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This article is adapted from a Global Missions Podcast interview with Melissa Chaplin, author of “Returning Well.” Melissa helps churches lovingly care for cross-cultural workers who are re-integrating into life in their passport country. You can listen to the full interview here. (The conversation with Melissa starts at 9:38.)

When cross-cultural workers return from the mission field, they often go through two stages — the Settling Stage and the Processing Stage — before they fully re-engage in their passport culture. There are different ways for churches to interact and help in each of these phases.

The Settling Stage 

The Settling Stage is when returnees have just re-entered their passport culture. This includes a lot of travel to connect with churches, friends, family and supporters. It also includes tackling many logistics: setting up housing, procuring a car, changing insurance, getting a new phone. This stage can take up to four months, depending on how much clarity the returnee has about his or her next steps.

This is a season of mixed emotions. There’s relief and grief, joy and sadness. All of this varied emotion, plus other aspects of transition, can result in some challenges, like atypical indecisiveness, forgetfulness, insomnia, fatigue, even mental health issues for a time. It’s important to give returning workers an extra measure of grace during this season. They’re real people under real stress. 

With that heart behind it, here are some practical things that churches can do: 

  • Ask how you can help:Have an open conversation with the returnee, asking, “What would be helpful for you? What kind of housing are you going to need? What kind of vehicle are you going to need? Can we help you find those things?”
  • Remove a common stressor:Often cross-cultural workers are overwhelmed by the number of choices in their passport country’s stores. Try asking them for a pantry wishlist, and stock their house with food items to get them through that first month. Or, ask if they would like someone to accompany them as they go about their errands, to help them work through anything that might be new (like self checkout at the grocery store, or electronic prescriptions at the doctor’s office, for instance). 
  • Be basic: Most cross-cultural workers will have sold most of their earthly possessions before they left for the field. When they come back, ask them what basics they need — dishes, bedding, pots and pans, towels, and so on. Rally the church to provide those items. 
  • Give them time:Allow returnees to choose when they’re ready to share about their ministry with the church. Sometimes churches ask returnees to share before they’ve debriefed and processed themselves. If churches wait until returnees are ready, the sharing can be so much richer. 
  • Don’t forget the kids:Keep in mind the needs of returning missionary children, too! Consider whether there are relationships with other children in the church that can be, not forced, but seededthrough intentional playdate invitations. 
Processing Stage 

In this stage, returnees are feeling settled in their living situation, and the emotional transition begins to weigh heavy on them. They’re ready to begin processing internally. Here’s how churches can help during this stage: 

  • Build relationship through listening:Ask open-ended questions that keep the focus of the conversation on the returnee’s experience. Some sample questions could include: “Who do you miss the most? What do you miss the most? What’s been most difficult for you during re-entry? What aspects of your culture were most life-giving?” 
  • Offer patience:Realize that it might take returnees more time than expected to work through their processing. When you think they should have an answer of what’s next, they still might be mid-process with the Lord on what he wants to do with who they are now, after this season of living cross culturally. 
  • Encourage returnees to obtain an effective debriefing:Debriefing programs usually last about a week, and include group debriefing with other returning workers plus some individual sessions. These programs are not free, however, so a church could help a returnee by making it financially viable to attend. Another option would be to use the book “Returning Well,” in which someone from the church would act as a Returning Well companion to help guide the returnee through the debriefing process. 

Thank you, Melissa, for your wise insights and your care for returning workers! Click below to listen to the full interview with Melissa. The interview starts at 9:38.

Global Missions Podcast episode 100
Returning Well: A Guide to Thriving After Serving Cross-Culturally
Melissa Chaplin
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Eric King recently joined SEND International as Director of Church Relations & Mobilization. Eric has served as a missions pastor, a church planter, and in church mobilization and engagement with the International Mission Board. He and his wife, Mariah, have three teen-age children. In this interview, Eric tells the chilling story that God used to draw him into mission, discusses the challenges of recruiting new missionaries, and describes the ideal church/agency relationship. 

Q. Your title is Director of Church Relations & Mobilization. Can you describe in layman’s terms what it is you do? 

A. I have the privilege of leading a team that really loves God’s mission and also  loves churches and people who are exploring their role in mission. We listen to what God’s doing in the life of a church and look for ways that we can come alongside in partnership. We don’t consider it our role at SEND International to send missionaries ourselves; rather, we assist local churches. We want to equip pastors and church leaders to be comfortable talking about mission in a way that their people can really grasp it and pursue a way to get involved. 

Q. Why is it important to link mobilization of new missionaries and church relations? 

A. At SEND, we believe the local church is how God has chosen to fulfill his mission around the world. So philosophically, it’s important for us to come alongside churches to send well. Practically speaking, those missionaries who are sent out well from local churches have a stronger potential of thriving in a new culture. 

Q. What does “sending well” look like? 

A. Sending well includes assessing, equipping, caring for missionaries while they’re overseas, and welcoming them back home. The church should know missionary applicants better than we do. Are they spiritually ready? Are they discipled in a way that they can thrive in a new culture? Are they equipped? 

Sending well involves giving potential missionaries opportunities to lead and to disciple in their local context, and it’s being a spiritual anchor for on-field missionaries through prayer and support. 

Q. What are some of the current challenges in recruiting new missionaries from North America? 

A. I see at least four challenges:  

  1. There are fewer and fewer evangelical Christians in the US, so the pool of potential candidates is smaller. 
  2. Cultural tendencies can impact our worldview. So, cultural emphasis on consumerism, comfort, safety, and the idea of getting settled works against transplanting your life to another culture. 
  3. A lot of people in church today didn’t come with a religious background, so they’re learning everything from scratch. There’s less awareness of mission in general and of the global needs and opportunities. 
  4. For a long time, there’s been a belief that missionary work is for elite Christians. It’s hard for everyday Christians to imagine living in a new culture, because they think that’s for someone who’s not like them. We need to break through that lie. The truth is that God uses the normal, everyday Christians to do amazing things around the world.  

Q. What are some exciting current trends in mission mobilization?

A. For a long time, we’ve thought of seminary or theologically trained believers going as missionaries. But there’s an emerging idea of missionaries taking alternate pathways. This might mean moving overseas for a job, or entrepreneurially minded believers helping to create jobs in order to open the doors for people to live incarnationally. 

Another exciting trend is global mobilization. The West has sent out a lot of pioneer missionaries to places where a foundation for the gospel had not been laid. Now we are seeing many opportunities to focus attention on mobilizing and equipping believers in emerging sending nations. We’re figuring out what it looks like to facilitate others to be pioneering missionaries.

Q. SEND values unity in diversity. How can we send a more diverse missionary workforce from North America? 

A. Internationally, SEND has a visible desire to be diverse in our teaming. When we look at the States, we’ve not done so well. We really want to position ourselves to listen carefully; we want to learn from our non-Anglo brothers and sisters and find ways that we’re creating barriers, structurally or relationally. We want to learn from others who are doing it well. 

Q. Why should a church consider partnering with an organization, rather than just sending missionaries out on its own? 

A. Biblically speaking, a church can send missionaries on its own and fulfill Christ’s Commission, but I think there is wisdom in partnering well with organizations that can help do that effectively. 

An organization like SEND can provide a lot of assets and resources to help a church send well. We have the experience to help a church assess their members. We also offer training. How do you live and thrive and make disciples in a new culture? The experience of SEND can help a new missionary do that more effectively. 

Partnering with an agency means that new missionaries are able to join a team of like-minded believers in places where there are few believers. Having a community helps missionaries thrive. 

Working on a team also provides accountability. Considering all that local church leaders have on their plates, it can be hard to also maintain accountability for those who are far away. 

Q. What would an ideal church/mission organization relationship look like? 

A. Mutual respect. The organization understands the primary role of the local church in mission, and the local church understands the organization’s experience and the opportunity for the organization to serve them well. Picture a three-legged stool: You’ve got the church, the agency and the sent one working together for the sake of seeing more people come to know Christ, more people discipled, and more churches planted. 

Practically speaking, agencies can handle logistics: Support, member care, insurance—all those things that we don’t get so excited about, but are really important. 

The statue of Padre Cicero in Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil.

Q. What drew you into missions? 

A. I grew up with my parents working in inner-city ministry, and I’m very thankful for that heritage, but I didn’t have a lot of exposure to cross-cultural mission from a global perspective. My first out-of-country mission trip was to Brazil when I was in my 20s and working as a small group discipleship guy at my church. I saw that there was some semblance of truth, a little bit of the gospel, but it was mixed in with a lot of spiritism, traditions. People were just really trying to figure out how to get to God. 

I stood on top of a mountain where there’s a 90-foot statue of Padre Cicero, a famous priest in that area. Many times, Brazilians will climb to the top of the statue and jump and kill themselves hoping to find favor with God. That’s really sad, that the truth is so liberating and easy, but there are people who don’t know it. 

God changed my heart then, and I began to pursue mission in my life and the life of our church. I love Brazil, but God broke my heart for the nations and I began to discover that there are places that have even less access to the truth. 

My wife also has a passion for missions. We’ve kept our life ready, so at any given time we could pick up and move overseas, but God’s kept us on the US side, helping others get involved. God’s been faithful to give us cross-cultural opportunities even here. 

Q. What do you wish that you had known when you were a missions pastor that you know now, after working with the International Mission Board and now with SEND? 

A. I’ve had so much exposure in the past several years to the many ways that everyday Christians can play a part in missions. I’m seeing opportunities that churches have to lead their people to join in mission that I would never have dreamed of back in the day when I was a mission pastor. 

Q. You’ve spent the past six weeks getting to know SEND International. What have you come to appreciate about SEND? 

A. SEND has a desire to be innovative and not stuck in “we’ve always done it that way.” 

The people at SEND have genuine care and concern for all the people they have an opportunity to interact with. It’s a very relational organization. 

SEND wants to be strategic but always while trying to discern where God’s leading. When a challenging idea comes up, the attitude I hear is, “That’s a hard idea. I’m not really sure I like it, but I definitely want to see if God’s in it, because if God’s in it, I want to do it.” 

Five quick questions 

1. How do you take your coffee? It’s based on the quality of the coffee. If it’s really good coffee, I’ll drink it black. At the SEND office, lots of cream. 

2. What are you reading? A series of articles on the household of God. It’s a very intriguing cultural perspective on what the Bible means by house and family. 

3. If you had one free day, what would you do? I would take my sons fishing. 

4. Cats or dogs? Dogs. Are cats really an option?  

5. Favorite Bible verse? 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 

Get in touch

Click here to send Eric King, SEND’s Director of Church Relations & Mobilization, a greeting.

Click here to connect with a mission coach who can help you on the path to sharing the gospel with those who haven’t heard.

Sign up for On Mission, our monthly email newsletter full of encouragement and practical tips to help you navigate the road to cross-cultural service

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Eric King recently joined SEND International as Director of Church Relations & Mobilization. Eric has served as a missions pastor, a church planter, and in church mobilization and engagement with the International Mission Board. He and his wife, Mariah, have three teen-age children. In this interview, Eric tells the chilling story that God used to draw him into mission, discusses the challenges of recruiting new missionaries, and describes the ideal church/agency relationship. 

Q. Your title is Director of Church Relations & Mobilization. Can you describe in layman’s terms what it is you do? 

A. I have the privilege of leading a team that really loves God’s mission and also  loves churches and people who are exploring their role in mission. We listen to what God’s doing in the life of a church and look for ways that we can come alongside in partnership. We don’t consider it our role at SEND International to send missionaries ourselves; rather, we assist local churches. We want to equip pastors and church leaders to be comfortable talking about mission in a way that their people can really grasp it and pursue a way to get involved. 

Q. Why is it important to link mobilization of new missionaries and church relations? 

A. At SEND, we believe the local church is how God has chosen to fulfill his mission around the world. So philosophically, it’s important for us to come alongside churches to send well. Practically speaking, those missionaries who are sent out well from local churches have a stronger potential of thriving in a new culture. 

Q. What does “sending well” look like? 

A. Sending well includes assessing, equipping, caring for missionaries while they’re overseas, and welcoming them back home. The church should know missionary applicants better than we do. Are they spiritually ready? Are they discipled in a way that they can thrive in a new culture? Are they equipped? 

Sending well involves giving potential missionaries opportunities to lead and to disciple in their local context, and it’s being a spiritual anchor for on-field missionaries through prayer and support. 

Q. What are some of the current challenges in recruiting new missionaries from North America? 

A. I see at least four challenges:  

  1. There are fewer and fewer evangelical Christians in the US, so the pool of potential candidates is smaller. 
  2. Cultural tendencies can impact our worldview. So, cultural emphasis on consumerism, comfort, safety, and the idea of getting settled works against transplanting your life to another culture. 
  3. A lot of people in church today didn’t come with a religious background, so they’re learning everything from scratch. There’s less awareness of mission in general and of the global needs and opportunities. 
  4. For a long time, there’s been a belief that missionary work is for elite Christians. It’s hard for everyday Christians to imagine living in a new culture, because they think that’s for someone who’s not like them. We need to break through that lie. The truth is that God uses the normal, everyday Christians to do amazing things around the world.  

Q. What are some exciting current trends in mission mobilization?

A. For a long time, we’ve thought of seminary or theologically trained believers going as missionaries. But there’s an emerging idea of missionaries taking alternate pathways. This might mean moving overseas for a job, or entrepreneurially minded believers helping to create jobs in order to open the doors for people to live incarnationally. 

Another exciting trend is global mobilization. The West has sent out a lot of pioneer missionaries to places where a foundation for the gospel had not been laid. Now we are seeing many opportunities to focus attention on mobilizing and equipping believers in emerging sending nations. We’re figuring out what it looks like to facilitate others to be pioneering missionaries.

Q. SEND values unity in diversity. How can we send a more diverse missionary workforce from North America? 

A. Internationally, SEND has a visible desire to be diverse in our teaming. When we look at the States, we’ve not done so well. We really want to position ourselves to listen carefully; we want to learn from our non-Anglo brothers and sisters and find ways that we’re creating barriers, structurally or relationally. We want to learn from others who are doing it well. 

Q. Why should a church consider partnering with an organization, rather than just sending missionaries out on its own? 

A. Biblically speaking, a church can send missionaries on its own and fulfill Christ’s Commission, but I think there is wisdom in partnering well with organizations that can help do that effectively. 

An organization like SEND can provide a lot of assets and resources to help a church send well. We have the experience to help a church assess their members. We also offer training. How do you live and thrive and make disciples in a new culture? The experience of SEND can help a new missionary do that more effectively. 

Partnering with an agency means that new missionaries are able to join a team of like-minded believers in places where there are few believers. Having a community helps missionaries thrive. 

Working on a team also provides accountability. Considering all that local church leaders have on their plates, it can be hard to also maintain accountability for those who are far away. 

Q. What would an ideal church/mission organization relationship look like? 

A. Mutual respect. The organization understands the primary role of the local church in mission, and the local church understands the organization’s experience and the opportunity for the organization to serve them well. Picture a three-legged stool: You’ve got the church, the agency and the sent one working together for the sake of seeing more people come to know Christ, more people discipled, and more churches planted. 

Practically speaking, agencies can handle logistics: Support, member care, insurance—all those things that we don’t get so excited about, but are really important. 

The statue of Padre Cicero in Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil.

Q. What drew you into missions? 

A. I grew up with my parents working in inner-city ministry, and I’m very thankful for that heritage, but I didn’t have a lot of exposure to cross-cultural mission from a global perspective. My first out-of-country mission trip was to Brazil when I was in my 20s and working as a small group discipleship guy at my church. I saw that there was some semblance of truth, a little bit of the gospel, but it was mixed in with a lot of spiritism, traditions. People were just really trying to figure out how to get to God. 

I stood on top of a mountain where there’s a 90-foot statue of Padre Cicero, a famous priest in that area. Many times, Brazilians will climb to the top of the statue and jump and kill themselves hoping to find favor with God. That’s really sad, that the truth is so liberating and easy, but there are people who don’t know it. 

God changed my heart then, and I began to pursue mission in my life and the life of our church. I love Brazil, but God broke my heart for the nations and I began to discover that there are places that have even less access to the truth. 

My wife also has a passion for missions. We’ve kept our life ready, so at any given time we could pick up and move overseas, but God’s kept us on the US side, helping others get involved. God’s been faithful to give us cross-cultural opportunities even here. 

Q. What do you wish that you had known when you were a missions pastor that you know now, after working with the International Mission Board and now with SEND? 

A. I’ve had so much exposure in the past several years to the many ways that everyday Christians can play a part in missions. I’m seeing opportunities that churches have to lead their people to join in mission that I would never have dreamed of back in the day when I was a mission pastor. 

Q. You’ve spent the past six weeks getting to know SEND International. What have you come to appreciate about SEND? 

A. SEND has a desire to be innovative and not stuck in “we’ve always done it that way.” 

The people at SEND have genuine care and concern for all the people they have an opportunity to interact with. It’s a very relational organization. 

SEND wants to be strategic but always while trying to discern where God’s leading. When a challenging idea comes up, the attitude I hear is, “That’s a hard idea. I’m not really sure I like it, but I definitely want to see if God’s in it, because if God’s in it, I want to do it.” 

Five quick questions 

1. How do you take your coffee? It’s based on the quality of the coffee. If it’s really good coffee, I’ll drink it black. At the SEND office, lots of cream. 

2. What are you reading? A series of articles on the household of God. It’s a very intriguing cultural perspective on what the Bible means by house and family. 

3. If you had one free day, what would you do? I would take my sons fishing. 

4. Cats or dogs? Dogs. Are cats really an option?  

5. Favorite Bible verse? 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 

Get in touch

Click here to send Eric King, SEND’s Director of Church Relations & Mobilization, a greeting.

Click here to connect with a mission coach who can help you on the path to sharing the gospel with those who haven’t heard.

Sign up for On Mission, our monthly email newsletter full of encouragement and practical tips to help you navigate the road to cross-cultural service

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By Anna McShane — As Mother’s Day approaches in the United States, we honor and thank each mom who raised a SEND missionary. God used you in amazing ways to equip your children to serve the Lord and to reach the lost! Here are six of my mom’s lessons that prepared me for life as a global worker.


1. There is always room at the table for more. 

Hospitality was a way of life in my family of origin. Not entertaining. There’s a big difference. I learned very early how to stretch a meal if more people showed up than originally planned. Individual pieces of meat can be diced, braised, and stretched with a white or brown sauce to serve over rice. A can of tomatoes or other vegetables will stretch soup. Add a loaf of bread, a bowl of cut fruit, a salad, and voila! The meal planned for four now feeds eight. Still look a little meagre? Set the table with the good china and light some candles!

This was important knowledge when I lived near the airport in Manila and never knew who might unexpectedly show up. In more recent years, it was a great help when the eight students coming to our little Chinese apartment turned into 12 or 16. They particularly loved the little votive candles that dressed up the IKEA plastic dishes and mismatched flatware.

2. Beds are optional. 

Our family home was a small, three-bedroom house, but if there was an unexpected need for more beds, kids got a pile of blankets on our parents’ floor. Many mornings I came down to find someone asleep on the couch. It might be a battered wife who left home in the middle of the night to seek refuge, or it might be a well-known theologian colleague of my dad’s who got stuck in the snow and couldn’t continue his trip.

“If there was an unexpected need for more beds, kids got a pile of blankets on our parents’ floor.”

I learned that the number of beds did not limit the number of people who could spend the night. I drew on that lesson when my Filipina neighbor showed up at 3 a.m. saying, “My husband’s on a drunk rampage. Can I sleep on your couch?” Or that night when severe weather kept a whole team of short-term workers from flying out, and I scrounged every sheet, blanket, and pillow we owned to bed them all down.

3. Bad mornings can be cured with a cup of hot coffee and two aspirin. 

Today it would be ibuprofen, but back then it was aspirin. My mom was a great believer in getting up and getting going. If you were genuinely sick (fever, vomiting, etc.), you got great care but if you (or she) were just having a bad morning, it could be remedied.

I have found this principle to work in any country, any climate, and any situation. I now carry Starbucks Via packets and a small bag of ibuprofen in my backpack for those mornings when the night was far too short. Malingering gets little accomplished.


4. Laugh at yourself. 

One time, as my mother was wrapping up her message at a large women’s conference, I saw her slip beginning to droop. I tried to get her attention, but she was intent on the Word and didn’t see me. When she turned to leave the pulpit, her slip dropped all the way to the floor. The audience drew a collective breath. She stooped over, picked it up in a ball, and burst out laughing—and so did all the women. To this day, I occasionally run into a woman who says, “I was there that time your mom lost her slip!” Laughing at ourselves gives everyone else the permission to laugh with us and makes us human. Laughter is especially important when culture and language make us the butt of the joke.


5. You WILL offend your co-workers, so be the first to say to say “I’m sorry.” 

I have many memories of my mom heading out the door with the words, “I’ve offended someone, and I need to go make it right.” She was an outspoken, forceful person, and she knew it. But she also knew that keeping peace with co-workers was a high priority. She might have been 100% right, but going to “eat humble pie” and say she was sorry usually defused the tension and ministry went forward. This lesson is the one I hate the most, but it has saved many relationships.

 

6. Age is no excuse to stop ministering. 

Age takes its toll. Mobility declines. We can’t always do what we once did, but God is able to use even the elderly. At 80, my mom filled in as a principal for a year and salvaged a struggling school. As she moved into her 90s, she spent most of each day in a comfortable chair. Her pastor called it “the Command Center.” Beside her was a stack of books, a Bible, and a phone that rang constantly. Local pastors arrived with lists of issues “that I can’t talk about with anyone else.” She listened, prayed, and offered counsel. Young moms came to pour out their hearts while their kids played on the floor. Once I got a call from her with the query, “Have you ever heard of multiple personality disorder?” I replied that I had and she asked for a crash course. “I’m counseling a woman with this and I need to know more.” Even in her 90s, she was still learning what she needed for ministry.

This week I’m traipsing around a huge Chinese city with a knee brace and a borrowed walking stick. Climbing on and off buses and trains hurts, as do the blocks of walking between meeting with former students and Chinese brothers and sisters in the Lord. There’s coming a day when I won’t be able to do this in person, but I’m not too worried.

I have the Command Center chair in my living room now and I plan to use it more in the future. There will be books and a Bible near. There won’t be a phone beside me; instead I’ll have my iPad or computer in front of me as I’m the one listening, praying, and giving counsel to friends on the other side of the world. It’s already happening a lot. 

I’m not quite there yet, but I want to be ready when I grow up. Age is no excuse to stop ministering. 


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By a former missionary in the Middle East — On Monday, the majority of the Muslim world will start Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Muslims revere these 30 days because they believe that during this month many years ago, Allah began revealing the Quran to the prophet Mohammed. 

During this month, from before sunrise until after sunset, Muslims are supposed to abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures. More specifically, the fast runs from the time when you can tell the difference between a black thread and a white thread, until the time when you can’t tell them apart. 

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it is something that all Muslims are supposed to do every year to earn the favor of God. Though there are supposed to be exceptions from fasting for those who are traveling, have a medical reason/condition, or are pregnant, elderly, or too young, there is pressure on everyone to fast. 

Yet we have known many Muslims who never make it past the first or second week. Some people come right out and admit it, and others try to hide the fact that they are not keeping the fast. For the spiritually sensitive Muslim, this can create a fair amount of anxiety or disquiet in their hearts—to earn God’s favor, they have to keep the five pillars, yet they are not fasting. 

You might compare this to keeping a New Year’s resolution; many people start off well-intentioned, but end up breaking their resolution in a week or 10 days! But this isn’t just about starting a good habit or stopping a bad one; this is about trying to secure salvation, so failure can produce feelings of guilt or fear. This situation can open the door to taking about our assurance of salvation in Jesus, not in what we have done to earn it, but in what he has done for us!

Indeed, this could be a great month to interact with Muslims and talk to them about why they fast and what God requires of them. You could talk about times you have fasted and about how God has led or spoken to you though his Word. However, let me also caution, if someone is truly fasting, during the day he or she will be very hungry and thirsty, and as a result, possibly not so patient or understanding, at least not until after the evening meal at sunset. 


Praying during Ramadan

As you pray this coming month, I encourage you to use the 30 Days of Prayer guide. These guides offer helpful information about Muslim people groups (only 20 percent of which are Arab) and about Ramadan and Islam in general. Consider them a good investment, as they also can be used throughout the year to guide your prayers. 

Please do not forget the 10/10 prayer initiative.  As part of the 10/10 Prayer Initiative, 180 agencies have come together to ask God to draw to himself 10 percent of the world’s Muslims in the next 10 years. 10/10. Easy to remember, yet such an amazingly big task that only God can do it. Will you join us?

Prayer requests:

• Ramadan in countries that are hot and humid is very difficult and hardly any work gets done, especially in government offices. Pray for our workers to have wisdom and discernment during this month in all that they do and say.

• Pray that Christians around the world would seek to learn more about Muslims and love them more, too!

• Even though more Muslims have come to Christ in the past 30 years than in the previous 14 centuries, 80 percent of Muslims don’t know or have never met a Christian. Pray for more workers to go out and reach out to Muslims, both in North America and abroad.

• Pray for more workers to come from non-North American or Western countries. This will bring challenges in finding resources to support them, so pray for that, too!

• Several of our leaders from Muslim ministries/fields are taking much-needed rest and time back in their passport countries. Pray for restoration and renewal of strength and vision of what God has for them in the days ahead.

Read more on Ramadan
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Editor’s note: Rachel Grossmann, who serves with her husband and family in Alaska, wrote this insightful note in a recent newsletter to their supporters.

Dear Friends,

It seems that writing newsletters is one of the hardest things to get checked off my to-do list. I shared with my colleague that if I could just sit and write a letter, I’d be done in NO time! And she replied, “Then do it!” What a novel idea!

Why is it so hard to write a newsletter full of updates for my faithful supporters? I love keeping you in the loop; I appreciate your prayers, encouragement, and even financial support while we are living in bush Alaska.

But, I feel so unglamorous. I have too often succumbed to the lie that “they don’t want to hear about my life—it’s nothing special. I have no spectacular missionary stories to share.”

Instead of seeing this life of obedience through the eternal lens, I have slipped into the trap of living to please imaginary demands for wowing results (think whole villages converted, or miraculous survival of bear attacks while crossing the tundra to reach the lone Eskimo living off the land, and you’ll get the point).

I feel like I can rewrite about our lives only so many times before you start to nod off. Do you see the selfish bent in all of this? My focus has been so much on myself and providing great stories that I often overlook the story of God moving through faithful obedience.

My 98-year-old grandpa recently passed from this life to his eternal home with Christ! What a glorious celebration for him. His life story had some jaw-dropping moments, some sad parts, some funny parts, but largely, his story was one of faithfulness. He never stopped telling people about Jesus and asking them if they were walking “on the King’s highway.” His last conversation with me was no different: “Never stop telling people about Jesus!” he said. He reminded me to be faithful to that task. It is life-changing. He was living proof of that.

I’ll keep telling my story to you and to the people I live among. It is God’s story of faithfulness. A plot where he could take a content-to-be-a-farm-girl from Pike County, Ill., and transplant her to the middle of cold, desolate nowhere (where she NEVER wanted to visit, let alone live), and bring her peace, contentment, even JOY in living there. He continues to write this story, and I want my life to reflect faithful obedience to Christ, all the way to the closing line.

 

More about newsletters

Eight tips from a former journalist to make your newsletters even more awesome

Fourteen worst types of missionary newsletters


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By Julie Paden, missionary in the Philippines—My daughter was recently doing a report for school and asked me, “When you moved overseas the first time, how different did you find things and was it hard adjusting?”

Her question made me remember back to those early days when I first arrived in the Philippines. Everything was different—weather, culture, food, people, language. It was all an adjustment. Everything was hard.

But it got easier. I have now lived in the Philippines for more than 10 years, and sometimes I forget how far I have come. The things I used to think were hard and that drove me crazy are now a normal part of daily life and routine.  

Which is why I sometimes am at a loss for what to say about our lives when we are on home service (a.k.a. home assignment or furlough). By God’s grace, we have adjusted so well to life in the Philippines that we forget how to describe it, because to us it just looks normal. 

But sharing about our lives in the Philippines is one of the main goals of our home service. This is our third home service with SEND, and each of them has looked a little different, but they share the same objectives—the 6 R’s of a successful home service.  

  • Rest. 
  • Recoup (family time, self care). 
  • Report to our churches. 
  • Remember where we came from (enjoy American culture again).
  • Raise our support team.
  • Return to the field as capable workers ready for another term of service. 

In the last few months we have shared in many churches and with many small groups about how the Lord is using us to instruct and send out the Filipino people in missions and discipleship. We are so thankful to him for the partners we have all over the country who may not make the trip across the ocean themselves, but accept their role in making it all possible. We can’t do it on our own!

We miss many things from the Philippines (see the beautiful poem my daughter wrote about this) but we also love many things about being in the States. Such is the life and challenge of people living in two different countries; a part of our hearts are in both. 

We can even relate this to our Christian life. As believers we are not called to get comfortable and make this world our home, because our home is in heaven. Sometimes when I start to feel sorry for myself and want what others have, it does me good to remember this truth. 

Julie and Gilmer Paden serve with SEND’s Philippine Sending Council, mobilizing Filipinos to reach the unreached. The family is in Arizona for a year of home service.

 

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By Amanda Benson in the Philippines — “Happy Birthday, Amanda. Stay in love with Jesus.” These words got me thinking. Am I still in love with Jesus?

We had a speaker at Faith Academy in the Philippines, the school where I teach, who talked about “digital cocaine”—how being addicted to screen time affects our brains in the same way using cocaine does. (Watch a video of him.) He closed with a picture of a group of teenagers staring at their phones and challenged us to think: Am I as captivated with God as I am with my phone?

In Isaiah 58, Israel tells God that they are fasting and doing what he asks, but God tells them that they are only fasting for themselves. Instead, they should be focused on sacrificing themselves to help others, as God desires for all to be free. 

What about me? Am I doing my “Christian duties” for myself, or am I doing them with the right heart? Have I allowed myself to get distracted by much serving, as Martha did in Luke 10, or am I sitting at the feet of Jesus?

A crazy season

These thoughts started floating through my head as I moved into a new house, so life has been crazy. All of my down time (which isn’t much) was spent packing and unpacking. I got behind on grading, and some things I’ve been wanting to get organized for school for the past two months still aren’t done. Sometimes it has felt like I’ve been just barely keeping my head above water.

Am I willing to stop everything to listen to God, as I do when a phone call or message comes through?

A couple years ago, I started spending extra time with Jesus on Sunday nights, but the last couple months, that time has been next to nothing. I’ve let my other concerns and worries take away from my extra time with him.

I think about how often I use my phone—how I pull it out as I walk around the halls; how I check to see if anyone sent me any messages between classes; how I check Facebook during lunch; how it is the last thing I touch before I go to bed; how it is almost always with me. Do I invest as much time in my relationship with God as this? Am I consciously talking to him all the time? Am I willing to stop everything to listen to him, as I do when a phone call or message comes through? I want to be truly captivated by God. I know that I won’t be effective in my ministry if I’m not.

And I think about how often I get so busy doing the good tasks that I believe God has called me to do, that I lose track of why I’m doing them. When I don’t keep in mind that I need to do them sacrificially for the benefit of others and for the glory of God, I lose my joy in serving. 

God’s good reminders

This is not who I want to be. I think we all face times like this in our lives, and I believe that God uses these times to remind us of who he is, who we are, and why he has us where he does. 

  • He reminds me that his grace is sufficient for me, that he is bigger than any of my problems, that he will guide me each step of the way.
  • He reminds me that I am but human, that I need other people, and that I cannot do things without him. 
  • He reminds me that I am not at Faith Academy or in the Philippines just because it’s fun or because I like it here. He has me here to impact lives for him, whether that be at church or at school or when I go to the grocery store.

I know that Jesus truly needs to be my first love. I should never let other things or people take his place in my heart. 

I spent some extra time with Jesus last Sunday, and it was marvelous. I’m so thankful that I serve a God who is with me every step of the way and will pick me up when I’ve fallen down.

God of the hills and valleys

Amanda recommends the song “Hills and Valleys,” by Tauren Wells. Give it a listen!   

Tauren Wells - Hills and Valleys (Acoustic Video) - YouTube

“On the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there.  In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there. When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own. When I’m walking through the valley, I know I am not alone. You’re God of the hills and valleys.”

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As part of the 10/10 Prayer Initiative, 180 agencies have come together to ask God to draw to himself 10 percent of the world’s Muslims in the next 10 years. 10/10. Easy to remember, yet such an amazingly big task that only God can do it. Will you join us?

By a former missionary in the Middle East — Although the Muslim month of fasting called Ramadan starts this year on May 6, I wanted to mention it now so that we can prepare.

Prepare to pray

It is especially important that Christians join together in prayer for the Muslim world before and during this special month. To help you pray, I encourage you to order “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” for 2019. The prayer guide contains general information on Islam and focuses in on a selected country or people for each day of the month. Please order your copies soon, so that they have time to reach you and so that you can pass some around to friends. Each copy costs $3 (plus shipping), and if you order in large quantities, discounts begin at 20 copies or more.

As the prayer guide notes, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world will be seeking to earn God’s favor by fasting from sunrise to sunset. They also believe that their prayers gain more merit during this season, thus many Muslims will spend more time praying at the mosque. Let’s pray that the one true and holy God would shatter their prayers in a dramatic and amazing way and call many to himself through visions or dreams!

Prepare to participate

I also encourage you to ask your Muslim neighbors and colleagues if you can join them one evening this Ramadan for an Iftar meal—the breaking of the fast at dusk. You might think this is strange, but hear me out. Many Muslims break their fasts publicly; if you join them, it will give you the opportunity to meet other Muslims.

It also will give you the opportunity to ask them why they fast. Many times this will begin an interesting conversation, and the question probably will be asked of you: “Do you fast, too?”

This, of course, could become an awkward question, if you are not prepared. But if you start thinking and praying now about this whole issue of fasting, you will be ready to give an answer.

You might consider praying and fasting yourself for a day or days, as the Holy Spirit leads you, as a preparation for your interactions with your Muslim friends. Ask God to quiet your heart, and perhaps you could read and meditate on passages such as Isaiah 57:14- 59:21; Matthew 12:7, which quotes Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8; and Luke 10:25-37. These passages all talk about our faith lived out and our attitudes toward God and neighbor. I would encourage you to keep your conversation within these safe topics and to stay away from controversies and accusations.

By the way, the Iftar meals usually are specially prepared and very delicious! Bring along some fresh fruit or dates as a gift and your hosts will be grateful.

10/10 prayer requests:
  • SEND workers who live among and reach out to Muslims are especially in need of prayer as they prepare to share with their colleagues, friends, and neighbors this coming month.
  • Ask that God would provide necessary monthly finances and visas so that workers can focus on reaching out to neighbors.
  • Several workers sponsor summer camps for children and young people. Ask that God would provide the resources and wisdom for planning the camps this year and that God would bring just the right campers to hear the messages presented this year.
  • Most of our fields are short of workers. Pray for hearts to awaken in our churches to the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit and for many to step forward and ask how they can serve in the Muslim world.
  • Pray that each conversation with Muslim friends and neighbors during the coming month would be seasoned with grace and mercy.
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