by Dennis Wiggs
Many overseas missionaries have access to a telephone line. Most, if not all, home missionaries purchase telephone service. However, overseas telephone calls are expensive; even calls in the States can run up a bill. Letters (snail mail) often take several days or weeks to be delivered. The new method of communication to missionaries is e-mail (electronic mail). The electronic messages sent between computers are stored until read.
Now, if you own a computer and subscribe to an electronic mailing service, you can communicate with home and foreign missionaries in just a few seconds via e-mail. Missionaries are able to transmit emergency prayer requests. This new service is more a efficient method of "talking" to those who may need to hear your "voice."
It is not necessary to pay a monthly fee to the World Wide Web. E-mail services are available without cost. The free Juno e-mail service is quite popular among preachers and religious organizations. (The long distance is free only to those who live in the larger cities.)
E-Mail Mailing List
Many mission directories list the missionaries at home and abroad who have electronic mail capabilities. The booklets should give all the information you need to begin sending messages electronically. Check the latest directories. Enter the names of the missionaries in your e-mail address book.
Recognize Special Events
One of the best reasons for communicating with missionaries and their families is to recognize their birthdays or some other special event. Preachers are not known for their letter-writing. Just zip off a few words of happy birthday, congratulations, thank the Lord for your faithfulness, etc. The missions directories provide needed information.
Keep it short. State your reason for writing in a few words. As e-mail develops, the electronic mailboxes get stuffed. Often junk mail clogs up the telephone lines just as your own mailbox collects unwanted or unneeded mail. Learn to write missionaries in a few words, expressing your appreciate for their ministry, assuring them of your prayer support, and sharing what the Lord is doing in your life or church.
Receive Mail Gladly
Missionaries are using the electronic mailbox as a way of informing supporters about specific prayer requests. Print these requests. Share them with your congregation. Personally take them to the Lord in prayer during your prayer time.
Don't Expect Answers
Email is not fan mail. Remember how busy the missionary is. Refrain from asking questions that demand research or preparation. And, if you really do need a question answered about the missionary's ministry, be patient and wait for the answer.
Produce Positive E-Mail
Missionaries are often lonely ambassadors. An inspiring message on a computer screen may be just what they need. Share verses of Scripture that have been a blessing. Even a rib-tickling joke may be challenging. Maybe a sermon outline or a quote or a poem could encourage a faithful servant struggling to keep that mission church open. Use the computer as a tool of spiritual blessing.