What does Serving as a Sender|Sponsor really mean?
1. Top Priority! Sending out: Become "sent-out" orientated body of believers. A church without missionaries makes me question their theology. (Biblical Missions is clearly stated by God Himself: Acts 1:8 "... and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
2. Moral support: How can you give "moral support" to your known missionary. Christmas time and Birthdays are good indicators to check how high #2 is in the church. This is not the pastor's job alone. It is the responsibility of the entire congregation. My dad once told me a story of a missionary he supported. After 10 years on the field this man came back to visit his sending church. He went to church a few times and no one recognised him, nor greeted him, nor asked him how he was doing, yet he was the missionary of this church. I find this story very sad. This has happened to me. I have come back from places like India, but back home my church did not even ask me how my (very difficult) outreach was. During that trip I was very ill too... but it seemed like no one cared. Churches do not exist only to have once a year a special "missions week" celebrations. This is a huge shame to the church.
3. Logistics: How can you help with "logistics" Can you help with speaking engagements, booking flights (when the Banks only use a local code for "security" How many times could I not book a flight because it was night at home and my mom could not give me the code the bank first sent to her phone!) Clothing can become a logistical pain for a woman who is as tall as me in a nation where even the men look up to me. How I have wished sometime someone would just ask "Can I send you a package?"
4. Finance: We are all called to give. It is where we give/sow, that is the matter of prayer. Where is the Lord asking me to give financial support and how does that look like? Tithe? Once a Year Donation? (Tithing existed before the Law and is a wonderful practice to keep missionaries [like the Levites who served the Temple and did not receive salary or inheritance - Deuteronomy 18:1–2] on the field) Teach your children from a young age to keep their tithe aside and model it to them by telling them what you do. I remember seeing the 4 envelopes on my father's desk each month! He never skipped giving and tithing to OM, Open Doors, a child in Mauritius and a man that sometimes stayed over in our house. His name was Adolph S, a German man called to China.
What Adolph did, became part of our family inheritance in the Lord. Sometimes I cannot wait to go to heaven to see all the everlasting treasures that my family and I have piled up through the years... where thieves cannot steal and where Stilbaai rust cannot destroy - Matt 6:20)
How does one pray about this without feeling guilty? It is easy. When you see the need you say "Lord, do I give to this? If He says no, move on. If He says YES, you ask "how much Lord?" and wait. When peace come... go with your peace. When an amount come... you go with that amount. Do not be condemned... conviction is different. If we really mean we are channeling God's provision to us, then this is an easy prayer. Why not give it a practice round right now "Lord, do I give to Sarah's Masters Degree?" YES | NO... How much Lord? You will find that God does not take long to answer :-) We take long to figure out it was really Him."
5. Prayer-support. Are we really praying when we say you pray. Have you ever been warned in a dream or in prayer-time by God so that you could pray specific for your missionary? Do we take time to hear from God what we should pray. When you pray "God, please bless _______" Then God might say "... and how do you want Me to bless _______!"
6. Communication Support. Help your missionary win more support by telling others and spreading their news.
7. Re-Entry Support. Experiencing Culture shock and long term culture stress is one thing, but coming back home is most of the time "reversed culture shock" This is when all that the missionary remembers has now changed in their home country! Like roads, politics, ways of doing things, new malls, Church members may be different and even sometimes slang can be different! There is an adjustment the missionary needs to make. Family and Church back home do not often understand this or are sensitive to it. Think about expectations on the missionary when they come home for a few weeks.
Notes from "Serving as Senders" by Neal Pirolq (OM) mixed with Sarah's input.