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Jason and Rich had finished their stretching and started their weekly five-mile run.

"Things going fine with you?" Jason fell into his habitual question.

"Oh, nothing's too out of the ordinary. A couple of the kids have colds is all. How about with you?"

Jason didn't answer for a few paces and then said, "I was really moved by that missionary presentation last Sunday. All week long I've kept coming back to what he said: Get behind your missionary.!"

Both men were silent a few paces before Jason continued, "I'm always impressed when our missionaries come back. They always have good things to report, and I'm always impressed by the spiritual values they exemplify."

Rich knew Jason well enough that he didn't feel the need to give a lot of feedback to encourage him to keep talking. As he expected, Jason continued, "I really want to show our church's missionaries I'm behind them, but I don't know what I should do."

Rich looked over at Jason and wondered if this were a cue for him to start speaking or whether he should wait for a direct question. Jason solved the problem by asking, "Do you think I should type up a letter and email it to all the missionaries?"

Rich tried to be careful in his response. "Would you write them once or would you write again in the future?"

"I hadn't thought that far," Jason admitted wryly.

Rich decided to make a suggestion, "What if you wrote one of the men and let him know you believed in what he did, citing a specific detail or two from a recent prayer letter. You could wait and see if he wrote you back. Whether he did or not, you could write again a month later, and keep up the same rhythm indefinitely.

Jason looked over at Rich, "Why did you say to write 'one of the men'? Why not write the couple?"

Rich smiled, "I tried that. I wrote a couple in Latin America, and guess who wrote back--the wife. So, now my wife writes them."

Jason checked his watch as they rounded the fire station, "We're twenty seconds behind last week," he noted. "We need to pick up the pace a bit."

Rich lengthened his stride to comply with his pace-setter and then turned his concentration back to the topic at hand.

"Can I tell you what I do?" he looked over and waited for Jason to nod. "A few years ago I got to talking with one of the missionaries after church and decided I would pray for him consistently. And I have. I won't say I have prayed every day for his work, but almost."

Jason was interested, "Do you just say, 'Help brother so-and-so?'"

Rich kept his gaze on the uneven pavement in front of him. "No, I think about the needs I see that I have and pray that the Lord will meet the same needs in his life--you know, developing a good marriage, making decisions concerning the kids, getting along with co-workers. I figure if I'm facing it, he is likley facing the same thing. Then when his prayer letter comes, I pray especially for the details he mentions. I let his prayer letter remind me to write him, and I specifically adress my letter to him by name and sign it with just my name so he knows the letter is just between us, and I refer to certain specifics of his prayer letter and tell him what kinds of things I'm doing at the time. Over the years, his responses have changed."

Jason was obviously interested, "How so?"

Rich continued, "In the beginning the missionary just wrote general stuff back--you know, expanding on what he had put in his prayer letter. But now, I notice he writes me stuff that he doesn't put in the prayer letter, stuff that you just wouldn't want posted up on the back wall of a church. I think he knows I pray for him, and so he feels free to share even his fears and personal concerns with me."

Jason really liked what Rich was saying, "That's a special relationship you have."

They both paused as they focused on their pace again and tried to pick it up a bit.

"Does he hit you for money?" Jason decided to as the question lingering in the back of his mind.

Rich was quick to reply, "No, not at all. Actually, I ask him for ideas of ways we can help."

"Why do you ask him?" Jason was surprised.

"I'm behind him," Rich said simply.

Jason thought he knew his running partner well, but Rich's one-sentence answer seemed incomplete. He waited a few paces in case Rich were just catching his breath before continuing. When no more words came, Jason asked for more explanation, "What do you mean by that?"

Rich felt at a loss for words, "I just mean that if I'm behind the missionary, I should be taking the initiative in whatever way I can so that he knows and feels I am really behind him. I don't really know how else to say it."

Jason still didn't understand, but he thought he would review what he had heard Rich say. "So if I choose a missionary and write him by name and pray often for him--especially in the areas I find myself having needs--and I write him monthly or at least as often as I get a prayer letter from him and take the initiative to find out how I can be a support and help to him, I could really show him I am behind him. You really think I shouldn't write an email to all of them?"

Rich didn't quite know what to say. "Oh, I'm not saying not to, but you know how impersonal missionary prayer letters are. If you write an impersonal letter back, I think your relationship will stay that way."

They were coming to the last stretch before their five miles would be done, so Jason decided to ask one last question, "What if the missionary doesn't write back?"

Rich smiled, "There is that possiblity. But think yourself, how often do you get a personal letter from a man that is aimed at helping you? And if the same man kept writing . . . I don't know how the missionary could resist replying."

Both slowed down as they came to the end of their course and began their regular stretches.

"Hey, Rich," Jason raised his voice instead of turning around to look at his friend. "Thanks for the tips. I think you've hit on something special."

Tuesday Tea

Missionary Connection

Bunkbed Banter

Five-mile Run

A Car for a Missionary

Judah's Story

John--Apostle of Glory

Singles Pastor