Love Them

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As a wrap-up to the series “How to Support Missionaries,” I decided to ask my friend Vince to write what it looks like to support missionaries from his perspective – the perspective of one who does it, not just talks about it. He and his wife Sharon love, care for, encourage, support, and pray for missionaries just about better than anyone I know. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy the very poignant words of Mr. Vince Rice.

As I came out of the church where my grandmother’s funeral was held, I was wiped out. It had been a whirlwind weekend; Mimi had passed away Thursday night, and it had been nonstop since then for all of the immediate family. There had been eulogies to write for the paper, a funeral to plan, contacts to be made for said funeral, and so on. If you’ve lost a loved one, you know all that’s involved. In addition to the small part I had in the above, I had ended up speaking at the funeral.1

Coming out of the doors, I had a discombobulated moment as I ran into almost the entire ministry staff from our church. My first thought was, “Wait, we’re at her church, what are they doing here?” In my addled state, I probably indelicately asked them the same thing (“What are you doing here?”), and a dear friend on staff said they’d been in staff meeting close to Mimi’s church and just decided to come on over.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that very simple gesture. It was completely unexpected, and therefore all the more meaningful. It was unannounced, and therefore all the more touching. It was unnecessary, and therefore all the more memorable. If it wasn’t the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me, it’s in the running.

Which brings us to missionaries.

MacKenzie has been writing a series on “How To Support Missionaries”, found here, here, and here, and she asked me to write a guest post from the other side of the fence, as someone who supports missionaries2. She has talked about supporting missionaries with your money, with your prayers, and with your time. Let me sum it up for you in a different way.

Love them.

American culture has had a horrible effect on our understanding of love. Rom com’s and bad pop songs and horrid teenage vampire novels have taught us that love is an emotion, that it comes and goes where it wills and we have no control over it, that when it comes to matters of the heart we have to ignore our head. Ironically, a great pop3 song reminds us of the reality — luv is a verb.

Remember what you learned about verbs back in middle school? They’re action words. If love (or luv) is a verb and a verb is an action word, the transitive property4 tells us love is an action word. Love isn’t feeling something, love is doing something.

So if your mental response to “We need to love them” was, “I do love them!” then my response is, “Great, what are you doing about it?”

“What can I do about it,” you ask? Well, MacKenzie’s already told you, but I’ll tell you again.

Send them money

Jesus told us a truth that is still overlooked, even (or especially) in churches. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That is, our heart follows our money, not the other way around. Do you want your heart to be somewhere? Send your money there. Do you want your heart to be with the poor and oppressed? Send your money to them, or to people helping them. Do you want your heart (or more of your heart) to be with your friends on the mission field? Send your money (or more of your money) there.

No excuses. “We don’t have…” Yes you do. “You haven’t seen…” Trust me, I have. And worse. Here’s something I’ve observed hundreds of times — if someone has a heart to give to others, God makes it possible for them to do so. Ask the Lord what you should give and then give it. Don’t do the math, He invented math and He can make two plus two equal eighteen if He wants to.

Send them prayers

This is another area where America has done Christandom a huge disservice. All of us Type-A’s5 are task-oriented. Praying’s not a task to us. Praying’s what we do when we don’t have any other tasks to do. Praying is the last resort. Praying is what happens in our down time. Praying is what the women do while the men are making things happen.

Praying is none of that. Prayer is the work. Without prayer, all the money doesn’t matter. “Apart from Me, you can do most anything.” “Apart from Me, you can do what you can raise money to do.” “Apart from Me, you can do what the committee allows you to do.”

Apart from Me, you can do N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

In addition to that, prayer works kind of like our money. We will care about the things we pray about. Want to care more about your missionary friends? Pray for them. Pray for the things they’re praying for. Pray for the people they’re praying for. You’ll find yourself communicating with them more often — you want to know what’s happening with the things you’re praying about. And they’ll feel more refreshed and more energized and more empowered.

Send them yourself

Go visit them. Get off your … derriere … and go see them. Get some first-hand experience of what their life looks like now. You’re never going to understand from letters and skypes and texts and photographs and blog posts. You think those give you understanding, but they don’t.

We don’t understand what it’s like to live life where a big church service is twenty people. We don’t understand what it’s like to live life where we have the language skills of a third-grader. We don’t understand what it’s like to live with unfamiliar food, with unfamiliar customs, with unfamiliar people. We don’t understand what it means to live every day as a complete outsider. Reading about it and hearing about it simply isn’t enough. We need to experience it, with them.

Trust me, I know first-hand how much you will learn that you would never have learned otherwise, things unsaid by them, things too overwhelming for words for them, things sometimes unknown by them. Go. Listen. Learn.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side… And together we’ll spread the news that God is in their land

But this isn’t all about the missionaries.6 There’s something in it for you, too. Joy. Wonder. Excitement. A greatly expanded world view. A deeper awareness of how God is at work everywhere. The opportunity to be involved in God’s kingdom expanding not just where you are, but where they are.

Ten years ago, my wife and I had never been on a short-term mission trip. Today, we’ve been on over a dozen between us. In addition, we’ve visited various of our “kids” in Italy and Cambodia and South Carolina, and hope to get hip in Portland in the not too distant future. We get updates from those kids and other missionary friends from literally around the world, including places I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you. Reading those newsletters and blogs, videoing7 with them, praying for them — it brings an ineffable sense of … well, joy and wonder and excitement. And community. One of the miracles of the Interwebs is that we can be in community with someone on the other side of the world.

Back to them. I told you the story about Mimi’s funeral because that’s the feeling a missionary gets when they receive an unexpected letter, or a visit from a friend, or a series of prayers over an extended period of time. They remember it. They take courage from it. Their faith, and spirit, is enlarged by it. And that translates directly to their effectiveness in doing what God has called them to do.

There are two cliches about distant relationships: absence makes the heart grow fonder, and out of sight, out of mind. My experience is that the former is a cliche but the latter is true. 100% of the missionaries I know have experienced the latter, even by their closest friends and family.

Love them.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.


  1. I’m not completely clear on how that happened. After I had volunteered the fifteenth thing while her pastor was talking to the family to prepare what he would share at the funeral, I suspect he thought asking me to speak there might shut me up in the short term. It worked, as far as I remember. 
  2. My wife and I have ten “kids” on the mission field, which include Paul and MacKenzie. We also know another half-dozen or so other singles/families on mission in various places around the world. 
  3. Rock? Hip-hop? All of the above? 
  4. Wow, english and math in one paragraph. And you thought all that schooling was wasted. 
  5. You think it’s a coincidence America starts with an A? 
  6. It is, but let’s pretend it’s not for a moment. 
  7. That’s a generic term, can include facetiming, skyping, etc. 

How to Support Missionaries, Part 3: Investing

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I recently had the opportunity to go to a women’s retreat in northern Italy with about 11 other women from a different organization but most of whom I know. This was the second year I have been invited to go, and it could not have come at a better time.

I was becoming weary and worn.

I needed rest.

I needed to be with friends without any obligations or responsibilities.

I needed a break. From cooking and cleaning and school. From life.

And as I walked through the lush, green fields with the sun shining warm on my face or sat with a friend talking about marriages and children while sipping a steaming cup of coffee or played games in a cozy living room with a fire roaring inside and a storm howling outside, I rested. Deep in my bones rested.

That weekend was made possible through the efforts of several, but the no cooking and gifts from America (think lots of Bath and Body Work!) were made possible because three ladies from a church in Fayetteville, Tennessee, came to serve us. They prepared all our meals and cleaned up afterwards. They brought us notes from other women in their church who are praying for us. They brought American “goodies” that we do not get to indulge ourselves in here (I mentioned the Bath and Body Works, right?). They served us. And in serving us, breathed energy and rest and peace into our weary souls.

One of these women, Mrs. Sherry, organizes all of the food and notes and gifts and treats. This was her third time to come. She has invested in the women serving here and their families. She knows about our families and our lives. And we know about hers. She cares about us. She loves us. She prays for us.

In serving us, they are serving our families and our ministries. I came home rested and ready to go. And though I didn’t knowit at the time, I was going to need to be rested for what awaited me when I got back home.

When you invest in the lives of missionaries, you make a lasting impact not only in their lives but in their ministries. You are helping keep them sustained.

There are not many ministering to the missionary, who are constantly pouring out. Being able to “fill your tank” yourself is an important skill missionaries have but sometimes you need someone to fill it for you. When the tank gets low and all that is keeping you going is fumes, there is a need for being filled up. I am not saying that people take the place of God. I am saying that this is an aspect of “missions” that is overlooked by the majority of churches. I have seen so many friends who are just burnt out. They are tired and worn and weary. Spiritual warfare is real and if you don’t believe it then you haven’t been overseas. And when you are in that atmosphere day in and day out, you get beat down. This is when having people who are invested in you is so important. You can reread a letter, or look up an old text, or even eat a spoonful of something delicious from home and have the feeling that somebody is in the fight with you, going before you to the LORD on your behalf.

Choose to invest in missionaries. Because this is a big task, it’s advisable to prayerfully consider in how many you can truly invest. Whether it’s one or ten, I guarantee that you will benefit from it as much as the missionaries.

So what could this possibly look like??

Here are some ideas:

Send them and their children letters and packages. Sometimes a hand-written note or a favorite snack will keep that missionary going strong for another 3 months. I have cried over Welch’s Fruit Snacks that were sent to the kids…and I may have cried into a few packs as well. They just taste so stinkin’ good. Thanks Welch’s.

Call them. Set up Skype or Facetime appointments. IT’S FREE.

Send them a text. There are many free texting apps. We use WhatsApp.

Go visit them in their host country in order to serve them. Ask them before you go how you can do this. But some examples of things you might consider offeringare the following: babysitting their kids for a weekend so mom and dad can get away (F.Y.I. babysitters don’t exist for most of us, especially if we have no teammates); offer a guys or gals weekend for a group of missionaries where you show up and do everything and the missionaries relax; offer to do childcare for a team retreat; if you are a counselor, offer to do some counseling (this can also be done via the interwebs); for couples, clean their house and cook so BOTH parents can give their children undivided attention; for folks with kids, show up and play with the kids.

Making the conscience choice to invest in missionaries helps keep them encouraged, makes them feel loved, and gives them the knowledge that they are prayed for by specific people…and in doing this it helps further the kingdom.

And who knows, you might just get a return on that invest one day.

How to Support Missionaries, Part 2: Prayer

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Part one of how to support missionaries is all about financial support, and in case you are interested and missed it, you can read about it here.

This post is about the most important thing way you can support missionaries, or anybody for that matter – by praying for them and the people they are living among.

Prayer is the greatest weapon we have at our disposal. Think about it. What is prayer? Prayer is coming before God with our requests, petitions, supplications. We can read that and keep on going along our merry way or we can stop and let it sink in to our bones. We have the privilege, given to us by God’s good grace through Christ, to come before the LORD God , requesting Him to move, to act, to answer not just on our behalf but on the behalf of others. There is no god that man worships that when they call on his/her name responds, except Yahweh.

While, money helps missionaries stay “on the field” and do the work, prayer is what gets the work done. Prayers for the Holy Spirit to work, awaken, move, cultivate, sanctify are what make the difference, in my humble opinion, between the Gospel being spread and received like seeds that are sown on good soil versus the Gospel falling on deaf or unwilling ears, like seeds that are sown on the side of the road or among the thorns. We can preach, teach, share, disciple all day but unless the Holy Spirit moves in a person there will be no life change. These are the prayers missionaries are praying – it’s what we plead with Him to do – to change peoples’ lives.

The apostle Paul understood the importance of prayer and wrote much about it.

To the Romans, he wrote:

Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;  so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company.”*  Romans 15:30-32

Paul urged the Ephesian church to pray for all the “saints” and also for him, that he might speak the gospel with boldness:

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel….”* Ephesians 6:18-19

He again asked the church in Philippi to pray for deliverance:

“…for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ….”*Philippians 1:19

He asked for  prayer for an open door to preach the gospel from the Colossians church:

“…praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned….”* Colossians 4:3

The writer of Hebrews asked for prayers on his and others behalf that they might be honorable in all their conduct.

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.”* Hebrews 13:18

Perhaps our greatest example of praying for others can be found in John 17 as the Son prays to the Father on the behalf of the disciples and all who would believe in Him because of the words the disciples preached.

I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth….I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”* John 17

There are days when you feel the prayers of others. It covers you like a warm blanket. I love getting messages from people that let me know they are praying for me that day. It encourages me, lifts me, and reminds me to pray for others.

Prayer is what keeps us going, keeps us sustained.

There is just nothing more powerful than people fighting the fight with you through prayer.

So stay on your knees. Life change depends on it.


*italics added

Dear Volunteer Teams

Dear Volunteer Teams,

We are anxiously awaiting your arrival this spring and summer and maybe even fall. It is so great to see friends (and make new ones) from America. You are such a big part of what we do. We love that you want to be a part of the work that God is doing in our cities and with the people we have grown to love.

There are some things that you could do, or not do in some cases, that would make your time spent with us even more incredible. Please let me share with you a list of some things that might be helpful to keep in mind.

  1. Pray. Pray like lives depend on it…because they just might. Prayer is the most important thing you can possibly do in any situation. We so often say, “Well, all we can do is pray,” as if it is the last resort. If you have not bathed each other, the missionaries, and the people you are going to in prayer weeks and maybe even months beforehand individually and as a group, then just don’t even bother getting on the plane or in the van.
  2. Get to know the people, city, and culture you are going to serve. It doesn’t matter if you are going to the next city over or the next continent. Do some research so you can better understand where and to whom you are going.
  3. Try your best to learn a little of the language if you are going to a country that doesn’t speak English. It doesn’t have to be a lot, although being able to have good conversations with people doesn’t hurt. There is something about you trying to speak their language that will open people up most of the time.
  4. Get to know the missionaries if you don’t already, and even if you know them talk to them. Regularly. Let them get to know you, your strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Ask the missionaries what the needs are and then determine the skills sets of the team and how those skills can be utilized to meet the needs. Communicate this to the missionary so they can best use your team. See #4.
  6. If the missionaries have children, play with them. We know our kids are getting a life that we never thought possible. They will know the world in a much different way than we do. I love that. But we also know they miss out on some things. So you hanging out with them is one of the most loving things you can do for them and their parents.
  7. When you are hanging out with the missionary kids, please don’t refer to America as “home”. It is not. There home is where their parents and siblings are and that is not America. They have little to no concept of American culture, so please don’t embarrass them when they don’t know what something is or if they don’t know the English word for something. Their first language might not be English.
  8. Be Flexible. I’ve never served on a volunteer team or worked with one where every thing went as planned. Plans will change. You can bet on it. One difference between good and bad teams is good teams have good attitudes with changes come versus bad teams complaining and grumbling when changes come. My favorite team to serve with went to Cuba. When I tell you plans changed, I don’t just mean daily…it was hourly. And yet, not one word of complaint from anybody. Just how can we make this work with what we have.
  9. If you are using a translator, don’t look at the translator when you are actually having a conversation with someone else. This is a small, practical thing, I know, but it is hard to do. Forget the translator is there and just talk to the other person. Translators are used to it. They are meant to be heard…not seen, so to speak. On the flip side, be nice to the translators. They may or may not be believers. Spend time getting to know them. Let them know how much you appreciate them giving their time to help you. They might just be able to teach you a few words or phrases along the way as well if you ask real nice. See #3.
  10. Do not go with your own agenda or thinking you know it all. Some of the worst teams I’ve worked with have had their own agenda and/or thought they knew how to better minister to the people I lived with everyday though they had never, ever not for a minute lived with them. These teams did not care one iota what the needs were and how they could help meet those needs. You’ll have a miserable time and you might not get invited back.
  11. Go ready to serve and learn. If walls need painting, paint them. If the missionary needs help deep cleaning the house, start scrubbing. If English lessons need to be taught, start planning a lesson. If leaders in a church need training, be well-prepared. Not s0-great teams do the opposite of this. See #10.
  12. You are not on vacation. The missionary is not a tour guide or concierge. Seeing the sites should be a bonus, not the focus of the trip. Just think of this clip from Star Wars: Episode IV if you ever feel like you are losing focus of why you are there, check this out.
  13. Don’t measure results by what you can see and/or touch. We often get sucked into the belief that if we can not count or visibly see results from a trip then it has been a failure. But some of the most important things cannot be seen or measured. One of these things, that often times gets overlooked, is pouring into the missionaries. Sending a team with the sole purpose of doing this, just loving and serving them, has results that last long after you leave. It keeps them going, refueling them to do the work they are there to do. I’ve lasted a whole year from just two teams last spring who while serving Nuova Vita Church in countless ways, also served and loved us  very well. To know that people care enough about your overall well being that they are willing to spend their time and money to teach you, love you, serve you, take care of you, and get to know your people and home…ooohhh, this means so very much and does much for the psyche.
  14. Don’t eat the American food at the missionaries’ house. Oh mercy. I don’t care if they tell you to make yourself at home and help yourself, DON’T. If you can find it on a grocery store shelf in your hometown, don’t touch it. Again, you might not get invited back next year.
  15. Remember it is not about you. See #2, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a few things to take into consideration. Again, the church in America is a vital part of what we do and we want to share it with you. So please come. Help. Serve. Let us introduce you to the city we call home and the people we love. Just don’t eat our peanut butter.

Sincerely,

MacKenzie