The word “encourage” comes from the French, and it actually means “to insert courage” or “to give to the heart”. We do a lot of encouraging in our work. For example, just in this week, we have been helping students during exam times and giving lots of encouragement… courage to keep studying, to stay focused until the last exam, and to believe in themselves. We have spent time with other mission workers, encouraging them in their training and preparation and partnership development efforts. We have had various phone calls and texts and emails to workers, encouraging them in their current situations. And we frequently have coffee meetings that are times of encouragement for weary pastors, friends, and neighbors in town. We actually love these times of “giving to the heart” of others and “inserting courage” in to those who are currently fearful or tired and feeling overwhelmed.
But who encourages the encouragers? We are asked that periodically by our mentors or other counselors and caregivers. “Who gives you encouragement? Who pours in to your heart when you are tired and overwhelmed or fearful?”
In polls and surveys and research regarding ways they feel encouraged, cross-cultural workers consistently respond with the same handful of answers.
· When people read our newsletters and updates and they reply to us about them
· When people let us know that they prayed for us
· When we receive real mail and real phone calls
· When we are remembered on birthdays and holidays
· When people come to visit us for the purpose of encouraging us and blessing us and our team
We have a handful of really great encouragers who encourage us! We have a couple of ladies who faithfully send us emails of encouragement. They are also the folks who never forget our birthdays and always send a letter and a card. We have one special partner who sends a package to us every month! The days when these small acts of encouragement come are special days that pick up our spirits and remind us that we are not forgotten.
In May, we had a super special visit. Two long-time friends in mission came to visit us FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENCOURAGING US! What?! That’s right… they came only to encourage us. They weren’t here to do sightseeing or anything special. In fact, they asked us to please NOT worry about entertaining them or taking them to all the sights. They just wanted to sit with us, to hang out on the patio, to eat long meals and have long coffee chats and (most importantly) to listen. They wanted to listen. To us! They didn’t really want to see us do anything special. They didn’t want to go see all of our ministry work. They just wanted to be with us and to listen. And they specifically asked us to not change our schedule for them or do anything out of the ordinary. They just wanted to come alongside and be available to us for encouragement and support and listening. What a blessing!!!!
This week, our teammates Axel and Delilah, had a similar situation. (I think God knew that as a team, we have been really needing some encouragement! It’s been a tough couple of months.) One of their long-time friends in mission came to visit them FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENCOURAGEMENT! Unbelievable! And he has lived in Peru for many years, so he wanted to meet us and encourage us, too! WHAT?! We had a wonderful time sharing stories about Peru and the places / foods / experiences we have in common. He was a huge blessing to us, giving us words of encouragement and lifting us up, letting us know that we are seen and understood and not forgotten, that we are in the prayers of the people and that even though the work is difficult, our hearts and our spirit of peace in the community will prevail. Wow!
We are so grateful for the Encouragers—those who have a spirit for blessing others with their acts of prayer, letter writing, mailing small gifts, phone calls, emails, and above all, TIME to talk and listen and remind us that someone cares. You may never know how much your acts of kindness have meant to cross-cultural workers who need a little pick-me-up on those overwhelming days!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ~1 Thessalonians 5:11
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!