Book review: Serving as Senders Today


How often do you think about missions? How often do you think about the people who serve cross culturally in a country other than their homeland? 

When we read Matthew 28:19, “Go … make disciples of all nations…” Christians are inspired to be involved in evangelism at home and abroad. But how can we be involved in global evangelism while we are called to stay in our homeland? 

Neal Pirolo has written a book called Serving as Senders Today: How To Care For Your Missionaries As They Prepare To Go, Are On The Field, And Return Home (San Diego, CA: Emmaus Road International, 2012) that offers one answer that question. His book uses stories from cross-cultural field workers, as well as Bible passages, to illustrate how anyone can serve as a sender. 

Pirolo opens his book by outlining how people can be recruited to support a missionary through the ups and downs of missionary life. Romans 10:13-15 informs his discussion about the importance of sending, while multiple illustrations from Pauls’ life reinforce his arguments. Questions at the end of each chapter and the leader’s guide at the end of the book make this a book appropriate for group discussion.

Other chapters in the book discuss moral, logistical, financial, prayer, communication, and re-entry support.

A recurring theme in Pirolo’s book is how much a missionary can be helped by encouragement—about his calling, as she prepares to go, through the quagmire of logistics, through regular communication with people back home, through the keeping of commitments, from gifts, and during the re-entry process once God has called them back to their passport country (which may no longer feel like home).

Learning how to listen to a missionary is another skill Pirolo comes back to repeatedly. He advocates an active listening that enables the missionary to discuss their experiences on a personal level. This kind of listening helps the missionary process their experiences in a positive way.

In the chapter on logistical support I learned about a vast array of things that need to be considered for a missionary including:

·      Accountability

·      Budgets

·      Management of donations

·      Writing thank-you notes (and many other communication needs)

·      Helping with their taxes

·      Aiding them with their health care needs

·      Assisting with insurance paperwork

·      Handling travel expenses to and from funerals

·      Submitting ballots for elections

·      Helping to create and maintain their wills. 

And there is so much more! Who will take care of the missionary’s property while she’s gone? Who will prepare for his furloughs? Will someone handle sending birthday and Christmas gifts to their parents, grandparents, and siblings while they are away?

The discussion of financial support surprised me. It wasn’t just an admonition about faithfully sending contributions. It was also a discussion about lifestyles and attitudes toward giving. It included a long discussion about how individuals, groups of people, and agencies can more effectively release funds for missions.

It is possible the chapter on prayer was the best chapter of the book. I found it immediately helpful in my own prayer life for missionaries. Pirolo points out prayer is spiritual warfare and gives a list of prayer requests that can apply to any field worker. These include language learning, health, homesickness, and interpersonal relationships. He encourages us to use Biblical prayers as guides to our own prayers and uses Colossians 1:9-12 as an example. He encourages us to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) for our missionaries and gives examples from the Bible of people who did just that for God’s people.

Re-entry can be the hardest part of a missionary’s life and can take many months, even years. Pirolo’s book gives an introduction to helping a missionary handle re-entry so that he and his family can do it without the confusion and bitterness that might accompany such an event in the absence of good support. The desired end of re-entry is to help the cross-cultural worker get integrated into their home culture and begin to contribute to their church in a meaningful way. More on how to serve missionaries in this way can be found in The Re-Entry Team, which is another book authored by Pirolo.

One of the strengths of Pirolo’s book is the generous way he refers to scripture. In addition, he gives diverse ideas about sending missionaries so that they can succeed in the work God has called them. At the end of the book the reader is left with a clear understanding that anyone can serve as a sender. The only thing left to do is to start doing it.

Leave a comment to let us know how you serve as a sender.

Elizabeth NoellComment