The Messenger :: How to Work with Nationals

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Can you believe it's already June?! It's hard to believe we're halfway through the year!!

This month we want to spend some time exploring working alongside nationals while in the field. You may be familiar with the 2x2 principal, which encourages missionaries to work in pairs rather than alone. But how does that change when one of the two is a local national? How does that impact spiritual growth and missionary care issues?

We've asked our Missionary Care Specialist, Mark Brazle to help us better understand how to successfully work with local nationals. We pray you are blessed and encouraged by his words.

Better Together: Addressing Disciple Maker Resiliency and Attrition

How to Work with Nationals

When you find yourself living in a culture that is foreign, you must realize you are the alien. And trying to do things on your own, or worse yet, without the help of local nationals, will prove to be unsuccessful. 

Whether I was hauling rebar, roofing clay tiles, applying plaster to brick walls, building relationships in a faith community, or simply trying to communicate with my Flemish neighbor,  it was always best to have one of the local nationals by my side to help, or better yet, show me how .

I will never forget the time we were about to mix concrete for a floor at the Bible camp in Belgium. One of the volunteers, a local Flemish brother very much at home in his own culture, asked, “Why did you get that kind of sand?” He obviously knew which sand was best, and I didn’t. Had I stopped to ask in advance, it would have saved us a lot of time, money, and energy. And it would have given me the opportunity to connect with him.

One of my greatest blessings on the field was working alongside local nationals who understood. Who were at home in the host country where I had come to work as the “American visitor.”  In those days, instead of being “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19), I was frequently quick to speak and slow to learn.  My family and I served in Belgium for 16 years, and I learned a few things that I think may prove helpful when working with local nationals . 

When it comes to the mission of God, there are good reasons one would say, “Don’t try this alone!” As  Missio Nexus underscores, “The Great Commission is too big for anyone to accomplish alone and too important not to try to do together.” Our carefully worded  tagline at MRN begins with , “Reaching a broken world with the hope of Jesus is overwhelming and can’t be done alone…”

Unfortunately, we often race past the “limited commission” (Matt. 10) on the road to the Great Commission. And because of this, we miss a very important principle: Jesus sent them out in pairs, never alone.  Don’t do alone what you can accomplish better teamed up with a brother or sister. The sooner you team up with local know-hows, the better! 

Take nothing for your journey…Depend on God! Depend on those you are teaching…eating and drinking what they provide  (Luke 9:3, 10:7). 

Be willing to listen and receive what local nationals have to offer.

While it’s easy to focus our time and energy on caring for ourselves and other missionaries, it’s important to remember that we apply the same missionary care principles to local nationals.  My favorite definition of missionary care is: Coming alongside as an extension of the God of all comfort. Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says,  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us (MSG).

Local nationals are the inside leaders, the persons of peace. How can we make certain this “one another” care extends to these workers who are at home in their own culture? 

  • Pray for one another (James 5:16). Confessional prayer for each other is foundational. This admits up front that we need each other to bear the burden of the mission of God. Organize teams of prayer warriors to pray for the missionary, the local nationals, new believers, opportunities with neighbors, those yet to be reached, and search for persons of peace. Provide practical, consistently updated prayer lists for every prayer team member.

  • Avoid creating dependency on anything other than Christ. The call to follow Jesus and enter the mission of God is a lesson in dependency on HIM, not on funds from America, Canada or other sources. We need to help local nationals become “Christ-sustaining” not “self-sustaining.” Ask yourself: How can I be used to support the ministry of local nationals so that they flourish after I’m gone? 

  • Think “partnership in the Gospel” (Phil 1:5). This means you, as the missionary, are in the yoke with the local national, pulling together towards the same goal. The sending church and the missionary on the field both need to listen well to their “partner” in the mission. Ask formational, significant questions that will inform the mission. Then listen to the wisdom of the local national worker. Simply listening will add value to your brother or sister. Local nationals value the wisdom of older, experienced mentors who can encourage them in areas of relational daily living, such as parenting and marriage. In his book Western Christians in Global Mission: What's the Role of the North American Church?, Paul Borthwick wrote, “Those of us who want to interact globally will have to suspend some of our theological judgments and listen to how someone from another land is hearing the Scriptures, experiencing the power of God or applying the Bible to daily life.”

  • Display a deeply committed LOVE for the local national worker. They need to know upfront this is not “catch and release.” Your relationship with the local national is a life-long friendship that runs deep and is sacrificial. In addition, visits to local national workers from the sending church reflect a deeper level of investment, an involvement that seeks to understand and support.  

  • Organize for care. Make certain you move beyond just sending funds to package up encouragement. “Encourage one another” means the relationship with those local national workers on the field is remembered as if you they were sitting next to you at church. Do each of the local national workers you support have a missionary care team? Does your sending church view missions as an enterprise of the entire church with everyone informed and involved in some aspect of care for those on the field? Have you asked the local nationals how you can best help and encourage them? Have you truly listened and not answered with empty promises?

This is merely the beginning of the conversation. It is our hope that these few ideas will spark a host of others. Let’s share how to better come alongside and encourage those local nationals who are at home on the field. Need more resources on missionary care?  Please don’t hesitate to contact us .


RESPITE 2019 | August 1922 | $30/Family

What if there was an opportunity to rest before heading back to the field? Some think of furlough as a race to see how many supporters and family members they can connect with in the short eight weeks away from the field. How does a rest sound? RESPITE from the race. Get away in an out of the way location with nothing scheduled but quiet conversation, great food, time in the Word, and worship.

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IMPRINT | September 5-7 | $125/Individual | $200/Family

IMPRINT is an interactive, collaborative training experience designed to build your competence and confidence to learn how to make disciples. You’ll engage in a hands-on learning journey where we will walk you through the scriptural call of disciple making so you can u se your personality to reach your community, lead others to discover Jesus, and develop a robust prayer life.

Use promo code: IMPRINT20 to grab the early bird registration. Hurry, it expires August 5!!

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