Supporting Missionaries

by Neal Pirolo
Posted on 1st March 2004

I grew up in a church that believed in missions. Pictures of families in far-away placed lined our foyer wall. Each had their names, country of ministry and the amount of money we were giving. When a missionary came to our church (not very often because of our small size), he would tell of the great and glorious exploits being accomplished in Jesus' Name (and usually his). For those of us not "called" to go, we thought the best we could do was to say, "Good-bye."

As I became an adult and began reading my Bible, I was surprised to read of the care that Paul, a missionary of the First Century, continually asked for in his letters to churches. By the time he wrote to the Church in Rome, he had been on several missionary journeys. Yet, in Chapter One and twice repeated in Chapter Fifteen, this seasoned missionary said he needed their encouragement. Yes, he would encourage them when he came (and this is what we expect missionaries to do), but he also needed their encouragement.

He also received logistic support. Reading Acts 19 and 20, you can clearly see that someone had to find the ship to take them to the next port so Paul could reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. Then, again, Paul asked Timothy to come before winter. Paul had forgotten to take his coat with him. "Please bring it, Timothy. Also the books, but if you don't have room for everything, at least bring the Parchments." "No man at war gets himself entangled in the affairs of daily living," Paul told Timothy. Other members of the missions team can attend to these matters.

Financial support? Of course, money is a part of missionary care. For, "no man goes to war at his own expense," Paul said. And what commendations he had for the Church at Philippi! "You have been partners with me from the very beginning." Later in the Letter he said (in response to their generous financial gift), "My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory!"

Paul's continual request for prayer stands above all other expressions of need for care. Sometimes it was simply, "Pray with me...." Other times it became a passionate appeal, for prayer invades the spiritual. Daily, intercessory, maintaining the "hedge of protection" prayer is needed by every missionary.

Without the aid of computers and cell or satellite phones, Paul maintained an amazing degree of contact with people and churches. David, as used to mobility as he was, longed for a drink of water - not just any water - but from the well at the gate of his hometown. And today, as culturally adaptive as a missionary may be, there is that need for connectiveness with his home culture.

When Jesus stood on the Mount of Ascension and said, "As you are going...," He never said anything about coming home. However, His men came back to Him. And most missionaries do come home. Again, the Bible gives us our model for helping a missionary on this most difficult of transitions. Acts 14:26-28 and Acts 15:35 give us the five steps to a healthy reentry. Because the missionary is going through the stress, he needs a team of people to help him.

Unfortunately, this is the weakest link in the weakest area of the missions process. Mission agencies "hide" their casualties; churches are glibly ignorant of them. For all the "press" that "member care" is beginning to receive, there is still a great need for education and getting-out-there-and-doing-it action. Missionaries are too valuable to lose. Learn and do! For His glory!

Neal Pirolo is an author and the founder and director of Emmaus Road International, a ministry based in California, USA. For the past 30 years Neal has either ministered cross-culturally or has been involved in training others for cross-cultural ministry. His books include
'Serving as Senders: How To Care For Your Missionaries' &
'The Re-entry Team: Caring For Your Returning Missionaries', both available through OSCAR.