We all know them. We all have them. And sadly, we are probably all occasionally guilty of being one of them.
You know, that person who only calls when they want something. No "I was just calling just to check on you," or "I was just thinking of you and wanted to let you know I care." But, "I need..."
I do not like it when I realize I am playing that same role. It grieves me.
Our family has often declared that our supporting churches are our supporting church FAMILY, and they truly are. God really blessed us as He picked out the churches we would partner with in ministry. Recently, I began reflecting and inspecting how I treat this family. Am I the relative who only contacts when I need something? Am I expecting them to give or do what I am not willing to give or do myself for them?Scripture so often demonstrates that we should not wait for someone else to initiate things, but we should be initiators.
Want a friend? Be friendly!
Proverbs 18:24 "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly..."
Want someone to treat you right? Treat them right!
Matthew 7:12 "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
Isn't this the very mind and heart of Christ anyway?
1 John 4:19 "We love him, because he first loved us."
So, what exactly is it we want from our supporting church families? How can we initiate or reciprocate those things? (This definitely isn't something I am very good at, but I want to improve in this area.)
What am I expecting?
We need it! If our own supporting church family doesn't pray for us, who will?
When we were on deputation, we were often invited to people's homes either for a meal or for lodging. On one such occasion, we went to the home of Juan and Felicia. We felt so welcomed and loved! When it came time for the meal, we sat down to the table. On the table was a box full of missionary cards... and I mean FULL! They explained that at dinner time, they pray for the missionaries they know by pulling out a new card and making them the missionary of the evening.
Everytime we went to their home (and we went on several occasions when we were close) that box was always somewhere handy with a new missionary card toward the front.
We have been contacted on the field, too, by AWANA groups, Sunday school classes, and youth groups to let us know we were their "Missionary of the Day/Week/Month," and they were committed to praying for us diligently during that time.
I often receive Facebook messages just letting me know someone is praying for us. That's what family does. They care. They pray!
But what about me? Do I realize the struggles, trials, and dangers our supporting church families face? Do I have compassion for them? Do I care about the pastor and his family? Or am I that relative who just wants them to give me something?
This is what our family started doing:
We made supporting church prayer cards! Every evening during family devotions, we pull out a card, and reflect on that church. We try to remember specific details about our time with them and how the Lord used them in our lives. Then we spend time thanking God for them and their support. We pray for them and their pastor. If we know any specific needs, we take the time to mention those. If I know someone on Facebook who is a member of that church, I let them know we are praying for them and ask them if their is anything else we can pray about for them.
Several times I have been contacted to let me know there was a specific need and that our prayers were perfectly timed. Our prayers have become like spiritual family hugs to each other. Yes, we need their prayers, but they, too, need ours. Nothing motivates me to pray for others like knowing they pray for us... and I am sure our prayers for them motivate them to pray for us.
What else do we want?
We love hearing from our supporting church families! From birthday cards to care packages to phone calls to emails to letters from Sunday school children... what joy it brings us to know they would sacrifice their time!
But if we WANT communication, we need to GIVE good communication. I know our time is limited as missionaries, but how precious is it to reach out to family! We send out prayer letters, but are those letters statistics reports, or are they letters home to family? Are they a checklist of accompishments, or are they written to let our family know the news (good and not so good?) Do we write them begrudgingly, or are we happy to send a letter to family?
What about occasional emails or phone calls? It takes a while to make it through the whole list, but you never know when a quick email to a pastor's wife will be just the encouragement she needs. I really want to improve in this area!
I know one thing we as missionaries definitely want:
It's pretty frustrating to open the financial report and find that some churches have skipped a month, or a church has dropped support without notice. We all like it when people stick to their commitments. We also appreciate that when churches have to unexpectedly change arrangements that they let us know so we can prepare, plan, and pray. Faithfulness is a vital part of any family relationship.
But what about us? Are we faithful with the time on the field that their financial giving affords us? Are we faithful to say thank you and show gratitude? Ouch.
And one of the most simple things we want:
Know Our Names
It is so heartbreaking to hear stories of missionaries visiting supporting churches on furlough and no one even knew who they were. The missionary prayer card or prayer letter was hanging right there on the wall, yet people had no clue that these "visitors" were not just an average visitor looking for a new church home. One missionary said he even stood right beside his posted prayer letter and card, and no one (not even the pastor) recognized his name or face.
We want people to know who we are. If they don't know our names, they probably are not being too faithful in praying for us.
This is the difficult part. When we were on deputation, we met hundreds of new faces each week. There is no way we will ever remember all those names or faces, or even a good portion. But can we remember the church name? The pastor's name? Can we try to remember at least one or two faces in the crowd? Maybe we cannot remember their names, but would we remember their faces? Maybe we cannot remember their names, but can we remember some of the precious memories of our meeting them? I am so thankful we took lots of pictures on deputation. That really helps! And how fun it is to review some of those memories as we go through our nightly family prayer time for supporting churches. It is almost like sitting around the dinner table and reflecting on childhood memories with family.
I love the quote, "There is no memory as long as an ink pen." I sure wish I had used my ink pen a little more on deputation.
You see, this supporting church partnership isn't a one-way street. It is a two-way street, yet sometimes... too often, I think I expect the traffic on the street to be only coming my direction. I know it takes great sacrifice because of time constraints, time zones, etc, but isn't family worth a little extra effort?
If I want a friend, I need to be friendly. And if I want a supporting church family... I need to treat them like family.
Missionaries: I would love to hear any ways you support and love on your supporting church families. By all means, please share!
Supporting church families: How have you been blessed by your missionaries? What do you do to treat them like family? Do you pray? Communicate? Give faithfully? Know them by name? It really matters to us. It makes all the difference on the field and on furlough.
Charity, Southern Asia