We always welcome guests to our annual NCEM conferences but, for the most part, they are geared for our staff. Not long ago a certain couple joined us for one of these gatherings. They told me how they were impressed with the openness and honesty with which our missionaries shared their reports. They said that, though they’d been familiar with NCEM for many years, they were only now getting their eyes opened to the challenges.
When I mentioned that I was editor of our Mission’s news magazine, they said something like, “I guess you just print the good stuff”!
Thinking about their comment I recognized anew that we’d be negligent if we didn’t print the good stuff. If the Lord is working (and He is), then we’d better acknowledge it! On the other hand, if we are to get the prayer support we need, we should also be describing the challenges. I believe we have been doing that, too, at least in a general way — some prayer requests should only be shared in confidence.
Still, if urgent and effective prayer depends on our supporters being informed, I wondered, “Is there a way to bring our Northern Lights readers a bit closer to the heart of our ministry?”
With that in mind, I began asking our missionaries: “What requests would you give if you knew that your name would not be attached?” (I promised that I would tell absolutely no one the source of their submissions.) Their responses form the basis of this article.
I soon realized that a good number of the submitted requests were not for our ministries, but for ourselves and our families. I wondered at first, “Couldn’t that seem self-serving? After all, we’re here for the sake of others.”
Actually, it’s biblical! Check out the Apostle Paul’s letters and you’ll find that, along with his prayers for others, there are also numerous requests for himself. Ours include the following:
“Pray for emotional, spiritual and physical strength to always remain faithful to the Lord.”
“Pray for unity — the ability to see past/through differences and find workable paths to walk together in ministry.”
“Please pray for our son, with the negative … influence on our Reserve. Pray with us as we make a decision as to where he should go to high school next year, and how we can pay for it.”
“Pray for [my husband] as he travels, as this takes him away from home quite a bit.”
“Pray for the lack of other Christian singles my age to fellowship with.”
“Pray for our low financial support.”
“Although we feel very definite that God called us to … the Reserves in this area, that ministry has not materialized due to declining health. I struggle with the fact that we are unable to minister as we would like … it is the feeling that we need to justify to supporters that we are still in ministry.”
“Pray for growing love, respect, and unity in our marriage.”
“Please pray for two of our [grown children] to walk with God.”
“Please pray for our beautiful grandchild and her unwed, but caring mommy and daddy (unsaved).”
“Is it expected or right for a missionary to admit that they are struggling in their walk with the Lord … major or minor? I know that we all do at some point because often that is how we grow in the Lord. But as ‘mature’ Christians, with supporters who have certain expectations of ‘their’ missionaries, are they willing to hear that their missionary is going through a struggle? … I don’t know how to even begin to express this to a supporter.”
“Pray that we may grow old gracefully.”
“Pray that God would still use us in our imperfections.”
“Pray that I would hear God’s voice. There are so many things I could do, but not sure which.”
“Pray for [our son] as he goes to school in another city … pray that he will remember what he heard as a small child about the Lord.”
“Please pray for a spiritually, physically, emotionally strong marriage.”
“Pray for us as we often get so busy with ministry that our personal walk with God, our marriages and family suffer … then we want to quit because we are falling apart.”
“Pray concerning the pull of the world around us … of going back into the regular work force. We are bombarded with media and materialism of all sorts.”
“Pray for protection from Satan’s attacks on our unity with fellow workers and in our families. ‘Divide and conquer’ is still one of his main weapons.”
“Pray for a growing personal relationship with God for us and for each of our children.”
As you can see, we missionaries struggle with issues common to others, plus some extra pressures that come with serving in cross-cultural settings. We may see our own needs only as setbacks … until we realize that it may be through our weaknesses and vulnerabilities that God may want to use us!
But we are here to reach Canada’s First Peoples with the Gospel. Beyond our own needs, our hearts go out to those who don’t yet know the Lord, and to those who, like us, need to be walking close with Him. Our requests include the following:
“Pray for our situation. People say they want Bible study but have no time available for it.”
“Please pray for unity among believers, and wisdom in dealing with unresolved issues … humility and forgiveness to be practiced by all.”
“We would appreciate prayer for more workers and specifically for the mobilization of the local churches. There are many churches here [in our area] and none reach out to the Native community!”
“About one-quarter of the Native children I have contact with are being raised by single dads … Pray that [we] will have some ideas of how we can minister to this group.”
“You need to pray for us … when the whole Bible study group is gone because there is a bingo going on in the community.”
“We need prayer to know how to reach the people on one particular reserve who are steeped in alcoholism, drugs, gambling and all that goes with these vices. It is difficult to get the people to listen to the Gospel. The children are neglected and see their reserve as hopeless. We have made a few friends there, but pray we will know how to effectively reach these needy people. A good number of the kids have heard the Gospel at camp and if we can reach them before their lives are destroyed by sin, then we will consider that a victory. Satan has such a grip on the reserves in this area.”
“Pray for discernment to see the way God is leading, when little seems to be happening.”
“[We know a] professed Christian single mother who has been involved in sexual immorality, which affects the life of her teenage boy. Pray for her conviction of the Holy Spirit.”
“Pray for the Spirit’s guidance for a man-to-man Bible study with a young potential leader in the community.”
“There is such a desire for miracles, healing, and prophecies in our community. Pray that we’d have wisdom in knowing how to relate. Pray that people would go to God, not mainly looking for healing and power, but in repentance and submission.”
“I want to help’ people, but sometimes it just seems like I’m ‘rescuing’ them. It bothers me to think that my ‘help’ may actually enable them to continue in their destructive behavior.””Pray for a real revival among the Native churches.”
“Pray that I would be able to trust the Lord to care for the people we minister to. It breaks our hearts to see them make bad choices.”
We appreciate very much the special partnership we in NCEM have with our prayer supporters. It’s because we value it so much that one missionary added:
“I’m not sure how many missionaries hear from people who pray or support them. It would be great if they would consider writing, phoning, e-mailing or a visit (if that’s convenient for them) once in a while … I guess I’m putting a little of the onus on them to help keep in touch so that it’s not only the missionary’s responsibility.”
Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #494). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.