Reading Between The Lines: 7 Things Missionaries Aren’t Telling You

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By Rebekah Barnett.

The following is re-blogged from Thanks for letting us share!

When I first approached my parents about guest-writing their prayer letter, I was grateful they (albeit tentatively!) agreed. It’s been 5 years since I’ve been to the Philippines. Now that I’m married and not involved in their work, it’s easy to forget what life was like on the mission field. That’s why I’m writing this: it’s for me as much as for you, to remind us both to read between the lines. Maybe you’ve kept up with their prayer letters and wondered what a missionary’s life is really like. Perhaps you hesitate asking missionaries questions about their personal life for fear of prying. As the daughter of a missionary and now the wife of a youth pastor, I can tell you some of my family’s struggles are unique but most of them are not.

So here are 7 things missionaries aren’t telling you.

1. They love what they do, even though it’s hard. This is one of the biggest reasons missionaries don’t share more. I’ve seen my parents work to the point of exhaustion and shed tears of frustration, but none of it is for your sympathy or praise or even a pat on the back from the mission. Eric Liddell said, “I believe God made me for a purpose. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Missionaries do what they do because it’s their passion and calling. As my dad always says, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.”

2. It’s not easy to go deep. If you’ve ever moved, you know how difficult it is to connect deeply or establish close friendships with others. It’s simple to host a Super Bowl party or spend a weekend at the lake if you have an established group of friends. Due to extensive moving and traveling, however, missionaries don’t have that. Their work and personal networks are not only broad but one-and-the same. That is why it can be challenging for them to develop relationships beyond a certain level.

3. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. It’s a 24/7 calling. A missionary can’t come home at the end of the day, drop his briefcase, and leave work behind. My parents’ office is their home, and sometimes they get the most done during the distraction-free “after-dinner shift.” Doing ministry is like carrying a heavy backpack around all the time. Even when you zip it shut, the weight is still there.

4. Guilt-free family time is a luxury. You hardly hear about where the Weavers go or what they do to relax, do you? Because going to the beach or seeing a concert hardly sounds like “mission work.” Just like you, missionaries need some free time (but rarely take it) in order to have the energy to work.

5. Writing doesn’t always come easy. I cannot tell you how many prayer letters my parents have thrown out! (I remember using old drafts as drawing paper when I was a little girl.) You read their final product and many of you have commented over the years how creative their themed letters are. But those are hard to write and take a lot of time and effort.

6. Words of encouragement go a long way. Have you ever received a raise? Or perhaps you’ve had a co-worker compliment you when you were having a bad day? These experiences can seem more foreign to the missionary than their mission field! That’s why relational support like thoughtful emails, small packages, and coffee dates can mean just as much as your financial support.

7. They depend on you. What would your life be like if you lived on 50% of your income? My parents and many other missionaries do just that, but do not like mentioning it. “Why?” you may ask. Well, if you got a pay-cut you probably wouldn’t broadcast it in the family Christmas card. It’s personal stuff! Besides, even if it’s true, telling already-generous supporters you need more just feels ungrateful. Fortunately, in addition to “Pray, Give, Go” there’s also “Share.” Missionaries love it when you tell others God is at work, because when you do, you’re reaching people they could never reach without you! You may not be able to give more, but you can inspire more to give by sharing their ministry with a friend, inviting them to speak in your Sunday school class, or sharing their updates on social media. It might not feel like you’re doing much, but trust me, keeping the supporter family grapevine alive and well truly matters!


What do you think of these ‘7 things missionaries aren’t telling you? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you’d like to read more of Rebekah’s work, she blogs at

15 Ways to Bless a Mission Partner this Christmas

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By Adriel Booker. 

With the Christmas season fast approach, perhaps you’ve been wondering what you can do for a Mission Partner overseas. Though these suggestions come from a northern-hemisphere perspective, they should help you come up with something creative that you can do. And don’t forget that your Mission Partner may work where Christmas means winter! 


It’s almost Christmas and you want to do something fun for your favourite missionary or overseas worker… How incredibly thoughtful of you! Whether it’s a care package you’d like to send or you need an online gift-giving option, we’ve got some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.

The ‘skip the post office’ options:

1. Choose an experience. Google activities where your missionary lives and buy him/her an online gift certificate for an outing to the zoo, a day at the pool, a sightseeing sail, or something similar. This type of thing will vary widely by location (as you can tell by our summer suggestions!), but look for something fun that your missionary might not typically have the budget for.

2. iTunes gift card. Buy an iTunes gift certificate online or if you buy an actual card, just email them the number from the back. If you want to personalize it even more, buy them the next season of their favourite show or an upcoming album that’s soon to be released. How fun for them to be among the first to download a newly released entertainment item!

3. Kindle gift card. For the book lovers on your missionary list, this is a no-brainer! Even those who don’t have a kindle can read a book through the kindle app on their phone or computer.

4. Skype credit. Send them Skype credit so they can go crazy with all those calls to grandma over the holidays!

5. Prayer & scripture. Pray for your missionary and ask God to give you a meaningful scripture. Spend the time to write the scripture out, paraphrase your prayer, and send it in a nice email. They will be delighted you took the time!

6. Movie tickets. Look up their local cinema and buy them a gift certificate online. If you’re able, include enough for two tickets and $10-20 extra for popcorn and drinks. What a fun holiday treat!

7. Blow money. I know this sounds boring but what missionary wouldn’t enjoy some guilt-free spending money?! Send them a little extra to buy themselves something from their wish list or to go out for a nice meal.

8. Christmas bonus. Even better, give your missionary an actual Christmas bonus they can use however they need to. We all know how many extra expenses come up at Christmas, and missionaries tend to have pretty tight budgets to work with in the first place. A Christmas bonus might allow them to buy their friends, spouse, and children the gifts their budget might otherwise not afford them, host a neighbourhood Christmas party, put on a lovely holiday spread for their family, or pay the postage on all those Christmas cards they need to send out to family, friends, and supporters.


The ‘send a care package’ options:

9. Home country candy. Fill a little box with red and green holiday M&Ms and other Christmas treats they may not find in their place of service. [For Kiwis, why not Pineapple Lumps, Minties and Candy Canes?]

10. Scented candle. Depending on where your missionary serves, they may not get to enjoy the smells associated with their childhood Christmases. Consider sending them a candle scented with pine, cinnamon, peppermint, or another scent that reminds them of home.

11. Hot cider or hot chocolate packets. You might be surprised by the things your missionary misses. Even something as simple as hot cider packets [an American Christmas treat] can be a little taste of home for them over the holidays. [For Kiwis, why not some Milo or even a Whittakers chocolate bar with instructions for home-made hot-chocolate?]

12. Pinecones or tree sprigs. Send a small box of pinecones or sprigs to decorate the table with and add some familiar scents from home. (Check with the customs website of your missionary’s country to make sure these will be accepted.) [For Kiwis, how about a piece of Kiwiana or one of these beautiful post-card sized pop-out native birds available at many souvenir stores and museums?]

13. Something silly. One year my mom sent us a small bucket filled with soft, fluffy plush snowballs. It was a hilarious and weird gift but has turned into a beloved tradition to have our living room snowball fights in the middle of our summer Christmas Down Under.

14. Holiday décor. For those serving in places where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, consider sending a few small decorative items, a snow globe, small wreath, or Christmas printed napkins or hand towels.

15. Something for the team. If your missionary is serving with a partner or a team, consider including something the others on the team can enjoy along with them—a favourite Christmas movie on DVD (check the DVD region or send it via iTunes!), a box of chocolates to share, etc.


Are you a missionary or overseas worker reading this post? Tell us in the comments what would most bless you this Christmas!


This article has been re-blogged from the website of YWAM Sydney Newtown. Thanks for letting us share it! The original can be found here.