This one weekend was absolutely one of the most rewarding and uplifting events we've been a part of since we started our Home Ministry Assignment (HMA). So we thought we'd take this opportunity to share some of our insights with other church leaders, pastors and missions committees. Below are five ideas to help you truly bless your missionaries.
5 Ways to Bless Your Missionaries
- Be friendly and welcoming. This should go without saying, but you'd be surprised how often this gets overlooked because everyone is so busy getting ready for the day's activities. Not only were we greeted at the door when we arrived to set up, but we were introduced to key church and conference leaders. We were also given directions to important locations in the building like the sanctuary, the fellowship area where lunch was being served and the restrooms. We were also assigned a volunteer who helped us set up and asked no less than 15 times if we needed anything. I wasn't even allowed to wash my own dish after the event because the ladies in the kitchen insisted on taking care of it for me! The key here is to have enough people to provide this kind of attention to each missionary.
- Food. Ok, maybe this isn't important to most missionaries. But since it was the highlight of our teenager's weekend, it could not go without mentioning. Each missionary was invited to share a snack at their tables. I made chismol (Honduran salsa) and served it with tortilla chips. Besides getting to try foods from all over the world, this idea works because it starts conversations. I can't stress enough how helpful this was to break the ice with table visitors.
I should also mention that lunch was provided for the missionaries prior to the start of the conference, which was nice because we hadn't had time to eat. We were also provided lunch on Sunday when the pastor invited us and members of his congregation to a local restaurant. Not only did it save me from having to cook lunch after a long, exhausting weekend, we were able to get to know many members of the church and answer questions about our ministry that would have otherwise gone unanswered.
- Provide time for missionaries to get to know one another. We have learned so much from other missionaries we've met at events like this. We love to hear about what God is doing in other parts of the world. It's also good to know that we are not alone in our struggles. Often just being with other missionaries is an encouragement. In this case, we were able to connect with missionaries over lunch and during an extended set-up time.
- Provide opportunities for missionaries to get to know you and your congregation. There's nothing more intimidating for a missionary than walking into a church full of complete strangers on Sunday morning. But because we were invited to participate in a monthly game party on Saturday evening, we already knew several people in the congregation of Minnetrista Baptist when we arrived for Sunday services. Even better, they knew us a little better and were naturally more interested in what we had to say. Not only did we have a great time at the party, but we met some interesting and fun people that we're happy to call our new friends!
- ATTENTION: if you don't read any of the other points, YOU MUST READ THIS!
Let your missionaries be heard. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to cram your entire ministry and the heart God has given you into 2-7 minutes during a service. Then you have to spend 15 minutes after the service trying to speak to as many people as possible before they run off to catch the football game. This method is typical for most churches, but it rarely works for the missionary or the church members.
Minnetrista, on the other hand, allowed us to speak during Sunday School and for most of the service, as well. We took the Sunday School opportunity to share background information, photos and our cultural observations about Honduras. This laid the foundation for a greater understanding of the needs of the Honduran people and why our ministry is so important. Then we shared our personal journey of how God led us to Honduras and more details about the ministry itself during the church service. We were so thrilled by the level of enthusiasm and engagement this format offered.
The most important impact of allowing us to be heard? When we finally got to tell all the stories we never get to share, we reminded ourselves of all the reasons we love Honduras and our passion for our ministry was rekindled! I know pastors value their very limited time in the pulpit, but if you're going to have a missionary visit you, your congregation and your missionaries will be more blessed if you give them the time they need to really share their hearts.