Archives for : October2020

Mentoring as member care

For some years now, I have had the privilege of being a mentor for missionaries. It is already six years since I and my husband ended our own ministry abroad but being a mentor for those who are in active service has kept me involved in a meaningful way.

Mentoring has become more common part of member care provided for new missionaries. The younger generation asks for it, and I will argue that is an important addition to the more practical and formal part of member care provided by sending organizations or churches. We have become more used to communication via online platforms because of travel restrictions. This also makes mentoring from our home location possible. We can reach out to people in any location where there is internet connection.

Mentoring can be defined as a one-on-one relational experience in which one person empowers another person by investing their God-given wisdom and life experience in somebody younger or less experienced. I like to focus more on the God-given gifts and skills of the individual, and to help them see their experiences as an opportunity to grow both personally and spiritually. Depending on the relationship and level of trust, we can come along side and help the individual who is dealing with practical or cultural issues, or we can help them deal with more personal or relational issues.

Some workers are part of well-functioning teams where peer mentoring is happening- even if it is not named like that. In those cases, a mentor may not be needed. But others do not have close co-workers like that. The way we do mission is changing, and these days there are many more cross-cultural workers who have a work- or business visa. Their support structure is different from the traditional missionaries and in those cases an external mentor may be really needed.

The main task of the mentor is to listen and let the other person decide what is on their heart to talk about. The mentor can pick up both what is said directly or indirectly and help them to see more clearly what the issues are about and sometimes bring new perspectives. It is important not do dominate the talk by giving advice or share too much of our own experience.

Every individual is unique, and they usually know best how to handle the situation, but they may need reassurance and emotional support, or sometimes new knowledge or maybe a warning that makes them think again. Most of all, they need somebody who sees their struggles, who cares and can pray with them. The relationship works best if the talks are regular and ongoing. In that way we can see development and growth – or we may sense persisting problems that need attention. Through encouragement and accountability, we can help the mentee to maintain their own spiritual life and to keep up a balanced life of work and rest amid the demands of life.

I believe there are many missionaries who have finished their service abroad that could be engaged in this kind of ministry. Sending organizations can lose out on valuable knowledge and experience, good or bad, if it is not redeemed and shared with new workers. Of course, not everybody will feel confident to do this and it might require some training in mentoring or coaching. There is always something more to learn about themes like cultural differences, personalities, leadership development or handling of relational conflicts. But we do not need to be experts in issues like these as long as we are willing to listen, have a caring and humble attitude and ask questions that allows them to share and reflect about their own situation.

To integrate mentoring well in an established sending body, there must be some structure in place. Expectations and roles need to be clarified, and confidentiality must be kept and honored. A written mandate can be given to the mentor and shared with the mentee.  If the co-operation works well, the cross-cultural worker may have a more fruitful ministry and want to stay longer. Through the experience the mentee will also indirectly learn the importance of mentoring and hopefully be willing to mentor others when the need arises, becoming a link in a 2. Timothy 2:2 chain.

This month’s blog is by Reidun Haugen Dalseth, a returned mission worker living in Norway.





Useful tools for listening

Recently on social media, one of my friends wrote, “when it comes time to set the clocks back one hour for daylight savings time, we should all refuse. No one needs one more hour of 2020.”  As I chuckled, I was reminded of the countless people I have debriefed over the last several months who have all said, “I just want this year to be over!”

My wife and I live in Genova, Italy, and have watched our country be overwhelmed by the Corona Virus pandemic. Then came one of the strictest lockdowns in the world that lasted nearly three months. One of the images that many of us in Italy will never forget was watching the convoy of military vehicles in cities like Milano and Roma escort hundreds of caskets of Corona victims to various cathedrals because there was no more room in hospitals.

During those difficult days, my role as a Member Care provider (in quarantine) was to listen and comfort my friends and ministry partners, many of them on the frontlines of the pandemic. One of my friends, a nurse, works in the leading hospital of our region caring for Covid19 patients. He told me repeatedly, “I felt like I had to play God, literally deciding who will and will not receive treatment.” Others had not been home for over two months, even though the hospital is five minutes from their home, out of fear of exposing their families to the virus. All of my friends had at least two things in common: they were exhausted and longing to share their stories.

One of the blessings to come out of this global pandemic for Italians has been the emphasis the government and medical officials have placed on mental health. Rather than seeing debriefing or counseling as something shameful or a sign that something is “wrong,” Italian officials have actively promoted and highlighted the need for people to talk with others about their experiences under Covid-19 and the effects of the virus and lockdown on their mental health. As a result, the Italian government will now pay for mental health sessions, like counseling. And trust me, Italians have been taking advantage and are longing to tell their stories.

In July, I restarted devoting at least one weekend a month to traveling to the central train station of Milano to conduct debriefs with Italian Christians who arrive from all over Italy because they need to share their stories.

My role has been to listen. So often we forget that one of the most important aspects of good Member Care is just being present and allowing those we care for a chance to talk and be heard!

During these times of listening, I have discovered several useful tools:

Prayers of Lament: people are experiencing various forms of loss and grief during these times. Perhaps we have often seen lamenting as being somewhat “overdramatic,” but there is certainly a Biblical premise for crying out to the Lord in the midst of our struggles with raw emotion. While sitting in a prayer meeting with intercultural-workers from around the world, a couple from Canada said how they just loved being in quarantine and how ministry is going great because of the potential to reach more people through online services. This led other missionaries to cry out, “I’m tired of trying to put on a fake smile and pretend that everything is great! Why can’t we just be honest! Nobody likes this! It’s not fun and it’s not all roses!” Again, true, raw emotion!

A local pastor in our now online church service shared these words from Psalm 44:

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.

What powerful and timely words for the current world situation! It is important as Member Care providers that we allow people a chance to cry out, lament, and acknowledge their grief and name their losses.  Prayers of lament in a time of suffering can be an act of worship.

Prayers of Intercession: as Christians we often say things like “I will pray for you” and then simply forget. As I have cared for friends, I spend time in prayer with them specifically asking God to bless them, meet needs, or simply minister in unique ways to each one of them, according to God’s will.

Like many of you, I have at times felt inadequate or even hopeless, confined to my home in quarantine. Yet, I have been reminded that most of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was conducted from the confines of a jail cell. What was arguably the essence of Paul’s ministry? Intercessory prayer for the early Church and the Apostles.

Let’s not forget the power of prayer during this time. Here in Italy we have seen pastors coming together online to pray for our nation and world. Moreover, hundreds of European youth from all over the continent have met online each month in intercessory prayer during this pandemic. God is working!

Sound of Silence: sometimes words fail us, as has been the case in many of my interactions recently while caring for friends. The seconds turn into minutes with no one saying a word, but there is power in remaining silent, taking deep breathes and allowing God to search the heart. Perhaps these difficult times are reminding us to stop and to wait upon the Lord.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that we often do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans! Even just sitting and listening to nature during these times can minister to someone really struggling. Let’s not rush to fill the space with words, advice, or other things, but allow silence to speak.

Much of the world continues to suffer not only physically, but especially mentally and financially. As we continue to hold our breathe and hope that 2021 will bring brighter days and an end to the pandemic, may the words of Psalm 126:5 be ever true in this time of waiting: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”


Mihai at Milan central station

Mihai Lundell

One Challenge International

Member Care Europe