[For the purposes of this article, I use the term “missionary” to denote those who live cross-culturally and work in “formal” Christian ministry.]
Having just returned from a symposium on Missionary Care, the needs of missionaries are strongly on my mind. Some of them are obvious: prayer, partnership, support.
But I’m finding that what many missionaries truly crave (and fear) is to tell their full story—to be known as flawed and faithful, depleted and devoted human beings with the same successes, failures and yearnings others experience.
Caveat 1: These questions need to come out of an existing relationship that fosters trust and understanding. If you haven’t established that first, these questions will feel like prying.
Caveat 2: There are hundreds of questions you could ask for each of the categories below. These are merely discussion-starter suggestions.
- Are you physically healthy?
- What brings you joy?
- Who are your sounding boards—the people with whom you can be vulnerable and open?
- What are the biggest challenges in your personal, relational, spiritual and vocational life?
- Do you make the time (even if it costs something) to be still, regroup and process?
- How has being in full-time ministry affected your family relationships and your marriage?
- If married, how healthy is your relationship/marriage? What would help your marriage be healthier?
- If single, how are you managing life as a single missionary?
- How has God been speaking to you lately?
- Is your personal faith and walk with God being fed? How?
- What have you learned from Him in the past few months?
- What have you been asking God for?
- Is there any confusion or frustration in your faith these days?
- Are you confident that you’re where God wants you or are you questioning your presence/work there?
- Do you feel that your child’s needs are being acknowledged and met?
- Does your child have good, healthy friendships there?
- Do you have any concerns about your child’s wellness or your child’s faith?
- Are you confident that your child is safe?
- In what way(s) do you see your child thriving?
- Are you able to have open communication with your child on both trivial and important topics?
- How does your child feel about living in your foreign culture?
- Have you seen any behaviors in your child that concern you?
- How does your child figure into your plans for the immediate and more distant future?
- What aspect of your ministry do you enjoy the most?
- What is the most taxing part of what you do?
- Who advocates for you within your mission?
- Do you feel that your superiors and colleagues understand and support you as a person?
- Do you feel safe in your foreign home and culture?
- Is there something (tangible and/or intangible) that would make your life easier or more fulfilling overseas?
- What do you wish you could ask for from supporters and extended family?
- What are your personal needs during this time and how can we foster a context for them to be met?
- Are unreasonable expectations being put on your schedule or on your family during HMA?
- Would your kids like to be involved in the church and its programs and services? If so, how?
- Are there questions you’d like the church’s missions committee or your supporters to ask?
- Is there something about your ministry that you don’t feel comfortable sharing from the platform or in committee debriefs, but that you’d like us know?
- Would it be helpful to have some medical check-ups while you’re here? Physical, dental, eyesight, counseling? Can we help to schedule and finance those for you?
- Do your kids want to join teams or clubs or go to camp? Can we help you sign them up and arrange carpool rides to/from their activities?
- What are your feelings as you prepare to head back to your ministry? What are you looking forward to and what are you dreading?
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