The Best and Worst Mission Conferences

best and worst mission confMr. Michael Williquette, business director for Baptist World Mission, conducted a voluntary survey of missionaries and board members of BWM for the purpose of identifying their positive and negative experiences relating to missions conferences. The survey asked for general opinions and is reproduced below with minimal editing, so the perspective of the various respondents may be seen. Each paragraph represents the response of one individual.
The Best Conferences

Pastoral interaction. At one point on deputation, we had three tremendous conferences in one month. In each of them, the pastor got involved by just having a good time with the missionaries and treating us like normal ministry partners. (As a side note, this can’t really be planned. We know when it’s phony.)

Good interaction from the people with the missionaries. Well organized; good communication with the church beforehand. Short, the long ones can be a big drain on the family. While I did not mind staying in homes, it seemed easier on the family when a church put us in a hotel. We then had dinner or lunch with several families of the church in order to get to know them better. Men’s prayer breakfasts, ladies teas, etc., were always enjoyable times to interact with the people. Also playing basketball in the church gym or a golf outing gave relaxed times to build relationships with the men in the church. A proper focus on the glory of God as the ultimate motive for missions was always great. Having a panel discussion seemed better than individual question/answer times after a presentation.

Some of the best missions conferences we have been to have been ones where: (1) The people know the missionaries who are a part of their conference. Maybe the pastor and his staff put together a little pamphlet with a brief testimony/picture of the family so that, ahead of time, the people can acquaint themselves with you. (2) The pastor and staff are aware that the missionaries have kids. Maybe they have already prepared the people with “Now the first night of the conference some of the MKs may be a little cranky, wild, etc., because they have been traveling days and days in a car;” and they are understanding about that fact. One great missions conference we have been to twice provides a full-staffed nursery all day for the MKs – the parents are going about teaching in different classes and can take the kids or leave them in the nursery; they even insist we leave them there through lunch and take a date or go and see some sights in the city while they watch the kids—I think this is great. (3) The pastor is organized and knows the schedule for the services—even has a print out for each missionary, showing him where he is to be when, what age group he’ll be speaking to, and what is expected of him. I like it when we get this ahead of time (maybe a week or two in advance) and can review it and be ready. (4) The hosts are at the church to meet us, or someone is there to take us to their houses. This has been great to be able to meet our host family at the church and follow them, and not be expected to follow a series of directions at 9 p.m. Saturday night. (5) We are given the opportunity to speak to children. I like when a missions conference gives us the opportunities to speak to the children at night, or in different school classes—even some have allowed our children to join the classes—I like that too. It really exposes our kids and their kids to missionaries—that is what we want! (6) Personable people—in some conferences it seems we talk to one or two people a night—others, “WOW” we talk to everyone. I like when people take an interest in our ministry, come by the table, ask us questions, see the stuff we’ve brought back, and I love those teenagers who entertain our kids this whole time, so that we both can be available to talk with people and not wonder if our kids are standing on the podium.

Meals with the church people at the church. Information about the plan for the week given upfront. Having the people already know your name, showing they were looking forward to the week (meaning when you introduce yourself they know who you are). Q & A time for the church people. Info about the area given; sometimes a small map with local sights marked. Having internet connection available—such a blessing. Gift cards are always a blessing—gas, Walmart, phone, etc. Walking into a church where the people are friendly, the pastor actually greets you, and the time at the church makes you feel like at home—welcomed into their church! The best conferences for me always included a friendly church!

Highlights: the outpouring of genuine Christian love from the people; the opportunity to interact with young people in the Christian school by presenting our ministry in classes; the international dinner at the end!! Great preaching.

Pre-Conference: Email requesting a Wish List (wish a price margin or examples would be stated—do we ask for 24 ink pens or a computer?) Wish List for our children. Letter welcoming us in the coming weeks relieves jitters. Simple questions—favorite candy, favorite snacks, book you’ve been dying to read, favorite store. Conference: Welcome basket with our favorite candies and snacks, the new book, gift cards. Folder with information concerning conference—schedules, layout of building if large. Missionary Room—this was wonderful! The table included snacks, drinks, coffee, teas, fruit juice, candies our kids had not had for years. Couches were arranged with little tables in a homey way (we miss home!) We could come here and visit with other missionaries and grab a snack, feed the ever-hungry children, and most importantly—relax! Services that started and ended in a timely manner. Activities for children—outings, special little mementos, gifts. This helped our children understand that they are important, and it also helped them not hate the week. It is a blessing when our children are allowed to attend the Christian school, play in the orchestra, or sing in the choir if available. Gift packages sent to our kids in college! Missionary participation—preach, show presentations, give testimonies, sing or play instruments. Very encouraging to see a missionary as key speaker. Once we were told in the first orientation meeting that all the missionaries present who were not being supported by the church would be taken on. This relieved any concern during the week of whether or not we would be supported. Also, it allowed the missionaries to bond in a special way—no competition for support!

When people come up and ask about people in our church they have been praying for. It has always been a blessing to know that people were and are praying for our ministries. Accommodations for the missionary and his family are always great when the missionary has some privacy to relax. It doesn’t necessarily mean a hotel but a place where they can have quiet times.

The most memorable and productive thing that I have ever seen in a mission conference was a game that I used at the Saturday night international dinner called “Who Wants to Be a Missionary?” It was based on the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” It had the three lifelines just like the show. We set the auditorium like a TV studio replete with lights and sounds from the TV show. The winner was promised a free trip to the mission field, in this case Thailand. The people studied up on our missionaries, reading their prayer letters thoroughly for the last year. They knew everything about the missionaries and their ministries in preparation for the game. It was the most exciting and productive thing I have seen in missions. The third year we did it, a guy finally won the trip and when he did, the church erupted in joy like I had never seen. Then the guy, a heating A/C engineer, went on the trip and the miracles of the game even continue unbelievably until this day. I would be happy to share the rest of the story with you.

Not in any particular order off the top of my head: Great hymns and an occasional NEW mission conference theme song. Time for the missionaries in the conference to enjoy each other’s fellowship and to exchange ideas. Panel discussions lend to this area as well. Great expository preaching…not just using the normal mission texts. Adequate childcare during times when the missionary couple is scheduled to minister elsewhere. No more than three speaking events per day per speaker. If the conference goes for a week, one day off per missionary unit. Wonderful food served preferably in homes close to the church. Opportunities to minister to all age groups in the church—broad exposure. Interaction with the ethnic group the missionary is seeking to impact on the field. In other words, if the missionary is from Mexico, invite Mexicans to the services so he can reach them.

People connections. Meeting and hearing from missionaries who are in the field and excited about it!

The warmth of the church staff and people. The interest in the people. Planned activities of interest in and around the church area. It makes it very memorable for the missionaries. Missionaries doing the preaching are my most memorable conferences, and from comments of others both missionaries and congregations theirs too. Where there is a feeling of no competition among missionaries.

The food, the preaching, fellowship, and friends.

Well planned and prepared! Plenty of opportunity for people to spend time with missionaries. Plenty of time for missionaries to spend time with each other. Key-note speaker who actually speaks on missions, with an overwhelming burden for missions and practical ways to serve the missionaries. Senior citizen luncheon with the missionaries for questions and answers and prayer together. Missionaries who are passionate about what God is doing in their lives and His call and direction in their lives toward their mission field.

Fellowship with missionaries. Watching our people fellowship with missionaries. Seeing a genuine burden in the heart of missionaries for the people on their field. Watching that burden transfer to our own people and myself.

Personal involvement of a lot of church members, including kids. Advance preparation with clear instructions for missionaries. The pastor’s enthusiasm and heart for missions. Friendliness of the pastor’s wife. Music that touches the heart for missions. Question and answer period for missionaries, and using missionaries in Christian school classrooms, Sunday school classes, and other programs of the church. Year-round preparation and contact with the missionaries so they will know the people when they meet. Having a lounge area where missionaries can fellowship and relax. Including the MKs in gifts, singing, etc. References to and skits, etc. about missionaries of the past and present

Evidence of genuine personal interest of the pastor and the people. Evidence of genuine prayer. Skillful and thoughtful use of the Scriptures. Reasonable schedule. Evidence of generous financial consideration.

Interaction. It is imperative to promote as much interaction between the church people and the missionary as possible. This gets the members personally involved in their lives and in the conference. Whether it is at meals, outings, or after the service, any kind of one-on-one time is invaluable. This is a little different; but at one church, the pastor announced after each service that the members could have a part in helping the children remember that church by putting something in the children’s pockets. People gave our kids anything from small change to $20 bills. It helped our kids to realize where our money comes from, and it helped members to put a face with a name. Gifts. Some churches ask the missionary and his family for a list of items ahead of time (you set the limits) of what they need or want. Then, post the list for church members to purchase the items for the missionaries. The church could have members give gift cards to the missionaries (gas cards are doubly appreciated!). Church kids. Getting teens and children involved is wonderful! One church printed something similar to a baseball card with each missionary family’s photo and stats. Each night, the kids could get a different card and ask the missionary to autograph it. For church kids who can read, another church made a booklet with questions for kids to fill out about each missionary. This encourages the children to talk to the missionaries and find out about them and their field. A fun, informal activity is to have a basketball game (or other sport) involving the missionaries. People want to see that they are human too. Nursery. Please make sure nursery workers arrive at least 15 minutes before each service, so the missionary mom can drop off her child and have time to fulfill other ministry responsibilities without being late for the service. It also saves time if a questionnaire is filled out ahead of time for each child who will be in the nursery. Meals. Once again, meals are a great way to promote interaction between the church and the missionaries. Many churches have a different Sunday school class provide the meal each night. Hint: Vegetables are often a rarity when on the road full time. Salad bars are great! Outings. Outings with all the missionaries as well as any church members who would like to join are a treat for all. They do not have to be expensive. We have enjoyed outings in which we learn about the history of the city we are visiting. Missionary interaction. Missionaries enjoy talking shop with one another, but often there is not that opportunity in a private setting. Setting up coffee and refreshments in a room at the church is a great way to allow this. Faith Promise. On the last night of the conference, one church has each family pass by the communion table at the front of the church and places their faith-promise commitment card in the offering plate. This is an overwhelming sight, as we are able to get a visual picture of the people who are partnering with us in our ministry. Pre-Conference Packet. Confirmation letter, map to the church, schedule of the conference, housing questionnaire, nursery questionnaire, list of needs and allergies. What else can the church provide for the missionary during the conference? Provide an internet connection. Assign one member of the missions committee to check on the missionaries and be sure that they have everything they need (housing is OK, answer questions, etc.). If you have a mechanic, barber, or doctor in the church, ask him to provide his services for the missionaries who are visiting. This has been a huge blessing to us in the past. One Sunday morning, a doctor volunteered to see any of the missionaries who may to need see a doctor. Very quickly, a long line formed out the door! He saw our children again the next day in his office for free and gave us antibiotic samples. This was a great savings for us since we had one child with strep throat, one with a bladder infection, and one with bronchitis and pneumonia!

Planning: one church we were in begins planning their next conference the week after the current year’s ends. Providing something for the kids to do—it does not have to be expensive. One pastor, whose church had a small stream on the property, carved little boats for the kids (there were ten kids), and he held races with the kids each night after the services. Our kids still have their boats. Having opportunities to be with the people of the church helps the missionary get to know the people and helps people pray more for the missionary. In one conference, the pastor had the missionaries take up the faith-promise pledges and made a big deal about it. It seems to excite the people to see the people they were going to be supporting. A good speaker always helps but also limits the exposure of the missionaries (people do not get to hear missionaries preach).

My family has particularly enjoyed conferences that had a plan for the children to be useful. Enabling our family to present our burden to a Christian school class, speak in chapel, and activities for the missionary kids that were just intended to be fun—these conferences are great!

Appropriate hosts considering children’s ages. Having foods available but not forcing it on us. Things to do during the day, but with the option of opting out and just doing something as a family or doing home school. Giving us, as a family, some space. Knowing before we get to conference what we’ll be doing so we can plan and pack appropriately (volleyball, campfire, teen/kids activities, etc.). Available laundry facilities and time to do laundry (it’s great when host family offers use of machines), printed accurate schedule that’s followed, offerings that are sufficient to cover expenses (travel and meals both ways), plus extra offers of kindnesses that are relayed to us before arrival (i.e. haircuts, oil change, shopping trip, etc.), so we can prepare appropriately. Being included in church choir. Instead of a missionary closet – gift cards to choose from. They pack easier. Having a contact person(s). Given sufficient time to present our work. Display table in well-traveled area (not in out-of-the way corridor). Consistent Internet connection (wireless preferred).

Our conferences were used as “refueling” times for missionaries. They were for the missionary, as well as for our church people. We used either Christmas in March or Every Missionaries’ Birthday. We listed every guest individually (even children), our people signed up to fill a Christmas stocking or a birthday gift bag with items to welcome them. If we had a total of 42 missionaries, we had a total of 42 different people involved in welcome gifts. Right after each missions conference, we would post a list of missionaries and fields; people in the church signed up to build a booth (the size of a game table) to represent the field for the next year. There were times we had over 40 booths set up in our gym. One of the most exciting things was to see the church people working days before the conference, setting up their booths. We had our missionary guests judge the booths, and every person was rewarded for their endeavors. This was a gathering area before and after services. Often refreshments from the different countries were served. We had a Christmas tree set up in the auditorium. At least three months before the conference, we would write our missionaries who were coming to the conference and ask them to send us five wants/needs for each member of the family. We would list the missionary/his or her wants and needs, and our people would sign up to purchase items. The gifts were brought in wrapped, and each service the pastor would have members select gifts to give out. The pastor would hold a seminar each day for an hour with the missionaries. We usually had five or six missionary families at each conference. He tried to address subjects that would encourage them on the field. At each conference we attempted to have a couple missionary families who were on deputation and a couple veteran missionaries. If a missionary on deputation was invited to the conference, we had already determined they would be taken on for support. No missionary was ever in competition for support at a conference. We had a flag in our auditorium for each mission field we supported. When we took on a new missionary, we had them come to the front of the church, a deacon would hold their flag, and a deacon would pray over them. Our flags were displayed year round in the auditorium. They were a great reminder of our missionary family and that we should be praying for them. Missionary children were always welcome. We allowed them to attend classes in our school with children their age if they wanted; we had special activities and field trips for them, such as a trip to the Jelly Belly Factory and lunch out with the pastor or the youth pastor. If there were teens, we introduced them to teens their age, had special activities such as golfing, bowling, etc. We would include some teens from our church/school to attend these activities also. We included our school classes in our conference. At the beginning of each school year, the classes would be assigned a missionary (we knew by September who was coming to our conference). Usually a missionary was hosted by three or four classes, depending on how many families we had coming. Each class was given $25 at the beginning of the year. They were encouraged to grow that money for their missionary. One year a sixth grade class did a Read-a-thon and raised over $2400 to give their missionary; a kindergarten class asked each family unit in the class to match the $25. They presented their missionary with a little over $500. One missionary asked for a laptop, and the class that had them raised money to purchase a laptop. I could go on and on. We had chapel every day during the conference—an elementary chapel and a high school chapel. A missionary spoke in each. The students would present their gifts during chapel. We also had time through the day when the missionary families visited school classes. We posted a schedule a few weeks before the missions conference where teachers signed up. The missionary appreciated having a schedule. Middle school/High school seminars….we had three or four seminars per day where a missionary would address the young people. We used the missionary wives and husbands for this. Students selected a missionary they wanted to hear. Saturday night was a mission banquet. We encouraged our families to bring in foods that are favorites in their countries. Following the meal we would provide paper, pens, envelopes, and had our people write a note to a missionary. Often we’d have people write a few sentences and pass the paper on so that several would send a greeting to a missionary. Thursday night we used as talent night. Our missionaries would sing, do skits, do poems. It was also a night when we honored missionaries for years of service. We gave a certificate and a gold watch. I know of eleven years when we did this. We concluded the service with ice cream and cake in honor of the ones given the watches. Sunday night was probably the most exciting time of the conference. We had our parade of flags. We used children, teens and adults. They would come dressed in costumes, carry a flag; and as each country was presented, there was a reading of events in the lives of the missionary serving in that country over the past year (this reading was added to each month as prayer letters came in). For several years, pastor concluded the service by singing the song “Lonely Voices.” Our people usually lingered after the service…..not wanting the week to end! We had a theme each year. A sign was made professionally and hung in the auditorium or the lobby of the church. You knew it was missions conference time when you entered the door of the church. Saturday night was orientation time for the missionary. We would ask our missionaries to arrive before 5p.m., had a dinner hour for them, introduction of the schedule, they would be given their welcome gifts, and we would introduce them to their host and hostess for the week. Our church staff would take care of this dinner. We always had a keynote speaker for the conference. The missionary would give a testimony, show a slide or video presentation, thus they were not involved in doing something every service. It was our desire and hope to “feed” them spiritually, encourage them, allow them to share their fields, etc. On the final Sunday night we would have those who had surrendered to the call to missions, those who were willing to go if God should call them come to the middle of the auditorium. If there were young people, we asked that their parents join them; then as a church we circled the auditorium and had a time of prayer and dedication.

Two things stand out for me in the best conferences. How they are applied in different churches takes some serious study from the individuals in those churches, because the art of treating people is a lost art today. When a church really loves the missionary, they do not ignore the missionary, but instead provide a two-way street for ministry. They give the missionary all they have in their hearts and permit him to do the same. It was not where we received the most money or fanfare that we enjoyed ourselves. It was not because they praised us or called us heroes. I do not love my dad and mom because they gave me things, or called me a good boy, or put me on a platform and made me think I was “somebody.” I love mom and dad because they loved me first. The best missions conferences are the ones that give place to the missionary to be loved and to love back. I remember cleaning toilets and fixing houses, but generally the churches that let me do that kind of thing for them had members working by my side, laughing and listening, interacting and working with me. This two-way street made the best conference.

Great Preaching! The pastor would ask impromptu testimonies from the missionaries during the services, making it very informal and informative. The pastor asked the questions. (greatest blessing, greatest trial, etc). Huge offerings. New support. Great gifts (suit coat, dress), expensive equipment (circular saw, etc). Making new friends from the church membership. This is very special. Time for the missionary to really present his work (not just ten minutes).

One of the best missionary conferences in which I ever participated was at a church in Indiana. Before the missionaries arrived, the church sent a short questionnaire requesting such information as salvation testimony, difficult things about the field of service, things that made the field unique, specific prayer requests, a digital photo, and one or two other items. The secretary then compiled those photos and answers into a little booklet that were distributed to the people of the church a month ahead of time, with suggested prayer topics for every day leading up to the conference. When we missionaries arrived, we were greeted by name by almost every church member, and several people asked me about a specific prayer request I had mentioned. Another good missions conference idea I’ve seen was getting each Sunday school class involved in the conference in some way (providing supper meal at the church for the missionaries and members of the class who served the meal, putting together gift baskets for the missionaries, making up posters about the countries where the missionaries in the conference served, etc.). The people of the church and their involvement in and heart for missions always makes the biggest difference to me.

When God was the center. Great preaching. The missionaries were an encouragement to one another. That someone surrendered to the mission field.

The people love missions and missionaries, and it showed. They treated us well, loved us, made us feel at home, and were generous. They had church meals each evening, which allowed us to get to know the people better, and the people to get to know us better. They had missionaries present on different nights than when they preached to keep a good variety to the conference. One unique touch was really special. Before we even came, they took up an offering for the missionary wives. Then, during I think Tuesday, several ladies in the church took the missionary wives up to Sault Ste Marie (biggest town in the area) to go shopping. They used the money to treat them out to lunch at a nice restaurant and then handed each of the ladies $100 to spend—with one requirement. They had to buy something nice for themselves that they normally would not have bought. The rest they could use for whatever. They provided babysitters for the kids, but I and another missionary with kids just watched our own since we were free. This allowed some women-bonding time and allowed my wife some time out without the children. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and bonding, and it helped provide for some of our needs. Obviously, not every church would have the resources for this, but some larger churches could do something like this. Also, they still gave us a generous love offering at the end of the conference and will probably be taking us on for support shortly! 🙂

At one church the faith-promise offering was taken after the vote to support six new missionaries. Time with the pastor. Something for the kids to do besides sit in services. Knowing the schedule which has been thought through and well planned.

Prayer! Prayer! Prayer! The pastor promotion and efforts to make it the most important conference in the churches annual calendar. Obtaining the keynote speaker. Having and developing a theme for the week. Using good missionaries. Developing the best way for people to give. Keeping missions in front of the people throughout the year.

Good maps get you there in a happy, more-relaxed manner. Thorough schedule, including all activities, homes and addresses where staying is important. I love it when churches make an effort to plan only one large meal per day with the hosts; ex: breakfast and supper—light; lunch-heaviest meal of day. It is helpful when churches let me know ahead of time what they have available for presentations.

The Worst Conferences

Being ignored. Does it need explanation? I remember a conference where the main speaker was the only person who carried on a decent conversation with us all week (and it wasn’t a small church!). Trying too hard. I’m not a hero. Missions conferences should be relaxed.

When the conference is too long (more 3-4 days). It was always difficult when there were too many activities scheduled throughout the day, especially with young children. International dinners. Because it is hard to explain to people who think they prepared a dish from your field that burritos are not eaten in Argentina without dashing their spirits! Services with two messages. Staying a half hour to 45 minutes away from the church (this may sometimes be the only option but it ought to be considered).

The pastor expecting us to be in meetings with him all day, not taking into consideration that we have children, and he made no arrangements for their care. Disorganization is horrible! When we arrive we like to know what night we are speaking, presenting, and doing children’s ministries! Where are we going to be setting up our table? What is the schedule for each day? What is expected of us throughout the various activities?

Arriving and finding things unorganized. Having to drive from here to there to here again several times in a day (every meal in a different home!) and getting the directions from the church people makes for a hard week! When the people won’t stop and talk, just get in their cars and leave right away. Eating the meal right before the service with no time to spare. As a single person—being housed in “interesting” situations.

I don’t think I’ve been in a really bad conference. I suppose some conferences have been a little less well organized, but I can’t recall one I have been in that wasn’t good.

Little to no information previous to the conference. No one there when we arrived. No idea when we are presenting our work, no schedule. Staying with a family who has a filthy house. If the missionary is going to stay in a home, someone on staff should have visited the home in the past to see what condition the home is in. Or give them some basic pointers: clean house, change sheets, clean toilets, offer breakfast, drinks, just being hospitable! Staying with people who obviously do not want us. I was told once by a lady that having us was not her idea—it was only her husband’s. It was a very hard time. No down time. Morning to night—visiting all the classes in the school, extra meetings before the service, extra-long services, meals late after the service. It is difficult when the parents are required to attend a meeting or activity and there is no care for the children. Many churches do not realize that missionaries have been attending conferences for many weeks on end.

Computer problems with the missionary presentation. Getting lost on the way. Poor love offerings.

Missionaries not prepared for their pre-assigned duties for the conference. Lack of preparation on the pastor’s and church’s part. A freak snow storm in late April that shut everything down! Boring speakers—good speakers use missionary experiences and real-life happenings. Conferences where there is a keynote speaker, and the missionaries never get to speak to the people.

An overwhelming schedule. A guest home that very busy and with many small children. A lack of communication on paper concerning scheduled events. Lack of fellowship due to strong differences in personal standards. Having to travel an hour for supper at a guest home and be back in time for an evening service. Sickness and fatigue.

Sermons that were too long.

Competition. So scheduled there is no rest time. Big meals 24/7. Scary accommodations.

Everyone too busy. Unprepared pastor, people, and missionaries. Lack of passion for missions.

People (including pastors) had obviously not read your prayer letters, didn’t know anything about your country/field of service, your family, etc. Unfriendly people, sometimes ignored the missionaries or missionary kids, (teens are especially guilty of this). Pastor’s wife never introduced herself to missionary’s wife, or made an effort to talk to her. Displays set up in a remote area where people don’t go. Some missionaries talk to each other more than to the people of the church, or they don’t mix well with all the people of the church. Not giving the missionaries time to give a testimony and talk about their field. For example: just showing a DVD, no personal word from a missionary couple they have supported for years, etc. Not hearing from the missionary wives.

Program oriented, more than people oriented. Manipulative tactics – especially when money becomes the focus rather than the people of the missionary work. Shallow, romanticized presentation of missions (related to the previous point). Keynote speaker who does not understand what missionary work is (not his fault, by the way). When the church demonstrates a greater desire to make an impression (about their love of missions, care, etc.) than the desire to know a missionary in a personal way, or in actually learning from a missionary. Unreasonable schedule. Poor organization. Note: To be fair, a high turnover rate of missionaries (i.e., high rate of failed expectations) on the field and poor quality missionary personnel in conferences leads to a less missionary-oriented conference.

Lodging. Know the place and the people before sending a missionary off to stay with a family in the church. Most horror stories come from bad experiences with church families who do not have adequate space, do not practice proper cleanliness, or have very odd habits in their homes. Send the missionary a short questionnaire beforehand regarding times they will be arriving, departing, names and ages of children, and any special diet restrictions or allergies. This will help the host to know what to expect. Schedule one of the missionary’s first meals at the host home. This will give them time to get to know one another before the conference begins. Hints for host homes: 1.) Please be considerate of the missionary and his schedule by allowing them to retire early if he desires. 2.) Since every person is different in their habits and schedule, it is often most convenient to allow the missionary family to help themselves to their own breakfast in the morning. Just show them where things are in the kitchen so they can help themselves and truly feel at home. Don’t worry, they’re used to it. 3.) One thoughtful way to welcome your missionary guests is to place a basket of snacks (gum, mints, crackers, and fruit) in their room prior to arrival. Crazy schedule. It’s usually the churches with Christian schools who have asked us to show up at the school first thing in the morning, stay all day speaking in classes, eat lunch at 12 p.m., eat another huge meal at 5 p.m., then stay up late at the church and with our hosts. It’s exhausting and robs your joy by the end of the week!

It is hard to know much about the people who house the missionary, but it would help. In one conference we stayed with a couple who left for work at 6:30 a.m. They did not want us to be in the house without them, so the four of us had to be up and out of the house by then. We then did not have to be at the church until 9 a.m. and had nowhere to go all day. Some churches run the missionaries ragged. One church, that had a Christian school, had us teaching classes all day long. We were at the church from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. One house we stayed in put us on army cots in an unfinished basement. We did not get much sleep that week. Poor planning shows, as nothing is done on time nor does anyone seem to know what is going to happen.

Once we were in a conference where we were housed some 45 minutes from the church and had to be there early in the morning and stay until late each day with our children. It made for a forgettable experience. Missionary kids are not usually programmed to spend 14 hours a day at church services, etc.

Hotel that sleeps four when there are five of us, or dirty hotel or housing. Inappropriate housing (once we stayed in a house with our toddler; the lady collected depression glass and had it all over—we were very nervous!) Hotel or housing too far away from church. That takes a lot of time and gas to get back and forth. Going too late at night for many nights in a row when we have little kids. (This also seems to be a deterrent for attendees of all ages.) Too much food or not the variety to have the option of a lighter meal. Two big meals a day. Meals too close together (noon and then 5 p.m. so we can be at church for service). Poor scheduling (i.e. time for preaching/presentation being cut) or keynote speaker taking too much time. The contact person isn’t at the church at agreed-upon time. Much confusion. Prophet’s chamber without things to do (i.e. games to play) and not stocked with basics like toilet paper, having old, squeaky, rickety bedding with worn-out mattresses, and not enough chairs to sit around the table for breakfast. Pastor’s wife not introducing herself to my wife at all. (It happens all too often.)

Keeping the missionary too busy and not having enough time to rest.

Disorganization, not enough time between events (i.e. being scheduled to eat dinner at someone’s house at 5:30 when the service begins at 7 p.m., and the host family lives 40 minutes from church), poor directions, poor communication.

Competition between boards and missionaries. Missionaries were put in inadequate housing without the pastor picking the homes there staying at.

Too many large meals. Hosts who weren’t really in a position to host a family (we stayed with a lady once who didn’t heat her house. The bedroom was about 50 degrees.)

Last-minute planning. Poor pulpit communications. Not being excited about the conference.

Too many host-homes to visit/dine in a day. Schedule so heavy that we have no time to study, do necessary office work, etc. Personal preference: many times for activities, the men go to a sporting event and get some much- needed exercise, and the women always go shopping. I love to shop, but exercise is also needed. A balance would be nice. My conference experiences have been mostly good. The people are so eager to help with a joyful heart. Though tiring (and despite the fact that I´d rather be on the field!), I enjoy them immensely.

This article was compiled by Dr. Bud Steadman, Executive Director of Baptist World Mission.