of outreach that allow them some social contact in order to reach their heart. This may be a helpful example to help you understand why that is needed. In the hustle and bustle of the busy culture of Japan, where people don't find themselves sinners or in need of God, the missionary can pass out a thousand tracts and not see one visitor. So they invite them to dinner, get involved in their communities, have church children's programs and teach English.

Every month we discuss some of the challenges that missionaries face but this month I also asked the ladies to share what is their favorite form of encouragement. I think you might be surprised to know that the prevailing answer was all forms of communication from friends, family and supporters in the states. They said that cards, emails, phone calls, IM and especially visits were a huge form of encouragement. You supporting friends make such a powerful impact on the hearts and spirits of your missionaries.

One of the other ladies also mentioned that listening to sermons online was a great lifter of spirits. Did you know that often times when missionaries go the field that it takes years to understand full sermons in the native language and begin to be fed by it. Can you imagine going to church but feeling like you hadn't been for that long? Yes you get some fellowship and you may hear the tunes you recognize but for a time you can't sing along and for years you aren't being fed at church by the preaching. I'll tell you friend, that is a long time and can weaken our spirits if we don't supplement it ourselves. For a few years when we were on the field we would regularly listen to podcasts sermons. It is such a blessing that in this modern age there are at least some churches that regularly put out podcast sermons or live stream. Thank you churches for taking the time to produce this resource! You are very influential in the spiritual uplifting of your missionaries.

Every ministry has little things about it that the Lord has orchestrated for them to serve Him in their own unique way. The Songs in South Korea have focused their ministry on reaching North Korean refugees fleeing to South Korea and internationals coming to a SouthKorea. What an opportunity to reach those living in probably the most restricted area in the world. Where very few missionaries have ever come and very few have heard about a Heavenly Father who would love to heal their hurting hearts and give them un-ending peace.

I was so blessed to speak with these ladies; Rose Songs, Beth Winters, Mandi Abrams & Amanda Heaberlin.

They are serving faithfully in Asia, doing a great work for Christ. I hope this has given you a glimpse of their lives and ministries there and helped you know how to better pray for them.

http://www.songstokorea.com/