10 Ways to Really Encourage Single Missionaries
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (1 Chronicles 16:24).
Missionary work is one of the most intense and ambitious ways to serve God. It demands a heart that is passionate for growing His Kingdom and a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. Those who give of themselves in this way feel a deep sense of purpose to evangelize, often in foreign lands.
David Livingstone, a missionary to Africa during the 1800s, testified to this attitude - and it applies to those who answer the call today.
“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.”
Meeting Different Needs through Missionary Work
Traditionally, the main emphasis of missionary work was on education - teaching, translating Scripture into native languages, and building and founding new Christian churches.
“And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10).
But over time, it became clear that meeting physical needs was also meant to be an integral part of missionary work in a region. So providing medical treatment, building infrastructure such as water pumps, and training people in farming techniques are now interwoven with sharing the Good News of Christ.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).
Scriptures about Missions in the Bible
In the Old Testament, King David often called on the people to give God praise out loud so that the whole world could hear.
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalms 96:3).
Jesus Himself gave the clear command to pursue evangelism to His disciples.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations…” (Matthew 24:14).
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’” (Mark 16:15).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Within the New Testament letters and books, the theme of missionary evangelism continues.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off… For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:2-3, 47).
“‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:13-14).
“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people” (Revelation 14:6).
10 Ways to Support Single Missionaries
As thrilling as missionary work may be at times, days are usually filled with physical labor or ministering to the needs of others. To stay strong, every worker needs undergirding, a strong foundation of support to stand on. This becomes even more important when he or she is single. And beyond family, the greatest source of this support is God’s people.
Ted Engstrom, or World Vision said, "a congregation that is not deeply and earnestly involved in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel does not understand the nature of salvation."
Single missionaries face other, less-talked-about issues. For example, when they travel to less developed countries, women in particular could potentially feel a lack of respect in their new environments. And all deal with fatigue and loneliness that can lead them to doubt their decision. Ministering to a missionary at a deeper level will bring him or her the comfort and encouragement to keep working even when it gets challenging
"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity." — Mike Stachura
Here are some familiar, and a couple of more creative, ideas to support single missionaries.
During Preparation Time
"What's your dream and to what corner of the missions world will it take you?" — Eleanor Roat, missions mobilizer
1. Invite the worker to give a presentation before your church board or congregation as an opportunity to let the family get to know him - his faith life, passions and goals. To feel acknowledged and accepted in his own right will be a confidence booster.
2. Learn about the missionary’s destination and move beyond basics. Asking about topics like expectations for singles, dating customs (if they come up), or safety concerns show that you are seeing her unique circumstances. She’ll feel better understood and cared for.
3. Offer to help her learn any necessary new skills, whether it’s sewing, survival readiness, driving or practicing a different language. Meeting practical needs can give her a greater sense of her ability to handle situations on her own.
4. Set aside time to talk with him about any personal concerns when it comes to traveling or living abroad as a single person. Being available to listen, or give advice if asked, allows him a safe space to express any fears, doubts or questions that might be weighing him down, and to come up with plans.
During Time out in the Field
"In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God's work, especially the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer." — Dick Eastman, president of Every Home for Christ (formerly World Literature Crusade)
5. Put together a prayer team to respond specifically to her needs, both as a missionary and as a single person. Letting her know the names of those taking part can reassure her that she is being remembered and lifted up each day.
6. Compile a care package to send that could include usual items like his favorite non-perishable goodies, portable games, and books or music he might like. Other ideas are a Bible Study on Serving God as a Single Person, and a personal journal or sketchbook.
7. Have regular communications with her, and offer to update her social media pages. If possible, set up video chat times. And mailing cards and letters are a tangible way to show her God’s love and ease moments of loneliness.
After Returning Home
"To stay here and disobey God — I can't afford to take the consequence. I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed." — Amanda Berry Smith
8. Welcome him back with a celebration, held either in person or an online chat room. Giving him a chance to share his accomplishments, as well as what he learned along the way, gives him the opportunity to process the experience with others.
9. Offer help as she resettles. She may be feeling a little out of touch with the routines and pace of life back at home. And keeping her company will take the edge off any sense of isolation as she adjusts.
10. Stay in touch with him. Knowing he has Christian brothers and sisters who want to stay connected and informed will bolster his confidence, especially if he decides to continue serving in this way.
No matter how passionate a missionary is, following the call as a single person can sometimes feel like a daunting task. God always equips them for the work, and also gives us the chance to show them support. We can help them to know they are not alone, and are capable of great things for the Lord.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/himarkley
Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com