The Unsung Heroes
Believe it or not, missionaries are not perfect people. Although it may come as a surprise (I honestly doubt it), missionaries are just ordinary people whom God has called to be part of an extraordinary work. Just like everyone else, we have concerns, insecurities, ambitions, confusion and doubts. In fact, sometimes we may experience these more than others because of the environments in which we live and work. We know and experience feelings of loss, we grieve, we cry, we get discouraged, and we sigh. We invest in families and individuals while at the same time living far away from family members we love and miss.
Don’t get me wrong; we also get to witness the amazing things that God is doing! We get to see lives changed and despair replaced with hope. We witness healings and deliverance from demon possession. We smile with those who just realized that God loves them. We see the warmth and gratitude in the eyes of the neglected when we give them attention. And of course, we grin from ear to ear with the men, women and children who rise from a watery grave as new creations. In short, we are blessed to be a part of something bigger than us all.
In victory and defeat, in happiness and in sorrow, we know that we aren’t alone because our Lord and Savior is with us! But unlike many other missionaries from other agencies, we have other indispensable companions with whom we share our joys and pains. They are the unsung heroes of AFM. Just like the missionaries, they write articles every month. They network with church members and build support teams. They are missionaries to missionaries. At AFM we call them field directors, and they are an essential part of AFM’s ministry.
When Hannah and I served in the Middle East, we met many other missionaries from a number of Christian mission agencies. Although they came from different parts of the world and different denominations, one thing seemed to be the same. They had very little support in strategizing, team building, accountability, pastoral care and mentoring. As a result, most families left the field within four years. In fact, it was common for people to leave within two years!
I remember one time in particular when our team recognized the need for a team-building intervention. We were a highly functioning team that worked well together. But we also knew that we could do better. Who do you think facilitated our training? Our field director. It was probably one of the most emotional weeks that we had ever experienced. But it was a catalyst for increased trust, conflict resolution and effective communication. I can’t help but think that without that intervention, our team would have been less effective, less productive and less Christ-like.
Just like being a pastor, being a missionary can be lonely. You are constantly giving away your energy, time, money, advice and care. You are expected to have all the answers and master a variety of skills that are almost never found in one person. Sabbaths are often busy and more stressful than restful. And all of this is in a foreign environment. You can imagine how difficult life can become. If you were experiencing these kinds of challenges, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone you could talk with? Would you appreciate having a mentor/coach/pastor who could identify with your struggles, listen to your needs and help you come up with strategies to make life less stressful and work more effective? Of course you would!
One of AFM’s core values is stewardship. You entrust us with God’s money to reach the unreached. We know how much some of you sacrifice to send missionaries to the lost peoples of this earth. Therefore, we are always striving to innovate, adapt and more efficiently minister to the lost. In addition to your gifts, we also view our missionaries as gifts from God. Sadly, there aren’t many Christians willing to leave behind the comforts of their home culture to struggle in another part of the world. It is for this reason that every one of our missionaries is served by a field director. We want our missionaries to receive the personal care they need to be effective and efficient gospel workers over the long term.
If you are thinking about supporting one of AFM’s projects, please prayerfully consider our field directors. Through them you will impact not just one people group, but many.