I often think of my friends across the world that work full-time to spread the Gospel. They have the same struggles and worries that I have: how to raise their kids to be kind, what to fix for dinner, how to make time for their spouse….BUT they live in a country that is not culturally Christian. I would never say that the USA is full of Christians, but it is accepted. I don’t have to worry about being arrested because of my religion. And if I need fellow Christians to encourage me, I can go to a church just down the street and find many.
Whenever I think of them I pray for their safety, their family, and their ministry. But very rarely do I tell them. I wish I was better at encouraging them. But I honestly didn’t know how. I decided to ask several of my friends overseas, “What Christians in America could do to encourage them?”
Shockingly many of them said no one has ever asked that question!
All of them took the question seriously and gave me heartfelt responses. I could feel the longing for connection in their writing. Sadly many of them feel lonely and forgotten.
I know that is not the American church’s intention. We pray for workers around the world. We send money. Yet something is missing if they feel forgotten by us. We must not be speaking their love language. I desperately want to support them, so I was excited to hear what they need.
1. They appreciate an Advocate
They need someone keeping the church updated, showing videos, and telling their story. The easiest place to start is ask the workers for prayer requests and then call others to prayer. Reminding the church to pray for the people they serve helps support their main motivation for being overseas. Motivating people to be involved can be sparked by a service project for a specific ministry need or collecting donations for supplies that can be bought overseas.
2. They desire Connection
They want to be treated like real people! If we lived far away from family and everything that is familiar, we would want some kind of connection to home. Many workers have access to internet so emails are an easy way to ask how they are doing. And they want to be asked about their personal life not just ministry. Write them on their Birthday and Christmas. Sometimes the time difference makes conversations difficult, but Skype can be fun if planned ahead. This is a great way for children to keep up with the field worker’s children. Care packages are great and can include favorites from home, but that takes planning. For a last minute treat send a small donation electronically for a nice meal out. And real faces are such an encouragement. If a team of friendly faces can visit, it is good for the soul.
3. They need Emotional Strengthening/Intercession
PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY….over and over again I hear how knowing the church is praying for them sustains them. They need coverage because often they live in countries where Christianity is rare and even persecuted. And when you pray, let them know! When you have a personal encouragement, a verse, or vision…..send it to them. When you receive an update, respond with how you are praying for them. Choose a date to pray for the entire family throughout the day, and tell them. Pray for the everyday needs such as dinner prep and putting kids to bed. So as you shop pray for them as they shop; as you make dinner pray for their meal prep; as you put your children to bed pray for their bedtime routine. As one worker said, “We are doing the “normal” in a dark world…so our light is important.” Prayer seems small but it makes such an impact.
4. They love their Home Church
Be their Home Church. When they come home to the States have them over to your house for dinner. Ask them to speak so they know you are interested in their work. Take care of them just as you do other church members. Maybe care for their parents in their absence. They need the body of Christ and community like every member, and maybe more so.
Any relationship takes effort and I want to remind Christians here to not just do what is convenient, but make a choice to remember those overseas. Many of the answers I received overall are about being remembered, in prayer and then acknowledgement. I hope we can do that for them.