After serving as missionaries for 15 years, we are more convinced than ever that the backbone of the mission’s endeavor is the connection that exists between the missionary and their supporting partners. But, what does it mean to be a supporting partner? Some of the terms associated with the word “support” are to hold up, bear, prop up, brace, and reinforce.” To be sure, there are other words that can be used. However, the idea is that a support mechanism exists to keep the object of support in its designated place. This is a good description of the support base of a missionary. It goes without saying that all aspects of mission work are upheld by the promises, purpose, and the presence of God. Yet, we live in a world where human partnerships are often necessary to help get the job done. In fact, God can use those partnerships to accomplish great things. Even so, there are obstacles on the Missionary side that people are often unaware of.
Culturally, missionaries are often very isolated and can feel deserted and alone. They may live among thousands of people but may not be able to connect with anyone in a meaningful way that touches them as a person. It is true the common bond with other believers is Christ. However, cross-cultural Christianity looks different from country to country. Many of the things that people do in their home church are impacted by the culture in which they live. What draws people together in one culture may have very little significance elsewhere.
Beyond that, missionaries are deprived of their family, friends, church community, favorite foods, and a host of other issues that leave them feeling stranded. Oh, they know that people are “there for them.” But, on the field that is unseen and often times unheard. So, how can the support base of a missionary ensure that they are actually supporting their partners? Here are three things that may be worth consideration.
The first essential element is obvious—prayer. How can you adequately support someone you are unwilling to pray for? This is so obvious that it is often forgotten. But the truth is that financial support may get a missionary to the field. However, it is your prayers that keep them there. It is essential that missionaries and their partners actually pray for one another. To do this effectively, there must be an actual relationship whereby each partner knows what is important to the other. Thus, this element is greatly impacted by the next factor, communication.
You can better pray for someone with whom you communicate. Even with the vast distances involved in missionary partnerships, you can develop deep and meaningful relationships in a variety of ways. With technology as it is, people can communicate around the globe in a matter of seconds. Websites are great, but they are often one-sided. However, with the advent of social media people can connect in ways that previous generations couldn’t even imagine. It is amazing how often we hear someone say, “I saw on Facebook…” when they communicate with us. Just that phrase means that someone is paying attention to what is going on in our lives and work.
The third element is involvement. Consider actually becoming involved in the life and work of your missionary partners. Pick a project, big or small, to take an interest in and stay informed. If your missionary is starting a new work, learn as much as you can about it, and then support it through prayer and even special offerings. If you cannot find a new work that your missionary is doing, ask them if there is an element of an existing work that you might take on as a special interest. Perhaps you can become involved in an area that encourages them personally beyond the actual work that they are doing. The point is that when a missionary knows someone is actually concerned and involved in some aspect of their life and work they will not feel so isolated. They will know that your partnership with them is real and meaningful to you.
When you are connected to a work that you pray for and communicate about, you truly are partnering with your missionary and are actually involved in the work that they are doing. You are really supporting the work and are being a blessing to your missionary partner. You are helping them remain in their designated place—the place God has called them to serve.
Jeff & Sandra Price have been blessed by God to be married for 36 years. Their ministry has taken them from Samoa to Bolivia where they currently serve in the city of Tarija. They have 3 grown sons who all have spent time on the mission field as they grew up. They are sent out of Victory Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee and are partnered with Baptist International Outreach where Jeff also serves as the Director for Latin America ministries.