Should Missionaries Send Impersonal Prayer Letters?

On Friday I gave a shout-out to Mike Mehaffie (click here to read it!), a friend of mine in ministry with Campus Crusade who has been in full-time ministry for as long as I’ve been alive. That might not mean much to you.

To me, it means only one thing: he’s sent (roughly) 400 monthly prayer letters.

Some people measure things in days, weeks, months, or years. I measure in prayer letters. Prayer letters, and bathroom breaks. (e.g. “It was a long day at work, 3 bathroom breaks and a second-hand smoke break.”)

I was on staff with Campus Crusade for 96 prayer letters. Not too shabby, except that I cheated.

Mike is for real… from the old school. He hand signs those bad boys. I on the other hand go the short-cut route, and use a prayer letter service.

If you are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of prayer lettering, there’s an entire underground devoted solely to the churning out of missionary updates. For a price, you can even buy testimonial stories from students. (I made that last part up.)

Is there a black market for prayer letters? Not to my knowledge. A way to email your prayer letter to a building in Texas and have the people there print, fold, stuff, and lick them? Absolutely.

So, in the name of making this post long enough to actually use, I give you 4 fantastic (if not improbable) reasons to use a prayer letter service:

1. You have an irrational fear of laser printer toner.
I checked (My mom’s second cousin owns and runs that site, no joke) and this is an unlisted phobia, but i’d propose HewletPackardiphobia as it’s name. It’s really just a very acute form of cyberphobia, which is on the list. If the thought of changing out the toner cartridge on your printer causes you to break into a cold sweat, then maybe it’s best to leave the heavy printing to the pros in Texas. Also, maybe it’s time for counseling, immediately. It’s a printer. No need to panic.

2. You are a hand model.
If there’s one thing I can guarantee about folding, stuffing, stamping, licking, and hauling all of those letters/envelopes, (other than the fact that it’s my own personal snapshot of hell’s potential torment) it’s that paper cuts are going to happen. So in the event that in addition to ministry you are also a part-time hand model, you might want to use a prayer letter service.

I can’t imagine how stressful day-to-day life is as a hand model, speaking of rabbit trails. Do you wear aloe vera-infused gloves at all times? Do you refuse to shake hands with burly people? Is there a clause in your contract with Rolex with regard to between-knuckle-hair? So many questions. What’s not up for debate (and 2000% more on-topic) is that prayer-letter related paper cuts are a real threat to hand modeling missionaries. Best in that case to use a prayer letter service.

3. You don’t have the spiritual gift of tri-folding.
When I try and hand-stuff envelopes, I get the distinct impression that people who are good at figuring out the tri-fold have supernatural help. The first time my wife showed me a z-fold, I thought it was some kind of demon-possessed origami. My wife has the spiritual gift of tri-folding. I don’t mean to get into a discussion on the continuation of the supernatural gifts (or the fact that paper-folding isn’t mentioned in any of the gift lists in scripture), but suffice it to say that if you can successfully eyeball where that first fold needs to go without having to put in a fourth fold just to get the letter in a standard envelope, I think you cheated. Or that some sort of pentecost has happened in your heart, and you are just doing your version of speaking in tongues, by putting paper into envelopes.

If you are like me and end up with 2 inches of paper hanging out of the envelope more times that you’d care to admit publicly, best to use a prayer letter service. Or a ruler.

4.You are directionally challenged.
My wife used to cry when her brothers asked her which way they should turn out of their driveway to get to school in the morning. Granted, she was in elementary school, but still, she was not very big on directional ability. If you are like the 5th grade version of my wife, you’d be much better off using a prayer letter service, because in order to successfully mail a prayer letter from home, there are at least three trips involved.

You have to find an office supply store for paper, envelopes, toner, and a coke from the cooler that is sitting near the register because you’re really thirsty.

Then you have to get in the car, drive back home (people with directional struggles know how to get from home to anywhere, not from anywhere to anywhere… you gotta go home first), and then drive to the post office to get some stamps because the only stamps at the office supply store were the leftover holiday stamps where Jesus is a pudgy white kid with a gold ring on his forehead. Then after you leave the post office you have to go home and then back to the office supply store because you realized that you only go enough paper to fill half of the envelopes. It’s like hot dogs and buns, they never make the packages hold the same amount.

Three trips later, you’ll wish you had opted for the prayer letter service.

Here’s a question: does it matter if missionaries send personalized letters every month? Why or why not?

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