Visiting Your Supporters

By on June 1, 2012   /   Leave a comment

“…out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.” (1 Thess. 2:17)

I’m about to embark on a road trip across the northwestern U.S., during which, I’ll visit ministry partners I have not seen in many years due to my need to help my elderly mom. She recently passed on into Jesus’ arms and we’ll bury her ashes in the family plot in Idaho. I’ll then hit the road to re-connect with many people, including wonderful ministry partners/friends. Along with mourning the loss of my mom on earth, as well as celebrating her passing into glory, I will get to share deeply with those who have been significant in my life and ministry over the years. These ministry partners are one of the great joys of my life.

As I’ve taught around the world on support raising, I’m convinced two things have made the greatest difference in strengthening my support team: First, the gifts I give (normally at Christmas) and secondly, the visits I make, seeing people face to face. I’m inspired by Paul’s words in his first letter to the Thessalonians – his desire and love for them is expressed in a longing to see them, not just communicate with them from a distance. Friendships lapse with infrequent face-to-face contact.

Before leaving on a “visiting” trip, I pray and ask God to “order” my trip, highlighting those with whom I should spend time with. Other- wise, I’m more like a “chicken with its head cut off” in a frantic schedule, seeing too many people while connecting too little with most. I realize I  can’t see everyone. I can’t spread myself so thin that it becomes a “touch and go” experience for each of us. It’s helpful to ask myself, “If I were them, how would I want to be treated?” If we imagine ourselves in others’ shoes, it helps us to practically walk out what “friend raising” really means. Thinking about what setting each  person has  been  most comfortable with us in the past helps us know how to best connect with them in our visit. Some yearn for a close relationship, but others may be awkward if it’s too personal. Some love to host us in their home, while others prefer attending a group function where we’re sharing about our ministry.

Visits can work both ways, including us traveling to see others where they live, but also ministry partners coming to connect with us on the field. Even a brief meal shared with friends can have more impact than years of personal letters, evidenced by 2 John 12:  “…I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete”. We need to be good listeners, looking for opportunities to minister to them. Also, our prayers with and for our supporting friends can have great impact. It strengthens us as well as paves the way for them to be there for us in our time of need.

Visits also give us opportunities to serve, even briefly, in our home churches. It’s helpful to know our strengths and abilities, so we can offer to help, whether teaching Sunday-school classes, preaching, or providing a listening ear. Help as there is opportunity, not as the super- spiritual authority, but as a servant offering aid and encouragement.

You may feel restrained from visiting due to limited finances or pressing needs on the field. However, the priority of visits must be understood. Our ability to serve long-term in ministry is directly linked to the health of our relationships back home. Paul says it well: “…I want very much to see you, in order to share a spiritual blessing with you to make you strong. What I mean is that both you and I will be helped at the same time, you by my faith and I by yours” (Rom. 1:11-12, Good News).


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