I am a sender friend and a yokefellow. I’ve been at Vision since the early stages, and I’ve made so many lifelong friends here. With that, I’ve said goodbye to just about all of them, as they have headed off to the mission field. It would be easy to be bitter, heartbroken and drained, but when the Lord allowed me to see my value as a Sender, it encouraged me to seek ways to continue creating relationships with those who will Go.
Yokefellow Ministry, What is it?
- A ministry designed to develop a deeper relationship between a goer and a sender. Philippians 4:3 “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, andwith other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.”
- The idea is to have a family become fully engaged in a missionary’s ministry; to support, and report on what God is using them to do. They are a Moses and Aaron team. Exodus 17:12 But Moses’ handswere heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
- A biblical practice of both support and service amongst believers (Remember, we are not all the “hand” or the “foot”, we each have different functions as the body of Christ. Romans 12:5 So we,being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
What does this mean for a “Sender”?
- It does not mean “financial funder”—The monetary side of missions is supported through the local church, and is the purpose of a missionary going on deputation. The yokefellow relationship goes beyond dollars, it is about a relationship.
- Be a true friend, it’s that simple…or is it? It’s easy to become lazy, especially with all of the conveniences of technology. You would tend to think that would make relationships easier, and to a great extent, it does. We have Face Time, Skype, Hangout Apps, etc. But its easy to think that “Liking” a post, or making a generic comment on a facebook status is maintaining a relationship. It isn’t.
- It’s actually not all about her. Your purpose is not to get the inside scoop of her life, and never share back. It isn’t true that “The missionaries don’t want to hear about your latest _____” They crave normal friendship, just like you do. Can you imagine talking to someone only about yourself, and never hearing whats going on in her heart? Open up to her, you may never know how much she may need that.
- She Needs You. It may be collecting her mail and sending her the important things, or helping with arrangements while they come home on furlough. She may need your help with packing or with holding onto important documents while she’s away. She may just need you to check in on her. She might just need to hear your voice. She might just need you to be available.
- They ALL need you. Just because you are a designated yokefellow to one family, does not mean that you no longer have a responsibility to the other ladies serving all across the globe. They need to hear from someone other than their yokefellow too—to know that they are not forgotten, or simply “Assigned”…This is the difference between a “Yokefellow” and a “sender Friend”
Practical Ways to Support Her:
- Keep her in front of you. For example, each time one of my friends leaves for the field, I swap an item with her…a clock, a soap dish, and apron, a vase or home décor item. Every day, I see those things and think of the lady attached to it. I am constantly praying little prayers for them, and it reminds me to reach out to them.
- Put her in your calendar. Her birthday, anniversary, kid’s birthdays. Her next doctor’s appointment, big event at church…of course we can’t remember everything, but you never know what it can do for her getting a text on that day, knowing that you care about what’s going on in her life.
- Keep her up to date! She wants to see pictures of the new church carpet, the pic of your kid and the mess they made when you weren’t looking, and she wants to know what’s going on back home! (Of course, be sensitive about it…If she’s freezing in sub zero temps in her un-heated house, maybe don’t complain about how hot it is at the pool today)
- Keep conversations going. Get to know her, and keep up with the conversation. Asking her the same “How was church?” “What’s the weather like there today”, “What crazy foods are you eating now-a-days” is good for the “getting to know you phase” but after a while, even those questions become mundane. Talk about real life, and not all in question form. Maybe she just wants to have a real conversation. A two sided one.
- Honestly pray for her. She needs you, but what she needs above all else is what only God can provide. There are days of loneliness, days where language school zaps her brain, times when she isn’t sure she can actually accomplish the goals set before her, and circumstances that cause her heart to ache—In ways that we may never understand. Pray for God’s protection, His comfort, His power and His wisdom to guide her days in ways that you cannot. It’s wonderful to ask of God for them, but if you never communicate that to them (tell them “Hey, I prayed for you about ____ today), you’re leaving a blessing opportunity on the table.
- Be loyal to her; be her biggest fan. When she needs to vent…let her. Establish a no-judgement zone, and don’t repeat the struggles she trusts you with. Others may not see it as simply an “off day” for her, and they might not show her grace in their opinions of her. When you talk about her to your other friends or church members, focus on the victories you know she has had.
- Know when to hold em’ and when to fold em’. In terms of your opinions on what’s going on around her. If she’s worried about the high crime rate in her town, remind her that you’re praying for protection, encourage her in the Lord, but stay away from jumping in to share her anxiety. It’s your job to listen, pray and remind her that she’s not alone.
I asked a few of my closest friends to share with me their heart. They all at some point said “I don’t want to be forgotten.” Remember, they didn’t stop being your friend when they boarded the plane and landed in a new country, if anything, they need your friendship even more…so pick back up where you left off. It’s not awkward to them to get a phone call out of the blue, or a private message with “real talk” conversations. Please don’t let them feel forgotten. How can you encourage a missionary/yokefellow? You can just be her friend.
Take a moment to think about missionary lady. (She’s your best friend, your sister, your old college roommate, or a lady you met at your church’s last missions conference) just let God put a name on your heart. Write her name down.
When is the last time you reached out to her? Do you know whats going on in her life? I want to challenge you to reach out to her this week. Strengthen the relationship you have with her, and encourage her today.