I am in another Asian country this week meeting with several hundred of my fellow missionaries. We gather once a year to worship, pray, give reports, and discuss strategy. It’s an exciting time to hear how God is at work, especially here in Asia. Perhaps the biggest thing we do at this meeting is to encourage one another.
Living on the other side of the world in a foreign culture carries unique stresses. In addition, being on the front lines of expanding God’s kingdom against the evil forces of this world adds to the stress. I have been blessed this week to see the many ways we encouage one another.
The first step for new missionaries is language learning. During our yearly meeting, we set aside time to celebrate those who have achieved various levels of language proficiency. After their name is called, thunderous clapping amidst shouts of praise are given as they come forward to receive their certificate of completion.
Several times during the week, we pause to recognize those who have endured unusual hardships during the past year or have demonstrated exemplary commitment to the mission task. Once again, a standing ovation with an applause of appreciation express our respect as they receive a certificate for their faithfulness and perseverance.
During each worship service, we focus on the missionaries working among a particular people group. As they stand, we gather around them with supportive prayer and arms of love, lifting up to the Lord both their ministry and their personal prayer requests.
During our final day, we also give certificates to those who have reached 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years of mission service. We stand on either side of the aisle reaching out to ‘high 5’ the recipient as he runs the gauntlet of whistles, shouts, and deafening applause. Last year I received my 30 year certificate.
During the week we also give special recognition to our graduating MK (missionary kid) high school seniors, to our organization leaders, to those who volunteer from the States to come help us during the week, and for all of those who work to make our meeting possible.
God tells us to think about “how to encourage one another toward love and good deeds” Heb.10:24. In a time when Christians are facing increasing pressures and persecutions, it’s a good idea to think of creative ways we can encourage one another to “not grow weary in doing good” and to “bear one another’s burdens” Galatians 6.