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Serving as Senders!

This past Thursday, the Ridderings, our missionaries to Burkina Faso, returned home for a brief furlough.  Needless to say, it was great to see them!  They looked wonderful and it was so great to see how excited they were about all that God is doing through their ministry.
As we picked them up at the airport, I was, once again, reminded of the tremendous privilege that we have to serve as their sending church.  How many churches never experience the satisfaction, the joy and the burden of sending one of their own to the mission field?  Yet, God has given us this awesome responsibility.
As many of you know, Vickie and I served for fifteen years as missionaries to Mexico and Central America.  During our tenure as missionaries, we were blessed to have a phenomenal sending church.  They not only gave us very generous support, but they also loved us, cared for us and were involved in our lives and ministry.  To this day, they serve as an example for us to follow.
What are the responsibilities of a sending church?  How can we at Hollywood Community Church serve the Ridderings and any other missionaries that follow in their steps?  Apart from our obvious responsibilities like financially supporting them and praying for them, here are a few practical things that would bless them greatly.
1. Read their blog and prayer letters
This sounds like a simple and insignificant task, yet it is extremely important.   In their blogs and other communications the Ridderings share  their struggles, their hurts, their needs and their blessings.  They open themselves up and share these personal experiences and feelings with us so that we might better understand and pray for their ministry.  When we fail to read their communications we drop the ball and we neglect our responsibility.

I will never forget the hurt and disappointment that I experienced on one of our furloughs.  It was after the birth of our daughter Amber.  We had faithfully shared with our supporters all of the struggles that we had faced with her birth, near death, and prolonged hospitalization.  We shared those things believing that our churches were reading them and praying for us.  How sad we were to realize that some of our supporting churches were clueless to Amber’s birth and condition because they failed to read our prayer letters.  Let’s make sure that Hollywood Community Church does not make that mistake!

You can find their blog at www.reachburkina.com

 2. Remember them on their birthdays and on holidays
Without a doubt, holidays and special days are some of the most difficult times for a missionary to be on the foreign field.  Everyone, including missionaries, wants to be with family on those special occasions.  The fact that they are separated from their loved ones is just part of the struggle, though.  They often are unable to follow the family traditions that make the holidays so special… they may not be able to get a turkey on Thanksgiving or a tree for Christmas.  They miss hearing Christmas carols or participating in 4th of July cookouts.
It is amazing how a simple phone call, an e-card or a birthday note on Facebook can bring a smile to a discouraged missionary. The realization that they are not forgotten, but extremely loved gives them unbelievable comfort and joy.   So, put their birthdays on your calendar and make sure and communicate with them during the holidays.
3. Express interest in their kids
Often we forget that missionary kids are missionaries too.  Often mom and dad get all of the attention and the kids can be ignored.  From experience I can tell you that it is a huge blessing whenever someone takes special interest the missionary’s children. Here are a few things that you can do for them…
* Keep them stocked up on their favorite candy.
* Send DVD’s of their favorite movies.
* Have your kids write to them.
* Tell them how much your appreciate their dedication as MK’s.
* Have the children’s ministry or youth group correspond with them.
* Pay to have them go to youth camp.
The Ridderings are in the US for the next thirty days.  Let’s look for ways to love them, honor them and let them know how special they are to us.  Let’s serve as senders!
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