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Instruments of care

By Jeremy and Anastasia Thomas

All Christians, even missionaries, are not super-human. We’re broken people who experience hardships. Political unrests, trembling economies, and the global pandemic paint a picture of losses, and often traumatic experiences. Our God is immeasurably caring and faithful (Ps. 23). But how does God practically care for us? Through His hands and feet – His people. Just as God calls people to be part of His mission to the least-reached, so He calls others to care for them.

Member care

Ronald L. Koteskey describes member care with such words as: encouragement, friendship, communicating, help, affirmation, fellowship, counselling, visiting, debriefing, guiding, and comforting.

In addition to the Holy Spirit given as a comforter to all Christians (Jn. 14-16), God often uses other people – pastors, counsellors, and friends – to help us. Among missionaries, having someone come alongside to offer help is “member care.” This may be a routinely scheduled visit from a pastor asking, “How are you doing?” Or it may be a psychologist attending to a missionary for trauma debriefing to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder (For help, visit missionarycare. com/member-care.html).

Trauma

People experience trauma when they respond with intense fear, helplessness, or horror to something that involves the threat of death or serious injury to themselves or others (such as accident, assault, rape, violent conflicts, natural disasters, epidemics, etc.). Although nearly everyone living through such events has symptoms for a week or two, some have longer-lasting ones. Those experiencing extended periods of severe trauma and stress without access to trauma debriefing and counselling might develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which necessitates professional help.

by Ivelin Radkov

When we get hurt physically, it is normal to seek a doctor’s help. When we feel spiritually unwell, it is normal to call on a pastor or spiritual leader. But too often, missionaries who don’t feel well mentally and emotionally either don’t want to ask for help or don’t know whom to turn to. Asking for help is perceived as a weakness or lack of spirituality. We would like to see this perspective changed. Asking for help and professional support should be a sign of positive self-awareness, strength of character, and resilience.

A cross-cultural missionary family lost a child some years ago. Their senders provided a trauma debriefing, furlough for proper rest, and ample recovery time. Though the loss was tremendous, so was the senders’ outpouring of care. Now, they are back in ministry, blessing those they serve among.

A missionary team serving in a remote Ugandan village learned that war had broken out in their home country. Concern for their families and limited internet access made it difficult to focus on ministry. Their mission agency sent a member care person to debrief and counsel them. This helped some to decide to return to their families enduring the war. Others chose to stay, knowing they had access to a counsellor for help to process their personal trauma as they continued to serve in Uganda.

The loss was tremendous; so was the senders’ outpouring of care.

In traumatic situations on the mission field, both staying and leaving are right choices. But processing both options with a member care practitioner makes a big difference in the capacity of a missionary to serve and bear a good testimony in the long-term.

All senders may not have the necessary resources to provide their missionaries with professional support. The good news is that Global Member Care Network and Africa Member Care Network platforms (on Facebook) are available where any sender can ask for help. We highly recommend that senders be more intentional to invest in member care providers by equipping them with basic care skills.

Member care resources, such as the Light-bearer’s Manual for Member Caring, Encouraging & Linking are available on https://daybreak-academy.org/resources/, along with several member care opportunities in the Africa Member Care Network bi-monthly newsletter (subscribe here: https://bit.ly/45sNU81 ).

Jeremy and Anastasia are a Mauritian-Ukrainian couple passionate about caring for Christians, especially people in ministry and missions. They both have cross-cultural mission experience and now serve with Daybreak Academy focused on Member Caring and Christian Networking. They are certified counsellors and facilitators of inner healing and ethnic reconciliation.

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