Communication from the home country is much enjoyed and appreciated by those overseas. It is an easy way of encouraging people by telling them they are thought of, prayed for and cared for.
For those doing the communicating it is also part of serving God in mission – not everyone goes overseas but those at home can still be a part of the team through support methods.
While communicating may sound simple enough, there are some things worth thinking about when it comes to doing this with overseas workers. In today’s society there are numerous ways to communicate and it’s usually quick and inexpensive
Written letter. This is still a great way for people to communicate and there is nothing quite like agood letter in the post.
Email. Common, easy and great for those quick correspondences.
Skype calls and instant messaging. If both parties have broadband connections, this is certainly a recommended option for free calling and the bonus with video cameras installed is that you have the option to see people while you’re talking to them! All you have to do is register with Skype and set up a username and password (www.skype.com). Like phone calls, the time zones do need to be thought through so you get them at appropriate times.
Facebook etc.…social media networks enable short messages but just remember that anything posted is very public!
NB: with any electronic communication, ensure you have a virus free computer. The last thing anyone wants is a nasty surprise!
What can I write about?
If you don’t know the person/people to whom you are writing, introduce yourself. Write aboutwhat’s going on in your family or your group. Introduce members of a group. Send a photo.
Pass on any news e.g. personal news from home and friends, local and national news highlights.Be accurate and encouraging.
Say things that really matter. Share your thoughts. Refer to your own walk with God and that youare thinking (i.e. praying) of them.
Ask questions about their work, lifestyle and culture and respond to what they have said in previous communication. Keep up to date with what they are doing through their agency prayer news bulletins and personal newsletters.
If there are children, write to them specifically and ask about school or their days.
Ask them what their prayer requests are – what they would like you/the church to remember them in. Knowing people are praying at home is not to be underestimated.
Write a little at a time if you wish and send it when it’s a reasonable amount.
Make contact when the Spirit prompts you about the person even if it’s simply a quick, 1-2 sentence email. These little emails can be just what is needed to encourage at a specific time.
Is there anything I shouldn’t say?
In a number of areas of the world, security is a concern and mail (hard copy and electronic) may be opened and monitored before it reaches its destination. Phone calls can also be listened in on. Being careful with the choice of words we use, keeps people and their work safer.
Check with a worker’s agency for specific details or contact us for some further general outlines.
Please note: don’t be deterred or discouraged by restrictions that may exist for some areas. With some creative thought, using different words, it is relatively simple to still get the message across and with regular use soon becomes second nature.
How else can I encourage an overseas worker?
Send a birthday or special occasion card. Avoid sending anything bigger than an envelope size as the likelihood of parcels arriving intact can be diminished in some parts of the world.
Send photos or newspaper clippings (although with most newspapers online, articles are easily accessed).
Find out from them if they would like to receive their sending church newsletter or weekly message and commit to emailing these regularly (unless these are accessible online). Many people do enjoy that regular connection with their home church and keeping up with news.
Commit to praying.
Consider becoming a financial supporter.
When someone is heading to visit them find out from the agency or the workers themselves if there is anything that they need or would like. Little treats of packaged foodstuffs or toys for the children and only available here can be a big encouragement.