Someone in your life serves overseas and you want to encourage them in a meaningful way, but aren’t quite sure how? It’s actually easier than you might think. Take it from me, when you live overseas, the biggest encouragements often come through small, heartfelt actions. Here are 7 suggestions for how to encourage:
1) “Thanks for the newsletter!”
Newsletters are such pesky things. It takes near miracle level effort to produce a readable glimpse of faraway service/life on a single side of A4. We agonize and write and re-write and finally lick the stamp or press the send button, and then…Chances are, not many people read it (no judgement, I don’t always read all the newsletters I receive). If you do read it, or even just scan it to get the gist, sending back a quick “Thanks for the news!” will literally make your overseas worker jump for joy. If you take it one step further and comment on what you’ve read and mention you’re praying for them (but only if you really do!), they may very well explode with happiness.
2)Ask me to pray for you
If you receive a newsletter from an overseas worker that includes the line, “Let me know how I can pray for you!” you need to know – they mean it. In fact, they are already praying for you. So share a little. Let them know you are burdened for your grandson, or need wisdom for how to deal with a work situation, or all your kids keep passing around colds. It is an absolute joy to pray for you.
3)Birth announcements, save the dates, and graduation pics
Send them. I know it will take a special trip to the post office and a bit more stamp money. I know your overseas worker probably won’t be able to make it to the event. I know it’s not practical. But while most everyone else you send that card to will chuck it after a short while, your overseas worker will cherish it for possibly years and want to hug you every time they see it.
4)There’s an app for that
If you want to keep in touch on a more regular basis, e-mail and skype calls are good, but in this age of technology we have so many more choices. The two apps I use most are Voxer and WhatsApp. With our limited internet, video messages are difficult, but voice messages mostly seem to go through just fine. It’s just plain fun to leave voice messages back and forth with friends and feel like even if we are multiple time zones apart, we’re still tightly connected. Ask your overseas worker what the best method of communication is for them and if they’d be up for giving an app a try.
5)About care packages
When it comes to care packages, the best advice is to ask before sending. Don’t assume your overseas worker needs taco seasoning and Skittles. Maybe what they really need is hand cream without skin whitening chemicals and play money to teach their kid about their home country’s currency. It can be pretty expensive to send a package overseas so if you’re going to go through all the effort, you’ll want to make sure to send the right items. Also, your worker will have specific instructions for how to write the address and how to fill out the customs form to avoid paying tax on a gift.
6)Help them rest
If your overseas worker depends on financial gifts from donors, you may want to ask if they have a vacation budget. If they don’t, or if it’s a really measly amount, consider sending a special financial gift for this. Help them save up to rent a place for a couple weeks or maybe what they really need is babysitter money for date nights. If you’ve been following along with your worker for a while and realize you haven’t seen them take a break, or far too few breaks, send a message and ask what you can do to help them get the rest they may be missing.
I’m not talking plan a short term missions trip and bring a team. I’m saying visit just for friendship’s sake. Visit so you can have coffee together, clean vegetables together, walk dusty roads together, talk by candlelight when the power goes out together. Experiencing life as your overseas worker lives it is an encouragement like no other. It can be tricky, depending on schedules and your relationship, but for my part at least, if you’re interested enough to come visit I would love to have you! I know many others feel exactly the same way.
Now that you’ve read my 7 suggestions for how to encourage your overseas worker, don’t feel obligated to do them all or even most of them. Just pick one to start. Give it a try and see what happens! I bet you’ll be encouraged too.