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Five Reasons to Revisit Your Partners

Trips with Purpose - Intention to Care

Last year, two of my family members participated in a short-term trip to one of our church’s supported partners in South Asia. Their trip was one of four taken during the year to this same partner and location. It was a special time where God moved to bind the hearts of the team members and our church to these global workers and their work. I know firsthand how beneficial these trips can be because of my own experience with recurring trips to our partners in the Middle East, especially because of the opportunities they provide for global worker care.

If you are involved in ministering to global workers in any way, then this article is for you. Here are five reasons to commit to recurring trips to care for your sent and supported workers.

1) Ties That Bind - Strengthening the Bonds of Fellowship

We all know relationships don’t develop overnight; they take time and interaction. Yes, we have multiple ways to communicate across the miles, but there is no substitute for in-person relationship building.

Regular trips to see our partners go a long way towards preventing the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality so common in global worker service. No longer is the worker only a name on a roster, a newsletter, or a photo on a prayer card. When we go in person, we deepen the bonds of fellowship with our workers as they realize they are fully known and fully loved. They know the church cares about their well-being and is genuinely invested in their work.

Regular trips to see our partners go a long way towards preventing the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality so common in global worker service.

In turn, we come back with stories about their work, needs, triumphs, trials, and experiences that we can share with the congregation. The result? A stronger tie between the church and the global worker that positively impacts both. Matt Clark, Pastor of Missionary Care at Summit Church in North Carolina, says that one of the primary reasons for repeat visits to their partners comes from Romans 1:11–12: “Our teams are able to encourage our partners and, in turn, we are encouraged by them, as well as by the faith of our national partners with whom we build relationships.”


2) Windows of Time - Awareness of Needs

Every trip to see a partner provides a precious window of time that allows you to become aware of their needs. The more you go, the more you know as the window opens a little wider.

In-person interactions provide an opportunity for the worker to express things they may not feel comfortable sharing in a newsletter or video call. And being across the table from someone who cares and has no particular agenda other than to listen has a way of releasing them to share. You learn about their family, finances, and physical and mental well-being. You get an up-close, real-time understanding of their work that you can’t get through a long-distance relationship.

Every trip to see a partner provides a precious window of time that allows you to become aware of their needs. The more you go, the more you know as the window opens a little wider.

In his article on short-term trips, Mike Ironside says,

These trips often involve: going out to eat with Sent Ones; seeing the places where they live, work, and play; watching their kids so they can go on a date; listening to their needs as an individual, as a married couple, as parents, and as Sent Ones; meeting some of the people they are ministering to; and just being present in their culture.

Growing your awareness is the first step in addressing any global worker’s needs. Recurring trips are one of the most effective ways to check in, invest in the relationship, and demonstrate just how much your church cares about their Sent Ones. They help your church go and know.

3) Tending to Care - Meeting Needs

Now that you know, what will you do? Pray for yourself, pray for your workers, pray with your workers, and pray for how you can meet the needs revealed through your in-person interaction. The Spirit will show the path forward for you and your care team. Here are a few examples of what our teams have experienced:

  • On the South Asia trip, a specific need arose to care for the TCKs in the partnership. The need was shared with the church upon return, which began a process that we pray will help meet the need in the coming year.

  • Our partner in the Middle East shared his dream of converting some unused space in the church where he serves into a place for the youth to gather. Because he walked us through the property, it was easier for us to communicate the need and facilitate the funding. In addition, because we knew him so well, my husband and I had the privilege of doing premarital counseling for him and his fiancé.

  • We spent time with two new workers in the MENA region involved with the major renovation of a project, the progress of which had stalled during the pandemic. Our church was able to provide partial funding, but our focus was on their care, to give our time and attention as they talked about what was going on in their lives during that critical adjustment period. A source of great joy for us are the progress photos they continue to send.

All of these workers are strategically located in sensitive areas amid unreached populations. Staying connected with them is a key contributor to their health and resiliency. It is a privilege and a blessing to play a part in their lives and work.

4) The Third Party - Becoming Safe People

I can’t stress this enough: Be a third-party safe person. Being a member of your care trip team gives you the valued and vital role of being the third-party safe place for your global worker. You fill a gap that no one else can fill. Why? Because it is well known within the missions world that global workers are reluctant to approach their sending organizations with anything that might result in their removal from the field. That relationship has an accountability dynamic that is necessary and appropriate, so by being the third-party safe person, you give global workers a safe environment in which they can express and process their lives and work. Clark affirms this in his work with Summit global workers: “There is an exponential increase in trust to openly share the hard things going on in their lives.”

Being present and in-person allows workers to process their experiences, sometimes just through active listening, encouragement, and serving them in areas of immediate need. Other times, they may need to go through the debriefing process or speak with a professional counselor. Having team members trained in debriefing and a professional counselor is a significant plus, and I highly recommend it.

Being present and in-person allows workers to process their experiences, sometimes just through active listening, encouragement, and serving them in areas of immediate need.

5) The Trickle-Down Effect - Sharing Stories and Personal Transformation

We’ve talked about how regular trips help workers on the field, but how do they affect the local church back home? Two main things happen in the local church as a result of care trips.

Sharing significantly impacts the awareness of global work supported by your local church.

First, these trips increase awareness about missions and care. Your team members come home with a fresh perspective, and they come back with stories. The stories they share with their Bible classes, Mission’s Council, and friends filter out into the congregation. Derived from personal interactions on the ground, their sharing significantly impacts the awareness of global work supported by your local church.

“Advocacy throughout the year is more effective after our people see the partners and their work for themselves.” - Matt Clark

Second, they often spark a sent mentality among team members. God will often use the experience of a short-term trip to ignite the call to missions. When the trip has a care emphasis, which is different from the traditional short-term experience, participants witness missionary life as it truly is, instead of through rose-colored glasses or a semi-vacation experience. One of our partners took five trips to the region where he now works prior to committing to full-time service. He says,

God can ignite in your heart a blazing fire to go. You meet the people, and now the statistic has a name, a face, an address, and a story. When people tell you that you are the first Christian they’ve ever met, or tell you that they have never heard someone pray that way before, suddenly you realize in new ways what Jesus meant when he said the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. As my understanding of the people grew, my love for them and the desire I had to make Christ known among them grew as well.

The more you go, the more people you expose to missions. For example, our trips to South Asia over the past ten months have included thirty team members, six of whom have begun applications for full-time service. One young team member (a TCK who grew up in the area and has returned several times) put it this way:

Our trip gave me an opportunity to walk and talk like Jesus. And seeing the face of someone truly understanding the gospel as it was being revealed to them, then excitedly accepting the free gift of salvation, stirred something within me—it made me want to be able to see it happen again and again.

Taking Stock - Why We Go

Everything I’ve written here comes from my experience and training. I believe with great conviction that in-person care for global workers is the right path. What are the foundational reasons why we do this?

First, there’s Matthew 28:18–20. Perhaps we’ve all been a bit desensitized to it because it’s such a familiar passage, but we are wise not to take it lightly. It is Jesus’s command to the disciples and to us. It is the reason we have global workers on the field.

Paul was able to do the work God had called him to do because of the incredible support of these brothers and sisters.

Second, it is the New Testament model. We see it exhibited in the lives of Paul and others through the wide-ranging network of support surrounding them in their missionary efforts. Look no further than Paul’s commendation in Romans 16 for an example of this. Paul was able to do the work God had called him to do because of the incredible support of these brothers and sisters. It is clear from this passage that he was fully known and fully loved by many people.

Warren Wiersbe comments, “He did not try to live an isolated life; he had friends in the Lord, and he appreciated them. They were a help to him personally and to his ministry.”[1] Paul was encouraged and refreshed by those within his sphere who visited him, hosted him, and cared for him. The global workers of today who have obeyed Jesus’s command and continue to carry out Paul’s missionary calling are no different. Matt Clark relates that one of the reasons Summit’s recurring trips are so important is that “Our partners have these visits to look forward to throughout the year because they know they will be refreshed.”

Romans 16 ends with the ultimate reason care teams do what they do, a doxology that gives glory to God and praise to Jesus Christ for the gospel, and a command that we, and our global workers, “advance the obedience of faith among all nations” (Rom 16:26b).


NOTES

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 565.

 

Shirley Ralston (MA in 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 living overseas for several years. You can find her on Twitter and texpatfaith.org.


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