Help a missionary stay on the field by asking questions
A couple of years ago I wrote about Brenda Bosch’s survey project to determine what missionaries felt were their top stressors. These are the twelve that head her list. I’ve come up with a list of questions you can use to help you interact with your missionary friends in a profoundly meaningful way.
Stressor #1: Financial Pressure
Question #1: How is your support level these days?
- Do you have any specific needs that I can help supply?
- Could you use my help in raising additional support?
Stressor #2: Overwork
Question #2: Did you take a sabbath rest this week?
- When is the last time you and your family took a few days off?
- If I were to arrange for the finances, where could I send you for a vacation?
Stressor #3: Language barriers
Question #3: How is language study coming along?
- Is there a particular biblical concept that you need to learn how to communicate that I can pray about?
- What do you still need in order to be able to communicate on a heart level?
Stressor #4: Maintaining spiritual disciplines
Question #4: Have you been able to spend meaningful time in the Word this week?
- Do you read the Bible mostly for information, or for the pleasure of connecting with the Father?
- Are your prayers mostly intercession, or do you practice “listening prayer”?
Stressor #5: Cultural stress
Question #5: What about your host culture is the most difficult for you to cope with?
- What do you think God wants you to learn from your host culture?
- What would you appreciate receiving from home that would help take the edge off your culture stress?
Stressor #6: Being under-staffed
Question #6: What specifically can I ask God to supply for your staffing needs?
- Is there anything I could come do on a short-term basis?
- Could you use some tools or advice that would help you manage your limited resources more effectively?
Stressor #7: Feeling inadequate
Question #7: In what ways do you feel like you’re in over your head, that I can be praying about?
- What would you need in order to be more effective in your work?
- How has God been your sufficiency during these times?
Stressor #8: Conflict with co-workers
Question #8: How are you getting along with your co-workers?
- How can I pray that God will change you in relating to your co-workers?
- What do you think God is wanting to teach you through these difficulties?
Stressor #9: Concerns about aging parents
Question #9: How is your mom/dad doing these days?
- Do you have siblings that help care for your parents?
- Is there anything I can do for your folks?
Stressor #10: Needs of children
Question #10: How are your kids doing these days?
- Do you need any educational materials that I could send?
- Could I help arrange a Skype session between your kids and their grandparents?
Stressor #11: Leadership styles
Question #11: How are things between you and your leadership these days?
- What part of your character do you think God might be working on?
- What aspects of their leadership style could you learn from and adopt?
Stressor #12: Loneliness
Question #12: How has God been reminding you of his presence lately?
- What helps you to feel connected to the rest of us?
- When can we arrange for your advocate team to connect on Skype?
These are by no means all of the stresses that missionaries face. And they are not necessarily ranked in any way. Don’t expect your missionary friends to bring these things up. They’ve got 10,000 other things to deal with on top of their communications. (OK, that may be an exageration. They probably have more like a million other things to do.) The point is that you need to start the conversation. You will bless them in unimaginable ways by showing such a deep interest in their personal well-being.
Have not, to be honest, thought too much about these issues, Julie. Would you email these to me? Easier for me to print out that way. Hope to see you soon. God bless and keep you.
Looking forward to reading more from Paracletos.
Thanks Haugers! We hope we can bless you in some way. Where do you serve?
These 12 missionary stressors are good and on-target. And putting them in question form is a great idea. Love the ‘Bonus Questions’. BUT, these are deep and sensitive subjects requiring TRUST, acceptance, and understanding. Missionaries can be cautious on how much to reveal to others, especially supporters. Expectations of missionaries are often unrealistic. Missionary vulnerabilities and struggles can bring criticism. So, while asking these questions, be willing to learn. Be supportive, loving, accepting, and encouraging of all answers. As the relationship develops, deeper sharing follows.
I really appreciate your comment, Mary Beth. The kind of relationship you describe is foundational to effective missionary care. That is precisely why it often falls short or fails altogether when it is merely a program within an organization. Thank you so much for weighing in.