“In the midst of constant change, our commitment to care must remain unchanged.”
Constant Change, The New Normal
As a member of my local church’s global worker care team, it’s been tough to be grounded for the last couple of years because of the pandemic. Short-term trips to minister to our global workers are (or were) a growing part of our ministry. We eagerly await the day trips will resume.
One constant in the short term trip world today is that things are constantly changing. Postponements and cancellations are common. Planning is a logistical challenge. Vaccination, testing, and quarantine requirements vary from week to week and from country to country. We will continue to weigh these elements as we begin to travel again in what was an already cumbersome travel environment.
The writing is on the wall – trips will be different. But amid constant change, commitment to care for global workers must remain unchanged. During our involuntary hiatus as the pandemic wears on, our team grapples with the question, ‘How can we adapt our care trips and still go where we are needed?’
Consider a Smaller Team
Perhaps smaller teams of intentionally chosen members are one way to navigate the global travel challenges that lie ahead. In our current unpredictable environment, smaller teams have several advantages. They are nimble and more flexible, especially when things don’t go as planned. Organization and communication are better, logistics are less complicated, and they are easier on your church budget.
Envision an efficient and organized team of experienced travelers that are quicker to mobilize, flexible on the field, and passionate about care. Imagine a small team that operates as a unit, with a healthy camaraderie evident in their relationships. The mission and vision of the trip are clear, and everyone is well-trained and well-informed about their role. But, to achieve this streamlined dream team, you need the right team members.
Choose Competent Members
In James Baker’s story, Work Hard, Study...and Keep Out of Politics!, he tells of his father’s instruction in the Principle of the Five P’s; “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” This former U.S. Secretary of State lived his life by that principle, and it’s a good one to apply to short-term care trips.
Small group team leaders must recruit their team members carefully. Proper preparation is vital, and every member must be committed to meeting together, praying together, training, and being willing to do what is necessary to travel. Each one must be fully on board with the care goals of the trip.
I’ve taken the liberty of adapting Secretary Baker’s motto to The Five T’s: “Tested, Trained, Travelers with Time and the right Temperament make an effective care trip team.”
Most people think of testing as being put to the test through trials and experience, and this is a plus regarding a team member’s suitability for a short-term care trip. Care trips are generally not for the inexperienced. But in our new environment, being tested literally means being tested. Traveling has become a riskier business. Every team member of a care trip must set philosophical differences aside and be willing to accept virus testing, along with vaccination and quarantine requirements in place wherever they go.
The goal of any care trip involves looking after the mental, physical and spiritual health and well-being of our global workers. Training in the essential skills needed to do this include debriefing, counseling, leadership, child protection, medical care, hospitality, and security. Make it a priority to limit your team to members with specialized training in these areas.
Care trips are typically not the trip for the uninitiated in international travel. It’s a jungle out there, and a small, efficient team focused on the mission ahead needs experienced cross-cultural travelers who know the ropes and don’t get too fussed about disruptions. Whether it’s lost luggage, canceled flights, new travel irritations related to Covid, or even culture shock, you want people who can keep it together – and not end up as an example of bad behavior on a Tiktok video.
Recruit team members who have the time and attention to devote to a care trip. Include a combination of church staff and lay people. Empty nesters, retirees, and returned global workers all come to mind as potential team members who may have time and training.
For planning, financial support, and communication with church leadership, a church staff member (preferably one devoted to global worker care) is essential for a church-led small care team.
One of the most under-utilized resources in the church is the baby boomer generation. Recruit these brothers and sisters, many of whom in the church community are now retired, and have the time, energy, and passion for global worker care. My observation is that they are far from being retiring type of people and often they are self-funded.
Don’t forget your returned global workers. Those who are able would love to serve in this area that is so close to their hearts. They have a unique insight into global worker care that only comes with experience.
This characteristic is by far the most important thing for any small team care trip member. A care team will encounter many challenges—some expected and some unforeseen. We travel in a world ravaged by a pandemic that has left many global workers alone and isolated for extended periods. We can only imagine what they have seen and experienced in this pandemic and its chaos in the areas where they serve. Small teams must consist of people defined by spiritual maturity. Paul’s command to ‘walk by the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:16 is imperative for those in global worker care. Every member must be mindful of the dangers of the flesh in Galatians 5:17–21, and the fruits of the Spirit in 5:22–26. All must be motivated by love.
Stay the Course
If you have global workers in need of care, I encourage you to continue to plan trips, even in this unpredictable environment. You will encounter many challenges, so be committed to pursuing the training you need, planning ahead, and preparing well. Ask the difficult questions like, ‘What if someone becomes ill?’, How will we handle a change in country restrictions?’, ‘Do we have an exit plan?’, ‘What about travel insurance?’
Remember to cover your journey in prayer and be led by the Spirit. By assembling the right team to go to the right places with the right training, you are helping your workers stay healthy and remain on the field. In this way, Romans 1:16 becomes the foundation for why you care, to “bring the gospel of salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
Shirley Ralston (MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the Missionary Care Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches Life Bible Study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband Jeff now reside in Houston after several years living overseas. You can find her on Twitter and texpatfaith.org.