Sending a missionary to a foreign country requires great care. Sending them to a Creative Access Nation—one which forbids missionary endeavor—requires even greater care, especially when it comes to communication. Here are some suggestions to avoid the “minefields.”
First, be sure to write your missionary, knowing they may not be able to return your kindness.
They need your encouragement! A regular note or an e-mail from home provides a great boost. Send them a family photograph so they’ll have a reminder of your love for them. All the while, be aware that they may not be able to reciprocate, that your pen pal efforts may only bring an occasional response, and that they may not even mention their missionary work. The reason? They are faced with a choice: to communicate with you and risk their ministry or to prioritize the people they are trying to reach for Christ at the expense of open communication. This is the price they willingly pay to reach those who live in darkness.
Second, before they leave, ask your missionary for communication guidelines for their country.
Remember, they will live under surveillance. Their e-mail will be read; their telephone calls monitored; their activities will likely be observed. Your missionary should have suggestions for you to follow, but generally when writing a note do not criticize the government of the host country; do not talk about politics; do not mention missions, witnessing, or evangelism; do not talk about church planting. Do not mention your missionary’s friends or identify the people they are trying to reach in their host country. Limit your use of “Christian” language. Do not send missionary prayer letters, prayer cards, church bulletins, tracts, religious magazines, or any such materials.
“Well … what can I write about then?”
You would be surprised how refreshing and enjoyable your letter describing the activities of everyday life will be for your missionary. Tell of the changing seasons; talk about the headlines; bring them up to speed on the progress of their favorite team; share a new recipe; tell about your trip to the county fair. Tell of the things they enjoy most, (such as gardening, the Chicago Cubs, or the opening day of pheasant season), and of your family’s activities. Ask them for a description of the scenes outside their windows, and offer them a description of yours.
Finally, realize that the internet is a turncoat to missionaries in difficult countries.
It can be their best friend and worst enemy. It can enable them to communicate with their supporters, and in a moment it can betray their true, spiritual purpose for being in-country. A single posting of their name on a church website will “red flag” your missionary to hostile authorities. Carefully omit the names and nations of these missionaries from your church’s website.
“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
In writing your missionary a letter filled with the simple events of your life, you will be quenching an unseen thirst of God’s servant. They will read and re-read your letters, squeezing every drop of joy from the news of their homeland—that far country. Pick up your pen, and you will serve your missionary in a ministry that is quiet and unseen, noticed only by God. In so doing, you may encourage them in a difficult time, enrich their lives, and extend their ministries to the glory of God.