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How the Francophone member care network came to be

In the hope that the following might encourage the development of national member care networks, this month’s article focuses on the origins and development of Europe’s French-speaking member care network, called RESAM (Réseau de Soutien aux Ministères).

Many new ventures begin small, tentatively, organically, and without a clear picture of the final result. Such is often man’s way. But it also seems to be God’s way. The Holy Spirit will sometimes nudge and inspire us to dream and imagine an idea, and then God will orchestrate the subsequent steps, setting us on a journey that will see the idea become reality. This will often take time, and there will be obstacles. Even the Promised Land had giants that needed to be conquered.

Member Care Europe was seeded in this way, and so was its francophone equivalent.

Our network began with the awareness of a need: Too many people in ministry are isolated, struggling, underequipped and overstretched.

This reality led me and my family to move from Canada to France in 1999. Within a few months, God unexpectedly created a “chance” encounter with a retired Anglican minister who had moved from the UK to Paris for the same reason. Both of us were attending a missionary retreat, and when he introduced himself to the group by saying, “God sent me to France because I have a burden to care for those in ministry”, I could barely hide my surprise. Here was someone with the same calling!

As we talked, we envisioned a network of care providers in Belgium, Switzerland and France. But where do we start? We drew up a list of people we knew that shared the same burden. I could only contribute two or three names to the list, but my new friend had seven or eight. He had the contacts, I had the language (having grown up as an MK in France). I was in my thirties, he was in his sixties. We could see the beauty of what God does so well: weaving people together, with their backgrounds and gifts, for a common purpose.

So, the following year we organised a gathering for the people on our list: four denominational leaders, two mission directors, a missionary psychologist, two counsellors, and a Christian psychiatrist. We discussed with them the needs of those in full-time ministry, the lack of adequate resources and care, and our vision of a network of providers.

We gathered again in 2002 as a larger group of fifteen, including the general secretary of the French Evangelical Alliance. Having this person on board was the key to moving forward as he invited us to create the network as a commission of the French Evangelical Alliance, giving our network credibility and sustainability.

A committee was formed, membership criteria were developed, along with a constitution, and in 2003 the network was officially launched with a few founding members.

Some had suggested that we should function as a loose unstructured unaffiliated group. MC Europe was faced with a similar choice during its inception. But for something to endure, a certain amount of structure is necessary. This enabled us to integrate the Swiss Evangelical Alliance, and work in partnership with Connect MISSIONS, the federation of francophone evangelical missions, which is part of the EEMA.

Once the network was up and running, we turned our attention not only to the needs of missionaries and pastors, but to their families, to those serving in humanitarian organisations, and to the needs of French-speaking TCKs.

In 2004 the RESAM website  was created, allowing people in ministry to access the network’s resources and members, which grew from a handful to over eighty today.

Every year we hold a three-day conference for our members that includes training on a variety of topics related to the care of those in ministry, both in-country and overseas.

Our membership includes counsellors, life coaches, mediators, trainers, debriefers, organisational consultants, supervisors, and spiritual directors. It also includes places where God’s servants can go for rest and retreat.

In terms of membership criteria, our foundational principle is that every member must have the training, competency and experience that matches the service they provide. Simply wanting to help missionaries or pastors is not enough.

The past twenty years have been a wonderful adventure, with an excellent committee and a great network of member care providers. We have gained the trust of the missions, denominations and Christian leaders we are seeking to help and serve. The needs have never been greater, and our desire never stronger.

 

This month’s blogger is Jonathan Ward, President of RESAM, and Director of Assocation Pierres Vivantes, a retreat ministry based in the French Alps.

Copyright © 2015 Member Care Europe.