it’s a tiny, less-than-30-second thing to do, and yet, it makes a world of difference.
have you ever put a lot of time into giving a gift to someone? imagine putting time and effort into a gift for someone who has been supportive and encouraging to you for many years. imagine that this person opens your present, takes a look, and then puts it away, without ever letting you know that they’ve received it, or even that they opened it. even worse, imagine if this person didn’t even bother to open it and just put it in the garbage. how would you feel?
while newsletters from missionaries are hardly wrapped presents, they are things that we put a lot of time into, carefully thinking about what we want to share with you, as our partners in missions. we know we can only be out here by the grace of God, and because of your support. Other than pray for you, faithfully putting time into writing our newsletters is one of the other things we’re able to do, to let you know how ministry (which you are thankfully a part of) and our lives (which you are thankfully a part of) are going.
one of the most consistent things i hear from fellow missionary friends regarding sending out newsletters (because yes, we talk about these things) is how much we long to receive just a simple reply from our partners, saying that they’ve read it and prayed, and let us know how we can pray for them, too. but even more missionaries have simply told me, “maybe not even that, if they don’t have time. maybe just an ‘i’ve read it’ reply is enough. i would be happy just to know that they’ve read it.” to be honest, it was quite disheartening to hear the sadness in their voices…probably because i am likely to say the same thing.
Paul (of the Bible, not of the Beatles variety) is a great example of a missionary who faithfully wrote to his supporters: of the work that they were partnering in, of doctrine and spirituality, of the struggles of his own spiritual life and faith, of what an active disciple of Christ looks like, of mobilising people and churches to support others (and his co-workers) in their work, etc…okay, and he was also a faithful rebuker. but we’ll leave that fact aside for now, since my point isn’t so much the content of what he wrote, as it is that he wrote to share about his life and the truths he was more and more convinced of regarding Christ Jesus and all those other things. he needed to share. he wanted to share. and he should share with the people who partnered with him.
i know you’re probably thinking, “well, i’d be more excited to read my missionary’s newsletters if they actually wrote like Paul” – and you know what – you’re right. i’ve read some missionaries’ newsletters before, and wow…even more boring than watching my nails grow.
that part, i think we missionaries should take responsibility for. we need to make our newsletters interesting enough so that people will want to read it, not just to share about the ministry (which some people only do), or just to share about their personal life on the mission field (which some people only do). there should be a good balance and a way to connect with the readers. we missionaries need to learn to do that.
but the truth is, even when it is done well, the response is still often lacking. i get it, though. in this day and age, with so many emails coming through our inboxes, it’s easy to just let one slip by, or read it and delete it. (one time when i was back at home in the states, i had a long-time supporter come up and ask me how “thailand” was. they clearly never read my newsletters, but i learned to be gracious in my reply). but as is often said in the mission world: for those of you at home, keeping in touch is an encouragement, but for those on the mission field, it is a lifeline. sometimes we just need to hear a simple reply from you about something in your everyday life. or a prayer request. or something random that happened to you today. or that you bought a new kind of toilet paper. or that something funny happened, even though we won’t get it.
anything, really. (one time, an older partner who is about my parents’ age, wrote a reply to me saying that he had a meal with my mom, and then wrote down all the things they ate. i don’t know why, but that was such a fun and interesting email for me to read!)
it’s easy to forget to do that usually, but what better time to send a simple reply, than when the newsletter comes in? read it, then send off a 30-second reply. or bookmark and come back to it later (and really come back to it). here’s some help on what to say:
1. “hi _____, thanks for sending your newsletter. i’ve taken the time to read it.”
2. “hi _____, thanks for sending your newsletter. i’ve read it, and have prayed for the things you wrote about.”
3. “hi _____, thanks for sending your newsletter. will be praying for you. i would appreciate your prayers for me regarding _______.”
boom. 30 seconds max. (that actually only took me 30 seconds to type all of that out). a 30-second reply would likely result in a very encouraged missionary – perhaps just the encouragement they needed for that day!
lastly, i will just say that it’s understandable…it’s easy to forget about the missionaries you partner with. out of sight, out of mind. but as missionaries, we can never forget our partners because we depend on your partnership – not just financial (b/c yes, reality is, we do need that to survive out here), but more importantly, your prayers and encouragement. each day i am out here, i am keenly aware of (and thankful for!) the prayers that happen so that i can get through the day. Lord knows i wouldn’t be able to survive without them (and Him, of course). but what really kicks up my day into happiness, is when i hear from a partner at home after i’ve sent out a newsletter:
so there you have it. the next time your missionary/-ies send you their newsletter, do a 30-second reply and let them know you care. you won’t see it, but it will definitely bring a smile to their face.
or a jig to their legs.