Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Being For Something Does Not Mean That You Are Against Something Else.

Being For Something Does Not Mean You Are Against Something Else.

I said that in the title because I am about to post something that people will react to. Do not misread this or assume anything negative….got your attention?

Look at the title and think about it before reading farther. I can be totally for something. That does not mean that I am against something else. The two can be unrelated. I can love football. That does not mean that I hate baseball. 

I also love how the church and Christians in America not only has tremendous pride in our military, we celebrate it. We love our veterans and support our troops. It is part of our DNA. Look around at your church and see how many families have members who work in the military. We are, as evangelical churches, extremely patriotic and grateful for those whose patriotism included military service. That is awesome!

This May, my son, who is already in the Army, will be commissioned as an officer. We are so proud of him. We are flying from Bolivia to the States to be there when it happens. He is serving his country and has worked hard for this moment. We love and are proud of him. 

Not only does the church support the Military, the average church has three or four opportunities a year to actually give a standing ovation to our men/women who are serving and to our veterans. Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and in some churches 9/11. We have flags, sing patriotic songs, and then have everyone who is or has served stand. We then applaud them, and in every service that I have ever been in it turns into a standing ovation.

That is cool. I love it. When I was a pastor in the States we did this every single one of those days listed above.

Now, lets look at something else and just do a compare/contrast. 

We give special recognition and standing ovations to those who serve in our country's military.

What about those who serve in missions? 

Do we recognize them?
Do we show that we appreciate them? 
Do we seek to send our children into this career of serving the Lord in other countries?    
Do we want to listen to their stories?
Do we call them heroes? 

Or do we politely nod at them and then make every effort possible to avoid their table lest they have a donation card on it? Do our eyes glaze over in boredom when the pastor mentions a missionary is present (even though we may offer a golf clap) and then boredom turn to dread when we discover they are speaking?

Do we show them the same respect that we do our military?  

Does your church have a Sunday where missionaries are verbally praised?

You may say that the church donates money to support them. Our military also receives a salary/benefit package from our money (taxes). Yet we do more than say, “We pay our taxes, that should be enough gratitude.” No, we want them to KNOW that we appreciate their sacrifice, their willingness to live in other countries and give up personal freedoms so that we can remain free.
What are the missionaries doing? 
Aren’t they leaving their homes, parents, children, friends, communities, churches, culture….everything in order to preach/teach true freedom?  Aren’t they fighting the good fight of faith? Yet, do they get any special attention? 

Shouldn’t those serving on the front lines of God’s Kingdom get at least the same respect as someone serving in the military for an earthly kingdom…at least from our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let me be honest. We missionaries are not looking for a standing ovation when we come to your church. 

I am not writing about church mission committees doing some type of assignment and staying in contact with the church missionary. I am writing about individual Christians actually showing support to missionaries. It is awesome to feel appreciated

I love using this example in my parenting conferences about the power of spoken affirmation. Every recorded time that God the Father spoke out loud to God the Son, He affirmed Him. Jesus was not walking around with self-doubt or a low self-esteem. He knew Who He was and what His mission was. Yet, for some reason, the Father affirmed Him. "You are my Son. I love You. You make me happy." (paraphrased). 

People are PROUD of those serving in the military. We affirm them. We show them in tangible ways that we are grateful for their service.

Wouldn't it be awesome if our missionary friends could feel affirmed? 

Missionaries would love to think that people are proud of us. Instead, many times we simply feel forgotten. 

Please consider this...

Missionaries serving on foreign soil feel forgotten. 
They are lonely. 
They miss their home.
They want to be with their families.
Holidays are especially brutal to be away from family, friends, and culture.

Take Christmas as an example. In many parts of the world, those serving on the field hurt during Christmas. The weather is not like 'Christmas time'. The ambient of the village is not like Christmas. It is difficult to decorate or do many of the things that the missionary has done their entire lives. 

Their grown children are on another continent. 
They cannot purchase very good presents for their kids.
They feel like bad parents. 
They feel out of touch.
They cannot be with their extended family. 
They miss all the things that make Christmas special. 

We had a missionary friend tell us that their family did not receive anything from anyone this Christmas. As she told us, she actually emotionally choked up and had to take a breath. She had tear-filled eyes as she finished her story. This is a mature adult, in love with Jesus, serving on the field, started to cry because they did not receive a card. It is not the card. It is not the gift. It is the thought.

We want to know that you have not forgotten us. 
We want to know that you are concerned for us. 
We want to know that you are proud of us. 

You can throw all the platitudes about doing it for the Lord at me that you want to...the truth is that we are emotional people that need emotional support. 

I am not writing this in some self-serving way. I just think that it is something that missionaries would like you to know, but do not know how to express it. Your simply keeping in touch can make all the difference in the world! Thing such as:

Some type of electronic gift certificate (if the missionary has internet access) such as an iTunes or Amazon gift card is multiplied in value because of the thoughtfulness that went behind it. 

An occasional gift sent to the children of the missionary such as toys or candy are incredible. I know that postage is a lot, that is one of the things that make the gift so valuable. We just had a friend from the States send us a bag of little candy bars...the bag with a variety of bars in it. They spent $50 to send us the $3 bag of candy. The fact that they paid that much money to give my kids a little treat made us want to cry with gratitude.

Sending a missionary a treat from home can make their entire month. We had a friend send us three bags of different flavored Doritos. We spread them over a month. They arrived squished into crumbs...but we were so happy to have them.

E-cards cost nothing and only take two minutes to send, but they can brighten up a dark day just by letting the missionary know that you are thinking of them. 

A hand-written letter snail mailed if possible telling the missionary that you remember then, appreciate them and want to encourage them...wow! 

It is in our DNA to remember and respect our military. I am for that. 

But can't we also remember and respect our missionaries who are serving on the field? 

I want to use myself as an example. On the spectrum of receiving care from the States, I would say that we receive better 'care' than most other missionaries that we know. Having said that, here is what our better care looks like:

This Christmas we received two packages and one Christmas card

In the course of the year, we have three families that send us care packages.

Look back at that and realize that we are on the far end of the good side of the spectrum when it comes to receiving care. Only one family that I know has more people than we do send them packages. 

In other words, the bar has to be set pretty low if three families sending packages is next to the top of the class. 

Remember, I am not writing about monthly dollar donations. We could never begin to express how grateful we are for that. We could not be on the field without them. 

Go back to the military example that I used earlier about our military receiving their salary/benefit package. We don't say, "We pay our taxes and that pays you. Why should we do more than that?  Your pay is sufficient gratitude."

We know that going above and beyond just getting paid is a great thing to do. My son has been upgraded to First Class while flying by complete strangers. He has had meals purchased while in restaurants. He has had people come up and shake his hand and say that they are grateful for his service. He has had police officers not write him traffic citations. People affirm him.

Missionaries need affirmation. Let me say that again. I am absolutely sure of who I am in Christ. He is my identity. I have been in the ministry since 1988 and am a mature Christian who knows that all that really matters is that my life is pleasing to the Lord. Yet...


Those of you that know me know that I am confident in my abilities. You know that I am not a complainer. You know that I am not a whiner-baby.


If I need it, can't you imagine how much others need it as well?

Now let me restate my title. I actually wrote this blog two years ago, but never posted it because our churches and friends are so pro-military that I was fearful they would perceive this as being anti-military. It has been in my draft folder for two whole years. I just decided today to update it and post it...so, my title again:

Being For Something Does Not Mean That Your Are Against Something Else

I am FOR showing missionaries that you truly appreciate and respect their labor of love for the Lord.

I am also FOR showing our military that we truly appreciate and respect their service to our country.

I just don’t understand why people and churches do the second but not the first.



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Janice said...

Excellent points, sir. I totally agree with you on this.