Supporting World Missions Requires More Than Money
I love the Middle East. I recently got back from Dubai with a team from The Well, and before that I spent a year in Lebanon working with a campus ministry. I’m a self proclaimed hummus snob, like hookah more than I should (sorry mom), and get excited whenever I hear someone speaking in Arabic.
This trip to Dubai wasn’t the type of trip where you go hold some orphans, take pictures with said orphans, and return home ready to move across the world to fix all their problems…until the warm feelings wear off in a week. We went on this trip to learn more about the area, church planting strategies, how we can be involved in what God is doing in the region, and to provide encouragement to the pastors and others laboring there. Of course we got to be tourists and took lots of pictures, but what we saw and heard about the way God is at work at Redeemer Church of Dubai (and the Middle East in general) was a lot more interesting than the obligatory picture of the world's tallest building.
Redeemer is a church in the middle of the 10/40 window, a term used to describe the land between 10 and 40 degrees latitude, from Western Africa to Eastern Asia. With over 1,000 people in attendance each Sunday, Redeemer has successfully planted several churches in the region over the last 9 years. This area of the world is where the majority (88%) of unreached people live, meaning those who have not heard of or do not readily have access to the gospel. With that in mind, it’s incredible to see a church in Dubai thriving the way it is. There have been several instances where this church has not only been allowed to exist but has been supported and given favor by the government.
The existence of Redeemer in this part of the world is in and of itself a testament of how God is working in the region. Redeemer has made it a point not to be the type of church that is a comfortable haven for westerners to feel more at home, but a church that is burdened for planting more churches and seeing the gospel spread throughout the 10/40 window. In Dubai residence is temporary, there’s no easy route to citizenship, and there is mandatory retirement at 60. Redeemer knows this and sees the urgency in equipping their members to be sent out - sent to a new country, sent to their home country, sent somewhere else in the world to make much of Jesus and share the good news with those who may have no other access.
Three Ways You Can Support The Church Overseas Other Than Just Sending Money
The Lord is at work in Dubai, and all over the world! "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few"--and the work is hard. As someone who has lived overseas, it can, and will be, isolating and lonely. By choosing to live overseas, sometimes in hostile environments, you are essentially choosing to miss out on what is going on with your friends and family in your home country. A lot of times your friends and family don’t know how to care for you, how to encourage you, or even how to understand your life. Here are three ways you can support missions without just sending a check:
As cliche as it sounds, this is honestly one of the best ways you can support missionaries. Few things are more encouraging than knowing someone is praying for you. If you are receiving letters or prayer requests from a missionary, you would be amazed to know how encouraging a one or two sentence reply can be telling them how you are specifically praying for them.
2. Move There
One of the cool things we learned in Dubai was how it is becoming easier and quicker to send missionaries overseas. There are numerous opportunities to be a part of the work force in countries or regions that desperately need the gospel. Pray about what would it look like to move to Dubai or other region, be involved in a local church there, and be intentional about reaching your coworkers. The development and technology of the current age offers opportunities and access that have never existed in the past, let’s take advantage of that.
3. Provide Ongoing Encouragement
We don't have to overcomplicate things. Words of encouragement are a simple way to lift up our brothers and sisters overseas. Another great option is sending a care package with some of their favorite snacks, coffee, and other reminders of home that can’t be found overseas. It may cost 100 dollars to send 20 dollars worth of stuff, but to a homesick missionary, it’s priceless. When I was in Lebanon we had visitors bring us 2-day-old Chick-fil-A sandwiches. After a year of no access it tasted amazing, because it connected me to home.
Life overseas is hard, there is no way around it. As believers in the states, we are uniquely qualified and able to provide encouragement to those serving in other countries, and I pray that we don't take that opportunity and responsibility lightly.