The missionary is “in”

Steinbach church and global worker get personal

deep relationship is mutually beneficial for the church and the cross-cultural workers they support – something Steinbach (Man.) MB Church lead pastor Walter Fast understands personally, having taught and pastored in Germany for 19 years.

“To adapt a word of the apostle Paul,” says Fast: “Let the [missionaries] who serve well be considered worthy of double honour” (1 Timothy 5:17).

So when a worker they support in Southeast Asia was on home assignment in Canada, Steinbach MB found a creative way to “help the church and one of its missionaries really connect with each other”: they made Melissa the church’s “missionary-in-residence.”

“We gave her office space for six weeks, and she posted official office hours three days a week,” says Fast. Church leaders urged the congregation to take the initiative to meet with her at her office, over coffee, at their home, in their small group. The church also gave her the stage during two Sunday services and a coffeehouse evening.

“The result was amazing: more than 20 different households reconnected with her over coffee or a meal, and multiple small groups and Sunday school classes invited her to report in more depth than is possible during our worship services,” says Fast.

“It was so encouraging because the church family did initiate, ask questions and invite me to share with their groups,” says Melissa. Being in the office, she also appreciated joining in staff prayer times.

Steinbach MB member Ruth Ewert interacted with Melissa in several contexts including a Sunday school question-and-answer period and a Sunday lunch with others from church. “But the most meaningful conversation was the one-on-one in my home over a bowl of borscht,” says Ewert. “As a missionary for 42 years, I appreciated those informal opportunities to share my passion and my burdens.”

Though a missionary-in-residence program may not be feasible in every worker’s schedule or church context, “our missionaries have sacrificed a lot to do God’s work in a cross-cultural setting – we owe it to them to put them up front and centre when they are at home,” says Fast, who was pleased Melissa left for her full slate of Western Canada engagements feeling refreshed.

“We have a deeper appreciation of Melissa as an individual and of the work she is doing for the Kingdom,” says Ewert. “She is much more a part of us now than she was before this experience; because we know her more personally, she is more often in our thoughts and prayers.”

A missionary-in-residence program is just one way churches can encourage their global workers. Click here for more ideas from MB Mission’s regional mobilizers.

[Angeline Schellenberg

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