God has called us to be encouragements to one another. The writer of Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, NLT).
But when it comes to encouraging people serving in missions, it can be difficult to know how to connect with them or meet their needs. That’s why it’s always important to ask what your missionary or their family needs most. You might even be surprised by their answer!
Here are a few examples of how fellow supporters meaningfully encouraged their missionaries. We hope some of these suggestions will help you connect at a deeper level with the missionary (or missionaries) in your life!
1. Ask what your missionary misses most about home and send a care package!
Sometimes missionaries miss things from the home that they can’t get where they’re serving.
Rebecca has asked her missionary what they miss from the U.S., and her missionary was great at giving specifics! “I mailed them some dried peaches and silicone cupcake holders,” Rebecca said.
“Last spring we sent a care package to our missionaries in Tanzania,” Mica wrote. “It was mostly a package of small toys for their kids. They were thrilled!”
If you’re missionary serves in the U.S. but is far from their home region, send them a care package of local comfort foods they miss (e.g., beignet mix from Louisiana or blueberry jam from Maine).
2. Practice “giving them permission.”
Brian told us that one of the best ways that he’s found to encourage his missionaries through their journey is simply “giving them permission.” What does that mean?
“This permission given to your missionary friends tells them that they are invited to share the hard things of life and ministry with you—fears and tears and frustrations, overwork, strained or broken relationships, etc.” wrote Brian. “These are the things that rarely make it into newsletters but are often the points of greatest need for understanding and comfort.”
Brian recommends being a listening ear to your missionary, and also “beginning the process of learning about cultural pressures or other realities that your friends face so you can better relate and ask better questions.”
3. Connect “in person” through a video call.
Video calls aren’t always a possibility, especially if your missionary lives in a remote area or one in which Internet access is spotty. But if you have the ability to connect with video, it could make their week brighter! You might even get the chance to see the area in which the missionary is serving, or meet people mentioned in their newsletters.
“We’ve made time to video call [our missionaries],” said Meg. “We find that this time is refreshing and encouraging for everyone. They share opportunities they’ve had to build relationships with others, and it also gives us ideas on how to pray.”
4. Remember important milestones and correspond.
“We make sure we remember birthdays, anniversaries, send Christmas cards, etc.,” wrote Donna.
These small gestures can make your missionary feel valued and remembered. Celebrating major holidays or milestones in life when you’re far removed from family and friends can often feel lonely. A little reminder that people are thinking about them back home goes a long way!
5. Pray and then follow God’s leading!
Prayer is such an integral component of encouraging a missionary. Your missionary probably has specific prayer requests, so asking them for a few prayer points can be helpful. And when you pray for them, let them know!
This can be a huge source of encouragement for your missionary, especially if they’re going through a difficult time. But more than that, also pray that God will stir your heart to respond in whatever way he calls you. Janet shared a story of what happened when she prayed for her missionary and followed God’s prompting:
“As I read a missionary's prayer letter, I suddenly felt very strongly in my heart that I should give them a donation. I never have felt that before. So I just went online and gave them a small donation that I could afford at the time: $50.
“Here was their response: ‘Yesterday was our last day for our road trip. Last night on our final stop I made a mistake and ruined an item that cost us $42.89 to replace. Nothing that's going to break the bank, but I was discouraged. In my frustration I prayed (perhaps without much faith of God answering) that he would cover that expense. Your donation was literally an answer to that prayer.’ God used that one little thing to encourage them way more than I expected! I love how God works!”
There are so many ways that you can encourage missionaries in your life! Just ask your missionary what is helpful and necessary for them, pray, and then follow God’s leading.