Tips for Supporting your Cross-Cultural Worker; Both Overseas and When They’re on Home Assignment
I’ve been a CCW for over a decade in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Each assignment has come with its unique challenges, and I am always so grateful for what I like to call “home support.” Today I wanted to share with you something that almost every CCW wants but rarely gets to talk about: support beyond financial giving. Here are some great ways that our churches and individuals have helped us feel connected to our passport country when we’re away, and made us feel welcome when we come back for home assignment.
Write Us Back. We send out an update email once every 1-2 months, and it means something to us when people write us back. Everything from “great insights, we’ll be praying for you” to in-depth responses - we love it all. It communicates to us that people are reading about what we’re doing, and they care. One of the things that I’ve learned in our time in ministry is that people want to know that they matter… to God and to others. Missionaries, as it turns out, are no exception.
Send Us a Letter. It doesn’t have to be a package of our favorite treats from the USA (although we won’t turn it down if you send one!). The children’s ministry at our church in Texas sends us homemade Christmas cards every year. I can’t tell you how much it means to my kids! Again, it’s about connecting. We get a lot of ads and bills in the mail. It’s nice to receive a letter once in a while from the States, especially postcards!
Go Tell Others. (I borrowed this point from a fellow CCW) I once heard a pastor say that he can tell his wife every day that she's a good cook, but when he tells everyone else how good a cook she is, then she knows he's really serious. If you are a church leader, tell other church leaders, "Hey, we had missionary X at our church, and he did a great job! You can definitely trust your Sunday service to Missionary Z because our church just loved their family! Missionary Y was wonderful last month! You should have her at your group meeting!" New missionaries especially need the credibility in the region or they need some good PR to build momentum. And it only costs you five minutes to mention it in a pastor's meeting or any other group you influence.
Find Out What We Need. Most missionaries, when they’re on home assignment, need a place to live, a car, and time to readjust to their passport culture. Your support team can be instrumental in making their transition back to life in the US easier. Inviting them out, offering to take care of the kids so they can go out, asking questions about ministry and day-to-day life overseas helps tremendously.
Stop On By. Ours is a pretty accessible country - we live in a large city in Western Europe. If you’re passing through, or staying here for a couple of days, we’d love to grab a coffee with you, or show you where we minister and what we’re doing. I can’t tell you how many strangers (friends of friends) that we’ve met while serving in a foreign country, and now they’re friends.
Pray. I’ve saved the best for last. We’ve gone through all sorts of difficult scenarios over the years, and I can’t tell you how much it means to know that the body of Christ is covering us in prayers. We often work in spiritually dark countries, and just doing daily activities can be stressful because everything is so different. When God’s people pray, God works in amazing and unimaginable ways, and it’s His power and protection that enables us to do what He has called us to.
There are countless other websites and blogs that address the issue of providing support and care for your CCWs. I encourage you to do some research (because this is by no means an exhaustive list), and be that stellar support team who helps to equip their CCWs so that they can focus on the people God has called them to serve!
Sharon Miller has been serving overseas in the Middle East and Europe for the last thirteen years, focusing mainly on outreach to Muslims and secular Europeans. She is the wife of Duane Miller, also a contributor to this blog, and mother of three. She is a voracious reader and also enjoys cooking and crocheting lumpy hats.