We want to help this ministry or that mission, but we only see the big ways to do so — seminary to become a pastor or becoming a missionary and personally setting our own boots to the ground. Yet we often have other vocations and limitations that prevent these paths being chosen — be that the young children in our keep, physical limitations on our abilities, or financial strains on our budgets.
We need not throw up our hands in defeat, though, deciding it simply isn’t our job to help these people and shrugging off our desire to do more. We can help and serve even when we think we can’t.
It seems small. It seems trivial. It seems useless. It’s not.
Pray for the pastors and the missionaries and all the workers who do have their boots to the ground and their hands busy at this work. Pray for their health, for their families, and for their own faith to be strengthened. Pray for those who are discerning the call to become pastors or missionaries overseas.
And then don’t stop praying for them. Ever.
2. Learn More
Study what others are doing abroad. Learn of their challenges and their daily struggles. Follow their work online through their websites and Facebook pages. Reach out and learn what is happening. And then spread the word. Teach others at home, at church, and in the community about the work being done and the support needed. This cannot only aid in our prayers for these workers, but it also helps us to better see beyond our local congregation and remember we are part of the greater church catholic.
3. Get the Point
When we hear “mission” we may automatically think of building orphanages, donating clothes, or serving the physical needs of others. These are certainly good ways to serve our neighbor, but they aren’t — and shouldn’t be — the focus of mission work.
We all need the Gospel of Christ crucified purely taught and the Sacraments rightly administered. Eye glasses, shoes, and comfort dogs provide help for the body, but if the souls are left untended — if God’s Word and Sacrament aren’t being delivered — then those other things matter little. Without the Gospel, people die and go to Hell. That’s a point we cannot and must not forget.
Finally, discern the best way to offer support while keeping the above points in mind. Prayerfully consider how to provide the pastors and missionaries the tools they need to teach God’s Word and administer His Sacraments while considering the challenges and obstacles they face.
Consider your talents and your gifts and see how they might be of use to those overseas. Talk to those in the field. Ask them how you can help. Are they in need of Bibles or catechisms? Do they have enough chalices to administer the Lord’s Supper often? Could they use paraments or vestments which help teach the Gospel through symbols?
And do not lose heart if you see no direct link between your abilities and their needs. Sure, they may not need your award-winning rum cake (though I’m sure some days they might appreciate it), that does not mean those baked goods, or those crafts, or that artwork couldn’t be used to raise money to provide the items they do need.
Let’s always beware, though, of the Old Adam who clings to deeds that make us feel good but offer little spiritual help. Building an orphanage seems far more exciting and rewarding than helping train a pastor and sending them abroad — but the orphanages may not be helping as we think. Donating a truck full of clothes feels more tangible than sending a box of Bibles — but the latter is far more important in teaching God’s Word to souls.
While our support must first go to our direct neighbor through caring for our home congregation and supporting our pastors and their families, we are good to remember our place in the church catholic and seek to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ as they serve communities and peoples around the world.
We may not think we can do much above and beyond what we do in our home church, but we are not helpless. We can give. We can support. But we must do so prayerfully, never losing sight of the true purpose of the church — the pure preaching of the Gospel of Christ and the right administering of His Sacraments for the salvation of souls.
To learn more about how you can help — and who you can help — I recommend first speaking to your pastor for suggestions. The LCMS also has a list of missionaries by country which allows monetary donations be given to their families directly. Also take a look at Lutherans In Africa who has a great deal of information regarding their work training Lutheran teachers and their needs.