Serving as Senders

How to care for your missionaries.

"In secular war, for every one person on the battle front, there are nine others backing him up in what is called the 'line of communication.'"

For every one missionary (or missionary family) sent to the field there should be six support personnel assigned to them.

  1. Moral Support: Just "being there".
  2. Logistics Support: All the bits and pieces.
  3. Financial Support: Money.
  4. Prayer Support: Spiritual warfare.
  5. Communication Support: Letters, Tapes, and More.
  6. Re-entry Support: More than "Welcome Home!"

God has called us to reach the world.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NIV)

But he has not called all of us to go beyond Samaria to the ends of the earth. Most of us are called to Jerusalem (our neighborhoods), Samaria (local but different cultures) , and to be senders of those who God has called to the ends of the earth.

What is the job of a sender? Their job is to support the missionary in the above six areas during the life cycle of the missionary. We should never send our missionaries out with just a pat on the back, a financial gift, and a "Look us up when you get home!" on your lips, forgetting about them till you hear they are returning. This would be a recipe for disaster.

The Missionary life cycle.

A: Normal living

Life before the call.

B: Anticipation of approval

The call of God is heard and obeyed. Contact is made with the local church, and missions board.

C: Anticipation of departure

The call of God is confirmed by the local church and mission board. It has been confirmed that the missionary is really going. Training is completed.

D: Honeymoon period

Every thing is new, quaint, and wonderful! Emotions are flying 10 feet above their airplane.

E: Culture stress

Reality sets in. One morning the missionary rudely wakes up to the reality that he has committed himself to circumstances that are no longer quaint; they are weird, even barbaric. Most missionaries wont talk about this stage because the people back home won't think them "spiritual enough" if they admit to some of these trying times. This is a time that they need your support. Anticipate it and get them to talk about it.

F: Ministry of love

The missionary has been trained to anticipate this culture shock and will "Go through it" and emerge into a time of fruitful ministry. Because of your support he will emerge with a strengthened vision of God's purpose.

G: Anticipation of return

Life goes on. It's now time to return. The missionaries feelings are mixed. He has made new friends. He has new ideas and ideals. He has changed! You have changed! Life will NOT be the same when he returns home.

H: Culture stress in reverse

The trauma to the missionaries entire being during re-entry is intense. Depression, unemployment, a sense of being lost or useless is often experienced. This is the time the missionary needs you the most. If you want your missionary to survive to serve again you must be there for them. With good support, the long term missionary can recover and become fruitful in six months. Without your support you may find him with his life in shambles.

I: Full integration

A missionary who has been trained to anticipate the stress of coming home and has a strong re-entry support team will, in time, fully integrate his changed self into the changed home environment.

Prayerfully consider serving as a sender in one or more of the six areas of support;

The team:

Moral Support

Logistics Support

Financial Support

Prayer Support

Communication Support

Re-entry Support

The returning missionary will face many challenges.

  1. Professionally - Jobs may be hard to find. His sense of ministry belonging will be a little disoriented. The "Big fish in the little pond" is now overwhelmed with "the little fish in a very Big pond ."
  2. Materially - Coming back from a third world country to western countries can be overwhelming! Your missionary can find himself overwhelmed just shopping at the supermarket. This may sound funny but it's very real the them.
  3. Culturally - New beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors become a part of your returning worker. Changing from a slower Event oriented rather than Time oriented cultures will cause stress. They will be shocked to find out that some people just are not interested in their experiences. I have met some returning missionaries who cried for three months strait and didn't know why.
  4. Socially - Life goes on. Things will never be the same at home again. This is good, but can be very uncomfortable. For you and them. If there was poor communication support at home the returning missionary might be greeted at the door with "Hi Sally! How was your vacation?". If their home church is large they may not recognize anyone.
  5. Politically - The highways were 55 when he left, rode a bike for the next three years and then he returns to 70 mph! Having to see the other side of American foreign policy might change your missionaries outlook on his home country.
  6. Educationally - The kids might have a hard time adapting to the schools at home.
  7. Spiritually - He was in the thick of the battle over there and now he fights off sleeping in the pew. Church picnics just don't do any thing for him. This is where a home fellowship group is very important. Keep in close spiritual contact them. Keep them active in discipleing others.

Re-entry Behavior patterns:

  1. Alienation - Don't let them withdraw.
  2. Condemnation - Make them feel loved and appreciated. Make time for them.
  3. Reversion - Trying to start right where he left off in Christian service is not going to work. Help him ease into service.
  4. Escape - The whirlwind of emotions leaves him broken. He backs out of life - spiritually, mentally and emotionally. You need to listen to him. Make him feel like there is a core group that really cares.
  5. Integration - Helping them integrate takes place on two levels.