What does it look like to serve God cross-culturally? Is it all about remote villages and lengthy church meetings? What kind of challenges do missionaries face? How do they keep going, sometimes for decades, in hard places? What can I pray about for them?
Missionaries lives are full of ‘goodbyes’ and ‘hellos’. Goodbyes are hard – It’s hard to say goodbye to good friends. It’s hard to say goodbye to people you’ve walked with through the highs and lows with God. It’s hard to say goodbye to those you’ve seen come to know God. These goodbyes don’t get any easier with time and missionaries have to say goodbye more than most. Every four years brings goodbyes – either temporarily for home assignment, or for good if they move on to a new place. But transitions also bring the joy of meeting new people in new places and building new friendships, which helps when it comes to saying goodbye to old friends.
Pray for God to give missionaries the grace to deal well with all these transitions.
When missionaries first arrive in a new country it can feel like they’ll never fit in: they have to learn how to greet people, what to wear, even when and where they should (or shouldn’t) be wearing shoes. There is so much to learn, so many unwritten rules and everything is so different. But missionaries don’t remain outsiders forever. As they learn and get to know people, missionaries are welcomed into the community and become a valued part of it. One of our workers in Cambodia writes that her neighbors ‘treat me like a family member and I receive more from them than I can ever give in return.’ Missionaries become a real part of the community, humbly depending on others.
Home will always be home in some ways for missionaries, but for their children ‘where is home?’ can be a very difficult question to answer. In fact, their parents’ home country may be where they feel least at home. Having spent much of their lives overseas, they may not feel at all at home in the strange land their parents grew up in. This can be hard for missionaries, who would like their children to embrace and enjoy all their home country has to offer, but their children would prefer to be overseas. It can also be difficult when children grow up and go home for further study and struggle, while parents are far away unable to help.
Pray for missionaries as they struggle with and help their children with where they call home.
Pray for missionary children and parents to remember that their true citizenship is in heaven.
Missionaries are captivated by the goodness of the gospel. It’s what drives them to share Christ with those still yet to hear of him. But people have so many things competing for their attention that it can be hard to get them to listen. And if they do listen, they may not fully grasp what it means for them. So they miss the excitement of it.
This can be discouraging for missionaries. Pray for God to encourage them today and to work in their hearer’s hearts, so they too get excited by the gospel.
What does it look like to support a missionary? Sometimes it’s a hug, a bar of chocolate or prayer for a particular situation.
OMF missionaries have many stories of how their supporters have helped them in prayer and practically. It’s this kind of support that God uses to help keep missionaries going in what he’s called them to.
Give thanks for the many ways missionaries can be supported and for the relationships which are developed between supporter and worker when partnering together for Christ. Pray about how you could encourage any missionaries you know today.