Neal Pirolo, founder and President of Emmaus Road International in the preface to his book Serving as Senders describes the effect of hearing a speaker at an Urbana conference say that for each soldier on the battle field, nine others were backing him up in one way or another. The parallel to spiritual battle was immediately made, and Pirolo was inspired to help missionaries develop the kind of homefront support team they need to survive while serving abroad. Part of the fruit of that inspiration is what may be the most readable and practical (yet quite comprehensive) book available on the role local fellowships can -and must – play in standing with those called to serve the Lord in other cultures.
In the first chapter Pirolo distills much research and theory into a concise explanation of the emotional stress involved in the course of a missionary’s career. While this introduction is very brief, it is a great starting point and ought to be considered must-reading for anyone involved in sending missionaries.
Then, by using a series of case studies, Pirolo demonstrates the types of support cross-cultural workers need to stay healthy while on assignment. Helpfully broken up into chapters dealing with moral, logistical, financial, prayer, communication, and re-entry support this book provides practical suggestions how various members of a local church can use their giftings to play an integral part of the missionary support team. As stated earlier, this book is practical and readable. At less than $10 a copy this is without doubt one of the best investment missions-minded Americans can make in helping their local body be more effective as senders.
In the follow-up book The Reentry Team, Pirolo expands upon the theme of supporting missionaries who make the often difficult transition back to their “home” cultures. This book’s narrower focus allows the author to go more in depth into this crucial part of missioanry adjustment and to also include chapters on children, furloughs, and they always touchy topic of responding to workers who return home earlier than was expected. I would encourage every missions pastor and leader to study this book. Not only will you greatly benefit but (more importantly) so will the missionaries that you support.