As a partner in the work of Wycliffe, you have the opportunity to minister to your missionary friends in a way you may have never considered: you can ask them good questions. Over our 16 years of service with Wycliffe, my husband and I have always been grateful to hear from our partners in response to our updates and prayer requests, but we’re especially encouraged when people spontaneously reach out and ask about specific areas of our life and ministry.
Not sure what to ask? Here are five questions that will encourage your missionary friends, as well as practical suggestions about how to follow up with those questions.
“What small things are bringing you joy right now?”
Missionaries often share the big things in their updates — God’s amazing work and exciting milestones — but they don’t necessarily get a chance to talk with partners about the more mundane parts of their lives.
During our time overseas, some of my greatest small joys were an ever-present bowl of gardenias picked fresh from our yard, regular coffee dates with friends and a comically difficult Latin-style dance class. These little things had a huge positive impact on my mental health and, consequently, the health of my family and our ability to cope well with the difficulties we faced.
When your missionary friends share with you the small things that bring them joy, take the opportunity to thank God for these emotional boosts and ask him to continue supporting their daily mental health.
“What do you miss?”
Whether your missionary friends are overseas, on temporary home assignment or serving in a U.S.-based role, it’s likely that they miss food or products from somewhere else.
When my family was in Papua New Guinea, we missed pizza, good quality toiletries and access to new movies. So some of our partners gave a little extra so we could afford to buy exorbitantly priced mozzarella. Some of them sent care packages with lotion, makeup and recently released DVDs.
Here in the States, my family and I crave tropical fruit and Australian cookies, so sometimes we use a portion of an unexpected gift to get these special treats from an international grocery store. Consider filling a care package with items that your missionary friends miss (check with them first about customs rules) or give an occasional extra gift to help offset the cost of imported goodies.
“How can I help you refill?”
Ministry can be draining, but missionaries don’t always have the resources to refill spiritually, emotionally or physically. When my family first returned to the U.S., we were exhausted and my husband and I desperately needed some time away together. A friend gave us a steep discount on a few nights at her bed and breakfast. Having that space to rest enabled us to reconnect with each other and start pondering our next season of ministry.
Think about helping send your missionary friends to a retreat, offering them access to a vacation rental or giving them a digital gift card so they can download uplifting music, books or Bible study materials.
“What specific financial needs do you have?”
One of the most challenging aspects of ministry for many missionaries is building a financial partnership team; this is certainly true for my husband and me. While we’re profoundly grateful for each of our partners and we deeply value our relationships with them, it takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to make our financial needs known. Partners who initiate the conversation and ask directly about our monthly shortfall or unexpected expenses are an extra blessing!
I recently had an emergency surgery that left us with a pile of hospital bills, but the unsolicited generosity of several of our partners allowed me to focus on recovering without financial worry. Whether you can personally help make up a financial shortfall or can pray for God to meet their needs in another way, your missionary friends will greatly appreciate your interest and concern.
“How can I advocate for you?”
This is one of the most valuable questions any partner can ask. Advocating for your missionary friends might look like encouraging your loved ones to pray for them, facilitating their connection with your church, passing their information to an interested friend or inviting them to speak to your small group. You could even challenge some of your contacts to consider joining you as members of your missionary friends’ partnership team.
Our advocates not only encourage us with their enthusiasm for our work, but they also have a significant impact on Bible translation as they spread the vision of Wycliffe and invite the people around them to get involved. Ask your missionary friends how you can best share about them and their work, follow through on connecting them with others and then watch God multiply your investment in the efforts of Wycliffe around the world!
Asking these questions one at a time over a period of weeks or months may give your missionary friends a chance to answer each question more thoroughly and allow you to offer thoughtful, tangible responses. But once you get started on asking questions like these, you might not be able to stop! You’ll likely find what many of my family’s partners have — good questions grow naturally out of your deepening relationship, strengthening your missionary friends and encouraging you as well.