Caring for Missionaries
Why Don't We Care More Than We Do?
“How can we do better in caring for missionaries?” is a question we find some churches asking themselves these days. One mission chairperson told us, “We write a check each month, but I know we could be doing more to care for missionaries we support, but we’re not sure how.” This is a great question that certainly needs to be considered. But before we consider How to care, there’s another question we need to ask. Not a How question, but a Why? question. Why don’t we care for missionaries more than we do?
One answer is that because we don’t see most missionaries very often we don’t think about them much. Out of sight; out of mind. There are so many things that compete for our attention in the busy lives we live that even important things and people can easily fall to the bottom of our priority list. But I think it goes deeper than this. A lot deeper.
It’s easy to give ourselves a pass with “I’m busy.” Yeah, we’re all busy. Who isn’t? I’m busy is a pretty lame excuse I use to let myself off the hook when it comes to caring for people, much less caring for missionaries. But a passage from Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth really spoke to me recently about this. It’s from 2 Cor. 7: 2, where Paul tells the church at Corinth to
“Make room for us in your hearts.”
Hmmn. Make room. This reminds me of the rummage sale Janet and I had a few weeks ago. “Rummage Sale” goes by different names in different parts of the country. Yard sale and garage sale are two that come to mind. I like “rummage” better than yard or garage sale, because you can take rummage home with you. It’s a lot harder to fit someone’s yard or garage you just bought into your car.
In getting ready for the sale we brought up stuff from our basement that we’ve moved at least 3 times and haven’t used since before the first move. You know the story. Lot’s of stuff taking up space that we wistfully imagine, “We might need this some day.” We took all this stuff and put it in our garage with the other I-might-need-this-some-day essentials of life we keep there. Anything we didn’t sell we gave away or threw away. While this was a lot of work, we re-discovered the joy of EMPTY SPACE in our garage and basement.
It’s like this with people, too. It’s not so much about the stuff we accumulate as it is about filling up our lives with busyness and anything that feeds the SELF. We fill up the empty spaces in our lives so that before we know it we’ve run out of room for relationships. And we run out of capacity to care for people. It happens slowly over time, like the clutter that accumulates in our house over the years.
To “make room in our hearts" for other people, as Paul tells the Corinthian church, means we have to get rid of something. And that something is a pre-occupation with ourselves. Our needs. Our wants. Our goals and ideas. The more we focus on our selves the less we are able to think about and care for others. Conversely, the more we can set aside our self, the better we’re able to care for others - and the richer our lives become.
Once we move in this direction, the “how to” of caring for others, of caring for missionaries, is easier to identify. It isn’t rocket science. But what is rocket science - the truly hard part - is dealing with our fallen self-centered nature that leads us to live narrow lives centered on meeting our needs. This is where we need the power of the Holy Spirit to move beyond our selves, to make room for others. We need his help to create empty spaces in our lives that God can fill, just like Janet and I created empty space in our home by getting rid of stuff.
And now that we have this newly found empty space in our home as a result of our rummage sale, I’ve become more cautious about protecting it. I want to save it for something truly important. What that will be - I don’t know yet, and that’s OK.
So it is with caring for others, with caring for missionaries. When we first “make room in our hearts" we may not know what will fill the void. Maybe nothing at first. But my experience has been that God will always fill it it with something far more important and valuable that what we discard. And that’s exciting and what makes caring for missionaries so fulfilling.
As for the how to of missionary care, I’ll be writing more about that later. I’m still working on “making room in my heart.” In the meantime, you might want to check out What We Do. If there's anything we can do to help you, feel free to Contact us.