Tag Archives: supporting missionaries

Should I only write to missionaries? Are they a special category or something?

After my last blog post (on writing to missionaries) a friend messaged me with some questions about what I wrote.

By-the-by, I really appreciate it when folk do that. That’s pretty much the point of this blog: conversations that cause us (i.e. me included) to think about how we can do genuine partnerships and the like. Dialogue, not monologue. All that jazz.

They were some really good questions, and articulated well thoughts I’ve been grappling with, even as I wrote my previous post. Possibly these are thoughts you had as well. So (with permission) I’m going to post some snippets from the e-mail.

Letter writing to ‘missionaries’ is … Well… Something I’m questioning… Not because we shouldn’t write to ‘missionaries.’ Heck, of course we should… because we should actually be writing to, communicating with and encouraging each other ALL the time! Because we all partake in God’s mission….

So… I guess my question from your blog is why missionaries? Isn’t this just how we should live our lives? With Christians and non Christians? I get that it’s tough being away from home… But how is that different for you than me? Actually, maybe christians working secular jobs have less Christian support because they’re not in a missions agency? But I’ve known students who were called to uni who would have dropped out if people didn’t write, and mums on the verge of breakdown with support, and people called to business who stay because of fellowship… Are they not the same as missionaries? Or are missionaries a special category?

Like I said, good questions! The short answer is, I agree. The longer answer is below.

I actually deliberated for a while about the title of that previous post, from the more specific ‘write to the missionaries I support,’ to the slightly more general, ‘write to folk I know living overseas.’ I even considered simply, ‘write to people.’

But there’s a couple of reasons why I went with ‘write to missionaries’:

1. A missionary is what I am: it’s what I know.

(Although I’m thinking through what a ‘missionary’ is and whether it’s a title I should use: thoughts appreciated!).

I totally agree that writing to each other–using our capacity for communication to encourage, exhort, etc one another–is something that we should all be generally doing more. Those examples above show the importance of communication. I don’t question that at all. But taking upon myself the burden of reinvigorating a spirit of writing in contemporary society at large feels a bit grandiose and presumptuous.  I have neither the experience to make such a claim, nor the influence to make such a change. Well, not yet anyway!

2. Starting with a focus on ‘missionaries’ feels like a SMART goal.

You know about SMART goals, right? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound. Like they say, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. And so I presume the way to encourage someone else to eat an elephant is likewise to start small. Hence why I chose to focus on writing to ’missionaries.’ I reckon it’s a SMART goal. Maybe I’m just a wimp, but I find goals/resolutions/etc get too imposing when they’re not specific, and then I don’t do them. My hope is that a focused resolution is more likely to get you on board.

3. I think it’s an area that gets overlooked in missionary support

Like I said, I almost titled the post, ‘write to missionaries you support.’ The reason being that, in my experience at least, it’s an area of support that gets overlooked. Finances and prayers: that’s what I think comes to most people’s minds when they think of supporting missionaries. Now, I’m supported financially by people’s generosity, and I am incredible grateful for that. I praise God for the work that is going on around the world, because people make sacrifices and give money. And I totally believe in the power and importance of prayer. I just think if folk have come that far, maybe I can convince them/you to go a bit further.

I guess I’m just not sure that everyone shares the opinion of ‘heck, of course we should write to missionaries!’ I’m not trying to judge, I’m just saying it’s not on people’s minds as a critical part of the way you support missionaries. Hence, why I’m planning on doing some posts giving ideas on how to write.

So are ‘missionaries’ a special category? No. But they are a separate category, and one I’m happy to focus on specially (I know, I’m super smooth, eh!).

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“We need to feed our souls, too.” Why I’m super-pleased with the painting a friend send me.

The other day I got a surprise in the post. A big chunky brown envelope. When I opened it up this is what I found:

IMG_7548

Amazing eh? I love it. Just straight-up love it!

It was from my friend Tim in the UK. We’re actually yet to meet in person, but he’s a super-passionate, super-creative, super-generous dude. Hence the painting. I asked Tim about it and this is what he said,

“As I prayed about the painting, God gave me the images. The Lion, with His roar warring on behalf of the people, alongside the Lamb bringing redemption, and hope arising!”

That’s what the Japanese means: ‘hope.’ So appropriate in so many ways. I feel like at the moment hope is what my soul is feeding on, and this painting helps me do that. A weird phrase perhaps, so let me explain.

I recently read a short book (well technically an excerpt from an upcoming book) by Makoto Fujimura called ‘On Becoming Generative.’ In it he relates a time when his wife bought some flowers, and he got angry at her because they were living pretty close to the bread line and they couldn’t afford to buy flowers. Her response floored him, and to be honest it fairly floored me too.

“We need to feed our souls, too.”

It floored me, because it’s a truth that’s been pressing in on me over the past few months. But I haven’t been able to really pin it down. That phrase summed it all up, “We need to feed our souls, too.”

I mean I knew that it was important to keep my soul joyful. After 31 years of life I’ve picked that much up. That was the main reason for starting up this blog. I wanted to make sure I stayed in touch with folk like you. And I wanted to encourage people to stay in touch–like really in touch–with the other missionary folk they know around the world.

But the practicalities of keeping my soul well fed in this strange and wonderful country of Japan . . . I hadn’t really nailed that down.

Which is odd, because ‘feeding souls’ – well, you could say that’s what I came to Japan to do. Teaching people to feed their souls on Jesus. That is after all what Jesus calls people to do,

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Now it’s not often that I forget to feed my belly (and for ‘often’ read ‘ever’). But I’m a bit of a muppet, and I can easily forget to feed my own soul. I need near-constant reminding to keep feeding on the bread of life. I need pointers . . . I need paintings.

Paintings that speak of redemption. Paintings that stir my heart to hope afresh. Paintings that show that ancient promise: ‘Immanuel,’ God with us.

Yes, I need paintings. Because I need to feed my soul, too.

So, basically what I’m trying to say is, thanks for the painting Tim. I love it!

How a handful of words gave me the joy to keep on track in Japan

Yesterday I read a blog post by my friend Peta that reminded me of two things that are critical for me as I seek to live for Jesus here in Japan:

The power of joy

The power of words

You see I’ve been in Japan for just over a month now, and the long-termness of my stay here has sunk in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on the edge or anything, but life here can be tough. The Japanese language . . . goodbyes  . . . natto. It’d be easy to be cynical. Especially if you’re me (but more on that some other time).

So the words of Peta’s blog struck me something mighty. Actually the title by itself struck me,

Today I Choose joy

Starbucks cup with "Have a nice day" written on it

 

This was the reminder I needed. That the fight for joy involves a choice. A choice to rejoice (sorry I didn’t intend that terrible rhyme!).

It was a simple message. After all it was only a blog post. About 500 words. I doubt it took Peta more than an hour to write. And yet there was power in those words to keep me going in the fight against cynicism.

And this is not the only experience I’ve had of the power of a few words. These last few weeks I’ve received a number of e-mails from different friends that have contained powerful words. Words that have guided me and spurred me on. Just e-mails. Simple, brief, and generally with sketchy grammar. But with words that have kept me going.

Because we often think that the only words that can stop a disaster, or motivate someone for adventure, are epic speeches, right? We think in order to fire people up we need to quote the Lord of the Rings or something.

But it is often the simple daily reminders that keep us on the straight and narrow.

Think of your car sat-nav: which instruction is the most important?

OK sure, if you miss the turnoff from a motorway it is more annoying than if you do the same on a normal road, but you get my point, right?

It’s the gentle “Keep going straight” that encourages us that we’re on the right track. And the quiet but firm, “Perform a U-turn when necessary” that stops us from continuing in the wrong direction.

“Keep going”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself”

“Isn’t Jesus awesome?”

“Praying for you”

“Choose joy”

Simple words. But sometimes that’s all we need: clear but gentle reminders to keep on keeping on. To keep fighting the good fight. And to do it with a happy heart.

The post Peta wrote was actually inspired by another blog. That didn’t reduce its power. Because the power of words doesn’t come from their originality, but from their truthfulness. The call to “rejoice” was not a new idea for me. In fact, none of the words that people sent to me were really original. They didn’t have to be. They were reminders of truths that I had taken my eyes off in the business of life.

Not that I’ve been particularly busy. I don’t think busyness is a necessary requisite of forgetfulness – being human is enough for that. I think that’s why the Bible is so full of the same things being said over and over again. And why the apostle Peter wrote to the first bunch of Christians,

“I know you know this stuff, but I’m going to keep reminding you of it until I die.”

Because joy in the Lord Jesus gives power to pour out your life for the sake of others. And that joy can come from a handful of words.

 

But enough from me: what about you? Have you ever experienced the power of a few simple words?