Lonely Christmas

23 12 2019

lonelychristmas

I still remember back in 2009 during Christmas how my family and I were stuck in Nairobi, Kenya, getting some medical stuff done. We were in the Baptist Guest House there, and although it is very nice accommodations, we had none of our Christmas decorations. We were living out of our bags. We were worried about our son who was having difficulty speaking. We were a long ways away from our home in Tanzania, and we were a long ways away from our family.

We certainly made the most of the time. We had wonderful friends there. Our two older boys made a construction paper Christmas tree that we hung on the wall and decorated. In all of the fun that we had, though, there was still a sense of loneliness.

This experience has made me more sensitive to the needs of our missionaries living overseas. We have families serving in some of the hardest places on earth, and even though they will make the most of the holiday season, they will still miss their family and friends. They will still miss the “stuff” that surrounds Christmas.

I remember missing the food that my mom makes. I remember missing getting to see all of my cousins and grandparents. I remember missing watching The Christmas Story over and over again and laughing at the same places.

This season for our missionaries is a time of conflicting emotions. They feel very called to be where they are, and at the same time many of them long for home. They have chosen to leave their home, friends, and family to follow where God has led them, but during this season, especially, they are keenly aware that leaving everything has consequences.

It can be very difficult for our missionaries to celebrate Christmas while living among a people group where very few, if any, even believe in Jesus.

As a result of all these things put together, many of our missionaries experience a real sense of loneliness during this season.


5 Things That You Can Do To Love Our Missionaries Well During The Christmas Season

  1. Pray for them – This may seem like the pat answer to everything, but it is only that to those who don’t believe in the power of prayer. Pray that our missionaries will experience a wonderful Christmas sensing God’s presence in everything they do.
  2. Email them – Send a missionary you know an email on Christmas morning. If they live on the other side of the globe, this will mean they will still get it on Christmas. Write some encouraging words. Let them know that you are praying for them. Give them a short update on what you are doing for Christmas and ask them what they did.
  3. Skype them – Most of our missionaries have the ability to Skype. Skype them in for a few minutes on Christmas morning just to say, “Merry Christmas!” You might even gather a group up and sing a Christmas carol for them!
  4. Remember their families still at home – Reach out to their families that are not with them to let them know that you are praying for their loved ones who are serving God in another country. Encourage them that you are praying for them as well.
  5. Send them something – Most missionaries can receive at least small things in the mail. Find out their mailing address and send them something. Anything is appreciated! You might send them a new movie or some hot cocoa packets or just some handwritten notes. Make sure you ask them about sending something. Sometimes customs charges our missionaries to pick up a package. This is fine as long as you cover that expense, too.

Don’t forget our missionaries this Christmas season. Have an incredible time with your family, but know that you can really make someone else’s Christmas special by doing one or two simple things.

 





Stress

4 12 2013

stress

I realize that everyone deals with some kind of stress day in and day out. I certainly do not want to minimize that, but there is a phrase out there that I am hearing more and more that makes me chuckle.  Someone describes a stress or problem, and another replies sarcastically, “First-world problems.” I realize that there are real and serious stresses and problems out there, but I believe that the majority of our stresses are “first-world problems.” The idea behind this is that our problem might be not being able to get our email to work correctly (1st world), while someone else’s stress might be putting food on the table for their family or if their baby will die of malaria (3rd world). Perspective is everything, and many times our stresses are self-imposed.

A month ago I was reminded of this topic when we hosted a missionary family from Ecuador at our church. They were in need of a boat motor in order for them to be able to have their own boat so that they could get to the tribes that they are working with. They also, though, needed that motor in case of an emergency. Snake bites, parasites, sicknesses, broken bones – all of these and more are realities that can happen when living in the rain forest, especially when you have a bunch of curious and active children. This boat motor is a simple way that we as a church can reduce the stress of our missionary family on the field. I am happy to report that we were able to raise enough money to more than cover the cost of the motor. The result of this is that we may have just increased the longevity that this family will stay on the field, because of less stress, and therefore increase the work they do for the gospel.

I would like to challenge us all that when we experience stress in our personal life, that we would remember and pray for our missionaries that are constantly living at an increased level of stress. Our missionaries around the world are automatically targets, because of their nationality and skin color. When we lived in Tanzania, we were perceived as the rich, white people, and were therefore targets for robberies. Most people in the US don’t think about going to different ATM’s each time, utilizing counter-surveilance tactics all the time, and carrying a year’s worth of salary in cash on them. This was my life for three years. At the same time, we lived eight hours from where we would consider medical care similar to what we have in the US. One of our biggest times of stress was when our oldest son had a grand mal seizure in our little village.

Our top priority for working with our missionary partners is to come alongside their strategy to see indigenous church planting take place among their people group. Our second priority, but very close to the first one, is to encourage our missionary families. This includes helping all we can to reduce their stress. I fully believe that if we can increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field – we will see an increase in the work of the gospel. A gospel movement among an unreached people group normally does not take place in the short term. It is through long term effort and prayer and perseverance that people are reached, and if we can be apart of helping our missionaries stay long term through encouragement and reducing their stress, then we are going to do that.

 

 





Give Recognition

15 08 2013

recognition

Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work…
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Not too long ago we hosted a couple who are missionaries to a country in Central Asia in our church. I had the opportunity to interview them during the morning worship service. At the conclusion of the interview, I shared the above passage of scripture with our church and asked our congregation to help me honor them. Our church gave them a LONG standing ovation for their service and work for the Lord. It was an incredibly touching moment as I watched as our church gave recognition to these two unsung heroes of the faith. After the clapping died down and we all were seated again, with tears in their eyes, this missionary couple gave all the glory to God and rightly so. I know this couple personally, and I know how humble they are, so they certainly did not expect this outpouring of love. I simply stated that we were doing what the Word of God told us to do.

One of the top reasons for missionaries leaving the field and pastors leaving the ministry is simple burnout. When we lived overseas, our closest Christian, American friends lived more than three hours away. I understand how lonely it can be for our missionaries. It is only on rare occasions that they are able to come together and worship in their heart language with other believers and just talk about everyday things. Paul understood this as well, and that is why, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote this passage of scripture.

Our church has the opportunity to partner with some fantastic missionaries all over the world. Our number one reason for participating in these partnerships is to come alongside them in their work to reach the unreached people group that they are working with. Our second reason for participating in these partnerships is to encourage them and to keep them going strong. I believe that if we can help to increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field, then we can increase the work. I tell all of our short-term teams that are heading out that I want it to be like Christmas morning when you arrive. Our teams going to Central Asia, for instance, will never be able to share the gospel to someone in their own Central Asian heart language, but they can encourage the missionaries that are there and do know the language. In verse 13 of our passage it says to regard them very highly in love. To me, this means that we should encourage them, pray for them continually, remember their birthdays, do something for them on holidays when it gets really lonely, keep up with their children’s lives, email them notes, and even go and visit them just to visit with them. You may be wondering if we actually spend thousands of dollars in airfare just to go and visit our missionaries, and the answer is a resounding yes! Paul tells us that we should regard our missionaries highly.

In light of this scripture, what can you do to encourage our missionaries and ministers and pastors? Can you go on a mission trip to hang out with the missionary kids? Can you write your pastor an encouraging note? Can you send a gift to one of our missionaries on their birthday? God’s plan is not for lone rangers to go out into the mission field and work it by themselves, but to have His church come alongside those who are following Him to the uttermost parts of the earth and participate as co-laborers and encouragers.








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