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• Presence Ministry
• Prayer Ministry
• Friendship Ministry
• Support Ministry
• Direct Ministry
• Mobilization Ministry
Resources and Connections
Appendix One, Helping Missionaries
Appendix Two, Building Relationships with Muslims
Since the beginning of history, God has been using every war, famine, and ruler towards reconciling the world to himself. God is on a mission. If you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you are part of that mission. As you are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country, are you willing to dedicate some of your time and energy to God’s agenda? From the belly of the whale you are being cast upon the beach of unprecedented opportunities for advancing the Gospel into regions of the world where Jesus is not yet recognized as Lord.
Beginning in the 1980s mission leaders began recognizing a belt of resistance stretching from Morocco to Indonesia. Modern information technology exposes a territory between ten and forty degrees north latitude containing over ninety percent of the world’s poorest and least evangelized peoples. Nearly all modern threats to national interest also lie within this territory called the 10/40 Window.
The 10/40 Window The 10/40 Window contains two-thirds of the world’s population, ninety percent of the world’s least evangelized ethnic groups, eighty percent of the world’s poverty, and less than one percent of the world’s Christians.
One in five active duty personnel spent Christmas away from home in 1997. Those who celebrated in the 10/40 Window were ambassadors for Christ among people for whom Christmas has not even a secular meaning.
Today’s threats to national interests come from parts of the world least touched by the gospel. If reaching coworkers requires prayer and strategic initiatives, then reaching the world does too. If focusing resources for outreach requires intelligence, then no segment of the church is better equipped to support outreach to enemies than Christians in the military.
Whether in the Balkans or Iraq, American superiority may keep peace, but only Jesus can make peace. God “has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.” (2Cor 5:18-20)
Being an ambassador for Christ in the military means more than witnessing to peers. Because God is in control, our professional mission always dovetails with whatever God is doing to reach every nation.
When Uncle Sam orders us somewhere like Bosnia, he does the Lord’s bidding. Our families can take comfort in knowing that we are not just deployed for national interests, but also for God’s.
Low Intensity Conflict One study of warfare relates conflict intensity directly to risk and inversely to frequency. The higher the intensity of a conflict the greater its risk and lower its frequency. The lower the intensity of a conflict the lower its risk and higher its frequency. These relationships are most apparent when exaggerated. Thermonuclear war is extremely infrequent because its risks and intensity are so high. Terrorism on the other hand is fairly common because the risks and intensity are low.
These same relationships apply to cross-cultural ministry and will help us find an appropriate niche for personal involvement. Various kinds of cross-cultural ministry can be plotted on a scale of engagement intensity. People in direct face-to-face witnessing and discipling relationships with unreached people are in high intensity ministry with high risks. Those in service and support roles are involved less intensely, but no less significantly. For every person engaged in ministry at high risk levels, many more need to assume support and service roles at low risk levels.
A fully funded full time missionary may be called to cross-cultural ministry at high levels of intensity, but the areas of the world where he can work are more limited because of the risks involved. A tentmaker has access to more countries, but may need to be more cautious, especially if intense ministry could damage the reputation or investments of his employer. Both need many people committed to praying for, encouraging, and coaching them.
Tolerable levels of risk are different for every person and every situation, but in every situation every person can do something. Here are some various types of ministry arranged from lowest to highest intensity for consideration.
A refugee from Vietnam observes, “Where American soldiers go, missionaries follow. When countries open up for U.S. soldiers, they also open up to some American ideas and institutions, such as churches.”
Besides the bad things associated with American soldiers, like bars, prostitution, and pornography, many soldiers become involved in humanitarian work. American generosity flows from a reservoir of God’s blessing. American money, which says “In God we trust,” testifies that many Americans honor God with material that is very important to them.
U.S. involvement in places like Bosnia creates windows of opportunity. Even the unbelieving soldiers will be used for God’s purposes, but you have a special privilege. You are a missionary. In Mark 4:26 Jesus says:
This is what the Kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.
When, doing duty among an unreached people group, there is no special hardship or labor. The people are watching intently and will see Christ even as you eat and sleep. In John 15:26, Jesus asserts, “The Spirit of truth that is in you will testify, and God will prepare the harvest.” Do not underestimate the impact of your presence and the light that shines from you.
If you will be in leadership in an unreached area, then you have important responsibilities to channel constructively the social and recreational energies of your men and women. The bi-racial children of Vietnamese prostitutes and American soldiers are treated like animals. They are excluded from school, so none are literate. As beggars with no legal protection, they are free game for forced sex and labor. You may be able to help prevent this kind of suffering, which comes from the sins of some American soldiers who lack direction and awareness of consequences.
By exposure and vested interest, your prayers for unreached areas can be more informed and enthusiastic than those of the average church member. In a vision, John saw the “prayers of the saints” collected and offered to God on a golden altar. When the resulting fire was hurled to earth in a golden censer it caused thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake (Rev. 8:3-5).
Prayer is a causative faith link between physical and spiritual realities. Jesus says faith can move mountains. If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Heb.11:1), then a little true insight combined with bold intercession can change the world. Great spiritual breakthroughs are always linked to great prayer. Victory in the spiritual realm precedes every other genuine victory.
Many churches and ministries spend thousands of dollars to send people on Prayer Journeys. Yet, you are part of a potential army of on-site prayer warriors going out with all expenses paid.
About Prayer Journeys, Shane Bennett of Caleb Project says,
I don’t believe you can pray here with the same passion and intelligence that you can when you’re walking the streets of an unreached city. Part of this effect is certainly the sacrifice and energy you’ve expended just to be there. But more than just that, God will show you things you’ve not seen before; you’ll pray for and about things and people that before you didn’t know existed.
In your overseas assignment, you must seek out spiritual fellowship not only for your own spiritual well being, but also in order to be a blessing in the land where God is placing you. Learn about what God wants to do among the nationals in your area of operations, and then join with others to pray it into being.
In this day of “new world order,” ethnic hatred, and uncertain loyalties, nothing strikes closer to a person’s identity than his religion. Introducing Christianity where it has never been before can be as threatening to personal safety and community stability as cheering for the wrong team on the wrong sideline of a football game. Discussions about truth and certainty for going to heaven fall on deaf ears when the issue is allegiance rather than salvation. Living for the approval of one’s neighbor who can be seen is often more persuasive than living for a belief system which cannot be seen.
Cross-cultural resistance to Jesus Christ as Lord results quite naturally from fear, intimidation, misunderstanding, and isolation. After a long discussion, an Indonesian Muslim named Soni told me, “You are right. The Bible is true and Jesus is the Son of God, but I cannot become a Christian.” Soni was finally convinced of the truth, but he was afraid his family would kill him if he became a Christian.
Stereotypes of what Christians are like and what they believe, abound in non-Christian areas. This poem reflects some of them.
They say he is the savior,
But what is that to me?
I’ve prayed five times a day
from the tiny age of three.
They say he died for sinners,
But why would he do that?
I pay for mine by fasting
and they’re forgiven by fiat.
It’s such a shame.
This Christian thing
destroy’s God’s name.
I visited a church once.
It really disturbed me.
Their highest holy idol
a man bleeding on a tree.
I passed outside another.
The racket overcame the door.
Their Sunday “praise and worship”
like Madonna I’ve seen before.
It’s such a shame.
This Christian thing
destroys God’s name.
And now my oldest daughter;
She reads their “holy” pages.
Which say they are the salt and light
of all the Western rages.
So what can I do now?
I love my daughter so.
To keep this from her sisters
I’ll just have to make her go.
It’s such a shame.
This Christian thing
destroys my name.
The 10/40 Window Your deployment is breaking the isolation barrier. Now you can use friendship to overcome the stereotypes born from misunderstanding, intimidation, and fear.
Just as Jesus gave up the glories of heaven to become a man and bring us salvation, cross-cultural friendship entails some awkwardness, discomfort, and sensitive adjustments.
Clothing styles in most areas are modest and very formal by American standards. Furthermore, the weather often makes them even more uncomfortable. Dressing in a way that honors the culture (especially for the women) and not like most western tourists is a sure way to earn and maintain respect.
Food in most overseas homes is rarely up to American standards of variety and sanitation. Eating pork or drinking alcohol may make you “unclean” and therefore unwelcome in many households. Water often has to be boiled to make it “safe,” so cold drinks may not be available to your host. Adjusting to staple foods, tepid drinks, and giving up “offensive” practices are sacrifices one has to make to be a friend cross-culturally.
“Long suffering” is appropriate King James English for patience in most countries. Few cultures value comfort and efficiency as highly as Americans. Other things, like relationships, are more important. Building relationships cross-culturally may cost hours of boredom and discomfort by American standards.
Guarding yourself in your relationship with the opposite sex is very important. Many Muslims think Christianity promotes free sex. They think Madonna is a Christian. When they see films with American women in short skirts and sleeveless blouses this confirms their suspicions. In many cultures, appearances determine reality. Sexual desires are not self controlled (there are no wrongs concerning what you think). Instead they are bridled by external factors. Physical contact between sexes (even husband and wife) beyond sitting next to each other on a crowded bus is social taboo. Men and women (unless they are family) should never be alone together in a private place. Even in many westernized urban settings, observing conservative local conventions for contact between the sexes will earn you respect and an opportunity to challenge stereotypes, but the European and American conventions will negate your testimony.
You will probably not be able to learn enough local language to use it for deep communication. If you work hard, however, you will be able to learn enough to be secure on your own for meeting personal needs. There are three main reasons for doing some intensive language study before or soon after you deploy. The first is to demonstrate good will and willingness to adjust. The second is to be able to get around and take care of yourself with confidence so that your presence and appropriate behavior breaks down isolation and misunderstanding. The third is for casting yourself in the door-opening role of a language learner.
By building relationships with nationals and their families you will be able to break through a lot of the stereotypes and misconceptions which keep them from hearing or considering the gospel message. You may never get to share your faith, but their contact with you may enable them to hear the gospel from some other source.
Don’t resent being treated as an “outsider.” Frequently nationals will try to use you for their own benefit (things like English practice, money, status of being able to talk to the foreigner). Those of higher character may be too shy to initiate a relationship. In most cultures, men are friends with men and women are friends with women. Discussions with opposite sex nationals should go no farther than what is necessary to be friendly and meet basic needs.
Christian work in the most difficult areas of the world requires tremendous logistical input and faces extensive command and control challenges. Even though your tempo of operations may be high, you may be able to help a Christian ministry in a very small but significant way.
Incorporating oneself into partnership with others to help their ministries can be a rewarding and fulfilling way to be moderately engaged with minimum to moderate risk, and it’s a great way to have oneself appreciated. In partnership with other ministries, however, one must not only take into account the risks to oneself, but also the risks to the other organization. Some organizations might be a bit nervous about partnering with government affiliated Americans who are seasoned just enough in the language, culture, and ministry to be arrogant and dangerous. But there are so many possibilities, something is sure to be able to work. Here are some of the options to consider.
Missionaries in many countries have a hard time getting sensitive mail and educational materials for their children through customs. In coordination with sending agencies, traveling military personnel can hand carry sensitive or bulky items to remote locations.
Christian shortwave radio and satellite TV ministries need information on how their signals are being received in the target area in order to adjust the strength and direction of their transmissions. They also need information about who, when, where and why people are listening. In cooperation with a gospel radio ministry overseas, military personnel can provide periodic feedback from distant locations.
Persecution of Christians must nearly always happen in secret. Establishing a visible presence either as an interested tourist or as a military professional can be an effective deterrent all by itself. Advocacy organizations lobbying Western governments on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide need confirmation of conditions and stories from independent sources. Deployed personnel may see and hear things that these organizations would like to know.
Help Short Term Projects
Many organizations, especially those doing relief and development, need short term assistance. Many military personnel have technical and management skills that these organizations need. Some short term work may be in the national interest and may be orchestrated administratively so that it doesn’t count against accrued leave.
Help Correspondence Programs
Bible correspondence courses train and evangelize thousands in very restrictive counties. Mission organizations use creative ways to find students and send in materials. Other mission agencies orchestrate evangelistic pen pal programs. Some overseas personnel may be able to help a correspondence course or pen pal ministry.
Encourage Local Missionaries
Missionaries in closed countries endure many deprivations. Not many people at home or in their host country understand or appreciate what they’re doing. They need to be appreciated. They need fellowship and encouragement. They can use the kind of special treats that only a service man or woman can offer. For more detail on how you can help at home or abroad see the appendix.
Facilitate Foreign Military Christian Fellowships
Military Christian Fellowships like our own OCF and CMF are struggling to exist in many foreign countries. The Association of Christian Conferences Training and Services (ACCTS) works to encourage and establish them. ACCTS is eager to partner with US military personnel.
The high intensity and high risk of direct ministry place it out of bounds for most military personnel in overseas situations. Although service to God preempts all others, excellence and integrity in one’s profession is part of that service. Scripture distribution in the Saudi Kingdom, for example, could turn into an international incident and an embarrassment to the diplomatic community.
In regions where the U.S. presence is already deeply resented, direct involvement of U.S. military personnel in spreading the gospel will not only increase hostility towards the U.S. presence, but it will also hinder the work that God is already doing through indigenous ministries. Because of the irreparable damage that can be done, direct ministry should not be attempted without seeking the advice or even supervision of local believers.
So many valid and valuable low risk avenues for ministry are available to military personnel, there is no excuse for doing anything outrageous. If errors are to be made, they should be made on the side of safety.
However, every situation is different, so some direct ministry may be possible in some contexts. Here are a few possibilities to be used with creativity and caution.
Distributing Shortwave Radio Receivers
In places like Afghanistan where so many people are illiterate and local broadcast media are tightly controlled, shortwave radios form a backbone for awareness of the outside world. Families often sit around the radio like Americans sit around the television. Distributing battery powered shortwave receivers that are cheap by American standards not only provides access to news from organizations like the Voice of America, but also provides opportunity for people to hear the gospel that is broadcast by a number of Christian broadcasting ministries in many different languages.
Giving Information about Shortwave Gospel Broadcasts
Because gospel broadcasting is neither around the clock nor on every frequency people are not likely to find these programs on their radio dial without either extensive searching or special information. Business cards, bumper stickers, and even paper currency can be printed or scribbled with the broadcast frequency and times of gospel programs in local languages. If listing the information of only the gospel programs proves to be potentially inflammatory, this information can be buried in a list of all of the shortwave programs made in the local language.
Giving a Verbal Testimony
In the course of developing friendships, if one is living according to high moral standards among many of the world’s unreached peoples, questions like: “Do you believe in God?” “Are you a Muslim?” “Why do Christians worship three Gods?” will inevitably arise. As long as one avoids speaking disrespectfully of other religions and avoids embarrassing comparisons, these questions are windows of opportunity for sharing one’s personal belief and faith in Christ. Opportunities to share may also be created when the other person reciprocates with an inquiry after having his own customs and beliefs seriously considered.
Leading a Person to Christ
Whenever possible, a foreign person seeking to trust in Jesus should be led in that decision by another person of like nationality. This privilege and responsibility should be given to someone who better understands the hidden motives and consequences, and who is able to follow up within the context of that person’s racial and cultural identity. As much as possible, the deployed Christian should know to whom to direct the serious seeker for conversion, follow-up, and fellowship. God will use the person who knows how to make these connections. In some places insincere seekers will feign conversion in order to infiltrate and destroy a fellowship. The outside facilitator must submit to the judgement and insight of those within the culture who have the most to gain or lose.
Praying with People
Praying with people about their needs in times of crisis communicates both love for God and love for them. Few people will take offense or turn down an offer to be prayed for. These prayers can be out-loud with needy people about their specific concerns. Even rabidly anti-Christian people like to have all of the bases covered when they are in crisis. God can use his child’s faith and his own answer to soften hearts towards him.
Sharing the Jesus Video and Christian Music
Videos and CDs do not meet with as much resistance as tracts and Scriptures, perhaps because they are more ephemeral and more entertaining. These make excellent house gifts and farewell presents. One prominent missionary to Muslims whose life is sought in some Muslim countries has said, “If you preach to a Muslim he may kill you, but if you sing to him he will love you.” Advertisers consider the billions promoting products with jingles and television to be well spent. This practical reality testifies to the non-confrontational persuasive power of a message set to music and video.
Leading Bible Studies
In some less restrictive settings, seeker oriented Bible studies with national associates or friends and neighbors may be possible. New Tribes Mission offers an excellent curriculum based on Bible stories that has proven cross-cultural appeal. Others have developed curriculum for teaching English with the Bible. Dual language Bibles have strong appeal to those wanting to improve their English.
Distributing (losing) Tracts and Bibles
Bible and tract distribution is perhaps the riskiest of all direct ministry endeavors. Not only are the Scriptures powerful and threatening, but they are tangible enough to be incriminating. Although many governments prohibit and punish Bible distribution, no one has ever been prosecuted for losing his or her own personal devotional literature. I have lost many Bibles in Indonesian hotels, restaurants, and taxi cabs. However, credible loss of native language materials requires one to be seriously engaged in studying the language.
Sometimes Bibles shouldn’t even be given to people who ask for them. In these cases, the seekers should be directed to an indigenous ministry to obtain their Bibles. The native ministry can better ascertain the genuineness of their request and can provide long term follow up if it is needed. The United Bible Societies has branch Bible societies in nearly every nation of the world where they legally print and distribute Scriptures in local languages in some of the most restrictive countries under very sensitive conditions.
To Do List Mobilizing prayer, people, and money for unreached peoples may have the lowest levels of risk and intensity, but it remains very valuable. Here are ten ways that people can do mobilization ministry.
1. Start an installation or chapel missions council. Most resources dedicated to missions come from individuals and local churches. Clear vision and dynamic leadership in a missions committee can energize a local church for worldwide impact through prayer and giving in spite of competition from internal ministries, building projects, staff salaries, and electric bills. We need this same kind of vision and leadership in our chapels.
2. Adopt one of the unreached people groups in your family, chapel, home Bible study, or Sunday school class. The Adopt-a-People Clearing House matches fellowships with unreached people groups for adoption. Adoption can be for an indefinite or specific period of time in order to learn about the adopted people, pray intelligently for them, and watch the Lord do his work among them.
3. Plan a missions conference for your chapel or installation. Most churches that are active in missions hold an annual week or weekend focus on missions. They invite special speakers and even drama teams, they show multimedia programs, have potluck dinners with ethnic food, expose children in Sunday school to real live missionaries, and obtain a global perspective on the kingdom of God. Chapel groups hold retreats and family life conferences. They need to host events for missions focus.
4. Put up a missions display in your home, chapel, community center, and/or processing point for separations and releases from active duty. Most missions minded churches and many college and university student centers have bulletin boards and tables where prayer requests, issues, statistics and announcements can be displayed. Literature recruiting for key ministries may help people make career changes. Global Mapping Inc. distributes some great maps and the US Center for World Mission sells some fantastic posters. Every mission agency prints colorful brochures. Visually exciting tools for some great displays are out there.
5. Obtain missionary biographies and books on missions history for the chapel or ministry center’s lending library, and promote these books by announcements and word of mouth. Few stories are as inspiring and life changing as biographies of the men and women who have introduced Christ to whole ethnic “nations.” Of these it may be said, “They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated the world was not worthy of them (Hebrews 11:37-38).” These books are great to read aloud at the dinner table or on a family trip.
6. Devote a semester or quarter of Sunday school classes to study missions. Many good missions curricula for children and adults are available. Operation Reveille can train you to teach this one.
7. Support a missionary family or project (like Bible translation, radio broadcasts, or medical relief) for a given period of time with regular contributions. This mild sacrifice is one of the most practical ways to participate in what God is doing and invest for an eternal blessing.
8. Write a missions section for your chapel’s Sunday worship bulletin or the newsletter of your fellowship. Missions news, prayer requests, and tips are usually a regular in the bulletins of missions minded churches. Besides the benefit of the text itself, the demonstration of unselfish priorities stimulates additional enthusiasm and commitment to the fellowship.
9. Organize a short term missions trip for survey, prayer, or some kind of technical or logistical assistance. No other kind of vacation is more engaging, rewarding and life changing.
10. Organize a regular prayer meeting for unreached peoples. It could be five minutes at the beginning of a Bible study. No matter how small, the time sacrifice and spiritual discipline will mysteriously move the course of history towards speeding Christ’s return.
While allegiance to Christ comes first, wearing the uniform overseas means you are also representing your country. Faithfulness to Christ requires this to be done with excellence and integrity. You must carefully balance concerns for national security and professional ethics against ministry opportunities.
Don’t act alone. Tell trusted spiritual friends what you are doing and heed their advice. Especially heed the advice of national Christians and ministry leaders familiar with your area. If your commander is not a Christian, you may not need to level with him, but if you have any doubts, it is better to be open and honest with the command than to be secretive.
Abide within all regulations, command guidelines and restraints. Don’t break any rules unless they are expressly against the clear Word of God, and, if you do, be prepared to suffer the consequences. No one wants you to endanger the security of your own life or of your nation. God has strategically placed you. He will make a way for you to serve him without compromising your testimony to your peers.
Operation Reveille wants to help you understand and support what God is doing in your theater of operations.
Our bimonthly newsletter, the Reveille Shofar, gives you brief, hard-hitting, and totally unique news and analysis of how God is working in regions of concern to national security. It also reviews opportunities and resources that will help you to be involved.
We produce Spiritual Intelligence Fact Sheets on Theaters of Operations, and we do training and consulting to help military chapels and ministries better equip their members for understanding and blessing our international allies and enemies.
The JESUS video film project of Campus Crusade for Christ International produces audio and video versions of the gospel of Luke in hundreds of languages on video, audio cassette, video CD, and DVD:
The JESUS Film, Video, & Video CD, 1-800-432-1977
Recorded Scriptures on audio cassettes and CDs are often more acceptable and useful than literature:
Christian Broadcasting crosses geopolitical barriers:
Unreached People Group Information:
Track and/or Report Religious Persecution:
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, 1-949-756-0495
Sources for Bibles and New Testaments in Almost Any Language:
Agencies Sending Missionaries to Unreached Areas:
Mission to Unreached Peoples, 1-888-847-6950
Team Expansion, 1-502-297-0006
Strategic Frontiers, 1-719-572-9594
Arab World Ministry, 1-800-447-3566
Find Evangelical Churches in Other Countries:
Find Christian Fellowships in Foreign Militaries:
Investigate Second Career Opportunities in Cross-Cultural Ministry:
Finishers Project, 1-203-740-7278
Get Chrisian Print and Multimedia Resources in Many Languages:
Get Classic Hollywood Produced Films about Bible Stories that Make Excellent Gifts:
Mount Carmel, 1-800-272-2442
Get Self Study Foreign Language Learning Resources:
Get Help with Prayer Walking, Praying On-Site with Insight:
Way Makers, 1-800-264-5214.
Learn about Islam and Ministering to Muslims:
Daughters of Islam: Building Bridges with Muslim Women by Miriam Adeney, Intervarsity Press, 2002.
Magic and the Kingdom of God: Church Planting Among Folk Muslims by Rick Love, William Carey Library Publishing 2000.
Ministry to Muslim Women: Longing to Call Them Sisters edited by Fran Love and Jeleta Eckheart, William Carey Library Publishing, 2000.
Touching the Soul of Islam: Sharing the Gospel in Muslim Cultures by Bill Musk, Monarch Publications Broadway House, 1995.
The Cross and the Crescent: Reflections on Christian-Muslim Spirituality by Phil Parshall, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989.
by Lynn D. Sidebotham
So you’re told that you should help missionaries but how? These maybe slightly weird, surely super-spiritual people who show up every so often…what could they use (besides a check)? Actually, there are many ways to help, some of which keep missionaries in touch with life at home and feeling a little more “normal.”
When They’re Overseas and You’re Not
1. Most missionaries have a VCR and would love some good clean taped-off-TV fun. Also, they need the electronic drug for their kids sometimes just like you do. A dear friend of ours would tape nature and children’s programs off PBS and send a half-dozen tapes at a time. The children adored them — want to hear a six-year-old lecture on elephant seals? Cassette tapes of stories and songs are also great and help the kids learn English and the adults worship. Check to see if videos can be mailed or should be hand-carried to that country.
2. Magazines can keep a missionary current with his own country, and a subscription is a great gift, especially if support is low — World news magazine, Citizen, National Geographic, Focus on the Family, Teaching Home, etc., depending on their interests. Don’t forget the kids — Focus on the Family puts out several great kids’ magazines. We found that these and the Adventures in Odyssey cassettes were culture training for our kids, so they could fit in more easily when they came home.
3. Some missions and/or missionaries have a list of people whom they contact for urgent prayer needs — a serious illness, or someone’s life in danger. E-mail is particularly useful for this, but telephone contact is also valuable. Get on someone’s list; it could be exciting. Our oldest son was healed of tuberculosis in 24 hours after an emergency phone call; otherwise, we would have had to come home.
4. Snail mail (the post office) is often a problem in countries where censorship and inefficiency work together. Play electronic pony express by being a mail center for a missionary. You can be the contact address, and you can retype and e-mail messages in a matter of hours rather than weeks. Feel virtuous while you play on the computer.
5. Volunteer to be a contact for emergency financial help (usually through the mission). This would be for disasters or support dropping very low. It can feel like a disaster, actually, not to get a paycheck. The requests would be low key and you would help as you are able — if you got a paycheck yourself!
6. Some of the practical details of life are hard to handle from overseas. My mother-in-law did our bulk mailing. Some people need help editing and laying out prayer letters. Taxes, bank accounts and other financial complications are a headache for some. One church overseas has a Stateside friend order music and accompaniment tapes for their annual Christmas programs.
While You Are Here and They Are Here
7. Furlough and a long to-do list. That overdue physical, the dental checkup (I had five cavities when I came home!), writing wills, arranging investments, getting shots, achievement tests for the children . . . the list goes on. You could offer a professional skill through the mission board or to a friend. A wonderful dentist did my family’s teeth on furloughs when I was growing up. If you’re into clothes, take the gal shopping and tell her what’s in. My sister-in-law helped sort through my wardrobe.
8. Then there’s the furlough travel, usually on a shoestring. Offer to be a hospitality house. This could be very educational for you and the missionaries! Seriously, the children and we have fond memories of cross-country jaunts from friend to friend.
9. Most of a furlough is hard work. For a missionary family, a timeshare or a week at a vacation home could be a preview of paradise. This could be either alone, or as your guests. Make sure the ground rules are clear, as they and their children may not be aware of all the protocol for these events.
If They’re There and You’d Like to Visit
10. A prayer walk of a week or two is a good way to further God’s work in your missionary’s area. A small group visits a closed country as tourists and prays intensively for the people and for the Christian workers. Christian Information Network (719-522-1040) has publications on how to do this.
11. A courier trip could be as short as you like — a tax-deductible hop to bring Christmas gifts or homeschool supplies. This often doubles with a personal visit to friends. Give the mission or missionary plenty of time to arrange purchase of supplies. You can either execute their shopping list yourself or be a delivery point for catalog orders and Grandma’s packages.
12. Most missions have regular regional retreats, and usually run a Vacation Bible School or program for the children. It was the high point of the year for our boys, no doubt about it. Helping with advance preparation, collecting craft supplies and U.S. snacks, and/or teaching is a huge help. The job is familiar, and there is just enough cultural diversity to make it fun. Since the retreats are a getaway for the missionaries, the location is usually not too primitive.
13. Want to stay longer? Homeschooling is one of the biggest jobs for missionary parents, many of whom are not comfortable with boarding school for younger children. Especially if there is a new baby, or children with learning disabilities, teaching can be a phenomenal help to the family — anything from 8 weeks to 2 years! It is a good way of racking up experience with limited language and ministry requirements, and even evaluating a missions call.
Nations are Mingling God brings Muslims to America and sends Americans to Muslim countries for good reasons.
In his letter to the Romans Paul asks, “How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?”
With Christians and Muslims getting “sent” all over in today’s world, how can Christians “preach” the gospel to Muslims? Here are some principles and ideas.
First, we need to understand that “preaching” is also non-verbal. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you [preach] the Lord’s death until he comes.” Our behavior towards Muslims needs to support our gospel message.
Second, we need to understand that a lot of “preaching” (verbal and non-verbal) gets misunderstood because the cultures are so different. For example, different postures for praise and worship make Christians appear arrogant and blasphemous to most Muslims.
Third, in order to counteract misunderstanding that proceeds from cultural distance, we need to cultivate revealing personal relationships. Here are some ideas to help us reach beyond mutual misunderstanding and suspicion.
Annual Sacrifice DayBesides some vague recollection that Muslims spend a month in fasting, most Americans are clueless about holidays in Islam. When have you heard, for example, about Islam’s second holiest day when they sacrifice livestock animals by slitting their throats and bleeding them to death publicly? When and how do Muslims celebrate their New Year (which is different than ours), Muhammad’s birthday, Muhammad’s exile, Muhammad’s ascension, and the Koran’s delivery?
We expect public respect for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, but what respect have we given to others?
Just as Christians fill their holiday seasons with celebration, generosity, and outreach, Muslims also want to win friends and influence people during their holidays. Therefore, these present excellent opportunities for interacting and starting relationships.
To Muslims, the Bible is corrupted. Reading it is sin. It and the Koran disagree. Both are just texts on a page. Printed Christian products, therefore, arouse suspicion and fan hostility, because they symbolically challenge their counterpart, the Koran.
Islam forbids religious art and music. Christian multimedia has no counterpart in Islam. As a result, its threat is not perceived.
Muslims devour Western entertainment. They cannot produce comparable quality. They will enjoy Christian music for hours and watch videos about Old Testament prophets over and over. Packages of entertaining multimedia will be appreciated as house and farewell gifts whatever their content. Even the Scriptures, in audio form alone, can be much more readily tolerated.
Of course we should pray pray for our Muslim friends and neighbors and for our witness to them, but I mean something much more. Pray with them! And do it in Jesus’ name.
Public school administrators get crazy when Christians pray, but Muslims do not. Muslims also pray.
Muslims see us as extensions of our non-believing materialist culture. Muslims know the physical and spiritual worlds are interconnected. Praying with them shows that we are different from the culture around us. It shows that we believe God is relevant too. It also demonstrates concern that helps to build good relationships.
Just as God became a man, we must enter Muslim space in order to communicate with them. Muslims may be coming to America, but they are not coming to us. Just as the comforts of earth were inferior to the glories of heaven for Jesus, no one else’s customs seem as natural as our own. Awkwardness is inevitable. Sacrifice is necessary.
If Muslims were looking for coherent historical, scientific, philosophical, and theological systems, they would not be Muslims. Arguments do not faze them. Dependence, fear, and intimidation demand their unconditional allegiance. Scientifically investigating the facts would betray loyalty. Inspiring doubt just leads to more violence and bondage by heightening dependence and fear. Forced conformity and standardized religious rituals masquerade as the brotherhood and love which all Muslims highly value.
Muslims are yearning for brotherhood, yet little in the Muslim world is more elusive. Love, without strings and expectations, flowing from our own independence, security, and freedom will lead them to brotherhood that comes from sonship.