My pastor called me last week. When the phone rang, I had just finished fussing about how much I had to get done before leaving for church that evening. I had about an hour before I needed to walk out the door, but when I heard his voice, I didn’t care if I got another thing accomplished.
I didn’t really care if I was a little bit late to church.
Even though it didn’t cost him any more to call me in Portugal than it did to call across the street, it meant a lot to me. I know how hard he works, and I know how busy he stays in the ministry, and I’m not going to be the squeaky wheel. I don’t want to be a burden for him.
But…it felt good to hear his voice on the other end.
When we talk, we normally talk for at least an hour. We start apologizing for wasting each other’s time about 30 minutes into the conversation and saying stuff like, “I’ll let you get back to work…” then we talk for another half hour before going, “I know you’ve got to go…I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”
I love my pastor. Even before his was my pastor, every now and then he would write me a letter just to tell me that he was praying for our ministry.
When I pastored, I made it a practice to try and call at least one of our foreign missionaries each month. I called Mexico. I called Iceland. I called Germany. It wasn’t cheap, but it was important.
I considered those men my friends and fellow laborers. I saw them as colleagues. Many times I saw them as mentors. When they came by the church, I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.
I wanted them to talk about their families, their struggles, their victories, their frustrations…I wanted to listen because I had the sneaky suspicion that not very many people did.
I could just tell that not very many pastors listened to missionaries for fear of them being hit up for money.
I once called a missionary that our church supported. He was thrilled. He was overwhelmed. I could hear the joy in his voice. We talked for about twenty minutes, and then he got real quiet as we were both getting ready to hang up. He started crying as he said thank you.
That’s right. He said thank you.
He thanked me for calling him. Then he said:
Preacher, you don’t know how much your phone call meant to me today. I’ve been on the field for over five years now and you are the first pastor that has ever called me. My own pastor has never called me on the field.
I hung up the phone and started crying too.
I spoke to another missionary once and while in his home we started talking shop. He had been on the field for about 25 years at the time. He told me that his pastor was a little bit eccentric. This pastor had a timer in his office at the church. When he answered the phone, he started the timer. When it hit 5 minutes, the pastor said that his time was up and he had to go. Then, he hung up the phone. My friend then told me that he got the same treatment.
I sat up with a missionary in his living room on the field until 3 am once. As we climbed the stairs whispering so as not to wake anybody else in the house he stopped me and said,
Thanks for coming. Not very many people would stay up until 3 o’clock in the morning to listen to me.
My response was simple. “That’s exactly one of the reasons why I came.”
We’re going to explore this sad truth a little bit more tomorrow, but I want to ask you a question.
Why is that too often the relationship between supporting churches and missionaries seems so distant?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.