Updated: May 16
BY NEAL PIROLO
The local church has taken its place in identifying and nurturing the cross-cultural team, both those who go and those who serve as senders. The missionary is forming a Partnership Team of volunteers to engage with him through encouragement, in prayer, during reentry, and with communication, logistics, and finances.
No one needs to emphasize that we are living in a more and more dangerous world. Thus, the church needs an agent to help fulfill the Great Commission. Now enters the Agency and Crisis Levels of missionary care.
Agency Level Missionary Care
Sometimes, it can be challenging to draw the line between the role of the agency and the role of the church in missionary care. Let’s look briefly at eight areas of agency level member care: recruitment, pre-field preparation, on-field care, reentry, home assignment, prayer, conflict management, and contingency management.
The agency is best suited to assign the right candidate to the right team to the right field work in which he or she will be engaged. With policies and expectations communicated clearly between agency, church leadership, and candidate, there will be fewer “oops” to hinder progress.
The agency will ensure all their candidates go through biblical, cross-cultural, and language training, as well as the agency’s orientation process of home office and field practices. Logistical policies, from proper tax forms to the legal paperwork for who will be the parents for the children should both parents die on the field, need to be addressed.
The agency will ensure that missionaries have well-balanced spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health. The agency, in coordination with the sending church, will give time (while still on the field) to begin a “wind-down” of work responsibilities, allowing the missionary to begin preparing for the changes he or she will experience back home.
The agency, in discussion with the missionary and his or her church, will plan for further education, debriefing opportunities, and a time and place for the family to “regroup” in their new home setting. Agency level debriefing must ensure freedom for the missionary to speak openly, to be transparent in sharing the good and the not-so-good of their field experience.
Even during the recruitment process, possibilities of the agency’s requirements during home assignment should be clearly expressed. They should include rest—yes, a vacation! But also an opportunity for additional training, representing the agency to new candidates/churches, spiritual renewal, and the massive opportunity to relate with the extended family and friends.
The agency will aggressively promote and participate in specific intercessory prayer for each missionary by understanding the spiritual dynamics of the ministry the missionary is working in. They will ensure the sending church is aware of the missionary’s needs and opportunities for rejoicing.
The agency will have clear, biblical procedures to deal with conflict. Over the years, missionary teams have become more multi-cultural, adding that dynamic to interpersonal relationships. The agency will deal with team/personal conflicts quickly and with appropriate actions so issues will not escalate or continue to erupt and cause disunity on the team. They will engage the sending church with situations before they escalate.
The world has become a very dangerous place in which to live. During the pre-field preparation, the agency will require a seminar on contingency training to the degree of intensity of the ministry location. The agency will ensure that each ministry location has a contingency plan in place for individuals, families, and teams, based on the needs of that location. New-on-the-field personnel will immediately be given access to this plan. A review for “old-timers” would also be of value at that time. Missionaries will understand that in the time of a crisis, normal lines of communication will yield to the one given the charge of directing the situation. The agency will have a clear policy on handling hostage situations. They will make provision for counseling of missionaries, to the degree of need. The agency will evaluate ongoing work in that ministry location. The federal government has enacted laws governing the requirement for various documents to be on file, signed by the missionary, allowing certain procedures to be followed in certain hostage situations.
Crisis Level Member Care
The working relationship between the people and organizations concerned with missionary care has grown exponentially in the past twenty years. And it has proved its worth in missionary retention. This is good!
As we consider the Crisis Level, I believe there is an interesting parallel in a story. A psychiatrist (before he trusted in Christ) believed that if a concise and simple to understand prescription for healthy living could be written, and people could be taught to follow that prescription, we would have to spend less time and effort trying to help people out of their detours into mental disarray. Quite by chance, he says, he discovered that the booklet had already been written: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6,7).
In like manner, I believe that to the degree that the already-mentioned levels of missionary care function more and more in unity, allowing each to function in the areas for which they are best suited, the need for this fourth level of care would diminish proportionally.
However, unfortunately, in every war there are casualties. And missions is spiritual warfare at its highest consequence. Thus, the need for the Crisis Level of missionary care.
Although this training is mentioned above as a responsibility of the agency, I believe that organizations that regularly deal in crises are best equipped to train field workers in crisis management. It is redundant to say that the world is becoming a less and less safe place to live! Thus, learning the preventative and survival methods of crisis situations should be mandatory.
Then, for field workers who have “lost their way” in the eternal struggle between good and evil, those trained in mental health are best able to bring about a good solution. And, the other three areas of missionary care need to know when a situation is beyond their ability to handle. This, too, is training the Crisis Level people should provide for the other three levels.