Holding the Ropes
Prior to his departure, William Carey, missionary to India and the “father of modern missions,” told the leader of his newly founded missions organization, “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” The idea Carey was getting at was that a significant part of sending missionaries “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6) is not a one-time event. We don’t just write the check, have a commissioning service, and look forward to hearing the report.
Our job as senders is to keep supporting the goers. A belayer’s job is to keep supporting the spelunker when she’s out of sight in the darkness. And one practical way we can do that in our highly connected world is to be intentional in regularly communicating with those we send out. You can read one of our missionary’s accounts of how much that kind of communication can mean.
However, our highly connected world also means that our missionaries in difficult places must be cautious about what and how they communicate, and what and how others communicate with them. That’s why for some of our sent ones we don’t put their names in any communication that travels through the World Wide Web. But that shouldn’t stop us from being an encouragement, and letting those sent from us know that we are praying for them, are thinking of them, and want to stay connected with them.
So to help you know how to communicate with missionaries in difficult places, here are some general guidelines.
- Assume a missionary needs to be careful with what is being communicated. It’s better to err on the side of caution. Know that any missionary serving in the 10/40 Window must be careful (that is where four of our families serve).
- Don’t forward, share, or post to social media the names, pictures, or pertinent information about missionaries without their prior approval.
- Don’t use key Christian words like the name of the missions organization, God, Lord, Jesus, church, pray, or Bible. Certainly do not use missions, missionary, evangelism, or related terms. Instead, use terms that are not exclusive to Christianity like company, dad, son, club, ask, and book.
- Don’t use the missionary’s location or names of nationals.
- Do share what has been going on in your life.
- Do be patient if it is a long time before you get a reply and do keep writing if you never get a reply. A missionary may not have an Internet connection long enough to get a reply in but is helped to read your emails.
- Do remember their children and think of what may be fun or encouraging for them to receive.
- Set a reminder on your calendar (or ask Siri to remind you) to communicate with a missionary on a regular basis so it isn’t something you just do once but on an ongoing basis.
If you need the contact info for any of our missionaries, get in touch with me. We also have people that send care packages on a regular basis if you would like to ship something. And if you have more questions about what is or is not ok to communicate, just ask me, Dick Mills, or someone on the missions committee. Not all of our missionaries require that you follow these communication guidelines, so just ask one of us for the specific situation and context of the missionary you are wanting to write to.
Holding the ropes for those we have sent out is a significant effort in ensuring they can continue serving over the long haul. Let’s hold on tight for the sake of the Name.