“Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. I really appreciate having someone to talk with confidentially on things that matter to me.”
These are the sorts of comments we regularly receive as we visit workers in cross-cultural environments. Paul’s ministry was based on this type of care as he travelled around the churches of Asia. He mentions in 2 Corinthians 5:12, “I hope you realise how much and deeply we care.”
Member care is not about a warm fuzzy. It is about providing personnel with someone to talk to and receive resources from for all areas of their lives – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – so they are enabled to live and minister in another environment. It is helping the overseas workers to thrive in difficult places, assisting them to find solutions to the challenges they face. It is not about counselling; it is about being a good listener! One member care expert says, “Field visits will boost your missionary’s morale like few other things will do.” Having an organisation spend time and money to visit their personnel is essential for the workers’ wellbeing.
Missionaries face unique stressors. Research has shown that, across all missions, over 12,000 missionaries return home per year for preventable reasons. Avoiding preventable attrition is just one important component of member care. Journeying with workers throughout their entire missionary career is essential. This includes: pre-field, on the field, and after they return from the field.
Debriefing from a term of service on the field is also a very important aspect of member care. While recommended and encouraged for all WOI overseas workers, it is especially necessary for workers who have experienced significant stress or trauma.
Being a ‘faith mission’ means that we, along with all our personnel, need to work at raising our support. This takes valuable time away from the member care ministry we are involved in. We are grateful to those who have joined forces with us, and we do need others to accompany us in this crucial ministry.
By Allen and Charlotte Teal
Member Care Coordinators.