Three years ago I experienced an event that would shape the way I think about missionaries and mission work for the rest of my life. I traveled with about 30 others to Phuket, Thailand to host missionary couples from across Southeast Asia. During that week I learned that missionaries are not uber-Christians. They are real people with fears, doubts, and struggles with their faith like every other follower of Christ. The difference between them and us is that they do not allow those things from following the call of God on their lives. I also learned that they are lonely and desperately in need of encouragement.
I remember meeting one family in the hallway of the hotel. A companion and I had just left letters from home for the adults and candy from the USA for the kids on their bed. The family was supposed to be at dinner. They had returned to their room for some reason that escapes me now. The wife came rushing from her room to meet us in tears as we were entering another room with similar goodies. Almost with uncontrollable emotions she thanked us over and over again for the small gesture of kindness. She went on to explain how she and her family had come to believe that no one in America cared about their work in Thailand. It was amazing to see how such a small act of kindness could solicit such an emotional response.
On another occassion I sat at a picnic table to listen to one young man's story. He had boarded a plane to make a short trip home when he became violently ill. I may mention here that to fly from Thailand to Los Angeles takes about 16 hours. During the flight he was in so much pain that he told me that he prayed to die. It seems that he had eaten some food in one of the villages in Thailand that had a hidden parasite living inside. It came to life while in the plane and literally began to eat it's way out. He did manage to get back to the states and after an extended stay in the hospital he returned back to his work in Thailand. He thanked me over and over for just sitting and listening to his story. I thanked him for his dedication to the Lord.
Those are just two of dozens of examples that changed my mind about missionaries. I appreciate their work more than ever because I came to realize they are no different than us. They struggle with their commitment level. They often think about packing up and coming home. They are afraid for their lives and the lives of their children. What they want more than anything else is to know somebody cares that they are making a sacrifice for the kingdom of God. I want us to do just that.
Dallas Bay is preparing to host one such missionary retreat. It will be for missionaries serving in South America. This retreat is planned for May 2013 in Lima, Peru. Would you please consider being a part of this incredible event. We need people from every walk of life. We want to take doctors and nurses, yes. We want to take pastors and counselors, absolutely. But we also need people who are willing to listen. We need people who will carry bags to hotel rooms. We need hairdressers, massage therapists, financial counselors, and dentists. We need anyone who is willing to encourage and treat a missionary with the respect they are due but so rarely receive.
Would you pray with me about going? We are going to make an official announcement soon at both of our campuses. By then we will have exact dates and costs for this amazing event. It is 9 months away. There's plenty of time for you to set the money and time aside to join us. I'm hoping that at least 30 people from Dallas Bay will participate. We would like to sponsor at least 60 misionary families. With your help we can encourage these families to stay on the field and continue the ministry they have been called by Godt to do.