Praying for our Missionaries

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Every time missionaries step foot in our churches, they ask us to pray for them.  Every time a missionary sends a letter, he or she mentions some specific prayer requests.  Yet, since it can be difficult to track all of the individual needs of each missionary that we support, we tend to pray something like this, “God, bless our missionaries!”  Am I right?

A few months ago I ran across some words written by the original pioneer, church-planting missionary, the Apostle Paul.  In his letter to the Christians in Rome, he asked for prayer in some specific areas:

Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. (Romans 15:30-32)

I believe that we could have a powerful impact in the lives of our missionaries if we were to specifically intercede for them and ask God to grant them:

  1. Deliverance. Paul was under genuine threat from the unbelieving Jews in the Jerusalem area.  He also faced dangers and threats elsewhere in his travels.  The same is true for all of our missionaries.  Some live in areas of political and social unrest.  All of them live a lifestyle of constant travel, which poses its own risks.  We all face spiritual assault from our enemy.  We must pray that our missionaries be delivered from danger.
  2. Acceptance. Paul was involved in a commendable effort to bless the saints in Jerusalem.  Churches across the first-century world had partnered together (through Faith Promise!) to bless the suffering believers in Israel.  And yet, even though these ministry intentions were good, it did not guarantee that it would be well-received.  Missionaries give of their heart, time, and resources to bless the people they are ministering to around the world.  They travel the country sharing their burden and the cause of world missions with pastors and churches.  These efforts and intentions are amazing, and yet, it does not guarantee that they will be well-received.  We must pray that our missionaries’ efforts and service be accepted.
  3. Joy. We would like to assume that Paul was always filled with joy as he traveled and served the LORD.  But if you have been involved in ministry for long, you know that there are countless circumstances and experiences that drain or steal our joy.  And when we aren’t serving with joy, it can become miserable!  Missionaries (as anyone else) need God to be their Source of joy, and to lift them up as they press on in carrying out the will of God.  We must pray that our missionaries be filled with joy as they serve.
  4. Refreshment. Serving God in any ministry, and in any location, can be exhausting physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  That reality is exponentially greater when a missionary is far removed from his family, home church, and native culture.  The isolation can be brutal at times.  Even when missionaries return for “furlough,” it is often far from a time of rest and renewal, as they need to report to their supporters, which involves constant travel.  We must pray that our missionaries intentionally seek times of personal, marital, and family refreshment while they are on the field, and especially while they are on furlough, and we must be their greatest cheerleaders as they do so.

Yes, we want God to “bless our missionaries.”  But I invite you to take Paul’s prayer requests, and make them a regular part of your prayer for missionaries.  The impact will be greater than you can imagine.

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Help! I Need A Furlough

There is no feeling like feeling helpless. You are in a situation that must change, but you are powerless to do anything about it. If the situation becomes prolonged, the feeling of helplessness can turn into stress, desperation, and even resentment. Something must be done.

Missionaries around the world have approached their time for furlough, after spending three or four years on their present term, but they cannot leave the field. Their families need furlough. Their emotional strength is draining. Their supporting churches need visiting, but there is no one to take the work while they are gone. The work is not ready to become indigenous. Some missionaries have left their work for a year, only to return to a work that has fallen apart. They must begin all over again. To avoid this, some missionaries have gone six or seven years (or more) without a furlough.  What can be done?  What are some options that missionaries can consider?

  • Turn the work over to a national pastor – This is what every missionary wants to do before he leaves for furlough, but this is often not possible, because there is no one qualified or reliable.

  • Turn the work over to a fellow missionary – This is a great option, but is only possible if there are other missionaries, and if they are available to leave their present work or carry the load of both works.

  • Request assistance from a retired pastor – We have seen this work in fields that are English-speaking. However, with a qualified translator on hand, perhaps it could be an option in other countries as well.

  • Arrange monthly visits from another missionary or national pastor – If the work is far enough along that a lay leader can conduct Bible studies or even preach, this can be a workable alternative. The church can carry on temporarily and still receive spiritual guidance on a regular basis from a more mature and experienced pastor.

  • Take shorter terms and shorter furloughs – This is an option that has becoming more and more popular in recent years. For example, instead of four-year terms and one-year furloughs, some are taking two-year terms and four- to six-month furloughs. It has many advantages: the work is not left for such long time, the missionary family can see relatives on a more frequent basis, furloughs are not so draining on the family, and other missionaries can commit to helping for a shorter time.

There are no “pat answers” or perfect ways to take a furlough. Every term is different; every mission field is different. However, if one can plan ahead, there are often more options than one realizes. But that is key: plan ahead.

There are no convenient times to take a furlough. There will always be things to be done. There will often be a price that is paid in the work. However, we must remember that it is the Lord’s work and He will care for His people – even in our absence. We must be diligent in preparing ahead for when furlough time comes, then trust the work to His care. Whatever your situation, the Lord will work it out in His time.

What furlough options have you found to be helpful? Share them in the comments below.

Why Missions Trips Matter

I doubt very many people would disagree with the fact that missions trips are important. They are a positive experience for everyone involved. They are often used of God to change the course of a believer’s life and ministry. But let’s face it: planning and executing a missions trip is a lot of work.

I believe there are many pastors and youth pastors that love the thought of taking a group from their church to visit a missionary on the field. But the thought of planning, organizing, fund raising, and doing everything else is just too much to add to their plate. It’s a good idea … for the future.

If that is you, let me take a moment to share why missions trips matter. More importantly, why they matter enough to not put them off. They are far too important. Our latest group trip to the Peten jungles of Guatemala reminded me of a few things:

 

  1. Church members will be revived. Our team of twelve included a deacon, choir members, teachers, an usher, family members, a college student, and a teen. God stirred their hearts for the kingdom of God, to get out of their comfort zones, and to have a renewed passion for the lost in their community. What church does not desperately need this?
  2. Missionaries will be encouraged. By the providence of God, we were in Guatemala at a moment when our host missionary family was facing a serious ministry challenge. At one moment we were surrounding the missionary wife praying for her husband’s life and protection! Beyond that, they had gotten some disturbing news from “back home.” This young family was faithfully serving their Lord in a remote part of the world, sacrificing more than we will ever know, and we were able to be up close to love them in a personal way. What missionary does not desperately need this?
  3. Pastors will be refocused. On a personal note, each time I am privileged to visit a missionary on the field, God refocuses my heart on what is most important in ministry. I preach with more passion. I lead with more clarity. I see the “forest” instead of just the “trees.” It makes me wonder how I could have gotten so distracted. What pastor does not desperately need this?

 

I believe missions trips ought to be an ongoing part of the ministry life of a local church. Don’t just dream about it – do something. Contact a missionary. Add it to your calendar. Post a sign-up sheet. Prepare for God to change your life and your church.