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Your financial commitment to the missionaries you or your church support is, at the end of the day, what makes their mission service possible. While your generosity is so vital to mission globally, there are a few ways you can support missionaries beyond financial gifts. That’s why a sampling of missionaries and mission partners shared with us what they wish you as their supporters knew about their service and the relationship they hope to have with you. Here are four things your missionaries wish you knew:

Your prayer and encouragement are invaluable.

This might not come as a surprise, but prayers, notes, emails, and words of encouragement are life sustaining for missionaries.

RCA missionary Nathan Brownell, serving in Japan with his wife, Nozomi, shared, “I wish our supporters could know how encouraging it is to know that they have our back. We have enough to worry about … but knowing that you are praying for and supporting us helps give us the strength to carry on no matter what the circumstances. The best thing our supporters can do is pray for us by name and country and for our families.”

Not sure what to pray about or what to send as a note of encouragement? Begin by asking your missionaries what they are excited about or what they are discouraged about. This will give you a simple starting point to guide your prayers.

In our conversations with missionaries, there was also a unanimous agreement that missionaries still love receiving cards, letters, Zoom call invitations, text messages, and Facebook messages. These forms of communication are vital to their well-being as they serve globally. You don’t have to have the perfect words—your act of reaching out is often encouraging enough!

Missionaries want to know you personally and be part of your church.

Missionaries see themselves as an extension of your church’s ministry—and they hope you do, too! They want to get to know you better and feel like they are truly a part of your church body. “We are always reaching out for individual contact with our supporters,” said RCA missionaries Doug and Dianne McClintic. “We would love to meet new people in our supporting churches!”

Nathan Brownell shared a similar sentiment; “We very much appreciate your cards or emails. If the Lord speaks to you about us, please feel free to share that with us in your emails. We might also be blessed by a short video clip greeting from some of the mission committees or some active church members.”

One way to create stronger connections is to invite your missionaries to Zoom or video conference into a worship service, mission team meeting, Bible study, or any other small gathering your church may have. When in-person visits aren’t an option or are few and far between, utilizing technology—even if it’s just a short call—is a simple way to invite your missionary into your community. If a call is difficult to set up because of time zones or connection challenges, start by asking your missionary what would make them feel like they belong to your church body. They will be so glad you did!

They want you to know about their current context but also what they might miss about their country of origin.

It may seem natural to ask a new missionary on the field about their new context, what people are like, how they get around, or how their food tastes. But it’s easy to forget that seasoned missionaries are still navigating a culture that may be quite different from their country or culture of origin—especially when it comes to religion.

Brownell shared, “I wish our supporters would feel free to ask questions like, ‘Now that you have been serving overseas in Japan for 14 years, is there anything you now feel like you might have taken for granted growing up in the Christian faith in the U.S.?’ and perhaps, similarly, ‘What do you miss most about the U.S.?’” Brownell explains that he suggests asking these questions because it allows him to encourage his sisters and brothers back home to be confident in the faith. “Having lived now approximately 14 years outside of the U.S., I have a range of experiences which cause me to remember and to cherish more the goodness of the faith in Christ in which those of the Reformed Church raised me. I, for one, am grateful because knowing Jesus has made all the difference in my life,” said Brownell.

It can also be a kind gesture to ask your missionary what treats or luxuries they may miss from their country of origin. If their answers are products accessible to you, consider sending a care package of their favorite indulgences.

There are stories they want to share that might not make it in a standard missionary update.

When you’re sharing an update with a friend you haven’t seen in several months, you’re bound to forget to share some of the everyday details that may seem mundane but are actually important. The same can be true for missionaries who are updating you every few months.

Take time to reach out and ask your missionary some of the big questions, like what their favorite story from serving on the field has been or what is the craziest thing they have experienced or seen, but also ask about the small details, too. Ask your missionary about a dish they’ve tried lately or if there are new people they’ve met recently. Follow up on a previous conversation or ask for more information about a story they shared in an update. These little steps will continue to build your relationship and strengthen the ministry and mission you do together.

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Kelli Gilmore

Kelli Gilmore is the communication coordinator for RCA Global Mission.