Over the years I have engaged in dozens of conversations with well-meaning individuals who undermine the importance of pastors traveling to the mission field to visit their missionaries (those sent from their church). Usually, the individual’s disagreement is entirely practical. Their objection goes something like, “Wouldn’t it be better just to send the missionaries the $2,000 it’s going to cost to get you there?” No doubt the missionary could use the $2,000. No argument there. But here’s the vital point I believe we’re missing: It’s not about money. It’s about relationship, encouragement, shepherding, and the missionary knowing that their sending church is fully behind them. I have sat in dozens upon dozens of missionaries’ homes over the years who have been brought to tears by the fact that I would take the time to travel across the world for the chief purpose of having coffee with them in their living room. You see, missionaries go through immense spiritual warfare and a depth of loneliness that most non-missionaries can’t even begin to understand. The fact that their pastor is sitting in their living room means the world to them. It adds wind to their sails and will carry them on further into their ministry. But I think we would narrow our focus too much to limit this crucial ministry to pastors alone. The task of visiting missionaries should be a prayerful consideration for all of our church members here at home. Here are 3 reasons why:
1) The task of sending out a missionary from your church should include the task of encouraging them.
You may be thinking, “Well, can’t we just do that via email and over the phone?” Sure you can! And you should be doing that as a sending church. But there is something unique about sitting in someone’s home. There is a deeper connection. To the missionary, it deepens their fellowship with the individual because that person now understands, to a limited degree, what their lives are like, where they are living, what their ministries look like, and so much more. Like I mentioned earlier, the very task of sitting in their living room and having a cup of coffee fills their sails and launches them forward. It will provide the boost of encouragement that they desperately need.
2) The individual who travels to visit the missionary will be better equipped with knowledge and experience to be an advocate for the missionary.
There is an immeasurable difference in knowing about a place through pictures versus actually experiencing it firsthand. If you have only seen the Grand Canyon through pictures you may be able to describe its majesty in part, but your description will lack the conviction of that of the individual that has hiked its trails, gazed over the vast expanses, and experienced the magnitude of the location first-hand. After you have sat in the car with the missionary, traveled to their local grocery store (if they have one), and experienced life as they experience it day in and day out, you will be better equipped to pray more effectively, promote more intensely, and minister to them in a much deeper way.
3) Visiting missionaries changes your life and furthers shapes and develops your Biblical worldview.
The magnitude of change that God will effect in the heart, mind, and soul of an individual that travels overseas on a short-term trip is almost unmeasurable. As you get to see the realities of the national people first-hand, your heart will break for them. As you consider the depths of depravity that they are living in and the lostness of their situation, your burden for the lost and the weight of the urgency of the Gospel will explode to new heights. Your passion for God and for His people will also increase. In the end, God will produce a deep level of sanctification in you and you will be brought to a closer likeness of Christ.
Train4Missions.com is a ministry Pastor Mike Thiemann runs to help equip and train missionaries and senders on all topics of long-term overseas service. Pastor Mike and his wife Erin serve State-side as full-time missionaries through Saving Grace World Missions and raise their own missionary support. If you would like to partner with Pastor Mike and Erin to help them further the ministry of Missions Training, please click the “ways to give” image below. Also, you can access their website by going to sgwm.com/thiemann.