Missionaries tend to get what I call “missions tunnels vision” once they get to the mission field. What do I mean by that? I mean that the missionary gets fully engulfed in the ministry (which is not bad) on the mission field and completely forgets everyone/everything else that they left behind. After a while family, fiends and donors back home start to feel out of the loop because they are not hearing anything from the missionary. There are no update letters, Facebook posts, Tweet’s, Instagram’s, etc… It’s like the missionary has fully dropped of the planet. Well, they have! The result of this is that the people back home, as life moves on, slowly forget and loose the passion they once had for their missionary. The old saying is true, “out of sight, out of mind.” But for missionaries it is detrimental!
How many missionaries come home to their church expecting to receive a “hero’s welcome” only to be greeted by old friends wondering where they have been for the past two years? Or how many missionaries struggle with support drop-off to the point of real danger? There are of coarse two sides to this story. One the church should have done a better job at bringing the missionary before the congregation. But that is a topic for the Church and Sender training modules. Here I am addressing missionaries and here I am going to be honest with you and say that these two common realities are 100% your fault. You fell into the trap of Missions Tunnel Vision. Be honest, how many times have you said, “I am just to busy to type my update letter?” It is because you have failed to realize a HUGE portion of your ministry.
As a missionary, your influence is massive. On the mission field you are coming in with passion blazing to reach the local people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which is a topic for another post). But you have missed the massive influence you have with those people you have left behind. Your very testimony, that you have left your home, quit your job, uprooted your family and moved to a foreign country because your being obedient to God’s call on your life is massively challenging to those people you have left behind. Their faith is challenged and they are asking themselves – “Do I have enough faith to do what _______ is doing?” That is a huge open door for you to step in and minister to so many people. They might not be called to move oversees but they are called to be involved in the Great Commission and you have a voice in their life to stir them up to obedience. Which is going to bless you, your ministry and the Great Commission as a whole in the long run.
I have interacted with hundreds of missionaries that are deeply struggling with loneliness, discouragement, depression, etc… and the answer often is very simple (besides prayer) – pick up a phone and call your pastor, your best friend, your mom or dad. Reach out to your family and friends that care about you and share with them what is going on in your life and get them praying for you. We are not called to do missions alone. That is why God established the church and placed the Body of Christ around us.
Having a vision to keep in touch with those people you have left at home is not an optional part of a missionaries job it is foundational. You need to pray through this and develop a plan. Here are some simple ideas:
- Be faithful to write quality updates (see the topics on writing updates for more info)
- Post on Social Media sites as much as you can (images and videos are the best)
- Schedule one phone/Skype/FaceTime meeting a week with a family member, friend or pastor (you take the initiative)