Many missionaries are free to discuss their locations, circumstances, and work with friends and family back home. They can share details about the country where they serve and ask for prayer regarding the specifics of their ministry. Missionaries in restricted-access countries, however, have a unique set of circumstances that make it difficult for us to communicate with and encourage them.
Restricted-access countries often have high numbers of unreached people groups, and the governments are wary of western missionaries. They are watched closely and their communication with friends and family is often monitored. Information shared on social media or other sources could result in an order to leave the country.
Restricted-access countries do not issue visas for missionaries, making it more difficult for them to live and work there. Many missionaries obtain visas through their work in compassion and healthcare ministries, education, and community service. Others run their own businesses and organizations.
These extra stresses engender isolation and spiritual oppression and increase the missionaries’ need for reminders that God has them in that special spot. They covet more from us as God’s people to encourage them forward.
Here are five ways you can encourage missionaries in restricted-access countries, despite the communication barriers between you.
1. Get To Know Them.
Get their prayer updates and read their letters. Know the struggles they are facing.
2. Respect The Restrictions.
Find out what email address, communications app, or special restricted social media site is safe for them. And find out what words you cannot say in your communications with them.
3. Communicate and Encourage.
Missionaries need to be reminded of the gospel, too. Encourage them with the promises of God throughout Scripture, and let them know you are thinking about them. Remind them that they are missed, loved, and prayed over.
4. Really Pray.
Missionaries in restricted-access countries face spiritual oppression every day, and they can be discouraged and tempted to doubt the goodness of their purpose. Pray for them, and pray often. Ask God to comfort them with his protection, restore them with his love, and guide them with his word.
5. Ask Them How You Can Help.
Find out what specific needs you and your church might help the missionary meet. Whether that is collecting supplies, raising funds, or offering business advice—participating in their work enables you to support the missionaries and further God’s work there.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 23, 2019.