Converge missionaries are penetrating intense spiritual darkness around the world as they lead the lost to Christ, start church planting movements and develop national leaders.
Missionaries face numerous challenges in the trenches of this spiritual battle. Stress is high. Marriages are tested. Family dynamics are affected.
An increasing number of Converge churches are joining our missionaries in the fight. These churches help provide the support missionaries need to survive — and thrive — as they share the good news with those who have never heard it.
For many churches, their support of missionaries begins with prayer.
“We say to the congregation, ‘Your involvement in outreach should begin by praying for one missionary,’” said Doug Christgau, pastor of Outreach at Valley Community Baptist Church, which has multiple locations in Connecticut.
Steve and Carol Smith, serving in Ivory Coast, Africa, since 1985, are thankful for the many years of organized, consistent, concentrated prayer they’ve received from Valley.
“Over 100 members pray for us. The World Outreach Committee meets with us regularly to hear our heart and needs,” Steve said. “When we passed through a period of personal burnout and family crisis, Valley stood by us, patiently listening, waiting and praying until we were restored spiritually and emotionally.”
At Sunrise Baptist Church, Custer, Washington, focused prayer for missionaries is part of the weekly worship experience. The church has a prayer insert in its bulletin that lets people know about missionaries’ prayer needs.
“We’re constantly trying to encourage people to be prayerful in their lives. And missions is very much a part of that,” senior pastor Phil Stevenson said.
These churches are prepared to go on short-term mission trips to serve alongside their missionaries when it is helpful to their ministries.
Steve and Barbara Wilkinson, serving at the Cebu Graduate School of Theology in Cebu City, Philippines, remember when Christgau traveled to the school to teach a weeklong class on Missions and the Local Church in October 2013.
On the second day of the class, the region experienced the most powerful earthquake it had seen in all the years the Wilkinsons had lived in Cebu City. The class ended up meeting only five nights out of the scheduled six, but it was still a stimulus to missions in Cebu.
“As a result of the class, a group of churches reevaluated their missions programs and their missions spending in particular,” Steve said. “Another benefit was that those churches redirected missions funds to some of our graduates serving in Southeast Asia who needed financial support to get to the field or to stay there.”
Christgau said a key to getting people invested and excited about supporting missions is the missionaries and the church communicating the gospel impact being made.
“People don’t want to give money or pray prayers and take it on faith that the missionary must be doing some good,” he said. “They need to hear about it in terms that they can understand.”
People at Chapelstreet Church, Geneva, Illinois, who sign up to pray for missionaries receive a weekly email from Bruce McEvoy, pastor of Local and Global Impact, that celebrates a story of impact or transformation from the mission field.
“The email celebrates that our efforts in God’s Kingdom around the world are having a ripple effect,” he said.
These churches help provide the financial support needed to get missionaries to the field and keep them there.
Dustin and Melissa Leland, preparing to go to Thailand, have been “overwhelmed” by the support they’ve received from Sunrise Baptist since they decided to answer God’s call to missions in October 2016.
“From the moment we stood up and said that we felt it was our turn to go, Sunrise rallied around us. They encouraged us, prayed for us and have cheered us on at each step of the way,” Melissa said.
“At our annual mission celebration, Harvest Fest, they have raised money for us for the last three years. We’ve had individuals from our church offer up money without us asking.”
Joel and Barb Wright are very grateful to Chapelstreet Church, Skokie Valley Baptist Church in Wilmette, Illinois, and their own support network of over a dozen Converge churches. After 33 years of missions, the Wrights are working toward least-reached peoples, connected to projects in South America, Africa, China and India.
“Chapelstreet and Skokie Valley have been God’s long gift to us, ongoing and foundational for our work,” Joel said. “If it weren’t for these churches and a dozen other faithful Converge churches in California, Illinois and Iowa, we would not be where we are at today.”
Whether their missionaries are on the field or on home assignment, these churches want to make sure that they realize they are known and loved.
“We are doing everything that we can to help our missionaries recognize that they are not forgotten,” McEvoy said. “We are on their team. We’ve got their back. We want to know their stories and tell their stories.”
Michael Smith serves as Converge’s content specialist. He has nearly two decades in the newspaper publishing industry. Michael worked as a copy editor and designer for the Tampa Tribune for more than a dozen years, and has also been a member of the editorial staff of Florida Baptist Witness and other publications across the Southeast.