When the Apostle Paul wrote to those whom he loved at the church in Philippi, he commended them for caring for him while he was on the mission field.
“Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.” Philippians 4:14-17
These new believers in Philippi were aware of Paul’s needs, and they sent someone from the church to care for his needs. Our missionaries today, just as the Apostle Paul, are also in need of our care and encouragement. You can be such a blessing to your missionaries by taking just a few minutes of your time to encourage them.
1. Communicate with them.
Paul said that only the Philippian Church communicated with him when he had departed to the other mission fields. I would hope that this phenomenon is not the case today, over twenty centuries later. Just as with Paul, God leads the missionary to the right place, empowers them to be a witness, and opens doors to serve. Today, as with the first missionaries in the Bible, there are needs and challenges that the missionary faces every day.
Those back home can be great encouragers to the missionary family by keeping in touch with them and being a friend to them. With the convenience of modern communication, it is not difficult to keep up with these servants of the Lord who represent you overseas. Take a moment to think of what it took for the Philippian believers to communicate with Paul. There were no modern means of communication for them to stay in touch with Paul. They would have had to send someone to find Paul, which could have been a challenging task in and of itself, and take the help or message to him from the church family. I encourage you to also make such an effort to stay in touch with your missionaries. Keep up with the missionary family’s lives, and write them a note to express your interest in their life.
2. Pray for them.
Missions is more than simply fulfilling a responsibility. Missions is a spiritual work with real adversaries and great challenges that can only be resolved through prayer. Jesus proclaimed that the work of missions is a great task with too few workers when He said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.” Someone has described missions as facing an impossible job with an inadequate force; and it is, without spiritual help. But then Jesus went on to give us the answer to this daunting task, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest.” The solution is to pray to the One Who gave us this commission that He would provide for the fulfillment of this great work.
The Apostle Paul often urged God’s people to pray for him, and he linked the success of his labors to the faithful prayer support of those back home. There is an inseparable link between prayer and effective mission works.
Let me encourage you to pray on two levels: in a general sense for world evangelization, and secondly, for specific missionaries and their particular needs. Perhaps you could take a different continent each day of the week and pray for the missionaries your church supports on that continent. Then, in addition to that, each day, focus in on a particular missionary family and pray for their specific needs. Learn all that you can about this missionary: the family, the area where he serves, what type of work he is involved in, the people to whom he is ministering, etc. Read his prayer letters and as you do, pray for the needs he mentions in them.
You may want to take a whole week and pray for that individual missionary family. If so, you could pray each day for these specific needs.
Day 1: Pray for his spiritual needs.
This is the missionary’s primary need. He faces a daily spiritual battle on the front lines of this war. Pray for his walk with the Lord. Pray that he would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and that he would daily follow His leading.
Day 2: Pray for his family’s physical and emotional needs.
Though we may not realize it, Satan discourages the missionary through his physical and emotional struggles. Pray for their physical health. Pray that they would have the strength to continue on even in the difficult climates they may live and the diseases that there may be in his part of the world. Pray for their housing situation—a great need especially that the wives have to adapt to. Pray that God would guard them from discouragement that may come from loneliness and a lack of American comforts. Pray for the missionary’s parents and relatives back home and that the Lord would meet those needs that are unique to them.
Day 3: Pray for the missionary’s family.
Pray for family relationships. Pray for the children and for the unique challenges they may face, such as their education and interaction with other children. Pray for the children’s salvation. Pray that the family would be a good testimony for other families to model their lives after. Pray that God would build a hedge of protection around their family and guard them against the temptations that destroy families.
Day 4: Pray for the missionary’s communication needs.
In world evangelization, communication is crucial. Learning a new language and adapting to a new culture is necessary to have an effective ministry overseas. Pray that your missionary will learn the language and be able to share the gospel, despite the obstacles that he will face.
Day 5: Pray for him to have an effective ministry.
Pray that he would be effective in his labors of church-planting, visiting, teaching, preaching, and counseling. And pray for those whom he is trying to reach as well. Pray that the financial needs of his family and ministry would be provided so that he can be effective in ministry.
Day 6: Pray for his ability to work with his team.
Most missionaries work with other missionaries, local pastors, and believers. Sometimes, this plan designed to strengthen the work of the ministry can actually hinder the work if Satan can create conflicts in this mix of personalities. Pray for the missionary’s fellow-laborers. Pray that they would work together in unity for the work of the ministry.
Day 7: Pray for the missionary’s country of service.
Often, the missionary has to spend a great amount of time just taking care of all the legal issues he faces. The political situation, visas, freedom to preach, and the ability to stay in the country for more than a few months at a time—all of these are vital to the missionary’s endeavors.
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David Sloan serves as pastor of the Spanish Department of North Valley Baptist Church. He and his family were missionaries in the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East, where he served as United States representative to the Christian Caucus in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. He and his wife Jolene have five children. Bro. Sloan is part of a missionary heritage of fourteen families who serve on the mission field, spanning seven countries and four continents. He is also the Missions Director at Golden State Baptist College.