But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:23-33)
A few weeks ago, Keith preached a sermon on this passage. In Romans 15, Paul was planning another missionary trip. He told the church in Rome that he hoped to visit them on his way to Spain. He also gave them three expectations.
1. Paul expected "to be brought on (his) way thitherward by you" The phrase, "to be brought on my way" is speaking of financial help. When a church has a missionary in, they should keep in mind that it is their responsibility to help that missionary financially on his way. I'm not speaking of monthly support, but rather food, logging, and a financial gift. Deputation is the most expensive time in a missionary's life. In the beginning he has very little support coming in and yet he has some of the biggest expenses: prayer cards, a display, a DVD presentation, a vehicle, lodging, food, family needs... As deputation progresses, the missionary has to prepare for moving expenses, housing, possibly a new vehicle, shipping, etc. Our suggestion is: if you cannot help the missionary along his way, don't have him in unless they have been made aware and are still wanting to come regardless. We had several pastors tell us that they couldn't help much, but if we couldn't find another church to visit, they would be happy to give us a meal and have Keith preach. Often these churches proved to be the encouragement we needed. It is not that a missionary won't come, but the church's goal should always be to help them financially to the next appointment. Missionaries only want to be a blessing to the churches they visit and are trusting God to supply their every need, but all too often churches forget that they are the tools God uses to meet those needs.
2. "that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me" Missionaries need prayer! When you have driven over extremely high mountains in a snow storm on narrow roads with no guard rails you truly appreciate and feel the prayers of God's people. Again, every missionary has financial needs. You may not be able to do much financially, but you can pray. (side note: Why not pray that the Lord will provide through you?) Picture travelling as a family day after day, staying in one-room hotels and prophet's chambers. Missionaries need prayer for spiritual strength, patience, and family unity. We were blessed on deputation, but I have heard some real horror stories. Pray that God will bless the missionaries with churches who will be a blessing to them and for grace for those who are not. Missionaries need wisdom when their GPS sends them to a field instead of the church and they have twenty minutes to set up for service. Their children need pray that the effects of life on the road will build character and that people will be understanding when they are a little (okay if you've met Jerry A LOT) wound up after being strapped in a car seat for five hours. Put yourself in the missionary's shoes and you'll know what to pray for.
3. Finally, Paul expected that he "may with you (the church in Rome) be refreshed" Every missionary worth his weight in salt seeks to be a blessing to every church that he visits. I've not met one missionary who will say, "We need to be encouraged." But driving hours through city traffic on little sleep with crying children and bad directions can wear any one out. When a missionary enters a church he is wearing his best clothes and his "ministry" smile, even if he and his wife were bickering all the way up the front steps and the kids have been fussing because they didn't have time for supper before church. You may not see the "human" side of the missionary, but we are ALL human, sinners saved by grace, who still fight that old nature. Make it your responsibility to see that every missionary is refreshed when they leave your church. Give them the option of dinner out or maybe they would just like a pizza alone and an early bed time. If you have them for a few days, don't wear them out and at the same time, know that everyone wants to feel useful. Sitting around a hotel room all day is not easy on a man who is used to working 40-50 hours a week. Keep their present situation in mind.
For example: we had one pastor insist on having us to his house for dinner. We had just traveled from Maine to Utah with a two day stop in Missouri in five days total. The kids were cranky and Dad and Mom weren't feeling our best either. Keith asked if the pastor would mind whether we got our own supper and turned in early, but the pastor insisted. You can bet the kids were bad, they didn't know whether they wanted to run or sleep. Goodness, Momma wasn't feeling too polite herself. He kept us talking at his house even after his children were able to get ready for bed. We still hadn't had Saturday night baths yet or ironed Sunday clothes. Sunday, we were absolutely exhausted! The kids were pretty good until lunch. All we needed was a nap! Well, to shorten this story I will tell you that a while after this visit we received a letter from the pastor saying that our kids were undisciplined and that we should leave the ministry until we had our family under control!
The bottom line is... be a blessing to every missionary you are able to have come to your church. They want to be a blessing to you. It is God's job to prepare the missionary for life on the field not the church's. Help them on their way to the best of your ability (remember to ask God to provide). Pray for them often. And be a blessing -- a simple email saying,"I prayed for you." is enough to lift a missionary's spirits and get him to the next appointment.
Here's a video I've posted before. "Missionaries' Life" gives you a light-hearted inside look at deputation. Enjoy!