09 May, 2012

Your turn to edit me

Okay, I'm looking for some constructive feedback. I'm writing an article for our denominational magazine, it's due on Monday. I'm going to paste it below and ask for your feedback. You readers are a fair mix of missionaries and supporters-of-missionaries. Do you think the tone of this is suitable? Do you think I've missed anything? Is there something there that I should reword? Is the structure okay (it's pretty loose)? How do you feel about the conclusion? Here's your chance to edit my work!

What missionaries want from their supporting churches

The whole issue of supporting missionaries is a tricky one. What does it actually mean? How does a church go about doing it? And you know I’m talking about more than finance.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, but I’m going to tell you rather how missionaries love to be supported.

We want to know what you're thinking
We love to know that we’re remembered. And because we aren’t there, it is hard to know unless we’re told or shown. Emails, letters, postcards, Facebook messages etc., are always welcome. Phone calls or Skype calls are sometimes difficult to fit into busy lives, but they can be especially encouraging.

We love to know that you’re praying for us. Again, we don’t know whether you are or aren’t praying for us and sometimes when you’re lonely, and haven’t heard from anyone in a while it is easy to believe you’ve been forgotten, even when you haven’t.

Support beyond words
Love isn’t just words, it comes in care packages too, especially ones that have been thoughtfully put together. A surprise is good, but a care package is even better if it contains items that we especially want, so it is good to ask your missionary what they’d like.

We love to receive practical care when we’re transitioning in and out of the country. A full pantry speaks volumes when you’ve just landed back in your home country and cannot face grocery shopping yet. Finding accommodation and transport, setting up telecommunications, and finding local services are ways that you can help your missionary when they’re coming back from overseas.

Pay attention to details
We love it when we find out people actually read and remember our prayer letters.  And believe me, we can tell when we talk to people whether they have. There’s a joke in missionary circles about the people who come up to us and enquire about X country, when we’re actually serving in Y and have never been to X. We joke about it, but it really isn’t funny.

We love it when we’re received back at the church as if we haven’t left. That’s hard to do, of course, especially when the church has gone through changes since the missionary left, but we love to be welcomed as a local who’s been away for a while.

We love it when we’re included, whether we’re in the country or not. That takes creativity, but can range from just being informed of what is going on in the church to actually being asked for input to a Bible study or for some photos to show at church while a missionary spot is being conducted.

We love it when we’re given a reasonable amount of time to talk about what we’ve been doing in front of the whole church.


Thoughtful conversations
We love to have one-on-one conversations with you, be that on Skype while we’re overseas or over coffee when we’re home. We love to visit you in your homes, and reacquaint ourselves with members of the church.

We love it when you ask us thoughtful questions and stick around for the answer, even if it is a bit lengthy.

And inconvenient pastoral care 
And here’s a way-out-there idea: we love it when we get visitors from home, particularly people who are praying for us. Consider sending one or more members of your church or leadership team to visit a missionary your church supports, particularly if they are members of your church.

It's up to you
How you manage all this as a church is up to you. You can have a missionary committee, you can have one person dedicated to missionary care. You can have a mission-minded pastor who promotes mission as a matter of course. You can have, as we do, a small group dedicated particularly to helping and advocating for each missionary family. You can have regular missionary “Spots”, a missions night, or weekend, or month. You can have mission displays around the church. You can distribute literature or summaries of prayer letters.  Missions prayer meetings.

There are many ways to go about it. However we've found that it really needs to come from the top. Unless the leadership of a church is mission-minded, it is difficult for a church to be mission-minded. We ourselves have lots of individual supporters, but not so many mission-minded churches.

 It is easy for missionaries to feel that we're out of sight, out of mind. But missionaries are still a part of the body of Christ, we're the hands that are overseas. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:25 "There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other."


____________


So, what do you think? Can you suggest ways to make it better?



13 comments:

Hippomanic Jen said...

"We love to know that you’re praying for us. Again, we don’t know whether you are or aren’t praying for us and sometimes when WE’re lonely, and haven’t heard from anyone in a while it is easy to believe WE’ve been forgotten, even when you haven’t."

The sentence got a bit confused with all the 'you's. Some referring to you-you and others being generic-you.

I'd tend to take the 'rather' out of your second paragraph, too. Or swap the 'but' for 'rather' if you prefer. Modern English punctuation hates the commas that are necessary for the rather to stay where it is and still make sense for the first reading.

You did ask ;)

It's actually a helpful way of outlining how you can feel supported. I can't know, never having been in that position.

I wonder if some of these depend on the 'love language' of the particular missionary? Someone who doesn't value Quality Time may not appreciate the visit as much as another? But they may still appreciate some practical help that went with the visit. Just wondering what your thoughts are?

Wendy said...

Thanks Jen. That's exactly the sort of feedback I was looking for. That sentence is too long, I'll chop it up and clarify that bit. And that "rather" is rather superfluous. Thanks.

Yes, it does depend on your love language. I've tried to be a bit generic, but in general most churches do very few of these things, so anything is better than none, no matter what your love language is.

Meredith said...

Great post. Thanks for letting us join in on the process.

I wonder about the very beginning.

"I’m not going to tell you what you should do and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone..."

I think sounds a bit accusatory and perhaps strikes the wrong tone. You say you are not pointing the finger but it actually took me a while to relax back into the article and take in the content without feeling like I did have a finger pointing at me.

Given that the aim is to encourage these good acts of care rather than guilt folk into taking up some of these ideas, how about something after the very first paragraph like,

"Here's a list of suggestions. You might like to try a few. "

You probably want a bit more detail than that - but going right in with, "Here's a grab bag of ideas" is much chirpier.

And maybe that is the point where you can work in some love language stuff (because I definitely agree with that idea...I know a missionary who is quite introverted and can't be bombarded with lots of invitations and needs to measure out her public engagements) by adding something like, "Try to work out what would best speak to and serve the missionary you know. This is a selection of ideas and some will be more appropriate than others for any given context."

I think too this has relevance for on the field encouragement for missionaries in locations with security risks. That changes the extent to which lots of on field stuff can be done. Maybe need to add a comment about checking with the home office for missionaries on secure locations for specific issues relating to on field contact.

But I think coming in positive and encouragingly will make people far more willing to get on board.

I'll stop now. Love this stuff. Encouraging people to support missionaries is my passion. Keep up the great work.

Mx

Meredith said...

Great post. Thanks for letting us join in on the process.

I wonder about the very beginning.

"I’m not going to tell you what you should do and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone..."

I think sounds a bit accusatory and perhaps strikes the wrong tone. You say you are not pointing the finger but it actually took me a while to relax back into the article and take in the content without feeling like I did have a finger pointing at me.

Given that the aim is to encourage these good acts of care rather than guilt folk into taking up some of these ideas, how about something after the very first paragraph like,

"Here's a list of suggestions. You might like to try a few. "

You probably want a bit more detail than that - but going right in with, "Here's a grab bag of ideas" is much chirpier.

And maybe that is the point where you can work in some love language stuff (because I definitely agree with that idea...I know a missionary who is quite introverted and can't be bombarded with lots of invitations and needs to measure out her public engagements) by adding something like, "Try to work out what would best speak to and serve the missionary you know. This is a selection of ideas and some will be more appropriate than others for any given context."

I think too this has relevance for on the field encouragement for missionaries in locations with security risks. That changes the extent to which lots of on field stuff can be done. Maybe need to add a comment about checking with the home office for missionaries on secure locations for specific issues relating to on field contact.

But I think coming in positive and encouragingly will make people far more willing to get on board.

I'll stop now. Love this stuff. Encouraging people to support missionaries is my passion. Keep up the great work.

Mx

Wendy said...

Thanks Meredith. This is such fun and so helpful. I really love writing in community and getting feedback like you gals have given me is fantastic. Anyone else?

KarenKTeachCamb said...

Hi Wendy,

First, there are some really great ideas here, and I think it's great that your denominational magazine has asked you to write this. That supports what you said about "support" needing to come from "the top down". Church leadership (not just pastors) has a lot to do with how well or otherwise missionaries are supported.

Second, I support what Meredith said about the second paragraph. I think there are better ways to say this. Her idea of a "grab bag of ideas" is great.

Also, I wonder if it's worth a comment that we know that different people feel more comfortable supporting people in different ways, and that's great. We want those who support us to do it in ways they are comfortable with. I remember an article/comment I read somewhere (it may even have been one of yours) about how some people feel that sending care packages is a waste of money, no matter how much the recipient appreciates getting hard to source items, so I think it's important to encourage people to do things they feel OK about. At the same time, sometimes people need a little push to step out of their comfort zone and do a little encouraging. I remember receiving a package of crystallised ginger (complete with an invasion of local ants) along with an encouraging note from someone who had read my blog via your blog. I didn't know them but that package and note meant so much. Maybe it would be good to add something to that last paragraph that, even if your church isn't "missions-focussed", there's nothing to stop the reader for taking a step and doing just one thing from this list. They may never know until heaven the difference it might make to someone having a tough time!

Great article and I hope that it is well read and taken to heart by those who read it. Thanks for speaking on behalf of all of us who are serving overseas in whatever role God has called us to.

Footprints Australia said...

First of all, I agree with Meredith's comment :-)

In the first para, the sentence "And you know I mean more than finances" doesn't sit right with me - could this be expressed in a more formal way perhaps?

I think you could lose the sentence in para 3 "And because we aren't there..." and it wouldn't lose any meaning at all.

Love this article - can I use it in Footprints at some stage do you think??!

I was also interested to read you see visitors as a blessing!!! A girl at work was born in PNG to missionary parents, and they found visitors a bit of a trial - mainly because they would eat them out of house and home, not realising that the food in the pantry was to last a month or two, not a week. It sounds like visitors got in the way a bit too.

Just might have to come and visit you one day and see for myself! :-)

Lori said...

We love it when churches notify us of changes that occur while we're on the field. Pastor's change, church names change, mission contact person change, even email addresses change - keeping missionaries informed of the changes help us stay in touch and reduces the number of emails that bounce back.

(Wendy, Perhaps this is just my opinion but I'm currently trying to prepare for home assignment realizing much has changed while I've been gone - it takes time to track down all the new names and addresses. )

April said...

I agree with all of the above comments, so I've removed them from my list of suggestions (no sense repeating what's already been said). I'd also like to add that saying "we love" over and over might not be the best word choice, since we don't all love those things. I would recommend a more generic word choice that still lists them as positive (and optional) actions. Perhaps phrases like, "another great option," or "Or you could," or "Here's another idea."

Here are the rest of my nitpicks:

We love it when we’re included, whether we’re in the country or not. That takes creativity, but can range from just being informed of what is going on in the church(,) to actually being asked for input to (I would say "for" or "on" but that might be American English) a Bible study(,) or ("to asking" -easier to read as a list since this is a long sentence) for some photos to show at church while a missionary spot is being conducted.

And inconvenient pastoral care
*Here’s (two "ands" in a row is too much) a way-out-there idea: we love it when we get visitors from home, particularly people who are praying for us. Consider sending one or more members of your church or leadership team to visit a missionary your church supports, particularly if they (who, the members or the missionaries?) are members of your church.

There are many ways to go about it. However(,) we've found that it really needs to come from the top.

(delete extra space here) It is easy for missionaries to feel that we're out of sight, out of mind. But missionaries are still a part of the body of Christ(—)we're the hands that are overseas.


You have a number of very long sentences. Might want to rework a few so your article is easier to read.

-J said...

Some really great suggestions here. I liked the repetition of "We love it..." It's positive (and in an article like this, you definitely want to aim to be upbeat), and I think repeated phrases give emphasis and make it easier for it to stick in the reader's mind.

Sarah said...

Great article. I would remove the heading 'inconvenient pastoral care' and replace it with something like 'Up for a visit?' That way it sounds a bit more encouraging whereas the word 'inconvenient' may make people think it's something they can't do.

In the bit 'We want to know what you're thinking' could you include a few more details about how to email a missionary who is in a closed country (i.e. China). I realise this is not your experience, but I'm always worried I'm going to say something too Christian in correspondence and get them into trouble. If you have any thoughts on that, that would be great.

Wendy said...

Thanks all, I've had fun hearing from you all and editing my work today. It's shaping up well. I'll have to ask the magazine whether they'll let me post it here after they publish it.

Footprints: the article has ended up about 1100 words, a bit big for you, but I could do Reader's Digest version for you if you like.

Judie Strachan said...

Footprints mentioned visitors eating food when it's needed for later.
I realise I'm probably too late for your article, but it occurred to me that visitors could possibly come WITH food. Sometimes they could bring a ready to eat meal, sometimes provisions to be stored for later use (especially to outlying areas). Of course, it would be good to check with the missionary on what is suitable.
I imagine it is important for visitors to let people know they are coming, or are spontaneous visits also welcome?