The first half of this article was in the weekly SNAC on 19 February 2017 and focused on caring for link missionaries when they are on the field. (See www.snac.org.au/missionaries). The focus of the second half is caring for missionaries when they’re on deputation.
When missionaries are on location, they are set up with the things they need to live. When they come back, they need all those same things but need to source them from somewhere! Here are some ideas of how to practically care for missionaries when they are on deputation:
Provision of material needs
• Consider what you can lend: a car, toys for kids, bike/s.
• Consider what you can give: car seats, old mobile phones, furniture, appliances. You can contact the CMS office with specific items you could donate.
• Offer to order takeaway food.
• Fill their freezer, fridge and pantry with food. Make sure you check first and be careful of any allergies.
• Help with school uniforms/ supplies.
• Give them movie tickets, theatre tickets, zoo passes etc.
Other potential needs
• Returning missionaries may need new friends – you could be that friend! Make sure you are engaged in conversations. Be forgiving.
• Invite missionaries over for a meal. Be prepared for them to say no. They have limited time and energy on deputation and often many commitments to fulfil.
• You could offer to babysit kids, especially if they have limited family support in Sydney. There are often many events that missionaries are required to attend on deputation.
• You could tell or remind them about life in Australia. For example, the introduction of opal cards and ‘tap and go’ is a recent change in Australian culture. You could offer to take them shopping. You could tell them about significant recent events in Australia.
• Kids can enjoy receiving birthday cards, packages from Sunday school, school resources (if you have kids of a similar age). You can send money to buy gifts through CMS.
• You could tell kids (or parents) what Australian kids like doing at the moment. E.g. Pokémon cards, loom bands etc.
• Teenagers of missionary families may not know what to do socially or where to hang out. They may not have friends their own age in Australia. If you have teenagers in your own family, you could encourage them to befriend a teenager on deputation.
• As you talk to kids, avoid vague questions (e.g. What’s Tanzania like?). A specific question may be better (e.g. What’s your favourite food in Tanzania?). Give kids space and explain yourself if they seem confused. Remember they’re going through a lot emotionally and they may not understand the language/words you use. Be careful of using the word ‘home’. Home for them is probably where they are on mission!
• Remember that kids grow up. They hate hearing “I remember when you were…”
Finally, don’t forget to keep praying. Deputation can be very draining and challenging for our link missionaries!