5 Ways You Can Run Alongside Oversees Missionaries
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:1-2
I never considered myself a runner. As a matter of fact, in high school I attempted to run a long distance race that ended badly (it involved what I ate before the race — not pretty), so I hung up my running shoes. However, many years later upon my family and I moving overseas as missionaries to Central Asia and dealing with learning a difficult language and living in a mega city, I needed something to help relieve the stress. At the suggestion of a teammate, I began running, and long story short we signed up to run a long distance race that was held in our city. Thankfully I can say that race ended much better than my first race but the whole experience was a reminder to me of the race we as Christians are running together. There are many ways that running a race parallels the life of believers and can be applied to those who are sent overseas and the role of the church in encouraging one another.
During the past three years of our family serving as church planters in Central Asia, we have been so thankful for the many ways those at home have been running with us. These are five key ways the church can run with those who are sent to far away places.
One of the biggest ways we have been encouraged and fueled to endure the difficulties of the race has been through PRAYER. It seems like such a simple thing, but prayer is vital to ministry. It is the backbone to all that we do. The area we serve in is deeply embroiled in spiritual warfare. Every area of our lives has been challenged. However, we have felt the effects of our prayer warriors. Each time we asked for prayer and sometimes even when we had not sent out a request but received an e-mail or message saying, “I’m praying for you” we saw the effects and felt the peace that can only be explained through prayer. Your prayers are instrumental to national believers who face deep persecution, and the seekers we have encountered have seen the power of Jesus’ name through your prayers.
There is much to be said for cheering one another on. Hebrews 10:24 says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We cherish the e-mails, notes, and messages that we have received the past three years. During the race I participated in, there were a few times that I wanted to just give up. However, there were many around us, fellow runners and those on the side, who were cheering us on. That motivated me to continue to put one foot in front of the other and press on. It works the same for those of us who are in a difficult field. Knowing that we are remembered is so helpful. No, we don’t want to be put on a pedestal, but we had one supporter write us each month to keep pressing on and working in the field. His words were simple, but they carried a great deal of encouragement.
Just as some races have sponsors, those who have supported us through giving are vital to what we do. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering provides for our needs — housing, schooling, transportation, etc. Then there are those who have given special gifts that we have been able to use for special projects like providing clothing and food for refugees in our area or buying Bibles to give out to those who’ve never read God’s word.
During the race, there were people who were not completing the entire race, but running short distances with the racers to help push them along and endure. Likewise, churches can encourage their missionaries by sending short-term teams to where they live. We were blessed with several teams from our sending church that came to visit us. They learned what we do so they could better pray for us and also participated in our ministries. They prayer walked in the neighborhoods we were reaching and had encounters that only our Father could orchestrate. They were a light to many who live in a very dark area, and although there were language barriers, they helped to open doors to the spreading of the Gospel. When they returned to our fellowship they spurred them on in how to pray for the work.
Know The Course
Prior to the race I looked at the course and became familiar with it. The same is needed for those who want to see Christ proclaimed among the nations. We need to know the areas we are reaching and how to pray. There are many prayer guides available for that purpose. Our company has several social media sites that are easy to access and that provide up to date ways to pray and be involved in the Great Commission. They are facebook.com/imb.sbc, twitter.com/imb_sbc, instagram.com/imbmissions, and pinterest.com/imbsbc.
We are so thankful for the body of Christ and how it has manifested itself during our time overseas. The needs in our area are too great for us to meet alone. God has called every believer and church to play a part in fulfilling the Great Commission. As we rest this furlough and prepare for our return to the country that has become our new home, we pray that we can encourage others to run in this race with us. Thank you to those who have run with us these past three years. It is because of your faithful support and by God’s grace that we are here today.