I was recently talking about different types of missionaries with my kids because I want them to know about all different types of mission work. I realized that there might be parents out there that are only familiar with a few types of missionaries. So, I have decided to write a series of posts that will help grownups and kids both learn more about the types of mission work being done around the world. I will try to include links to websites where you can find missionaries with these jobs. I will also try to include activities that families can do that tie into that type of work, when possible.
(Photo from http://ntm-aviation.org/photos)
There are missionary pilots serving all over the world. They normally fly in countries where there are people groups that are difficult to get to (like Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Philippines, etc.). They usually live near a base, where the planes or helicopters are kept in a hangar, and they fly out to villages and remote areas when needed. Many times, they can do a flight in an hour or two that would otherwise take days. They help all kinds of people:
- Doctors taking vaccines or medicines to remote locations
- Local people who need emergency care or transportation to a hospital or clinic
- Missionaries that are working to translate the Bible into local languages in villages
- Local pastors that are traveling and preaching in different villages
- Missionaries that need supplies
Here are just a few websites that include information about missionary pilots. Take some time to read about a few…some have their own blogs or newsletters that you can subscribe to.
(Photo from http://ntm-aviation.org/photos)
Want some activities for your little aspiring pilots?
- Look up countries like Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Philippines on a map or puzzle of the world
- Make paper airplanes and watch them fly. Have a competition to see which one goes farthest.
- Look up take-off and landing videos on missions websites like the ones above. Imagine landing and taking off from the small, slanted, grass runways!
(Most of the links in this post are to direct you to another source of information. There are, however, a couple of affiliate links and Families for Missions might receive a small commission if you click on those and make subsequent purchases.)
Taking a missionary shopping may sound a little overwhelming, especially if you are an introvert or if you don’t know them well. BUT, believe me, this can be a huge blessing!
There are two ways that I have seen this happen:
- Organize a shopping trip as a church for multiple missionaries visiting at the same time. I know a church that does this every year during their missionary focus week/month and it works well. They assign a designated amount of money for each missionary family, and assign church volunteers to accompany them to the mall. It is an event for all the missionary families and church volunteers to participate in at the same time. They take pictures and then share them on Sunday with the congregation. Many times, the missionaries will buy things like tennis shoes, pants, and bathrobes. You’d be surprised how grateful they are to buy some of these things they have been needing, but unable to afford.
- Take them individually. If you are meeting them for lunch or hosting them in your home, you can figure out a time to take them shopping while you are with them or while they are in town.
Things to consider:
- Decide ahead of time if you’d like to surprise the missionary or let them know ahead of time. It might work best to plan the time, since most missionaries have a schedule to keep when they are back in the United States.
- You don’t have to go to a huge mall. Pick a smaller store if time is short.
- You also need to decide what you want to take them shopping for.
- Are you going to let them buy whatever they want?
- Are you going to ask them to identify something they need?
- Or are you going to offer to spoil them by buying an expensive perfume or makeup?
- What you are shopping for will determine what store you need to go to.
- Do you need to set a budget?
- If you have limited funds, you need to decide ahead of time how much you are willing to spend. If you only have a specific amount to spend, you can let the missionary know how much or just give them the cash and let them spend it.
Have you ever taken a missionary shopping? Consider giving it a try!
Contact your missionary friend and find out what kinds of magazines they might enjoy reading. Learn about what interests they have. What do they like?
- Children’s interests
You’ll also need to find out if they prefer to read it electronically or receive the paper version in the mail. You might check if they can even receive paper versions through the mail…. you’ll also have to check with the magazine to see if they ship overseas (it might cost a little more for overseas shipping). You’ll either need an email or a street/PO address. Look up a magazine that matches their interest and order it for them or their children. Missionary kids usually have less access to many English reading materials.
You can do this on any budget! Many magazines are available at steep discounts at different times through the year. If you participate in the Recyclebank recycling program, you can use reward points to order magazines for other people and it won’t cost you anything!
This is a great idea for a gift that is not a one-time thing…they will keep receiving new issues throughout the whole year. By the way, this is a great gift for anyone!
Here are some links to a few magazines to get you started…just click on the image!
(Some links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.)
Overseas workers, just like us, have family members that get sick or need extra care from time to time. The difference is that they are not always able to be present to care for them. Many missionaries struggle with being far away from a family member when they are sick. Some have elderly parents that are not acutely ill, but need some extra help with certain activities. Some missionaries are forced to return from their ministry if someone is not available to care for their family member.
So, an out-of-the-box way that you can be a blessing to a missionary is to offer to care for their family member. Examples of family members that may need extra care include:
- Elderly parents
- Sick parents, siblings, or children
- Missionary kids that have returned for school in the United States or are at boarding school
Ways that you can be helpful might include such things as:
- Taking them to doctor appointments
- Sitting with them in the hospital
- Driving them to church, Bible studies or book clubs
- Making meals to take to them or inviting them over for a meal
- Going grocery shopping for them
- Cleaning their house
- Mowing their lawn or doing yard work
- Respite care (sitting with an ill person while the primary caretaker gets a break)
- Giving a care package
A great way to be an encouragement to the missionary is to send them an email or call them on the phone to give them an update about their family member. They will feel relieved and grateful to know that their loved one is being checked on and looked out for.
Want a fun idea for an activity to do with the family? Check out these recipes from Wycliffe sent in by real missionary kids! You can try to make them with your kids and try foods from all over the world!
Now is the perfect time to start thinking about Christmas presents for missionaries. I know it seems early, but it is not! You might want to send a package or you might want to donate a special amount of money for them to use in buying Christmas things for their own family.
Sending a package to a missionary with Christmas presents in it is a great idea, but it requires a bit of forethought. Contact the missionary you would like to send something to and find out what they might need or like. Also, find out about how to send a package or what you may not be able to send. It may take weeks or months for them to receive it. For more information on sending a package to a missionary, read: how-to-bless-a-missionary-send-them-a-package-week-5/
Sending money as a Christmas gift is also a great idea. This may allow the missionary to buy Christmas presents for their family that they otherwise couldn’t afford. They might be able to purchase something they have been needing or wanting that wasn’t in the normal budget. Find out how to send them money – usually there is a way to make a payment online through their ministry website, but you may have to send in a check. (An added benefit for you – sending money is usually tax-deductible.)
To make an even bigger impact, join together with your Sunday School class, homeschool group, extended family or neighbors and participate together to give an even bigger gift. Your missionary may be able to purchase the washing machine, motorcycle, or car that they have been needing!
What have you sent to a missionary?
One way that we have chosen to bless missionaries is to host them in our home. This also has proven to have an added benefit – our kids see the missionaries and get to know them and their children, even if only for an evening. We have been able to host several missionaries for dinners and lunches in our home. This is a great way for a whole family to be involved, and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money if your family happens to be on a tight budget.
So, how do you do this if you don’t know any missionaries or don’t know when they will be in town?
- Contact your local pastor and find out what missionaries will be coming through your area. Have your church put you on a list to be contacted when missionaries will be coming.
- Find out when a missionary that you have befriended might be coming through. We had started following the newsletters from, and had written several emails to, a family in Brazil. We soon found out that they would be coming to the US and we offered to feed them or have them stay with us if they were around our area. They ended up driving through for supper on their way to another destination. We might not have ever met them if we had not contacted them and invited them to come.
Growing up, my family benefited from staying with many different people. We had people in different states and cities that we got to know because we ate or stayed in their home. This was a big blessing to us because we did not have extra money to pay for frequent hotels during our travels. We had many people that hosted us for meals, but we also stayed overnight with many people while travelling. We stayed for several weeks one summer in the basement of a family that offered to let us use it. I also benefited from a family that let me stay with them for 2 weeks one summer until my parents came back to visit churches that summer.
Here are a few things to consider in order to be a GREAT HOST:
- Make sure that you have a private area for the missionary and their children to sleep. You would think this would not need to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway. Not everyone seems to know this. You don’t have to have a basement or private apartment…. a normal bedroom will do. It is just awkward if there is no way for them to close a door for privacy or if you expect their children to sleep with yours. Remember, they are strangers and may not feel comfortable with this.
- Find out about allergies. Many people these days seem to have allergies to all sorts of different things. You’d hate to serve spaghetti and find out that they can’t have gluten, prepare food with nuts when they have a life-threatening allergy, or put them in the room the dog normally sleeps in if they are allergic to dogs!
- Prepare your Wi-fi password. Most missionaries these days are very globally interconnected. They may not have a data plan or internet access, and they will likely be very grateful to be able to use your Wi-fi.
- Prepare a gift bag. This can be anything your family would like and can afford. Maybe it’s a collection of travel-sized toiletries for them to use while in your home and take with them. Maybe it has travel activities and snacks for the kids. Maybe it has an item for a home (if they are on home assignment). Maybe you can afford to put some gift cards in. Use your imagination and get the kids involved!
Have you hosted a missionary? Share your ideas with us!
Most missionaries take a “furlough” or “home assignment” from time to time. This refers to a period of time that they are back in their passport country (back “home”, as some say). The reasons for the time away from their ministry can be many. Some people have concerns and wonder, “Why does that missionary really need to come back to the United States so much?” or “Aren’t they wasting a lot of money going back and forth?”
Here are some of the reasons that a missionary might come back to their passport country:
- Requirement by agency or mission – Most missions or mission agencies have a requirement or recommendation for their missionaries to return to their passport country and take a break from their current ministry from time to time. The amounts of time between these periods vary and the recommendations for activities during the time away are also different.
- Rest time – Missionaries need rest! Living in a culture that is different from your own is stressful and exhausting…even if you love the country you are in and the people you work with. Just communicating in a different language can take a toll on a missionary’s health and relationships. Reconnecting with family that they have not seen for years is an important component of this for them and their children.
- Visiting current supporters and churches – Missionaries need to visit the churches and people that support them. People expect updates about the ministry that they are praying for and contributing money to. Visiting people also makes the ministry more real to them and they will think of the missionary more often and remember to pray for them.
- Raising support – Missionaries need to raise more support. This means that they need to ask more people and churches to send in money to support their ministry. People can contribute monthly, weekly, yearly, or once in a while. Any contributions help the missionary stay on the field. Many missionaries are under-supported and have to return to the US to raise funds.
- Children’s needs – Some missionaries return for a home assignment due to a need of one or more of their children. This could be a child with special needs like deafness, autism, learning disabilities, etc. Many times it is hard to find specialized services in other countries. Maybe the parents are receiving training so that they can educate their special needs child once they return to their ministry. Missionaries may also return for a period of months to a year to help a child adjust to moving back to the United States for college or university. This period of transition is one of the most difficult for the missionary kid – moving to the US is not moving home, but to a foreign culture. Many MKs struggle to adjust and make poor choices during this time. Having parents near during this period may help ease the transition.
- Caring for ailing parents – Many missionaries have ailing and elderly parents back “home” in their passport country. When parents struggle with cancer, strokes, and heart attacks, the missionary may need to return to care for them for a period of time.
- Further training – Receiving training is an important aspect of most jobs, and missions is no different. Missionaries may need to do continuing medical education, maintain currency of their pilot’s license, receive computer training, learn new communication or evangelistic techniques, learn new teaching techniques or maintain a teaching license.
Now, I have to address the elephant in the room…. or in the back of people’s minds. Many people believe that missionaries are on vacation for the time they are in the United States, and some even think “Wow, I wish I could get a break from my job for that long!”. My family encountered several of these people over the years. As you can see from the above list, there are times of rest and recovery, but the majority of the time back “home” is spent working…just in a different capacity than when they are in their host country. Remember that when you see missionaries back in the United States. 😉
Although it may sound simple, one of the best ways to bless a missionary is to pray for them. There are many areas for which missionaries would appreciate prayer:
- Effective Ministry – Obviously, every missionary would like for their ministry to be effective and reach many people. They feel called to serve and have a passion for people coming to know God on a personal level. If their ministry is effective, it makes it easier for them to persevere in the work God gave them. They need wisdom to know when to share about Jesus and with whom.
- Safety – Missionaries serve in all different environments. Some live in relative safety, but others are constantly on the defensive, watching for threats. Some fear for their lives or their possessions, and others just worry about sickness and lack of medical care. Many times Americans are targets because they are perceived as rich, or just because they are Americans.
- Strength/Stamina – Missionaries do hard, frustrating work. Daily activities are harder than in the U.S. Things like cooking, laundry, and housekeeping all take extra time and effort. Houses are not airtight, and bugs and dust are pervasive. People are spiritually blinded and may not be open to hearing about God. Pray for both physical and emotional strength.
- Grow in Faith – Missionaries may not have opportunities to be spiritually fed. Many live in a desert-like spiritual environment where they serve as the only well with water for those around them. Pray they receive encouragement from God’s Word.
- Personal Friendships – Missionary life can be lonely. Working with people of another culture is hard and they may not ever be able to establish close friendships, especially if there are no Christians in their area. Their friends back in their “home” country are moving on with life without them and their relationship will never be the same.
- Kids – Most missionaries worry about their kids adjusting well. They want their kids to grow up healthy and emotionally well. The list of things to pray for the MKs is extensive and I will write another blog post in the coming weeks to give you more ideas.
- Health – Medical care in other countries is always different than the United States. Many developing countries suffer from a lack of doctors and hospitals. There are also many snakes, bugs, and diseases that are new to the missionary family.
- Host Country Government – Pray that the host country government would stay open to missionaries and the gospel. Pray that they make laws that facilitate people coming to know God in their country.
Want to be an even bigger blessing? Tell your missionary what you are praying for them. Write out a prayer that they can read to let them know your thoughts and prayers!
Are you having trouble getting your kids to want to learn about other countries and people groups? Do you wish they would care about others and be more generous?
Here are some inexpensive ways that you can use the recent Summer Olympics in Brazil to spark their interest:
- Color a map of Brazil together. Label Rio de Janeiro (where the Summer Olympics were in 2016).
- Create or color a flag of Brazil.
- Read a book about Brazil from your local library.
- Read a book about missionaries. Find one that includes people who have gone to Brazil, and talk about what kinds of jobs they have done. Missionary Kid Stories
- Play soccer as a family. Look up the rules if you need to.
- Make homemade lemonade/limeade from fresh squeezed lemons/limes.
- Make a Brazilian dinner (include rice and beans) by looking up recipes online. You can use the recipe from MoneySavingMom Crockpot Beans for how to make crock pot beans (so simple)!
- Put together a puzzle of the world. Find Brazil.
- Learn some Portuguese phrases together. Bom dia!
- Look up missions websites like JAARS http://www.jaars.org or Wycliffe (www.wycliffe.org) and search for articles about missionaries and mission work in Brazil. Pick some to read as a family. Sign up for updates from a missionary if you find one you are really interested in!
You won’t have to do all of these things to get your kids interested…just pick the ones that will work for your family! Your kids will already be excited about the Olympics, and you’ll be surprised how easy it will be to help the excitement carry over to learning about a new country and the mission work people are doing there!