During our time with each of our sending churches, one of the tasks we undertook was to put together a mission support team. You may be thinking that must have been a little awkward, since the point is mostly to support…us. It’s natural enough that we need support, but putting it together ourselves is something else, partly because it’s hard to know what a support team should do and partly because it’s strange to ask people to be actively thinking about what we might need or even want. The short of it is that we were in a position, in terms of time and energy, to kick-start such a support system, which everyone agreed was beneficial for the longevity of our missionary service.
So, we rounded up a group at Shiloh and a group at Cedar Lane and tried to orient them to the basics of supporting missionaries. On the whole, however, we left it to them to be creative with their job description. I mention all of this because the process focused on the pointed question about what support really means: what is fair to expect, what is reasonable to ask, what is above and beyond, and what is out of the question.
The list of “reasonable to ask” items has been growing among churches in general as missionary care has become more prominent an agenda. Included among these is church member involvement through field visits. It’s obviously a costly bit of support, but it is mutually beneficial and usually affordable on a small scale for the average U.S. sending church. The implicit sacrifice, assuming the church is footing the airfare, is that visitors will take off of work or use hard-earned vacation time at the very least. While missionaries are notoriously saddled with tour guide responsibilities, field visits are not to be confused with real vacation, and the visitor’s sacrifice is significant.
The list of “above and beyond” items is not something we bring to the support team meetings. As many missionaries as there are out there who literally get nothing more than a check from their sending churches, we tend to keep our expectations low and our thankfulness high, whatever support ends up being. As it is, we have two very caring congregations behind us—as well as many other supporters—and we have much to be thankful for.
That makes Mark and Diane Adams’ visit all the more “above and beyond,” though I’m confident they don’t look at it that way. On my list of things not to expect is a couple of twenty-somethings rushing to buy their own plane tickets--no thought of asking the church for help--so that they could get to Arequipa before their pregnancy is too far along to make the trip safely. They are on our support team, and they became good friends during our time at Cedar Lane, but they are supporting a team that gets “better than average” care, a team that will have other church-sponsored visitors relatively soon. We have to marvel at their desire to encourage us and learn about Arequipa at their own expense.
They didn’t come looking to be entertained or shown around. They spent time with us laughing and talking, asked good questions, rolled with the punches of our strange daily life, and made an effort not to be a burden. They took the initiative to create a missions moment video to share when they got back, and we can’t ask for better advocacy than that. This is just a shout out to Mark and Diane. Not everyone can do what they did, and we certainly don’t expect it, but not everyone would if they could. Thanks for being there even when it costs you something.