Since my deputation ministry began in 2004 I have visited hundreds of Churches and shared my ministry countless times, these are always a huge encouragement to me, but occasionally you have an “Awesome Church Meeting.” The kind that you write about in the monthly prayer letter, share with other Missionaries, and use as motivation when things aren’t going that well.
I had one of those awesome experiences a few weeks ago and probably will never forget it. The weird thing is what truly ministered to my heart was not what you may think. It wasn’t the fact that an individual took me on for financial support (and others are considering it), the twelve individuals who signed up to receive my ministry updates, or how the Lord used my testimony to touch lives.
It wasn’t the glorious T-bone steak, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese lunch at the Pastors house (although that really helped). It wasn’t watching the Baltimore Ravens beat the Colts while drinking Starbucks coffee after lunch. Not even the large love offering given towards my ministry.
What truly touched my heart was their genuine interest in me as a person, and the challenges I was experiencing on the field as well as my blessings. That isn’t to say the other things weren’t awesome (did I mention the T-bone steak?) but the conversation between mouthfuls of steak and sips of coffee were what truly made the difference.
There have always been financial needs in Missions but the US economic crisis along with a strengthened dollar in foreign countries, and tighter Immigration Laws makes finances a greater challenge than ever before. If I’m not careful the support that needs to be raised can become the focus of not only my ministry presentation, but also ministry (or life) itself, and by doing this I overlook the need to debrief or share the challenges that have been faced.
Missions is discouraging work on the front-lines of a spiritual battle which is why Missionaries (and all Christians for that matter) need friends or loved ones they can share their struggles with over great food and football; and if you get to be entertained during that time by a Pastors two daughters like I was, well then the day just became more awesome.
Here’s the thing…we don’t talk much about the need for Missionaries to watch football and drink coffee (within that context sharing their struggles) because the need for money or support is so great. I am not saying Churches shouldn’t support Missionaries, but only focusing on the financial side of ministry overlooks the greater need for community and friendship.
All of us whether we admit it or not go through periods of being burned out or frustrated with ministry on the mission field, the cure for this isn’t more financial support but being able to share those struggles with others who can help us grow spiritually. The Lord has blessed me with coworkers on the field and friends back home who care deeply about me as a person and when I am hurting will allow me to talk about it and give Godly advice.
Friends like this are God’s way of reminding me…sometimes I forget that Missions is spiritual warfare, and what in many cases a time of fellowship is more important than a check.