Five Ways to Love Stateside Missionaries

MANDY|GUEST “So, how long are you home for?” That’s a normal enough question, but it always gives me pause. Which home? How long has it been anyways? As a missionary back in the States, I often wonder what to make of this time of furlough or HMA (Home Mission Assignment). This year we have seen more missionaries “stuck” in America for longer than expected. I’m often asked other questions too, like how does the church minister to missionaries during this odd season— when we are in town for longer than the mission’s conference? There is certainly a need to articulate how we can “mutually encourage one another.” Let me, as one of these stuck-wondering workers, provide five ways the church can love stateside missionaries. 5 Ways the Church Can Love Stateside Missionaries Give them space. This may mean giving literal space to live in. Missionaries need a home! Different families have different spatial needs, as well as functional needs. Ask questions and work together to make a space a As a homemaker, a few house plants and pretty curtains really ministered to me in our Goodwill-like mission’s house. One church collected clothes to fill our closets with a winter wardrobe. And here’s something important: they did not send us the stuff no one wanted. When they realized slim fit sweaters were hard to come by (for my tall skinny husband), they didn’t give us grandpa’s size 44 suit and polyester pants. They gave a few gift cards instead. Coming alongside missionaries in homemaking (however that may look; however temporal it might be) can remind all of us of our true eternal home. We can find beauty in the basic needs. Invite them to the party. Remember missionaries are (mostly) normal people. We want to grill out, go for a hike, or help paint the guest room. We want to do everyday life with you. Stacey met me at a nearby nature center. Rachel brought her boys to celebrate my 11-year-old’s birthday. Tim ran with my husband each week. Stephanie encouraged me to wake before dawn for a neighborhood walk. When we are stateside, we also miss our “everyday” routine. One church connected me with a piano teacher and gymnastics class for my kids. Adding those activities back into our week helped us gain a bit of normalcy. Now I know investing in people who aren’t going to be here very long (and who travel so often) can have many hurdles. Doing everyday life with missionaries requires selfless intentionality. It’s difficult, but incredibly loving. Ask about money. This is the obvious one, right? Missionaries are usually very good at asking for funding, and we always seem to need it. It is lovely however, to be asked first. One friend simply emailed us, “We want to increase our giving. Tell me how to make that happen.” Some supporters want to give “an extra gift” and ask what would serve us best (give to the support account, tag it for a specific ministry, gift cards, or a personal check). Whatever your ability to give more, you can always pray for financial needs to be met. One long-time supporter had to stop her financial giving for a time. Her own finances had taken a hit, and she sadly had to cut some parts of her budget. She let us know (rather than simply dropping off) and then told me she was praying for a new supporter to give in her stead. What a reminder to me that God is working in very specific ways!  Talking about money can be awkward, but we all need to work hard to be generous givers, receivers, and money-conversationalists. Let them work; let them rest. We do enjoy a break from the work on the field. HMA can be refreshing and a time to regroup, but it’s not a total vacation...

Five Ways to Love Stateside Missionaries2022-05-04T23:14:01+00:00

The Global Church: Sowing Seeds in Europe

I’m not a skilled gardener. I know little about plants, flowers, soil types, or gardening techniques. During the time of COVID confinement earlier this year, my kids and I planted a variety of seeds and have since harvested a sad handful of each type of vegetable. Just yesterday my son pulled a single red tomato from the plant, and we wondered if the other tiny green ones would ever become red. Because of my lack of horticultural knowledge or talent, I find great encouragement in the passages of Scripture that speak of God’s effectiveness and expertise as a gardener. Sowing Seeds One such passage, the parable of the sower (found multiple places – Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8), is a familiar one to most of us. We relate to the images of God as the sower and of His Word, the seed, falling on different types of heart-soils. As a missionary, I occasionally think about this parable as I talk to a friend about Jesus and pray that the good news takes root in the soil of her heart. The image of soil can also be a helpful one when we speak of missions in a certain context, be it a city, a people-group, a country, or even a continent. Just as one word cannot capture the spiritual landscape of the United States, no one adjective can describe the soil of Europe. Even within Western Europe, where I’ve lived for several years, many spiritual distinctions exist among different countries and cultures. In general, however, Europe is considered to be “post-Christendom.” Christianity has a rich history here, but Europe as a culture has moved beyond the Christian worldview into secular humanism. The spiritual soil possesses almost none of the cultural receptors to Christianity that one might find in many parts of America; Biblical Christianity and the God of the Bible are viewed at best as relics that some people still find useful and at worst as tools of oppression wielded throughout European history. Many Europeans have no concept of church other than the large building in the center of town that often attracts more tourists than worshippers...

The Global Church: Sowing Seeds in Europe2022-05-05T00:01:21+00:00

The Global Church as Family

Almost ten years ago, when I moved to South Africa, I had no idea how much of an impact this place would have on me. One of the greatest impacts on me is the value the African culture places on the family, as well as community. You see this in the way they sacrifice for one another. You see this in their sense of togetherness. And you see it in the way they come together and celebrate one another for special occasions, especially weddings. It is a community wide event, not just in attending the ceremony, but also in putting the event together. On that special day, hundreds of people come to celebrate the bride and groom. That’s because their community is like a family. And in a similar way, so is the church. The Body of Christ In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Paul compares the church to the human body. He begins with “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ.” Paul illustrates that while a body has a head, eyes, ears, etc. all those parts belong to the same body. So it is with the global church; there are many members scattered throughout the globe, but our oneness in Christ makes us family....

The Global Church as Family2022-05-05T00:03:05+00:00

What Do Missions and Child Birth Have in Common?

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19)  Any woman who has given birth to a child knows the pain of childbirth. With my first child, I was obliviously idealistic about what childbirth would be like. Other women might have tried to explain it to me, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience of labor. Giving birth to a child is a complete investment of oneself— body and soul. The pains of childbirth are, of course, a part of the curse. What is true on a physical level about childbirth, is also true on a spiritual level about the labor of love called missions. The gospel worker must endure hardship in the process of watching and participating in the birth of spiritual offspring. The Pains of Missions Missions, like childbirth, is painful because of the curse. People are blind, deaf, and rebellious. The Bible says we are all “dead in our sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) We do not naturally want to know and obey God. Oftentimes, God uses painful experiences in people’s lives to make them aware that they cannot be fruitful on their own. Without God, they are only giving birth to wind. It’s painful to go through, and almost just as painful to watch someone go through that process. We groan, as Paul did, as if in labor, because the work is so agonizing. Sometimes our endeavors remain without fruit, sometimes labor progresses so slowly, we get discouraged. The saddest experiences are the spiritual stillbirths when people’s initial interest suddenly aborts, and we are left empty-handed and grieve the loss. One friend to whom we had been witnessing for years died before accepting Christ; another was on the brink of conversion only to say, “The Gospel is like a fairy tale, it’s too good to be true!” and walked away from the church. We groan in pain at such losses. But we must not forget that there is also great joy and hope in the labor of missions because Jesus has promised us his comforting presence and to do the work of calling and redeeming his own. A Life-Giving Opportunity The pain of childbirth is nothing compared to what good comes through it! What keeps us women going and enduring in childbirth is the thought of holding that precious newborn in our arms when all is over. Similarly, the pain of missional engagement is eclipsed by its ultimate goal: seeing new birth happen. We get front-row seats to watch Christ’s life being formed in others, growing, and bearing fruit to God. Jesus describes regeneration and conversion as a birth account...

What Do Missions and Child Birth Have in Common?2022-05-05T00:05:37+00:00

How Missionaries Want {and Need} You to Pray for Them

Missionaries often are asked: “How can I pray for you?” and most likely, we will answer: “Pray for our financial support, our witness, and our families.” These are good things to pray for, but there are some things we are ashamed of admitting and that don’t make the prayer request list. A missionary is not someone special, more gifted, or more holy than anyone else. In fact, many of us missionaries joke that God needed to take us to the mission field to teach us the hard lessons we could not to learn because of our own stubbornness and zealousness. Among missionary leaders, there is a saying that leading missionaries is like “herding cats” because of our independent streak. Missionaries can exude strength and courage, but as the years progress, I have noticed certain patterns of struggle that are unique to missionaries (and I’d venture to say much of this applies to those who are in full-time ministry, pastors, or church-planters).  We need you pray for us in the following areas.

How Missionaries Want {and Need} You to Pray for Them2022-05-07T23:06:03+00:00

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of MTW

Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them.I recently interviewed Lloyd Kim, coordinator of Mission to the World (MTW), about their work. Christina: Can you tell us a bit of the history of MTW and its relationship with the PCA? Lloyd: Sure—and I will give you the brief version. After the PCA formed in 1973, Mission to the World was immediately organized as the missions sending agency of the PCA, tasked with carrying out the Great Commission. We started out with 11 missionaries in four countries and then began to grow rapidly. In 1982, World Presbyterian Missions (from the Reformed Presbyterian Church—Evangelical Synod) joined with MTW, adding even more missionaries. God has continued to bless MTW and we now have 630 long-term missionaries, 88 two-year missionaries, and over 700 national partners serving in 95 countries. This growth has occurred under the direction of some very capable and godly leaders: John Kyle, Paul McKaughan, and Paul Kooistra. When we look back on our history, we are deeply grateful to God for the solid foundation and heritage He has given us. Christina: What is your role for MTW? Lloyd: As coordinator of MTW, one of my main tasks is to promote MTW’s mission, vision, and values within our denomination as well as in the larger missions community. What does that mean? It means that I serve as a key public face for MTW, representing our mission and its values to our constituents and potential partners. So—lots of travel, speaking, developing relationships; and there’s a commitment to fundraising for MTW as part of all that. Overseeing MTW’s financial stability and growth is part of my job—making sure that we’re good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us and that we remain financially healthy. But we also want MTW to be spiritually healthy, so another aspect of my job involves tending to the spiritual vitality of the organization. We want to build a grace-based culture that encourages integrity, transparency, and mutual support. We also want a workforce that better reflects the diversity of the kingdom. These values have resulted in projects like our diversity initiative and efforts to expand opportunities for women in our organization. Finally, I provide leadership for our senior staff as we work together to focus our ministry efforts on our vision: fulfilling the Great Commission by establishing, growing, and maturing churches around the world. One of the challenges we face is that missions looks a lot different than it did even 10 years ago. The landscape is changing and we’re constantly looking for new channels and new methods for recruiting and sending missionaries. We’ve also just come through some pretty major infrastructure changes to support the growth that we’re praying about and planning for in our future missions force.

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of MTW2022-05-07T23:27:15+00:00

Adoption, Visas, and Resting in the Tension of God’s Call

Last week, four of us gathered as elders’ wives to pray for our growing church-plant and our husbands. My friend, Susan, had news. She had officially registered to adopt! I felt my stomach flip. An unfamiliar mixture of joy and bitterness clouded my congratulations. I tried to shake it off, but I realized I felt (perhaps) how a woman who has been unsuccessfully trying to conceive feels when her friend announces a pregnancy. I wanted to be happy— I am happy— but a gnawing jealousy arose. My family and I are planting a church in a “security-sensitive” country. This past year, two of our team families were deported and our own visa was put on hold (and still is). The anti-foreigner (especially “anti-foreign religion”) government has been sniffing out suspicious activity and deporting at will. It is not a stretch to say we could be asked to leave tomorrow. At the beginning of 2018, before all the unhappy deportations started, my husband and I decided we were going to pursue adoption. A new law made it possible for foreigners to adopt, as long as the child was disabled in some way. We waited for the allotted two weeks to get our visa approved so we could start the adoption process. Two weeks turned into months, a year, and now 14 months. We continue to wait for the government to give us official permission to stay here.

Adoption, Visas, and Resting in the Tension of God’s Call2022-05-07T23:40:50+00:00
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