Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

15 March 2014

Caring for missionaries #2 - writing letters

How to write to a missionary:

In the opening letter you write to a missionary, especially if you are unknown to them or have met them only once...

*   Introduce yourself.

*   Explain your connection or how you come to be writing to them.

For all subsequent letters, assume that they then know you. 

Things you can write about...

*   Personal news.

*   News from your church; local, state and federal news; the weather, sports news, political news, the price of things (petrol, housing, bananas...anything you think they might be interested in), new buildings going up in town – the sorts of things of daily life at home.

*   Words of encouragement – how you are specifically encouraged by their ministry, what you are reading in the Bible at the moment and how it is encouraging you, a Bible verse that will encourage them, the fact that you have prayed for them.

*   Encourage them not to feel burdened to reply, so actually tell them they don’t need to write back.  Your letter is a don’t ask lots and lots of questions, which begs for a response.  This is when your letter is sent as a “ministry of encouragement.”  However if you have developed a close relationship with them that includes regular specific prayer and perhaps even a level of accountability then you must ask questions every time...especially “How can I pray for you at the moment?” and “I was praying about such and such, how is that going now?” and “How are you doing with...?”

And what not to include...

*   Unless you have a very close, mutually prayerful relationship, don’t include a list of your own personal woes.  Letters to missionaries are for their encouragement.  They can’t help you in your difficulties and they may feel frustrated being so far away and unable to assist, which won’t help them to do their work.  Unburden closer to home and send words that build up and encourage offshore.

 Writing to people in secure locations:

Do not include...

*   Christian language – Bible, Christian, Church, congregation, prayer/praying, baptism, converts, Sunday, Christmas, Easter...

*   Bible verses or reference to the Bible.

*   The name of the organisation they work for or the key people who work in it – anything that might be found in an Internet search.

Dear ____________
It is good to be writing to you again.  I wanted to let you know that I have been thinking of you every day.  And the people we meet with every week also keep you in their thoughts.  I was speaking to state head of your company and he said that your work was going very well at every level, that you have many opportunities to do your work and that you feel well supported by the one we love the best.  That is wonderful news.
Love _____________

You need to keep it very general.  Check it carefully – and get someone else to check it – before you send it because it is easy to slip up.  In some locations it is vital to be this cautious.

Check on the website of the relevant missionary organization for your missionary for further advice, including advice specific to their organisation.

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