2020 pushed many of us to engage with technology in ways that felt uncomfortable. Video calls became the standard for meetings and schooling, and people connected in new and creative ways.  Home service1Some mission organizations might call this “home assignment” or “furlough.” was on our family’s horizon and we wondered, could we do a home service virtually as well?

The challenge

A virtual home service

The Bakers serve in northern Canada.

Home service is about connecting with our current donors and ministry partners and making others aware of what God is doing in our field and in our world.  Connecting online with 100 individual supporters and 20 churches seemed daunting. Furthermore, we started our home service needing $2000 in additional monthly faith promises. After trimming off some expenses, we brought it down to $1600. But this was still a huge amount, particularly if we would not be able to meet potential donors face-to-face.

For full disclosure, we are sent from North America and we serve on a field in North America. This meant that the time zone difference from our supporters was only 3 hours. We also do not work in a location where we have security concerns, so we could make use of public social media platforms.

Calls with supporters

We started our virtual home service with phone/video calls to all our donors to see how the pandemic had affected them and how we could pray for them. That was our only objective at that point. They asked how we were doing and what financial support we needed. This was a natural way to address topics normally broached in a conversation while on home service.  Personal phone/video calls and messages were key, just as in-person visits with families are in a traditional home service. 

Prayer cards

Nothing is more traditional than the missionary prayer card!  We made arrangements with a very helpful staff member in our US office and had our prayer cards made, ordered, and shipped to our sending church. Our church was generous to send out our prayer cards and magnets to all our supporters. We also put a link in our newsletter so people could request a prayer card.   

Newsletters

Our newsletters became vital in communicating how our financial need was being metWe normally send out 4 to 5 newsletters a year. In 2020 we sent out 7. We sent out newsletters in March, April & May purposefully BEFORE our home service officially started. Then we sent out three newsletters during our 5-month official home service to our entire mailing list. We sent additional correspondence to our current donors as well via email and social media. I think we did this once before our home service and once during our home service.

Our newsletter followers and current supporters loved hearing how God was providing our support. We received new support after EVERY newsletter we sent out.  Since not everyone is tech savvy, we did send out a few snail-mail copies, but not for every newsletter we wrote, and only for those few people who had requested such communication. 

Presentations to churches

In a virtual home service, we could not make presentations about our last term in person. During a normal home service, making arrangements to visit 20 supporting churches presents quite the scheduling challenge. Prior to deciding that we would do a virtual home service, I already had that schedule all worked out. I admit it was quite disappointing to see all that hard work evaporate.

Presenting virtually was a different challenge. We prepared several different types of a similar presentation. We made a short video with pictures and captions which could be viewed by individuals or distributed through a church website.  Nany of our individuals and churches welcomed this method.  The video was shared in churches who were able to meet in person and available to be put on websites and social media sites for those churches who weren’t meeting.

We offered to do live chats with churches and individuals as well.  There were only a few individuals who took us up on this offer, but several churches did.  We had a short PowerPoint presentation that we could reference depending on the format of the chat. Some calls we did live and it was streamed in the church and on their website. One church pre-recorded our chat with the pastor so it could be edited and then presented the following week.

Home office visits

Our sending office offered its Reconnect retreat both virtually and in-person. This is a debriefing time with home office staff as well as a time to learn about the new and updated services provided the office. Because we were able to attend virtually, we were able to meet all the requirements of our home service virtually. We completed all the necessary training, paperwork and interviews from our home on the field. This was an incredible blessing, even though we missed the in-person visits with our sending office.

Rest and renewal

Although we kept a few of our regular SEND duties, we handed off the bulk of them to others during our virtual home service.  We met with our leadership and discussed what we should or should not give up for those months. This gave us the time and energy we needed to focus on connecting with our current and future donors.

After months, we had raised our needed support, but we felt incredibly tired.  We talked with our home service coach in our sending office and our field leadership. Our financial goal had been met, but we had not met our goals of rest and spiritual renewal.2See Home Service Objectives This was not easy to admit. It was collectively decided that we could take 2 additional months to fully accomplish our goals.  During those last 8 weeks we began to gain a sense of vision for our next term and became energized.  We are very thankful for our teammates who filled in our roles while we were “off the field.” 

This was not like any other home service, but it was still very effective.  We “returned to the field” after 5 months, having never actually left it, fully supported, restedrenewed and excited to begin our next term.