Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Keeping Mission Supporters informed

When I arrived in Swaziland in 1985, we were four missionaries working for the same mission organisation ( www.swazimission.co.za ) and one of the tasks which I was instructed to do was to write a newsletter once every four months to keep our supporters and others interested in the work informed about things happening. The other missionaries wrote during the other three months. 1985 was BC (Before Computers) which meant that we had to type a newsletter on an old typewriter (my kids don’t even know what a typewriter is!) and then this document had to be posted to an office in Pretoria in South Africa where it was retyped, duplicated, put into envelopes and posted to a few hundred people.
With time the system changed. Of the four missionaries I was the first to buy a computer in 1986 and we then started doing the newsletter on computer, in those early years using a program known as Wordstar and later progressing to other wordprocessors which enabled us to make the newsletter slightly more attractive. As my fellow missionaries left Swaziland, either to work in other areas or to retire, I eventually ended up having to write a newsletter every month. Getting the newsletter duplicated was not too difficult, but it became a family affair once a month to fold hundreds of newsletters and to get them into envelopes.
And then the next big step came when I started sending these newsletters via email. At present I have less than twenty people still receiving their newsletters via snail mail. What an improvement! But up to today I am glad that I was forced, in those early years, to discipline myself to send out newsletters to our supporters. As I receive and read newsletters from a selected group of missionaries that I am involved in, I realise the importance of these newsletters. All people supporting a ministry, be it morally, financially or through prayer, need (and have the right) to know that their support is making a difference. As missionaries we depend upon those people and therefore every missionary has to discipline him / herself to keep those supporters informed about the work.
As I went on my first short-term missionary outreach to Russia in 2001, a great number of people prayed for me. (Frankly, I suspect that many of them did not think that I would return home.) Stories of the persecution of Christians in Communist countries were still fresh in our minds. As I kept these people informed almost on a daily base as I prepared to go to Russia, I made a decision that, once in Russia, I would try my best to send out regular emails to all of these supporters. I was mostly thinking of sending out prayer requests but this became much more a personal diary (my first “blog” even before anyone else knew about blogs 😉
Mission is teamwork. One missionary needs a large group of people giving all kinds of support. The missionary has the responsibility to ensure that all these people are well informed of the “successes” as well as the needs. For many missionaries this may feel like a waste of precious time, but it is time well invested in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, May 22, 2008 Posted by | Mission, Partnership, Prayer, Russia, Short-term outreaches, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Swaziland Newsletters | 1 Comment

Prayer and Mission

I’m almost through with Philip Yancey’s book: Prayer: Does it make any difference? As I read the stories of great missionaries, the one thing which stands out is, first of all, their personal dedication to prayer and secondly the prayer support given to them by other people. I have learnt to be very humble when it comes to prayer, mainly because I have found no foolproof recipe that works every time. In fact, I maintain that, if I should find such a foolproof recipe, I would probably be able to convert virtually the whole world, because which person would reject a foolproof offer to change whatever they want to change, merely by praying about it? Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), prayer doesn’t work in this way. Yet I have often found that in strange ways, things that we pray about, often seem to work out in ways unforseen.
Through the years I have found that I cannot cope with the work in Swaziland without proper prayer support. As I go around, telling people about our work, mainly at present concentrated on those living with HIV and AIDS, the one thing I ask for, time and again, is prayer supporters. And as more people get involved in this task, so we find that the work becomes manageable and we also experience positive things happening.
Prayer support can be given in many ways. On the negative side, many missionaries experience people saying very easily: “You’re doing great work. I’ll pray for you,” without really realising what the work entails. My feeling at these times are that the people are actually saying: “I don’t want to get too deeply involved with your work and the quickest way to get rid of you is to tell you that I’ll pray for you.” The message I want to get across is that we have to be sincere when we say to someone that we will pray for them. Missionaries rely on people praying for them and their ministry. I’m trying to get myself in the habit, when someone asks for my prayers, to immediately pray for whatever they asked for, merely because I tend to forget afterwards. When a friend sends me an email asking for prayer support, I often write my prayer on a return email.
I have about 300 people receiving monthly updates from me via email in which I also highlight two or three matters for which there can be prayed. Many of those receiving the newsletter immediately pray for these matters. Many of them will only pray once, but in some way which I still cannot understand, they have contributed to the work being done in Swaziland.
And then I have a number of people who have made it their task to pray for our work on a daily base. These are the people that I contact whenever a crisis occurs. These are the people who start the day, praying for the various aspects of our work (and usually for other missionaries as well), the people contacting me on a regular base to find out whether there are any special prayer requests.
But then, obviously, our own church members are also motivated to pray for the work on a regular base, bringing special needs to God, bringing people with specific needs to God, praying for special projects.
How it works I cannot explain. But I know, without prayer support we would not have been where we are today. And although it is impossible to prove, I think that, with more prayer support, we may have been further than we are today.
By the way, should you want to receive our monthly newsletters via email, you can subscribe to the newsletter by clicking on the link at the end of this sentence and then choosing whether you want to receive it in Afrikaans or in English: SUBSCRIBE TO SWAZILAND NEWSLETTER

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 Posted by | Church, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Prayer, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Swaziland Newsletters, What I'm reading | 2 Comments