Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13, ESV).
Lori met her missionary after being invited to a friend's home to hear their vision and calling. As she sat in her friend's living room with several other guests, the missionary shared stories of changed lives and photos of what God was doing overseas through their work. Lori was amazed to hear of the people groups being reached.
She was hooked. She had to be a part of this.
Lori decided that night to partner with a monthly financial gift. But for her, that just wasn't enough. She craved further involvement, so she boldly asked the missionary couple if she could visit overseas and minister to them for a week. They gladly agreed, and Lori spent a week blessing this husband and wife by filing, doing housework, babysitting, and treating them to a long-needed date night. Lori blessed the entire family and went home fulfilled, intent on arranging the same trip next year.
While you may not have time to travel, you'll find plenty of other ways to invest in missions beyond your wallet. Nothing boosts the morale of missions workers more than someone sacrificing time or energy to perform little acts of love and care.
Prayer is a powerful gift for missionaries. Many would concur that intercession can do much more for Christian workers than your checkbook ever could. If your missionary doesn't already provide you with prayer requests, ask him or her to send you some. Ask for personal and ministry-related prayer points. Every so often, a handwritten note will encourage your missionary. No doubt they will respond with updates not normally included in the mass newsletters.
Few things are sweeter to a missionary (especially those living overseas) than a care package from home. One missionary recalls receiving a thoughtful package containing a very simple grocery item they couldn't get in the country they lived—Oreos.
When it comes to mailing perishables, each country has different entry laws. Some keep food in containment for several weeks before allowing delivery to the recipient. A simple box of cereal or favorite candy bar will be remembered for years. Things like this stand out to missionaries, but check the country's procedures before mailing food items.
If your missionary has young children, don't forget them too. A small toy or kid's magazines can be a real treat. Bath salts for Mom or coffee for Dad will be gratefully received. If your missionary lives or visits stateside, consider a manicure, movie tickets, or a restaurant certificate.
A word of caution about sending opened or half-used items you've found around your house. Supporters do this more often than you'd realize. While some think it would be a treasured item for the recipient, it can appear as if someone just cleaned their junk drawer or pantry, tossed it in a box, and mailed it. Leftovers send the wrong message. Remember, Scripture says a laborer deserves his/her wages (1 Timothy 5:18). Honor these workers by offering items that reflect the value we place on individuals for their sacrifice.
To clarify, not all used items are unwanted. Slightly used electronics can be an answer to prayer. When Tom and Janet moved back to the U.S., a long-time faithful supporter gave them a used car. It was an unexpected blessing and they would have spent thousands had the Lord not moved upon someone to be bighearted.
In Florida, several missionary families at Pioneers, Cru®, and Wycliffe Bible Translators benefit from the lavish favor of Susan, a local realtor. She owns a beach house. If it's not already booked, she allows missionaries to retreat there. It's her way of blessing the Lord's laborers.
Sean experienced his supporters' love and care for him when they offered to host a cookout, allowing friends to hear about his work. He asked the host to inform guests up front that he would ask for money after his presentation. That way no one felt ambushed.
While the guests enjoyed their food, he spent 30 minutes sharing his vision for reaching the lost with exciting stories of individuals whose lives were transformed by Christ. Then he ended with an appeal and a response card. These cards keep the giving private. He spent another half-hour hanging out and being relational. To Sean, his host was a hero who made a way for him to meet several potential supporters.
Hospitality can be an amazing gift to the Lord's servants.
After speaking to the church about the needs of his African orphanage, 58-year-old Robert felt exhausted. He had driven three hours in hopes of adding this congregation to the list of donors.
The pastor handed him an envelope. "We collected quite a nice offering for you. We added a little something in there to help for your trip home, too."
Robert smiled and hugged the pastor, thanking him. A chatty couple invited Robert to stay the night. "Let us save you a few bucks. You can crash at our place."
Robert was grateful, but he had to follow them 45 minutes out into the country. They talked late into the night until Robert—hoping he didn't seem rude—finally admitted he must say goodnight. Thanking his hosts for everything, he retired to the guest bedroom. A naked light bulb glared from the ceiling. A bicycle, several boxes and a wheelbarrow decorated the otherwise-bare room. On the floor next to a well-used cat litter box was a blow-up pool raft and a blanket.
Then, remembering the envelope in his pocket, he drew it out and examined its contents—a check for $50 and some BOGO coupons for a local buffet. Robert flopped down on the raft, his shoulders hanging over each side of the narrow toy. Although he was grateful the people in this city were kind, he decided it would be his last visit to this town.
Four states away in another little town, a different story was unfolding.
Amanda and Kyle were thankful one of their financial partners offered to let them stay in their furnished basement all week while they raised more funds. As they entered the bedroom, a lit candle glowed. A basket containing bottled water, snacks and a new blank journal sat on the end table. In the bathroom—next to a small vase of wildflowers—freshly folded towels and personal-sized soaps and lotions greeted them. Amazed, Kyle grabbed his wife's hand.
Amanda smiled. "Unbelievable! I feel like royalty."
Itinerating requires travel. Road trips are a necessary part of being a career missionary. It's vital to nurture relationships and share what God has done since they last visited.
Hotels and fast food get old quickly. Lodging missionaries in your home not only blesses them, but enriches your life too. As you expose yourself and your family to these ministers of the Lord, hearing their amazing stories, you'll experience a deeper understanding of their lives and calling. It increases your faith and stirs your heart to fulfill the Great Commission.
If you're gifted with hospitality like Kyle and Amanda's friends, the opportunity will present itself. This is your chance to shine, using your gift to refresh and minister to your guests.
But don't be offended if the traveler declines. After being "on" for several days, they may crave the solitude a hotel provides. It's nothing personal.