Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Missionary Grocery List

Today's passage:  Romans 15:8-32
     "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
      That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
     That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed."
     I pray for our missionaries.  Our Wednesday night prayer sheet lists all of the missionaries we support in 6 of the 7 continents.  Usually, I pray for the family in that country and put a little mark by the name.  I try to cycle through all the missionaries before starting over again.  Here is what I am guilty of (sentence ending with a preposition on purpose).  "Lord, bless so-and-so in such-and-such country." Mark by the name, move on to someone else tomorrow, like I would cross off an item I bought at the store.  Now, God will certainly honor and bless the fact that I prayed for so-and-so in such-and-such country and I'm sure that the missionary is appreciative of any mention, because on the foreign field, it may many times feel like they have been forgotten.  But I'm not sure God is entirely pleased with such a prayer.  Paul asks the Roman church to strive together for him in prayer.  Strive?  That sounds like it is going to take some work.  That sounds like maybe the church needs to know what is going on in Paul's life and they might even need to spend more than a minute in prayer for him.  It also sounds like, maybe some of them ought to get together to pray for him.  Ouch.  My toes are hurting right now.
Reading Paul's Letter
Reading Paul's Letter
Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     The Lord has convicted me on more than one occasion about how I should pray for our missionaries.  I do pray for them, I just can't say I strive at it as I ought.  There are particular families I probably strive for more often than others, like our friends the Luluquisins in the Philippines.  They are particularly dear to my heart, so I can say I strive in prayer for them.  But I don't think I try hard enough for some of our other missionaries.  In the past, I have tried to get back to the bulletin board in the church foyer to read the missionary letters, but not as often as I should.  And even then, it would be hard to remember all the names of those needing salvation in those churches, all the countries that are antagonistic towards the Gospel and the churches bearing the brunt of that persecution, all the family members who are struggling with some kind of health issue.  I started a notebook once, to try and write these things down, but I never kept it up.
     How disappointing for the missionary to return home to have to introduce himself to each church member as the missionary in such-and-such country.  Of course, there are always new people in a church who will not know the missionary (although if they have been praying I would hope they would at least know the name and which country).  At the end of this set of verses, Paul asks the church to pray that he will be refreshed when he joins them.  I know I never pray that for our missionaries.  Furlough is exhausting.  When the missionary comes from the field, they are required (as Scripture says) to give a report to their supporting churches.  In some cases, they have to raise new support.  The economy has been so unstable, I'm sure that many missionaries have had to add to their already full furlough schedule to beseech new churches for support.  Where is the time of refreshing?  Not only do I need to let my missionaries know (especially when they walk through the church door) that I know who they are and am praying for them, but try to be an encouragement to them.  So many times the missionary is an encouragement to me.  Their spirit and perseverance in the Lord's work is inspiring.  Yet, I am instructed to pray that I can refresh them, and I am convicted that I have not done that.
     I need to be conscious of the needs of our missionaries.  I need to make it a priority to read the letters.  They take time to write them and let us know what is going on, but too many members (me) do not make the effort to read them.  Too many times, the missionary is surprised when a church member actually knows who they are.  That shouldn't be.  They shouldn't be amazed when a church member asks about certain situations that they read in their last mission letter.  And it shouldn't be assumed that the only ones to know these things are the missionary treasurer and the pastors.  I should know these things.  Every church member should know these things.  I realize there is no possible way I can remember every detail of sixty plus missionaries.  But by the time they come to visit again, I sure should know a lot more than I did the last time they came.  It is to my shame and their disappointment if I don't.  Grocery lists are written to be used and thrown away, but  that is not how I want to treat our missionaries and I am going to strive more when I pray for them.

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