There are always pretty high stats floating around regarding the number of people that leave ministry, that leave their overseas mission field.
More than ever, I can see why.
Coming off the end of what’s been a particularly hard week, I can see why people leave ministry. I’m not going to. Make that, we’re not going to. I believe we are called to what we’re doing and God is firmly in control and that trials come and go, but I can see why people leave.
Chances are if you’re reading this you are possibly involved in a local church. You will surely have friends and acquaintances serving in countries and places other than where you are currently planted. You may even be in an overseas mission field yourself. Or you may even have missionaries of sorts in your own neighborhood.
There are plenty of things that YOU can do to make life a lot easier for your friends in ministry. Things that don’t just happen unless people think and then do……
Ministry needs to be a team thing….here are some pointers I’ve learnt along the way…some happened for us naturally and easily….others have been harder…but ALL are appreciated. More than anything it is the people who can make a difference, for good, for people in ministry.
* Pray. Pray. Pray
* Ask how your friends are doing. Whether you are asking via email, skype, phone call or face to face. Ask direct and pointed questions to get a good idea as to how they are doing in every area of their lives. Don’t just presume. (I wonder if I would had settled in a bit easier and quicker if I had people in my life actually ask me how I was finding things. I’m a private person and don’t talk about myself unless I am asked….maybe your friends are the same).
* Give invitations to your friends in ministry around you, to include them for major holidays. Push them to accept. Holidays are the absolute worst to spend alone – without family around you – when it feels like everyone else is with loved ones. (Word the invitations with a considerable amount of sincerity….nothing worse than it coming across like a token gesture).
* Do what you can to be adoptive grandparents/ aunties/ uncles. One of our friends here has really stepped up and been that person for us. ‘Grandma Sue’ has been to watch basketball games, soccer games, has invited us into her home for Christmas and Thanksgiving and various barbecues as well as taken time off work to come to things like Luka’s Kindergarten graduation. This has meant so much to us. So much.
* Be a free babysitter for your friends. This matters. If your friends are in ministry then nine times out of ten they are on a tight budget……the thought of some time out is appealing but the additional cost of a babysitter just pushes it into the too hard basket. And ministry can cause enormous stress on a marriage. Give your friends the gift of time. Push them to accept it.
* Communicate. Write letters. Write emails. Skype. Call on the phone. Even with different time zones make it happen. Show your friends you care and they are not forgotten. It may seem like their ‘new’ lives are rich and full….but they still long for real friendships, the kind that has a history. The kind where you can just pick up where you last left off, so very easily.
* Provide news from home for those absent friends. Keep them in the loop with what’s happening with mutual friends. Most friends will be returning to their past ‘life’ at some point or another so this is important for them to know what is happening in their absence.
* Seek to give pure, lovely and genuine encouragement. Whether it is to your friends who are away from you, or your new friends in ministry beside you. You never know how far that simple word of encouragement will go – you never know the depth of their honesickness or struggles on that particular day.
* Pray, pray, pray for them. Know their prayer needs – by asking direct questions again. Cover them in prayer. Be aware of high pressure times for these friends of yours. For us whenever Michael’s work does an appeal for more financial support, things happen to us. Every time. Without fail. Usually it has been the kids getting sick and because Michael is working long hours, it has been me looking after sick kids for long hours by myself. Now I know we need specific prayer covering at these times and I seek out people to pray for us.
You know maybe if we treated each other a little better, and were more aware of people’s needs a bit better, then maybe people in ministry wouldn’t get so burnt out. They would feel more appreciated and supported in what they’re all doing. We’re all part of one body. Let’s help each other function as best we can.
‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.’
– Romans 12
God wants us to take His love and mercy to the ends of the earth. Let’s help each other do the best we can, with what we are each called to do. Hand in hand.