For most missionaries, staying encouraged in the midst of the unique context they live and serve within doesn’t come easy.
Day to day life on the mission field includes encountering a multitude of trip-wires that can cause them to stumble in to a number of momentary disappointments, or lead them in to seasons of discouragement.
–It could be a lack of progress in learning the language.
–Or still being baffled by many of the cultural traits of the people they are trying to build relationships with.
–They may have just heard that one of their key financial supporters can no longer do so, or whether the dip in financial support they experienced last month will happen again this month.
–It’s very possible that they might be having ongoing conflict with fellow missionaries that serve alongside them.
The bottom-line is that the path of cross-cultural life and ministry that they navigate on a daily basis is littered with a myriad of discouragement generating challenges.
QUESTIONS CAN PRODUCE ENCOURAGEMENT
One of the simplest and most meaningful ways to encourage all missionaries–whether they are trudging through the muck and mire of discouragement or strolling through a stretch of great blessing and visible fruit, is to ask them questions.
But not just any questions.
They need to be asked questions that will lift their gaze upward to the Lord and away from the circumstances or situations they currently find themselves in.
FIVE GAZE-ALTERING QUESTIONS
Regardless of how long they’ve been on the field, ask them these two questions:
1–What unexpected or surprising things did God do prior to your departure, that helped you to know you were right in the middle of the path of obedience?
2–When the tsunami of culture shock enveloped you during your first few months on the field, which aspects of His character and/or attributes brought you comfort and assurance?
And then follow up with these three:
3–If someone right now asked you to describe what your God is like, what would you emphasize or tell them about Him that you probably wouldn’t have prior to living on the mission field?
4–Which two or three verses from His word Has He caused to come alive to you with new meaning since you’ve been on the field?
5–What are at least four things that God has done for you that help to remind you of His love and grace?
MAKING THE MOST EFFECTIVE USE OF THE QUESTIONS
Using these questions in a wise and graceful manner is the best way to maximize their encouragement potential. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
–They are most effective when they are asked verbally in a face to face conversation, via skype, or even a phone call.
–Because each question requires a deeper level of thought than normal, and gazing God-ward from the midst of their circumstances and situations isn’t easy, it’s good to repeat the question and then be very patient while they think about how to answer.
–When they do answer, listen intently, and then ask them a few follow-up questions about what led them to give that answer. Take the time and give them the opportunity to unpack their answer as fully as they would like to.
–Because of these things, it’s usually best to not ask more than two of the questions in one conversation.
–For missionaries who like to write and have the time to do so, these questions can be sent to them in written form. But as stated above, they are much more impacting if asked in a verbal conversation.
Since Jesus used questions on a regular basis to help people change their perspectives on God and their own situation, following His lead can help anyone who knows and loves missionaries to be the source of encouragement they desire to be.