Over the years Melissa Collier, who served at Currarong SUFM 1990-2000, has done a phenomenal job of following people up, to the extent that she has ongoing relationships with many of them over 20 years later! SU Patron, Simon Flinders (who served with Melissa on mission), shares insights from their recent interview together:
Simon: What kind of follow-up did you usually do after each SUFM finished?
Melissa: With written permission from the parents to keep in contact with the girls in my group, I would write an initial letter to those who gave permission, to remind them of what we learned at SUFM.
I would then send birthday, Christmas and Easter cards, often with a small bookmark or item of stationery usually with a Bible verse on it.
I would then send a letter prior to the next year’s SUFM inviting them along again. I tended to do that for five or so years for each of them, whether they wrote back or not, unless I got a return to sender or ‘unknown at this address.’ For those who did reply, I would send regular letters and encourage them to think about Gospel matters.
If they were interested, I would send a Gospel book, Bible reading materials and where they had questions I would also send a book.
Simon: How have the relationships evolved over the years?
Melissa: Modern technology such as email and Facebook has made things easier. I still contact them on their birthdays with a message, small gift, email, or card, and still send Christmas cards. For significant events such as weddings and the birth of children I will send a card or gift. I love to celebrate with them in their joys.
Otherwise the contact is really dependent on their needs. For one child— who would, by this stage, be about 17 years old —I sent tapes (showing my age!) of sermons from my church, as she was not able to attend church herself.
I moved to New Zealand 15 or so years ago, but when I return to Australia on holidays, I have been able to meet up for a coffee with one of them. The others may request prayer support for difficult times in their lives, and I always try and point them to Jesus. I also try and encourage the Christians by sending them Christian literature, podcasts, children’s Bibles, sermon links etc.
Simon: What motivates you to continue your commitment to care for these girls long-term?
Melissa: I came to know Jesus when I was a similar age and I so wanted the girls to have someone who could be a signpost for them to Jesus, in case there wasn’t anyone else in their lives to do so. I also wanted to be a small support to them during their lives, showing a long-term commitment to them.
Simon: What tools help you to keep praying for them?
Melissa: In the past I had a little note book in the glove box of my car with their names in it, and would aim to pray for each of them weekly (the reality did not always match the intent!) as soon as I parked my car at work.
Nowadays I have a prayer app on my phone and they are now listed on that with their husbands and/or partners and children. Of course I may pray for them after or during our interactions as well. And over the years I have also asked my Bible study groups to pray for them.
Simon: How have you seen God at work in their lives, could you share some stories?
Melissa: One of the girls become a Christian and fully involved in church with her husband and two children. I loved reading of her excitement when reading John’s Gospel for the first time with her husband, and not being able to put it down!
It is lovely to see that, although I have had some contact, God brings many others into the lives of His people to help support and encourage them in their faith.
Melissa currently lives in New Zealand with her husband, Pete, and their two children. Tens of thousands of people are reached each year through SU ministries – through your support, all of this is possible. Help SU put the Gospel into the hands of children from any ability or background.
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