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07 August 2023

An interview with two CMS missionaries: the great value of prayer


Checkpoint interviewed two CMS missionariesMargie Newman and Marion Birchleyabout their CMS involvement, the role of prayer in their own lives, and the importance of prayer for mission in general.

CMS missionary Margie Newman: 

Margie with friends in Uganda.

Checkpoint: Margie, you are a missionary with CMS in Uganda, together with Andrew. Give us some background about how you became involved with CMS in the first place. 
MN: My family were keen supporters of CMS. I remember attending CMS Summer School as a young person when it was held at Burleigh Heads. My mother particularly was influential in my understanding of how to support missionaries. When a missionary visited our church, our family hosted them. We were able to spend time with them and mum treated them with care and interest. They were made comfortable, had time to themselves for headspace and to get their washing done, and they were aware of the program for the time they were there. I know these details because ex-missionaries (and sisters) Margaret and Joan Thornton were telling [my husband] Andrew and me some of the stories of the difficulties of Home Assignment back in the ‘old days’ when they were active missionaries, and of how my mum looked after them so well at our home.  

Our own family, with our three boys attended Summer School for many years. Every year we loved to hear how God was working globally through everyday people and in everyday ways. Our eyes were lifted and our hearts encouraged to serve him in our own patch. We also prioritised prayer and giving to CMS and as a side benefit we saw our boys enjoying other families with the same kingdom priorities as our family.   

CP: Why do you think it’s important to pray for missionaries?  
MN: We belong in the amazing family of God! Whether we are in Australia or in another country we have a responsibility as members of God’s worldwide family to be partners in the gospel. Prayer is a vital part of this responsibility. Missionaries are normal people with normal fears and needs and we have the privilege of knowing these needs through the regular prayer updates. Why would we waste this opportunity to pray for one another? By praying we become a part of God’s worldwide kingdom plans, at home in Australia and overseas.   

CP: What helps you to pray for CMS missionaries now? What helped you to pray for missionaries when you were a kid?  
MN: I was always aware of the need to pray for missionaries because of the priority my family placed on them. We had a large map of the world map on a pin board at home and for each missionary, there was a piece of string from a pin in their particular country to a photo or name of them at the side of the map. This helped us know who to pray for and where they were ministering. It was a part of our family pattern to be praying for our missionary friends. As adults, we find the CMS Prayer Diary, CMS Monthly Prayer Points and the prayer letters from the missionaries themselves helpful to our daily praying for missionaries. Using them has become part and parcel of our prayer life over time.  

CP: How did praying for a CMS missionary help to lead you to where you are now?  
MN: Through praying for our missionary friends and as a family, hosting missionaries in our home, I knew they were normal, everyday people. They were not on the ‘Extra Holy’ list and so the possibility of being a missionary was not on the ‘Too Hard’ list or the ‘I’m not Holy Enough’ list either. This understanding meant that being a missionary was always an option if we thought that’s how we could serve the Lord.   

CP: Why would you encourage people to pray for a missionary, and encourage their children to pray for missionaries?  
MN: We know a family who are particularly good at encouraging their children to pray for missionaries (better than we ever were!) and those children are impressive! They have a broad and caring view of the world and a strong understanding of the Lord’s work in the world. I often wish that we had been more consistent as a family in our prayer for missionaries.  

By knowing missionaries and by caring enough to pray for missionaries our eyes are lifted from our own patch to a global understanding of God’s kingdom. We can be so caught up in our own lives and churches that we forget that we belong to a worldwide community of believers. We become parochial and selfish in our understanding of both God’s kingdom and of our part in his kingdom priorities. Let’s lift our eyes to God’s work in the wider world. 

 


CMS missionary Marion Birchley:
 

Marion and her husband Keith, with members of the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship in PNG.

Checkpoint: Marion, you and your husband Keith work with CMS in PNG. What helped you develop a vision for world mission?
MB: I grew up in a missionary household. My parents were CMS missionaries in Malaysia. They returned to Sydney when I was six years old. I always felt that I was part of God’s world, not just living in Sydney. We prayed regularly for missionaries in the CMS Prayer Diary, and from other missions.  

CP: Why do you think it’s important to pray for missionaries? 
MB: God wants us to pray for his church and his world to come to know him. It is also good for us to be in prayer for those outside our immediate sphere and see the concerns of fellow Christians, loved by God, who are not in our local church.  

CP: What helps you to pray for CMS missionaries now? What helped you to pray for missionaries when you were younger? 
MB: The CMS Prayer Diary with background information together with the CMS Monthly Prayer Points makes it easy to connect with missionaries all over the world. When I was a child we had a CMS Prayer Diary and it was encouraging to pray with four or five others at home. We also went to CMS Summer School, where people and their situations came to life. It was wonderful to hear the stories of God’s work around the world.   

CP: How did you encourage your own children to pray for missionaries? 
MB: When our children were young, we had a photo album of family—cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends at church, people involved in our ministry, and missionaries. We would pray through the photos which helped when concentration was limited.

CARE 

One way of caring for missionaries is to pray for them. But as these two accounts show, caring can also assist praying. What practical actions can you take to care more closely for missionaries—ranging from using a CMS Prayer Diary with your family, through to caring for missionaries’ needs on Home Assignment? Contact your CMS branch to get a copy of the Prayer Diary, and download the PrayerMate app to help you pray daily for cross-cultural mission through CMS (and other organisations too!)