I’m sure most of you already know this, but missionaries are people. Before they went to the mission field, they were probably working a “regular” job, living in a “regular” house. Some of them were “regular” pastors.
But then God called them to go on an adventure!
If you aren’t a missionary, imagine that God called you right now to be one. Think about what you would need to do. If you have no clue, go ask a missionary. They’d love to tell you. There is a lot of prayer and a lot of planning that go into just beginning to gain support so you can go to your mission field. Sometimes God may tell you to go with or without what you consider adequate support. Keep in mind that some missionary men have families and will be bringing them along. Eventually some of them will start families along the way. (They’re missionaries, they’re “supposed” to have a lot of kids at some point.) Just supporting yourself can be a difficulty, and missionaries are often family units. Then there are the expenses of actually ministering to the people God has sent you to reach. Not that God won’t provide, it can just be an ordeal to go through that ongoing faith-growing process.
As if it wasn’t enough of a feat to get to the mission field in the first place (or even just your first visit), there’s the actual part of living there. You are literally moving to another country to live with and among the people God has sent you to love. You might be learning an entirely new language. You might have some culture shock. You’ll need to be very flexible and learn how to reach the particular people to whom you’ve been sent. Some of them will accept you and Jesus right away. Some of them won’t accept you or Jesus at all. Some might outright make your new job difficult. But you’ll do it anyway, because you love them like God loves them.
There is another odd thing about being a missionary. I’ve heard someone put it this way: “Imagine that you had to give a monthly report of everything you’re doing with your life. That’s what it’s like to be a missionary.” I don’t know of a church that doesn’t require at least some kind of periodical report of what you’re doing with God’s money, that way they know whether they should continue to give it to you. While it would be nice to report new converts every time you send out a letter, keep in mind that sometimes there will be very little to report, and sometimes the reports will not be as favorable as you or your support would like. But God still knows what’s going on and He’s got it all taken care of.
Though I’ve not covered everything, I have one more important point. Missionaries don’t always get to go home for the holidays. They often stay on the mission field away from their families. Sometimes the days around Thanksgiving and Christmas can be lonely times for missionaries, so be sure to send them some encouragement from time to time. Really, just encourage them whenever you think about it.
If you’re not sure how to encourage a missionary, ask a missionary how to encourage them. There are some general answers that apply to everyone, but keep in mind that each person is different and will sometimes need a specific encouragement. Let God guide you.