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Keeping the Bonds Strong: Nine Ways to Connect with Workers on the Field

By Candice,* Asia member care provider

When a mission worker heads to the airport to leave for their assignment, ideally they have their church behind them and a missionary support team (MST) in place. They are wrapped in the glow of the commissioning prayers and the love of their friends and family. They get on the plane with confidence in their calling, excited to begin their mission. The team, family, and church friends serve as a kind of “safety net” backing the worker. As time passes, however, it can be easy for the worker to become busy and to stop communicating regularly with friends at home and for friends in the local church to forget to pray or to feel disconnected from the worker. So, the question is, what can both workers and sending church members do to keep the bonds strong over the long term?


1

Pray. Nothing that you can do is more important to a mission worker, yet we all know how easy it is to forget! Here are some simple ideas to help you keep workers upheld in prayer.
  • Pray often for workers and their countries in your worship service, small group, and family.
  • Post the worker’s prayer card on the refrigerator at home and in the church foyer, so their photo will be seen frequently as a reminder to pray.
  • Use the church Facebook page, email list, or an existing prayer network within your congregation to send missional prayer requests.
  • Pray for your friend as you write their support check or when you see the transfer from your bank account.
  • Try saying a short prayer each time you see your friend’s profile picture on Facebook.
  • Each time that you receive a note or e-mail from a worker, pray for them immediately. Please don’t read prayer requests without praying.
  • Obtain a physical symbol of a country in which the worker ministers as a prayer reminder and keep that object visible.
  • Pray your way through the RMM prayer directory. This daily guide gives you a framework to pray for all RMM workers and locations each month. Involve your children in reading about workers and praying for their needs. Request a free directory at info@rmmoffice.org.
  • Tell the worker you are praying and what you are praying for. One RMM worker said, “It means so much to meet the senior prayer partners at Annual Conference and hear about their ongoing prayers for specific requests we have given.” Prayer chapters are awesome! The members tend to know the most about what’s happening on the field and keep many workers covered in prayer. Join a team of prayer partners or start one in your area. Contact RMM prayer coordinator, Mim Musser at mim@rmmoffice.org to find out how.
  • Workers, remember to pray for your friends “back home” and ask them for their requests and needs, too. Connection is a two-way street.


2

Maintain Worker Visibility. Sometimes “out of sight, out of mind” can apply to workers who are missing from your church life for years at a time, so it’s important to think about ways to keep them on the minds of your congregation. The more the workers’ faces are actually seen, the better the chances are that they are being covered in support and prayer. Missionary Support Teams (MST) play a vital role in this kind of work, as they are the viable representatives of the worker to the church.

The church can include pictures in a Sunday morning PowerPoint with current prayer needs, a bulletin insert, a bulletin board of pictures in the church foyer, a printed newsletter in each church mailbox, etc. It’s also possible to connect with a worker live on a Sunday morning so that the congregation can ask questions and feel more connected and involved with the workers.

Don't forget to include the missionary kids (MK)! Place their photos in Sunday school classrooms to remind children of their friends around the world. Give a few facts about the MK, like “she just lost her first tooth and loves playing with Legos” to give kids a picture in their minds as they pray.


3

Utilize Technology. Happily, we no longer live in the time when it took a missionary’s letters months to cross the ocean. We can be in touch with worker friends via Facebook, e-mail, Skype, FaceTime, phone, and texting. Use the means available to you to send notes of encouragement, fill the worker in on your life, and ask how you can pray. Be sensitive to your friend if there are times they need to limit their use of technology in order to bond more deeply in the culture where they are serving. Often this is a wise thing to do, especially at the beginning of an assignment when it is important to depend on local relationships. Workers can utilize technology by e-mailing out regular updates, videos, photos, and newsletters as well as prayer requests when urgent needs arise. The church can also keep the worker updated and involved in church life by e-mailing church newsletters and communications. One RMM worker suggested that: “people from the church take turns each week to write an update from their life. This helps with the feeling of mutual sharing. Ideas for sharing would be: recent books you have read and enjoyed; something that has happened in your local community; what you are picking from your garden; a challenge you are facing; what’s for supper; ways we can be lifting you up.” The worker can follow along with church happenings through the church blog or Facebook page.

Security Note:

Internet technology has made it much easier to connect meaningfully with our workers far away. But some of our workers live in very sensitive contexts so we need to exercise caution in our use of the internet when sending emails to them or referencing them on Facebook, for example. RMM has published guidelines for communicating with workers in sensitive contexts. Please contact info@rmmoffice.org with any questions you might have about the guidelines for the specific worker and country you are writing.


5

Send Gifts. One way to show love to a friend overseas is through mailing a package. Holidays and birthdays, especially early in an assignment, can sometimes evoke feelings of loneliness and missing “home” and a thoughtful package can be a great way to show your love.

You can start by checking with your friend about whether a package is welcome (make sure there are no security issues if the country is sensitive and ask about customs charges). It is also a good idea to ask what types of things are difficult to find in the place they live. If you want to send a box, try one that is a flat rate up to a certain number of pounds (check with your local post office). Gifts of money have no shipping costs and can provide a single worker or family with a break, or provide for an unexpected need or a special experience. Other great gifts that have no shipping costs are iTunes gift cards or books or magazines for an e-reader. Remember, kids really enjoy getting mail from other kids, so encourage your children to develop pen pal relationships and send notes and pictures.


6

Follow Up. For both the church and the worker, follow-up is important. If a worker sends a prayer request to the church, it’s important for them to later follow up and let the church know the impact of their prayers. If a worker sends out a newsletter and gets no response it can feel as if no one reads it or cares. Even a short response like “I’m so excited about what God is doing in your friends!” or “I’m happy your baby is now sleeping through the night!” is encouraging.


7

Live a Giving Lifestyle. Determine what lifestyle changes you can make to allow you to give more to missions. Your giving demonstrates that you are passionate about and invested in the work that God is doing in your friend’s host country. Involving your children helps teach them to invest in spiritual things that last. Workers need the investment of long-term supporters.


8

Learn about the country where your friend is living. Take the time to check out a guidebook from the library and learn about some basic customs and history. Eat at a restaurant or cook food at home from that country. The worker will deeply appreciate the fact that you care enough to try to understand their context and the many things they adapt to daily.

You can also take the time to learn about the holidays in the workers’ adopted country, which may now have significance for them. Find a creative way to celebrate the holiday yourself or send a greeting during Ramadan or the Thai New Year, for example.

Be on the lookout for online news stories from the worker’s country. Stay connected with current events so that you can be praying for the country and the workers there.


9

Go and See. Travel to visit the worker if possible. One of our workers said: “We are really touched and grateful for these visits and the connections they bring.” Another family of RMM workers in North Africa said, “We have found that occasional visits from people on the MST as well as others in church can really help those on the field feel supported. It gives those who are visiting a glimpse of everyday life and specific ideas for prayer. It has also been really positive when there has been a child who has come to visit our children. This helps children on the field feel understood in a different way and gives them more points for connection when we are back on home assignment.” Visits should be planned and coordinated with the worker and MST. RMM trains and sends prayer teams to our locations—contact Mim Musser if you’re interested in being a part of one!

Over time, it is healthy for the worker to feel at home in their adopted country and to find sources of support and deep friendships with locals and their team. As time passes, you may notice that they seem to have less need for emotional support. This is a wonderful thing and means they are adapting well. Still, as you can see from these suggestions, your continued caring, prayers, words of encouragement and visits mean a lot to long-term workers. When you invest in them, you are letting them know that their mission is important to you and that you are willing to walk beside them in love and friendship. Thank you for journeying with our friends on the field.


These suggestions are not intended to be comprehensive and are a collection of my own experiences as a worker, contributions from current and past RMM workers, and a variety of mission agency materials.

*Names changed or omitted for security.