The Unseen Missionary
I am a missionary. I am the one who occasionally writes the reports in the mission newsletter. Our picture is hanging on several churches’ bulletin boards. Maybe you’ve prayed for us at prayer meeting.
But I don’t want to talk about myself. I want to talk about the unseen workers—those who have no recognizable title or bulletin-board picture. These unseen missionaries are everywhere. Without these people joining forces to perform deeds of kindness, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Some of these behind-the-scenes people will never live in a foreign country, yet because of their sacrifices, we are freed to do our work better.
When our family committed to move to Belize, someone offered to store our furniture and household goods in a climate-controlled warehouse free of charge. Friends and family helped us pack and sort things, have a yard sale, and move out of our house. A youth girl from church offered to take my toddler to the park for an hour while I packed.
Once we were settled in Belize, it was encouraging to hear from our friends back home. It can feel like our friends have moved on with their lives and found other people to fill our spot, so little notes—or longer letters—are a boost. I’m not alone in being encouraged by personal contact. A friend who lives in Kenya said she’s thankful for the person who sends an email “just because.” “It’s nice to know you’re not forgotten just because you’re 8,000 miles away,” she said.
One woman said when her parents were overseas, each week one of the women from church would send them a letter to tell them what was happening at church—even details of the service—which helped them feel connected.
A missionary from Colombia said this: “One lady writes me email letters every week or two. Sometimes they are short, and I often don’t know the people she talks about, but it is such a booster for me that someone remembers. I look for her letters. She’s a busy mother and homeschooler, so it means even more. Her husband used to write my husband a line or so on Sunday mornings saying he is praying and thinking of him. For my husband, Sundays can be a dread because of the language. Those few words were priceless.
I will second that periodicals are well loved. Keepers at Home, The Kings Daughter, Mother to Mother, and other magazines are passed around to many different people and read eagerly. There was a stack of Companions on my porch one day when a neighbor stopped for water. She noticed the papers and asked if she could take them, so I gave her the stack, and those stories had a chance to take the gospel to a family who never comes to church.
And even more special, in this digital age, are the cards, letters, and pictures that friends send via snail mail. Pictures of friends add such a homey touch to our walls and our Belizean friends enjoy seeing who our friends in the States are. Our home church made a scrapbook for their evangelist with each family writing a bit about themselves and including a family portrait. The scrapbook coordinator color-copied each page, and my mom put them in a book for me. I enjoy showing people the book, and I also like to point out different people to my girls, who no longer remember these friends.
There is one mother from our home church whose youngest daughter is just few years older than our oldest daughter. She wondered if I want dresses that her girl is outgrowing. With three small daughters, this is a huge blessing. This same mother has an older daughter who loves to sew, and she sewed my girls several new dresses after I had a baby.
One missionary mother said, “Someone did used-clothing shopping for my growing boys. It was such a blessing to feel like my family was decently dressed again. I still think of the women who did the shopping when my boys wear something they sent down. Another single girl who was going yard saling recently offered to look for things. She found much-needed pants for [our son]. I was tickled and blessed by her thinking of it when she’s not a mother herself.”
Various friends who will probably never visit us have sent gifts with other visitors. One friend sent some special things for a date night with my husband—how fun! Our minister’s wife sent me a devotional book with a lovely letter in it, full of encouragement. Any book is special to me, but this one is almost sacred, and I think of that dear lady almost every time I pick it up. Another friend gifted a candle; another, some new hot pads and tea towels. The tea towels were so pretty I use them to cover my mixer and line my tortilla basket. Most of the time when we fly, my suitcases are so full I choose the practical over the pretty, so these gifts are special.
Another missionary said their bishop’s wife sends some Bath and Body soaps and lotions along with her husband each year and the ladies can each choose one.
A friend who lives in a large city said she’s been blessed by families who share their fresh garden produce with them. “They don’t know just how special it is to us to receive truly fresh produce.” She’s also thankful for the home canned or frozen donations.
When we return to the States for visits, our families open their homes, allowing us to stay with them without charge. When my parents upgraded their vehicle, they kept their old minivan for us to use when we come home on furlough.
One friend from Honduras said she’s been blessed by people who’ve helped to pay some of her airline tickets , and also by her parents giving her a sizable cash gift at Christmas which she can use for traveling expenses.
When I asked another missionary friend about ways people have blessed her family, she said she’s thankful for those who make their furloughs comfortable through providing food and lodging. “Looking on, most of us Anabaptist missionaries don’t look like we’re suffering because our organizations treat us well, but we really don’t have much cash flow. So it’s nice to not be reduced to a diet of saltines while on furlough. (Even though saltines are a treat.)”
I trust you’ve gotten the message. It doesn’t take much hold up the arms of those who are serving away from home. Just a little forethought and a little love can send that message “You’re not forgotten. We love you and care about you.” Those people whose pictures are hanging on the bulletin board? They have struggles just like you, and they need you. The Kingdom of God needs you.