This summer I've been trying to make voice contact with all my supporters... rather than assuming sending out email newsletters is enough to consider these relationships to be true partnerships. One sign that I've been coasting too long is that some of them expressed surprise that I care about them and want to know what's going on in their lives.
These phone calls have really helped offset the sense of social isolation I feel, as a new girl in town who longs for friends but, with too many unpredictable responsibilities to juggle, hasn't figured out how to find and effectively protect the time and energy to actually make friends or see the ones I have.
When I actually reach some of these folks on the phone it's been wonderful. Encounters with old friends. I love hearing what's going on in people's lives, love hearing their stories. And even though talking on the phone is not my favorite way to do that, it's been good.
But I've also run into startling news from quite a few of them. One had been battling depression. Her husband has leukemia. Another is in a marriage was just starting to stabilize after a series of difficult and drawn out struggles that could have destroyed it.
Today I heard back from one I'd been trying to reach on email before making the phone call. "Dear [Him] and [Her]," I'd written, "I'm so grateful for you and your support of my ministry!"
"[Him] and I have been divorced for almost a year now," she finally wrote back.
Crap. I hate divorce. Hate that she went through this, that he did, and that I didn't know.
I've understood, especially when my ministry has taken me to some exotic locale, that those who support me take some vicarious pleasure and significance in being part of it, in making it possible for me to do what they cannot and hearing about it along the way. That they like hearing about my adventures in faith and in foreign places. I fear I have less to "offer" them now that my work has shifted more to what I can do with a keyboard and computer screen, those these tools have always been a bit part of my work, no matter the time zone.
This fall, I'm asking God to broaden my support base and bring me a dozen new ministry partners. That's right: 12. I think that's what I need. I'm especially hoping that some of my favorite people, people with whom I feel a sense of bond or kinship, will, when asked, join this team. My hope is that even if there are no pictures or stories from my latest trip overseas that God will use them to multiply my efforts to serve global purposes with diligence and effectiveness and encourage them through it.
Perhaps praying for them and with them not only about what's going on with me, but with what's going on with them, is one of the best things I can give them. I've been chicken about praying with people over the phone. What if they've never done that before and think it's weird? I think it's worth pushing through.
Man, what a mix of joy and pain life can be. And how vulnerable we all are. So much in common.
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil. 1:3-6