Missing friends and family
One of the toughest things a missionary has to deal with on the field is the distance between the missionary and the loved ones. While modern-day missionaries do not have to deal with the same lack of communication with the home front that the likes of William Carey had to, it still is a sizable burden that many of their friends and families may not understand.
Living overseas, everything is different. The people are different, the language is different, the climate is different, the culture is different, the food is different, and your dynamic with your family is different. The one thing you count on to have stayed the same is your God in heaven and His Word, who never ever changes. Other than Him, yes, nearly everything else will have changed.
Some missionaries do already speak the language, so their initial culture shock will be lessened. I also speak Spanish, so when I get to Bolivia for my five-month internship, I will have a slightly easier time than the normal. But our parents won’t be there. Our friends we’ve loved for a lifetime won’t be there. Our siblings won’t follow us. Nor will our old jobs, our church, our pastors, our community. Colombia is different. Especially to Mariangela, who has no blood ties to Colombia, everything about it will scream at first: “You are not home.”
One constant that missionaries count on is the love and friendship of the “home front”–Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, and friends. There is simply nothing like getting to spend an hour chatting with someone from back home. What a blessing that is for the man who has had a hard time making friends out on the field. What peace that can bring a woman who’s having a hard time communicating with anyone around her. We as humans were made to be in relationship with people! When those relationships are coming slowly in the new situation, it can be nerve-wracking.
Sometimes, people on the home front think that they’re annoying the missionaries if they reach out to them. That really couldn’t be further from the truth in almost every case! I have NEVER heard of a missionary lamenting getting too much of a connection from home. Instead, they tend to wish people back home had reached out more. They tend to feel FORGOTTEN. When I was in Spain (non-mission reasons), I had only a couple of friends who reached out to me regularly… they meant the world to me. A half-hour call with a family member would make my entire day! The apostle Paul seemed to think communication with the people he loved was important, too—he sent and received many letters, and though he had many important doctrinal points to teach and theological matters to clarify, he took the time to emphasize personal connections (read 2 Timothy 1!) as well as connections with the churches.
If you are not going to the field as a missionary, you’ve probably heard several times that it’s your duty to give money and to pray for them. I’m reminded of Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees in Luke 11:42—yes, the financial support is great, and prayer is necessary, but sometimes all someone needs is a friend. Please, befriend a missionary if you at all can. Support them with your finances if God leads you that way, but certainly support them with your heart. Especially once they’ve reached the mission field, communicate with them! Most every missionary yearns for connection with the homeland. Could you reach out to a missionary?
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