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Prayer Letters to the Home Team
I greatly appreciated Allan Hedberg’s comments on missionary letter writing (“Prayer Letters to the Home Team,” April 2010) and the need to better communicate God’s work with my sending partners.

Prayer Letters to the Home Team
I greatly appreciated Allan Hedberg’s comments on missionary letter writing (“Prayer Letters to the Home Team,” April 2010) and the need to better communicate God’s work with my sending partners. I first wish to offer a few words on what has helped me write letters more in line with Hedberg’s guidelines; I then pose a question concerning the reason for the change in the way missionaries write to their “home team.”

Concerning my own letter writing, I found that changing the word(s) I use to describe my “home team” significantly changes my perception of their role in my work. Subsequently, the way I communicate with them is also altered. For example, if I think of them as my “supporters,” or “supporting churches,” then I feel a bit more distant from them. If, by contrast, I think of them as “ministry team members” then I feel more as if we’re in this together.

Regarding Hedberg’s perception of a change in the content of missionary letters, I concede there are those who engage in little or no evangelism, or who have little understanding of what it takes to make disciples, and thus their letters could not include progress in these areas. I also imagine there are those engaging in mission work who simply have no idea what is important to share with their ministry partners. These latter missionaries would greatly benefit from Hedberg’s suggestions.

I wonder, however, if there might be another reason for the content change over the years. Does this change reflect a shift in the receptivity of people groups being engaged by the missionaries? I think of those engaging people in limited-access countries or people groups resistant to the gospel. Progress can be very slow and setbacks are many. Missionaries can write only so many letters about their discouragement and their need to persevere before their letters sound monotonous or discouraging. As missionaries transition out of those people groups where a rapidly growing, indigenous church has been established, then letters with glowing reports of massive conversions should decline as well.

While I pose the above question for discussion, I do not believe its premise provides an excuse for failing to engage in the work of evangelistic mission or in doing a better job of helping our ministry partners sense their part in it. We must be faithful to share Christ with our people, and then share what Christ is doing with host partners.  —missionary

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EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 388. Copyright  © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

 


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