Several years ago a man spoke at our church. He had just lost his daughter in a car accident, yet his focus remained on the Lord Jesus Christ and the work he had been called to do. He was a missionary to missionaries, encouraging and helping them. These verses remind me of what he said . . .
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 5–8)
I cannot always support missionary efforts with money, yet I can support them in prayer, and in keeping contact through letters and email. One couple working in Africa told me how much my letters meant to them. They also said they got more letters from me than from their families back home.
Personal support is important, hence the man who spoke about his work. However, he emphasized the importance of prayer and offered an outline that I’ve used for many years when praying for my missionary friends. It is easy to remember and covers the major issues missionaries face.
GRACE: to adjust to culture shock. This is a big struggle in the beginning, but even those who have been in another country long enough to feel it is their home will continue to encounter differences in cultural thinking and practice. Grace is needed to understand these differences so they will not become a barrier. More important, grace is vital so as to know which practices are not vital and which must be challenged and changed because of the gospel. A tribe in the jungle must give up cannibalism, but they don’t need to wear t-shirts and play soccer.
LOVE: for those they serve. Christian love is like the love of Christ — making sacrifices for the sake of others. Merely going into a difficult place is a sacrifice, but there is also a need for love in the daily stuff. One missionary told me that her greatest challenge was the way people dropped in for a visit anytime of the day and without concern that she had work to do. Those interruptions required the love of Christ.
SUBMISSION: to coworkers and to their sending agency. Getting along with other believers and respecting authority are significant commandments in the Bible, probably because these are effective ways to witness to the power of the gospel. God changes us from independent thinkers to members of His family, the body of Christ. We are to act like Jesus when He said, “Not my will, but thine be done” — without resentment or as a sense of duty — whether at home or in a mission field.
DEVOTION: to the Lord. This means not letting the busyness and demands of the task prevent missionary workers from quality time with God in study, prayer, listening, deepening their relationship with the One who is their source of grace, love, and submission. Of all prayer requests, this one is the most important. As Jesus said, His people must abide in Him, for apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Chambers says “The key to missionary devotion means being attached to nothing and no one saving Our Lord Himself, not being detached from things externally. Our Lord was amazingly in and out among ordinary things . . . .”
Jesus kept His focus on the will of His Father. He knew His mission, but He also ‘ate and drank with sinners.’ He had His heart set on the goal, but did not neglect any moment of the day. For Him, nothing was considered unimportant.
For me, knowing the will of God is important in praying for missionaries. It is also important in my own life, whether in Christian service or in ordinary daily life. Like them, I’m to let my devotion to Him dominate everything I do. It is the only way that the Holy Spirit can use ordinary people like us to praise and glorify God in this very needy world.