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!).