Our old church had just a handful of missionaries. As a new church they chose to support fewer missionaries at large percentages of their support so that they could be a part of the church body when on furlough and we could know them intimately. The pros to this system are obvious (to me, at least), but difficult to transition to.
Our new church has the more traditional approach to mission support and, as a result, supports over sixty missionaries as well as more than a dozen ministries. And - here's the really cool part - next week we are having the annual Missions Conference! From an international covered dinner to prayer and worship and a Children's Conference, it's looking like an exciting four days.
Soooo....I've been brainstorming our Missions Emphasis Week at home to correspond with the Missions Conference. Here are my ideas. Don't worry, I won't get to them all in the one week, but some we've already done, and I plan to use the others later.
- A huge list of missionaries... how to get to know them? Thankfully the church published a booklet with a picture, bio, and prayer requests for each missionary. Each day I've chosen specific geographic regions. We'll spread out our laminated floor world map and locate each missionary, reading about them as we go, and praying for them. You could also have your kids go through a list of missionary names and countries and give them different color highlighters for each continent - then let them categorize the list.
- Read missionary biographies. I'm planning to read With Two Hands: Stories of God at work in Ethiopia (Hidden Heroes) by Rebecca Davis. We love her - and we love her books! We were able to preread her last book of short missionary stories before it was published and my kids were hanging on every word and still talk about some of the stories. We've also enjoyed the Trailblazer series.
- Write your own missionary biography. Interview one of your missionaries in person or by phone and have your child write a short biography - they can illustrate it too, if they like. Be sure to send a copy to the missionary. :^) Research papers on the lives of past missionaries are always a good assignment too.
- Write a country report. Learn about the place your missionary is serving. Younger children will love filling in this free Cool Country Report poster from Scholastic. You'll want to print it poster size.
- The Torchlighter DVDs are wonderful and many of them are missionary stories. I think we have a new one at the library that we haven't seen yet. Ethan wants to see the Eric Liddle story again if they don't.
- E-mail missionaries. Many missionaries have access to e-mail. Ethan had a lady visit his Sunday School class a couple of weeks ago. She encouraged the children to e-mail her and so he did. She replied back the same day, and he was thrilled! Encourage your kids to keep up with it. Make it their writing assignment once a week, and check their e-mails for proper letter form, spelling, and grammar before hitting "send".
- Write postcards to missionaries. Postcards are short and easy to write. Why not find a missionary kid to become pen pals with?
- Look up the ministries that your church supports. We're going to go to each ministry's website and get to know what they're about and how we can help.
- Have a yard sale. Our church supports Hydromissions, and it was the featured ministry fro VBS offerings this year. My kids were disturbed that the goal was not met and have been planning a yard sale ever since - hopefully we can get that in this spring.
- If your church supports a crisis pregnancy center, collect coins in baby bottles - some ministries supply these during fundraising seasons. Why not get a roll of quarters, dimes, nickles, and pennies? Then have your children complete tasks or reward them for good deeds and see who can earn coins to fill their bottle first. You could even deliver the filled bottles yourself along with other supplies, such as baby blankets.
- Visit Voice of the Martyrs' Kids of Courage site. Their previously published children's magazine is there online and highlights a different country each month. They offer lots of ways to learn and be involved in supporting the persecuted church around the world.
- Call a missionary on the phone. Check out your phone plan. If you have a flat rate long distance plan, you will probably be amazed to find that you have international minutes for free, or that cost a mere 5-10 cents per minute. Skype is another great alternative. Learn about time zones and find a good time to call.
- Support a pastor/missionary. Whether you choose to add support to your church's mission program or on your own, find a way to make it personal. Our family supports a church planting pastor in India through Gospel for Asia. For $30 a month we cover half of his support, and we have a picture and receive letters from him.
- Start a missionary wall, with prayer cards of missionaries.
- Invite a missionary to your home. Have them for lunch, or coffee and dessert. We once had an ice cream social for our small group and were able to have a very personal look at one of our missionary's ministry and family.
- Work with your church's mission board. Ask how you can volunteer. Find ways to encourage others in your church to be more involved in missions. Perhaps you could set up a missionary display featuring a different missionary each week or month. Leave note cards out for people to write a note right then, then mail them all together. Or head up a special Christmas collection or baby shower package for a missionary.
- Join a missionary's personal prayer team. Make the commitment to pray for them every day - then do it! My yahoo e-mail sends me a reminder every day. And the missionaries in South Africa that I pray for send a facebook update nearly every day as well. Many missionaries have e-mail lists. Sign up. Share updates with your family. And pray!
If you homeschool, work to create a cohesive life. Don't divorce geography from missions. Every time you study geography, study the mission field. That's what the world is. Communicate with your missionaries, get to know them. There really is no excuse unless your missionary is serving in a sensitive area. If that is the case, learn how to communicate with them safely, and send encouragement their way.
How do you incorporate missions into your family/homeschool?