The Church, Missions & Technology

Physical Touch

This week we wrap up our series of loving missionaries through Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. This weeks love language can get a little complicated for churches loving missionaries but stay with me until the end for some practical and appropriate helps for loving missionaries through Physical Touch as they serve Christ.

Physical Touch crosses almost every culture. As Dr. Chapman explains a hand shake in one country is the same as an embrace and kiss on the cheek in another country but both are forms of introductory greeting. As churches struggle to find ways to love and serve missionaries it is important that we learn the love languages of our missionaries. It is equally important that we make sure that if the love language requires, that we go and be with the missionaries where they serve. Physical Touch is one love language that you cannot do through skype or over the phone.

Ask questions about Physical Touch in their culture. Ask about gender appropriate greetings and if they like, or dislike the physical nature of that culture. In the Middle East men and women who are not family do not touch. There is almost no physical contact. This single female whose secondary love language was physical touch returned to the states longing to be hugged by friends and family. I truly feel that there is a place for non-romantic physical touch for friends and family. If we send missionaries out of our churches then we must.

Another vital aspect about loving missionaries through the 5 love languages is in moments of crisis. Most missionaries will go through two or more crises in their first term of service. Each crisis can vary depending on the person. A great example I use for this comes from my doctoral work. I was taking a seminar on “Ministering To People In Crisis”. Each student needed to give an hour presentation of a crisis event that had to be approved by the professor. So as I met with my professor I asked in her opinion what she would consider a crisis event for a missionary. She said, “Well I guess if a missionary landed in their country and there was no one there to pick them up that would be a crisis event”. I choose a presentation on missionaries who are denied entry to their country of service. No matter the crisis missionaries need support. Please hear me out, it is very important that you get this. Do NOT count on the mission sending agency to care for them. It is not the job of the mission agency to care for the missionaries, it is the job of the local church. So if your missionaries are going through times of crisis you need to be there with them. To hold them, to hug them and tell them it will be ok. This love through physical touch will help them get through the crisis and start healing.

In this last post about loving missionaries through the 5 love languages let me encourage you to get on a plane and go see your missionaries where they are. This allows the local church to love on missionaries in the love language that they need.

If you have any questions or would love to know more about loving and caring for missionaries please don’t hesitate to let me know. I would love to help.

Things you can do…
Today: Call a missionary you know and tell them you cannot wait to see them again in order to hug them and tell them they are loved.
This Week: Get a group of people together and start planning your first, or next trip to visit with missionaries from your church.
This Month: Make sure you know the love language of each of the missionaries connected to your church. Start making a plan to love each missionaries in their own unique way.

Acts of Service

Before we get started today can I ask a question? Why do we love missionaries? What code or set of responsibilities do we take on as we love people that leave our church to plant new churches in other cultures? We have been talking about loving missionaries through the 5 Love Languages but I just want to make sure you know why the church needs to love them.

One of the questions that Dr. Chapman asks is, “What would you want someone to do for you if they loved you” We have to ask missionaries how they would feel most loved from a sending church. It is not a difficult question. Understand that most missionaries are no different from you or me in the fact that they feel loved in a certain way. For example, if you feel loved when someone cooks a meal for you, then as the sending church you can cook meals for the missionary family. Wait, how is the church going to cook missionaries a meal if they live 23 hours away. Last time we checked Pizza Hut doesn’t deliver that far, right? Don’t get me wrong, on more than one occasion I have carried a Chickfila sandwich or a dozen Krispy Crème donuts across multiple time zones for missionaries, but that is a love language that we are not coving today.

What could we do for missionary wives to serve them. I highly recommend that you travel to them and serve them. Help them with meals. Help them repair broken items. A major act of service that translates across zones is watching children. Remember that most missionaries do not have friends or family that live right down the street that can watch their children overnight. So go and watch their children for a night or two. I was in a budgeting meeting this past week where I heard that a particular church gave its church planters $800 every year to take a family vacation. I jumped in and said whatever you choose to cut this year do not cut that. People in ministry desperately need time away to recharge.

Most of us in the church need to be able to love missionaries through acts of service even though we cannot be geographically close. One act could be if you know that missionaries are coming back the the states for a limited time you could help them arrange doctor appointments or assist them get their children into a local school. It could be something as simple as getting them a hair appointment at the salon, and watching their children while they get their hair cut. Some ladies have to wait years between getting haircuts from their husbands and going to a real salon where they know what they are doing.

Dr. Chapman encourages husbands and wives to some what challenge the stereotypical roles they have in order to better love their spouse. I want to challenge the church to break away from its traditional form of missionary support in order to better love and serve missionaries as they plant churches among the unreached. This challenge to love missionaries in a new way is why I write, encouraging churches to try something new in order for us to have healthy and effective missionaries.

Things you can do…
Today: Ask a missionary how they would know if a church loved and supported them.
This Week: Pray about what it would take for your church to visit a missionary family in order to love and support them.
This Month: Find out the next time your missionaries will be in the states for a visit. Ask them if you can visit with them to get to know them better. If they will not be in your city, travel to see them.

Receiving Gifts

Everyone loves a new gift from time to time. “Gifts are symbols of love” says Dr. Chapman. So could this be a way for churches to show missionaries that they love them. I believe so. I think it is important to understand that most missionaries do not have a great deal of wealth or physical possessions. The church can help provide needs, and wants to the missionaries sent out to make disciples of all nations. Dr. Chapman talks about how gifts go across all cultures. Even when we lived in the Middle East my wife could not say that she liked a ring or necklace from another woman because she would give it as a gift to my wife. I hope and pray that churches love and care for their missionaries to the point that we would freely give them our possessions.

It is important to remember that the gift does not always need to cost money. It can be something hand made. We loved receiving cards from children in our sending church. We would hold some of the cards back and open them randomly so we could experience the love of this church more spread out during the year.

One last gift that I think you should give is the gift of presence. This is just being with the missionaries you support. Understand that this is not the same as working with them on a mission project. This is a gift of spending time with them. Presence is always important. This is especially true in the moments of crisis. When I talk to churches who have missionaries in difficult places I always make sure they have a plan to move at a moments notice to go and be with missionaries in times of crisis. Believe me, they will go through more than one crisis in their time on the mission field. Our family went through a traumatic experience early on as missionaries. We were hurting and confused. It would have meant so much to us to have some close friends from our sending church come and minister to us during this very difficult time.

Remember that any gift from the heart will be appreciated by those receiving it. Gifts help those serving away from home to still feel connected and not forgotten by those who are praying for them. Gifts are a physical reminder that they are loved and appreciated.

Things you can do…
Today: Send a missionary an E-giftcard to Amazon or iTunes.
This week: Have your small group write cards of encouragement to missionaries you support.
This month: Find out what the missionaries really love to receive. Find a way to get it to them as a surprise.

Quality Time

Today we are continuing our series on Loving Missionaries through the Five Love Languages. Loving missionaries through this love language can be difficult because there are really only two times in which you can give them the time that they need. The first is when you are with them as you visit on the mission field. However, this is not often. Most of the time churches come out to see missionaries sent from their church once a year, if they are lucky. This leads us to the second time that you can spend quality time with missionaries. While they are on home assignment. This is the church’s time to shine. This is the church’s time to love on missionaries.

This is the time to give “focused attention” to the missionaries. Ask them questions about their lives. Listen, try your very best to just listen and not interrupt them. This is extremely difficult for some pastors. They want to talk talk talk. It is what we pay them to do so, it is good that they like to talk. But we need to encourage pastors to listen. Learn the art of asking good questions.

If we know that most people only listen for 17 seconds before interrupting then we are going to strive to go above and beyond for missionaries. Missionaries love to talk about what God is doing in their lives and the lives of the people group they work among.

Dr. Chapman mentioned Quality Activities. When the missionaries are on home assignment take them to go do something that other churches might not do. Ask them what is their favorite activity and go do it with them even if you hate it.

I know sometimes that in the church we like to over complicate matters. But this love language is super simple, just spend time with the missionary. This means go visit them and then spending as much time as you can with them while they are here in the states.

Things you can do…
Today: Contact the missionary you love and support and thank them for spending time with you the last time you where together. You really appreciated their time talking with your church or small group.
This week: Ask them questions about what activities they like to do the most.
This month: Set up a time to talk with your missionary face to face and just listen to them talk about the work and how they are doing. Ask good questions about their relationship with Christ or ask them about their journey right now.

Words of Affirmation

In the church we use words to accomplish so much. We use words to share the gospel, disciple new believers, sing praises to God, and pray to our Heavenly Father. We use words all the time. As we continue to look at missionary care we will look today at loving missionaries through Words of Affirmation.

We know that words are important for missionaries too. They proclaim the message of the gospel, which is kind of a big deal in what they do, but for them to receive communication from friends and family and especially from members of their sending church is incredibly important. Missionaries are an extension of the local church. So if you have a missionary sent out from your local body, then you need to provide the same care to them as you would any other member of your congregation, and staff. It will not look the same but the same care needs to be applied to all those sent out.

We often use words to encourage missionaries. “The word encourage means to inspire” says Dr. Chapman. We want to inspire missionaries to continue to fight the good fight. We want to inspire them to be light among the darkness, and to continue to be obedient to what God has asked them to do.

We constantly pray that God will work in and among the unreached people groups of the world. Why then would we not want to share those same words with the ones out on the front lines proclaiming the gospel. Let me share something from personal experience, “Missionaries need to hear from you.” It can be as simple as “Hey just want you to know that I am thinking about you today”. If the missionaries from your church are in less secure areas please say it more like, “Hey I want you to know that this morning I prayed that God would show you the person you need to share the gospel with today.” Use your words to show missionaries how much you love and appreciate them for their obedience. Your Words of Affirmation have more impact than you will ever realize.

Things you can do…
Today: Send a note, email, or text to a missionary you support. Encourage and inspire them.
This week: Find the best way to regularly communicate with a missionary you support.
This month: Skype or FaceTime a missionary you support.