Stories from the field and practical advice on supporting your missionaries with prayer and mail
By Nikole Hahn
Our small group decided to partner with the missionaries our church supported through writing letters and prayer. Working at a church, and with some of these missionaries from the different organizations, gave me insight into the practicality of letter writing.
While the commercial open rate for an emailed newsletter can range from 20% to 30% on average, regular mail is making a comeback. In the past, we went to email because our mail boxes were full of junk. Like a pendulum swinging back again, we return to our mail box hoping for something other than a bill (or political mail) because now our email is full of junk. For a missionary in a far off country, a package or card in the mail is a welcome and tangible piece of home. However, mail is not always practical in many parts of the world.
In some places in Africa, you may or may not get your mail. Your supported missionary may live in a creative access country and getting mail with the wrong words on it could put them in danger. And, sometimes, like in the following stories, mail may be delayed.
A colleague in a creative-access country wrote:
“Our son was just a baby. The church wanted to bless us with clothing for him. Could I please send them the list of what he’d need with approximate sizes? I sent them a list (by email), and when I didn’t hear from them, I promptly forgot about it.” Two years later, a notice arrived from the post office that a package arrived for them. “When I opened it up, here was a whole box of beautiful, brand new baby clothes with everything I had put on the list, plus some cards, letters, and other things I didn’t ask for. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My son was two years old now. None of the clothes would fit him. I gave them away to local families, and it ended up blessing them.” This colleague assured me that most packages arrived within a month. This was an exception.
Nicolette explained how mail works in Lebanon:
“Mail in Lebanon is through a private company. We have a post office box and we quickly learned that if the mail wasn’t addressed to Caleb OR Nicolette, both of us would need to show up at the post office in order to claim it. One year, a few weeks before Christmas, we got notice that we had two packages to pick up. Both were addressed to Caleb or Nicolette H. Caleb went to pick it up.”
Caleb encountered issues in picking up the packages. He asked the following questions to the post office agent on the day of pick up:
- “Look in your log, you’ll see I always pick up packages under this name.” Nope.
- “I’m the only one with this key, how would I possibly break into this box and just happen to have a nearly identical name to the person who’s box I broke into?” Nope.
- “What if I tell you exactly who the box is from and what’s inside?” Nope.
- “How many people do you think could possibly be in Beirut with such a foreign name?” Nope.
“Finally the solution the agent came up with was to have the senders of the box email a copy of their ID, the receipt from sending the packages, and an email explaining that they did in fact intend to send the package to Caleb with a middle name and not Caleb without.” Nicolette and Caleb collected receipts and identifications, emailed the sender of the packages with instructions, and returned to the post office. The post office agent’s reply to them, after they had completed the steps to get their package, was, “Oh. Well, we don’t actually have access to that email address.”
Recently, another missionary in Bolivia finally got mail that was sent three years ago. In the DR Congo, regular mail is unreliable. Digital is preferred.
Alternately, there are digital methods that are just as personal when trying to connect with your church-supported missionary. In DaySpring’s, 5 Ways to Support Your Missionaries, the author gives some good insight. One suggestion was,
“Praying Scripture over them is powerful, especially when you don’t know what to pray. Once you select a Scripture, pick out a card of encouragement and send it to them with that Scripture written out. If you cannot mail it to them, scan both sides of the signed card and email it to them as an attachment.”
Other ways to send your missionary digital encouragement can be…
- Record a video on your phone of your small group praying for them and saying hello. Upload the video to Google Drive or Dropbox and send your missionary the link.
- Send them an electronic gift card.
- Send them a text to say you prayed for them and to ask about prayer needs.
- Connect on social media and converse with them.
When I prepared our small group for this ministry, I was working at a church. I created a document for us and for our missions team to show how each missionary preferred contact and their creative access requirements (i.e. what words were taboo?). In this way, our small group was able to pray for and encourage most of the church-supported missionaries through email and regular mail.
In the comments, share your struggles in sending mail to your missionaries.
Header Photo by Matt Bango from StockSnap