20 questions to ask a missionary

When I was dating Sarah, there were several months where we lived 600 miles apart. Almost every evening I would call and talk with her. It was the highlight of my day. Though it may sound corny, I would often prepare for my calls by jotting down a list of questions to ask her. I wanted to be sure I had something to talk about in case the conversation started to lag (it rarely did). My preparation must have paid off as all those conversations led to marriage and life together.

Good questions are the fuel to a great conversation. They are the door by which you can discover who a person really is. Now what about you? Have you ever wondered what to talk about with a missionary that visits your church or that comes for a meal at your home? You may have thought, “I don’t really have much in common with these missionaries. They live in a foreign country and do something I would never dream of doing.” Or perhaps you think that missionaries get tired of answering questions. But the truth is that most of them are excited to talk about the people and country they love. If you have ever thought any of these things before, then here are some great questions to ask next time you are with a missionary.

Ask about their calling

  1. How did God lead you to become a missionary?
  2. What did you do before you were a missionary?
  3. What advice would you give somebody who felt that God may be leading him or her to become a foreign missionary?

Ask about their country

  1. How would you describe your neighbors and the people that live in your town?
  2. What were some of the biggest adjustments and challenges you had to make when you started living in your field of service?
  3. What do you miss most from America while you are on the field? What do you miss most from your country while you are in America?
  4. How do people in your country view America? What are some cultural differences or barriers that you have had to overcome?

Ask about their work

  1. What is the best part about being a missionary? What are some of your favorite things you get to do in your work?
  2. What does your typical week look like?
  3. What are some of your biggest victories from the past year?
  4. What were some of your biggest challenges during the past year?
  5. What are some of your big goals and desires for your future ministry?
  6. How can people and churches here in America better help your work?

 

Find out who they are

  1. Tell me a funny story about something that has happened to you as a missionary.
  2. Have you read any books that have been particularly helpful to you? Do you listen to any podcasts or preachers that are an encouragement to you?
  3. What is one of the most encouraging things somebody has done for you while you were on the field?
  4. How is your family doing?
  5. What are some activities that you like to do as a hobby or to relax?

Find out what you can do for them

  1. How can I pray for you? If the setting permits, ask to pray with the missionary that very moment. Surprisingly, there have been very few occasions that people have done this for us, and yet we deeply appreciate it. It is powerful to have people not just pray for you, but with you.
  2. Is there something I can do to help your family right now or while you are on the field? Again, you may be amazed at the response to this question. Most times the needs are very simple – getting to do a load of laundry, mailing a small package, or recommending a good place to take their kids for the afternoon.

You may be surprised. The more you talk with a missionary, the more you may find out that they enjoy many of the same things you do. They may share similar struggles with you. They may be more like you than you thought at first glance.

So the next time you are with missionaries, don’t hesitate. Go talk with them,  Your thoughtful questions just may open the door to a terrific conversation, an encouraging moment, and even a new friendship.

Let go and let others

Since we are home in America for a few months, I have had time to reflect upon some areas in my life that have changed since arriving in Portugal four years ago. One of the biggest lessons I am learning is to “let go and let others…”

What do I mean by this? Simply put, I like to control things. I don’t like surprises. I want order, and I want things done right. For example, at church I like to make sure all the chairs are perfectly aligned. I think people pay closer attention in an orderly room. I want the bulletin to look a certain way, and I want things at church to go as I plan. In big and small things, I like to have control. Can you tell that I don’t like to “let go”?

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But I am learning to loosen my grip on the details of life and invite others to work with me. This learning process has stretched and challenged me, but the progress is encouraging.

In the early stages of our work in Montijo, we began meeting with three families that were interested in planting a church in our town. I began to develop a detailed plan of action for the launch of the church. I made a four page, full-color, professional looking proposal and presented it to everybody after having dinner together one night. I expected everybody to be on board with my ideas, but exactly the opposite happened. None of them thought my plan was the right thing to do, and they were vocal in telling me so. Going home that night, I felt discouraged and humiliated, but I had a choice to make. I could either “go it alone” and control everything, or I could listen, be patient, and work with the brothers and sisters God had placed in my life.

Thankfully, I chose to listen and be patient. As time went on, I began to see the wisdom of what they were saying, and in turn, they began to trust me more as a leader. In the end, we planted the church together and it is wonderful to see God work through us together.

It’s not always been easy. People let you down or forget to do what they promised. Other times, one person’s idea of how to do something is different than your own. But, I am also starting to see that this is a risk worth taking.

To let go and let others is risky because it means you yield control in exchange for partnership. You can either control everything or you can work with other people, but you can’t do both. As a result, allowing others to work with you means that you must often lead from behind or from beside rather than from the front. It means helping others succeed and get credit for something you ordinarily could have or would have done yourself. It is a process of enabling others to grow. It’s like the saying, “Good leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” That’s the goal of letting go and letting others.

Also, I quickly discovered that “letting go” is not passivity. In fact, when you are a leader that works to create other leaders, it is often more time intensive and challenging. I can prepare a Bible message by myself much quicker than I can train somebody else to preach a sermon. It is much easier for me to make plans for the church by myself than it is to get other leaders in the church to reach a consensus on this matter. But then it would be my plan and my vision, not our plan and vision.

On the Sunday before we left Portugal to return home on furlough, I looked around the church grateful for the friends and co-laborers God had placed in my life. This was now the true test of the lesson I was learning. For six months I would be gone. Other people would be setting up the chairs, making the bulletins, planning the services, leading the Bible studies, and many other things that I would normally do. I had no option except to let go and let others. At that moment, I thanked God for patiently teaching me this important life lesson. I was leaving, but the work would continue on.

And that’s just the way it should be.

November news

We have been having a great furlough so far. It has been a good mix of spending time with family, visiting our churches, seeing friends, doing some fun activities like trips to the zoo and museums, and getting to rest. This past week, we were in Wisconsin. For the next two weeks, we will be at churches in Michigan. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, we head to Virginia and Maryland to visit a couple churches there. So far, we have visited twelve churches. In each of them, we have found many brothers and sisters in Christ who showed us great love and kindness. It still amazes us that there are so many people who read the updates about ministry in Portugal, pray for us, and care about what God is doing there.

This past Sunday, the Deaf church had its first service since we left Portugal. We are grateful for missionary colleagues who are doing such a good job continuing the work with the Deaf. At this service, they celebrated the first year anniversary of the deaf church. Praise God for the six Deaf that came! They are asking many good questions and are excited to continue to learn more about God. We really believe that we are on the verge of seeing many great things happen with the Deaf in Portugal.

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On the far left is Amanda, the missionary to the Deaf that just recently arrived. Then there is Elena, Carlos, Manuela, Fernanda, Carla, and Sergio. On the far right is Joyce. We have been working Joyce and her husband Cal to reach the Deaf since we first arrived in Portugal. They have been a tremendous blessing to us.

In other news from Portugal, we are encouraged by the overall faithfulness of the people in the church in Montijo. However, we need your prayer. Some people are discouraged, others are battling challenging situations, and still others are simply making choices that are leading them away from the Lord. Pray especially for Horacio, the man who was recently saved and baptized. He has been writing me expressing some of his doubts. Pray that God would strengthen his struggling faith.

Below are some pictures from our recent journeys. Thank you again for your prayer and friendship!

Making a joyful noise at a children's museum
Making a joyful noise at a childrens museum
Laura playing doctor at the museum
Laura playing doctor at the museum
Family selfie in Chicago
Family selfie in Chicago
What is this?
What is this?
Watching the sea lions
Watching the sea lions