It’s amazing to think that, not too long ago, some overseas workers packed their belongings into coffins instead of suitcases before waving goodbye to everyone they knew, knowing they’d never return home. Then came an age when a mail service made communication possible, although sometimes letters would take several weeks to arrive at their destination.
Now, in this digital age, communication is instantaneous. What does this mean to individuals and church missions committees and the way we relate to our overseas workers, especially in nations where there are restrictions on religious freedom?
Never let security concerns stop you from contacting your overseas workers or promoting their work within your church. Mission work is challenging, and your words are an encouragement, as are the prayers of you and your church. We need to be careful, however. In a digital age, the words we say and write are often monitored and, with social media, they can be spread quickly. Whether you are communicating to or about your overseas workers through phone calls, church newsletters, emails, blogs, packages, social media comments, or some other means, here are some guidelines to help keep your overseas worker and the people they work with safe:
- Check with your workers on the best way to communicate. Ask if there are any specific guidelines for the country where they serve.
- Limit your use of ‘Christian’ words. Don’t use terms like missions, missionary, church, evangelism, Jesus, the host country’s religion, etc.
- Don’t criticise the government of the host country or its policies.
- Don’t mention the names of other overseas workers in the host country or identify people who might be interested in Christianity.
- Don’t send church bulletins, Bibles or any other ministry-related material.
- Don’t repost emails, letters or comments from your workers online, or forward them on without permission.