One of the greatest and most humbling parts of living this missionary life has been building a team of supporters who labor alongside me. I take every opportunity possible to remind all of my supporters – those who pray for me, invest their finances, send hearing aid batteries, thoughtfully put together care packages, respond to every single newsletter – that they play a very real and tangible part in how God is building His Kingdom in central Kenya. The Lord has been so faithful to grow that team to include people I never would have thought to invite, reminding me that this is not my work, but His and He gets to decide how to provide for it. Now that I am 5 years into this team-building process, I would not want to be on the field without needing to raise support because my faith has grown so much in that process and I am reminded on a regular basis of how generously the Lord provides and sustains. My affection for my supporters has been the most surprising part of this season.
While I have ministry partners from all over the world, I am sent out by my local church in Dallas. In sending me, the church affirms that I am called to full-time overseas ministry and have agreed that this placement in Kenya aligns with the church’s mission. It is also responsible for my spiritual care. My church’s model is that my primary senders and those responsible for caring for me are in a sending home group. For me, that is the home group I was a part of for 2 years before moving to Kenya. Pastors and elders are also in regular contact and available if I need them, but my home group is primarily responsible for keeping up with me regularly and caring for me on the field. They have done an exceptional job, so I wanted a chance to speak a bit to what that looks like from my side of things and my next post will be my very first guest post! I asked my home group to write about what it is like to send. There are a lot of great blog posts, articles, and books on how to care well for missionaries, but I haven’t seen many talking about what it’s like to be senders.
The biggest piece of advice I give to people who are considering overseas missions is that they need to be in community with other believers right now. Invest in that group. Serve them and let them serve you, not with one foot out the door, but with a kind of commitment that will sting when you move away. Let them get to know you. Tell them you are considering missions and ask them to pray for you about what that could look like. Be honest with them about your sin – things you struggle with at home only get amplified in high-stress, lonely places overseas. People need to know what you struggle with and how you’re going to be tempted to stray so that they can pray for you and hold you accountable. Even though we need to build relationships on our field of service, it is also crucial to have a body of believers at home who can support missionaries out of an overflow of already-formed relationships.
My home group was a part of my life before I considered moving to Kenya. International missions was just the tiniest thought in the back of my mind when I joined the group and asked them to pray with me about what that thought could become. We prayed together for nearly a year before the unexpected offer came inviting me to move to Kijabe. I had been praying along with a couple of other friends for nearly 2 years by that point, so within 2 days I had my answer and my whole community was involved and affirming that they felt this was the right direction to go as well. I honestly did not think I would be going that soon. My home group prayed me to Kenya. The Lord was good to surround me with faithful saints who were expectantly praying for the Lord to move. When He did, it felt like the most natural thing in the world and I was grateful for the men and women who had committed to walk alongside me through the entire process. Because of the investment on the front end of this, my home group had a great foundation of investment for the ministry as a whole. They have been my most enthusiastic supporters and steadfast friends when life in Kenya was harder than I thought I could handle.
I tell my home group all the time that they are simultaneously the reason I can stay in Kenya and the reason I want to go home. I wish I could lay out a formula for how we have managed to maintain that kind of friendship, but I can’t point to just a few things. The bottom line is that we are friends who are like family. God has grown in us a love for one another that is rare, but has lead to the most beautiful and deepest relationships I’ve ever experienced in my life. Their care for me on the field is an overflow of that love. I will let them talk more in the next post about how they have experienced all of this, but I wanted to talk a little about it here on the front end of things. I will tell anyone who will listen about how much I love these people. Look for the view from their side posted here in the next few days.