May 08, 2024

It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Schools are out or soon will be. And many in the mission world are pulling out their suitcases for a journey overseas, perhaps with others from their churches, short-term teams in tow, or important missions to complete.

That’s not me. My passport expired a while back. When I was young and single, I went abroad about once a year. And I was single a lot longer than many of you. Now, though, I have less energy and fewer opportunities have come my way. I’ve been there, done that, and even if I’d like to go again, I don’t see how I can justify taking the place of someone who may have more to give and not had such privileges in the past. So, I stay home and just read about other cultures.

Yet, this choice brings on some troubling trends. My skills and confidence for navigating actual, in-person, cross-cultural situations have atrophied like unused muscles. Living through a pandemic and working from home for years have also taken a toll. What to do?

Maybe some of you are in the same boat. Or perhaps you know others whose hands-on cross-cultural ministry experience is becoming ancient history, something they used to do, maybe before mortgages, gardens, and grandkids. I think our churches have more than a few like this.

How can we find and offer the middle-aged a way back into more active roles? I’ve got a few thoughts. Some might also work for those who are new to missions. 

Three Ways to Reengage in Missions

1. Visit a friend

If you used to do missions, you probably know someone in another country, someone you’d love to see in person again, encourage and learn from. What about a visit? Maybe they’ve said, never expecting a response, “You should come see us sometime!” Reach out. Bring it up. Explore how that could work. Maybe they have a job for you to do, but perhaps they just need a friend. If you have numerous missionary contacts or friends in other places, contact several and see who responds. Then, make a plan. Renew that passport and save up money or frequent-flier miles.

If you’re a church mission leader, think about who in your church could get on a plane and be a blessing to a worker or ministry you support. Talk to them about going, maybe with some help and direction from the church.

Read The Special Role of a Missionary Friend or In-Person Care (Catalyst Services).

2. Be a more active advocate.

Maybe you can’t make that international trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on your hands at home. Buy a go-er a coffee and ask how you can be a bigger help and part of what they’re doing. Pray with and encourage them. Brainstorm about a problem they need to solve. Offer to host or organize a gathering or represent their needs when they are gone.
You may also have relevant experience or connections to share. Perhaps you can help missionaries-in-the-making grow in practical skills. See, from our archives, What World Travelers Should Know Before They Go. Church mission leaders, as you get to know candidates, look for ways to encourage such connections.

To make a stronger contribution, link arms with others. Read Revisiting Advocate Teams (Catalyst Services).

3. Invite the world in.

Many middle-aged missionaries will tell you they first got interested because they heard a missionary speak at church or met missionary families Mom and Dad invited to their house for dinner. Both may be less common in today’s culture. So, be counter-cultural. Find out when a missionary will be in town and send them a note about getting together. Do they need a place to stay? Offer them hospitality.

And what about hosting a neighbor from another culture, like having an international student or an immigrant family join you for a holiday? Contact local cross-cultural ministries or student exchange programs or talk to your church about needs and opportunities.

You might start small. But ask the Lord to show you if you could play a long-term role as a “welcomer” through sponsoring refugees, teaching English, or hosting an exchange student. Church leaders, share opportunities like that with people in your congregation. You might be surprised who responds.

See Befriending the Bewildered (Pioneers) or learn how to become a friendship partner to an international student (ISI).

Conclusion

To get the creative juices flowing, you might check out an article I found deep in our practical mobilization archives: 21 Easy Ways to Introduce Your Friends to the Nations.

Originally published by Mission Catalyst, May 8, 2024. Marti Wade has managed Missions Catalyst since 2004 and is a member of Pioneers. Marti also serves on the board of directors for MissionWorks. She lives near Hillsboro, Oregon.


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