This post was written by Ryan and Angela McCullough, missionaries to Wales, United Kingdom.
Almost everyone who has attended church has had a card handed to them by a missionary at some point. You know, the picture card with the missionary family smiling on the front and details of how to contact and support the missionary in their country of calling. We affectionately call them “prayer cards” because as missionaries, our heart’s desire is that you’ll pray for us every time you see one. We keep all of ours that we have collected on our refrigerator. This has created a large, colorful piece of art- a collage of some of our best friends on the planet.
We haven’t been able to forget one particular afternoon. After a long day of preaching and traveling, a young boy at the home where we were being hosted for dinner invited us to see something in his room. Inside, under the bunk above him, tucked into the wood slats were a half-dozen prayer cards, most of them personal friends. He wanted to show us that he was adding ours to the lineup. His father later explained to me that he would spend time every night praying specifically for each family. He had been doing this for a while, because many of the cards were several years old. I almost broke down right then and there. It had been a tough time for me personally, and that gesture from a heart so pure spoke to me so directly. The Holy Spirit has continued to remind me that He has ways of making sure we are covered in prayer wherever we go. We also make sure we give prayer cards to all the kids we can.
Missionaries stress that prayer is the most important kind of support we seek. It’s true, because without it, the work is stifled and suffers tremendously. With prayer, breakthroughs happen and the enemy is defeated. The Bible’s commands to pray for each other are great reasons to follow through on this. But when we are disconnected by so many miles and often by years of absence, how do we carry this out with power and effectiveness? Here are some suggestions on how to use those prayer cards:
Use them as visible reminders for intercessory prayer. If you don’t see them, you won’t remember your missionary friends nearly as often. Bible bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, and mirrors are all great places to put a prayer card. If you have a lot, then a box on your table to hold them in will encourage a great family activity as you pray for a different family each day at mealtime. If God gives me a burden for a particular missionary, then their card gets taped over my speedometer for a while. When you pray, really pray hard. That sounds funny, but there is a difference between praying whatever comes to mind and stopping everything and praying like someone’s life depended on it. Intercession is not only a blessing for someone else, it’s an exercise that makes us more like Jesus.
Use them to get in touch with a friend. Prayer binds us in spirit like nothing else. If you pray for someone, chances are, you’ll become friends with them too. When serving on the field, missionaries are consumed with reaching out to people who most often do not share their values, personal interests, or background. While we work almost nonstop to engage culturally, we are still living in two worlds. Personal contact from the USA is really encouraging. One thing you wouldn’t often think about is that humor doesn’t always translate well when ministering in another culture. Missionaries need a laugh. Most of us send jokes, funny pictures, and notes to our friends just to bug them or get a reaction. Keep your missionary friends in the loop that way even though they may be far away. I have several friends who know how to keep a smile on my face. It really ministers to me.
All joking aside, personal contact is a great way to be more aware of the needs on the field. It is always so poignant when a friend asks: what specific things can we pray for today? Nine times out of ten, there is a huge burden that we need to share at that moment and God has used that friend to help us in our time of need. We also get the opportunity to pray with people back in the States. The ministry goes both ways. Amazingly, in the connected world we live in, physical barriers to communication are gone. We can talk to anyone, any time, any place. Still, there is a psychological barrier that distance imposes. We encourage you to break that barrier and reach out.
Use them to make God-inspired connections. I’ve often handed someone else’s business card to a friend when I am impressed by the service I received. It’s called word-of-mouth. We recommend good things to friends all of the time. From time to time, we will come into contact with people who benefit not from a business connection, but a Kingdom Connection. Does a particular country or region come up in conversation with a friend? Maybe God is trying to use that person in a new way and a connection with a missionary could open the door to a whole new world of ministry. We use prayer cards to help other pastors and leaders discover missionaries who have talents that I know will be a huge benefit to their local congregation. These kinds of connections have resulted in missions trips, missionary services, and even people being called into full-time missionary service. Make the connection.
All in all, the prayer card has a threefold purpose. First, connecting with God through prayer and intercession. Second, keeping contact with those serving in the field and those in the local church through maintaining relationship. Third, broadening connections and networks in the Kingdom of God by referral. We encourage you to put those prayer cards to good use!