Working overseas, I ran events for interns, inviting Christians to come together from around the world to experience what mission partners can do. It was encouraging to see friendships develop between interns from different countries. However, on one occasion things unravelled from day one.
First, the interns were still arriving when I came down with a viral illness that sent my temperature soaring and left me weak, unable to lead for most of the programme. Then I became aware that two participants (who had never previously met) had taken a strong dislike to each other, and as both had been given significant roles in the event it started to affect others. So I struggled! – quickly sending urgent prayer requests back home, talking with the two people, and showing up at the programme as some kind of ineffectual presence when I should have been recovering in bed. Then our co-leader had a sudden family bereavement to cope with. It seemed like a perfect storm of challenges.
In SIM, a role of chaplains and personnel leaders is to bring Christ-like principles into interpersonal conflicts, but for various reasons this three-week event didn’t have such experts. At worst, personality clashes in mission can threaten to derail a ministry. One SIM worker who suffered ugly interpersonal conflict in mission recently described it as “a storm brewing for four years that resulted in a tornado.”
Mission partners are actually fairly well-prepared for the big, known hazards. But mundane, out-of-the-blue problems that crop up can throw you. And we can be sure such uncomfortable incidents will occur.
Paul talked about equipping ourselves for spiritual battles with armour (Ephesians 6:10-18) and meditating and praying on this passage is such true advice. But alongside this stands the protection of those supporters who hold us up in prayer — the people who are faithfully praying for us, even when they don’t know exactly what we might be facing at any given moment.
Being such a faithful prayer supporter doesn’t just happen. It is partly a matter of relationship. I urge mission workers not to neglect keeping in touch, sending out newsletters, social media posts and video clips to keep their side of the relationship strong. And for those at home, can I urge you to get to know the ones you pray for better? Write to them about your life as well as sharing in theirs. Befriend them. So that when you’re going about your day and you have a strong feeling that so-and-so might need help, right now, you bring them before our Father.
I recently heard from a mission worker serving in one of the world’s most difficult places, and no team with her in person because she’s the forerunner, setting things up. Here’s one of the things which keep her well-being and courage stoked: she has two people who meet with her via Internet each week, to pray together.
Would you commit to doing something like this for someone?