Over the past few weeks we’ve been discussing how to encourage the missionaries sent out from your churches in podcasts and blog posts. In this article, we want to shift from those who have a passion or responsibility for caring for missionaries to the missionaries themselves. If you’re a missionary who reads this blog or listens to our podcasts, you definitely want to make sure that those at your home church have these posts. You, the missionary, need to be in those conversations, that’s vital. Even if that means you as the sent one initiates the dialogue, it needs to happen. From the missionary point of view, no one is more aware of that than you are.
I also realize that the mechanisms and timing for facilitating these relationships fruitfully can be fleeting. There are seasons when you have an abundance of interested contacts and other times when those channels are, for one reason or another, not open or available. Maybe missions leadership back home is changing or church vision is shifting. Or maybe when you left for the field, you and your senders just didn’t know what your actual needs were going to be and now there are huge gaps in the care and resources you need. If that’s your situation, where does the care for your soul come from? Now what?
Depending on your situation, there isn’t just one answer. But there are some basics that get ignored in our walk with Jesus that can be strengthened. When these are taking place, your perspective can change, which impacts your prayer life and shifts your attitude toward goals and tasks around the mission you’re called to. Often, that is all you need to get a fresh idea for reaching the lost where you. Stories to share with supporters come to mind, as well.
It’s not new techniques you need, it’s soul care. The goal of all of the encouragement content we’ve posted recently is to help you, the missionary, get your eyes off of your own situation and onto the Lord. That’s the game changer.
When you don’t have the necessary relationships in your life, it’s up to you to handle the care of your soul. There are some things you can do to get that up and running.
The steps in the Celebrate Recovery program are some of the best tools available for self-challenging and self-managing your soul. Let’s stop here and qualify this statement. Since the word “self” is mentioned here, a negative response will trigger in some readers. This is written under the assumption that if you are a Christian missionary, you have a relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, you have a prayer life, and you read and study God’s Word. This isn’t about earning salvation or keeping it. Here’s what the assumption looks like: “now that I’m a born-again believer in full-time service to Jesus and His gospel, how should I live day-to-day in a world that is in opposition to the gospel moving forward and to me as it’s agent.” One tool I’ve found to be helpful, as stated above, are the steps outlined in Celebrate Recovery, along with each step’s biblical roots (source).
Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18 NIV
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 NIV
3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 NIV
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40 NIV
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16a NIV
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 NIV
7. We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 NIV
9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16a NIV
12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1 NIV
In my own life I’ve found working through this process to be one of the most productive tools for ongoing care for my soul. God gave us our minds and souls and holds us to account for them. Ultimately, no matter how many or how few Christian relationships you have, there needs to be honesty, transparency, and open channels to God that only exist between you and Him. That’s a fundamental truth for every human being and isn’t discussed on the mission field as much as it needs to be.