Did you know most missionaries live in a stress zone far above the average person?
Let me share some stats with you, on the Holmes-Rahe scale, a high stress level is around 100, whereas a very dangerous stress level is around 600. Most veteran missionaries live in the 600 range and newbies are up around 900! Wowzers. That’s a lot of stress.
February is often called the month of love, where roses, chocolates, and special dates reign supreme in lovers’ minds. With garland hearts strung in stores, groceries dressed up in red, and ads reminding us to get our special someone something special, my thoughts have been turning to the missionaries serving overseas. After having lived as a missionary under the stress listed above, I couldn’t help but think,
I wonder who is showing them they’re loved?
Reflecting on what Jesus has done for them, most missionaries would argue that they are just obeying Christ and don’t deserve any special appreciation. As a result, most would be too embarrassed to admit that they would be blessed through being appreciated, though some, such as this author, openly admit how much they want to hear from supporters.
Regardless of whether or not people feel they deserve it, when I look at the Bible, I read over and over again to encourage one another. I especially appreciate these verses:
1 Thes.5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Hebrews 3:13a “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today”
I believe those who are part of the body of Christ need to be thinking about our missionaries and showing them love and appreciation, and whenever possible, offering them help to relieve some of the stress that comes with living a life overseas.
Don’t know of a missionary to help? Ask your church missions board to direct you to some; most denominations financially support several missionaries. Don’t have a church missions board? Ask me. I’ll give you a few people to show love to!
As a former missionary, I was very fortunate to have several people & churches blessing us along the way as the pictures show in this post. Please consider how you could bless a missionary today!
Here are some ideas:
Send them a handwritten card, send them money so they can purchase an imported treat they rarely get, send them some money to go on vacation—just make sure you tell them they have to spend it on a vacation, ask to chat with them on Skype, visit them, and an even bigger idea—have your church send a team to visit them and host a retreat conference of sorts w/child care workers, send them a loved one, remember their birthday, send them an e-mail—be sure to be careful how you word things as some are in countries hostile to Christianity and e-mail accounts can be hacked, send them their favorite TV series on DVD, post something on their Facebook wall reminding them they are thought of…the list could go on and on. Just be creative and think, What would I want if I couldn’t be back in the States for a few years? What would be encouraging to me? What would help relax me and decrease my stress level?
When they come back for furlough…
Offer them your stuff: your vehicle to drive, your home to stay in, your cottage for a retreat, you get the picture. If you have the means, offer.
Help them arrange doctor visits by getting them on the schedule before they arrive in the States—this will save them loads of time! Offer to babysit their kids, help them with medical expenses, take them out for a meal, have them over and ask meaningful questions about their time away, sit by a campfire/roast marshmallows—if they live in a busy city it could have been years since they have enjoyed nature in a setting like this, send the couple on a marriage retreat and watch their kids for them, purchase some of their wanted things for the trip back to the field—almost every missionary is going to pack some special items like spices, condiments, etc. Take them on a fun trip somewhere—local amusement park, canoe ride down the river, local fair—many would feel guilty paying for these things while raising funds.
Visit them—it’s hard to return to the States and not have your regular routine to fill up the hours—sure they’re busy, but only sometimes–they don’t usually have play dates, school, and other random stuff filling their hours like you do—it can be lonely, visit them! Pay for them to see a counselor outside of their organization/church—stress levels are high as I already pointed out and they sometimes need a safe person to process things with without feeling judged—let them know you understand this and then offer to pay for their expenses or watch their kids while they go (maybe their insurance already covers it, but they have no sitter for the kids). Once again, the list could go on and on. Think, If I were living out of a suitcase, what would be helpful to me? What is their situation like where they are serving and what have they not been able to do because of it?