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Reflecting on EMCC 2022

Relationships in a world of conflict and chaos

Loving God, your neighbour, yourself, your enemy

 

I am grateful. EMCC-2022 was a wonderful opportunity to connect and reconnect with like-minded member care workers that have been away from each other for far too long. We had a great time together!

The theme for this year’s gathering in Budapest was “Relationships in a world of conflict and chaos: Loving God, your neighbour, yourself, your enemy”, and the invitation stated: “The world seems to be increasingly polarized, with relationships characterized by animosity and divisiveness even in the church and mission. How do we embrace and foster authentically loving and sacrificial relationships in our teams and communities?”

The devotionals were based on Romans 12, and I thought I might share a few snippets in this post, including some of the quotes that were shared.

On loving God, even though we do not always understand him or his ways:

“If knowing answers to life’s questions is absolutely necessary to you, then forget about the journey. You will never make it, for this is a journey of unknowables—of unanswered questions, enigmas, incomprehensibles, and most of all, things unfair. Our challenge is to love Him for what we do see, and trust Him for what we cannot see.” (God at Your Wit’s End, by Marilyn Meberg).

“Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. But trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God. We are always coping with the unknown. Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him… When we fail to trust God, we doubt His sovereignty and we question His goodness. In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense.”  (Trusting God, by Jerry Bridges)

On loving your neighbour, even when he/she is unlovable:

Because God is love, freeing us from hate is high on his agenda. Many people behave as though love were predicated or dependent on agreement. But nowhere in Scripture does it say that loving one another will be an outgrowth of agreeing with one another. Love is an unconditional command.

“Dear Lord, I pray that your Spirit will break through the many barriers that divide nations and people. Let there be unity among us who inhabit this world. Give us the strength to transcend our physical, psychological and cultural differences and recognize that it is your Holy Spirit who unites us by making us all participants in your own divine life.

Let your Spirit open our eyes and ears to your ongoing presence among us. Let us recognize you when we serve each other, work together, and unite our talents to build a better world and usher your kingdom into people’s hearts. Without your Spirit we are powerless, but with and in your Spirit, all things become new. Let your Spirit enter into our hearts so that together we can prepare the day of your glorious return, and praise you, thank you, honour you, and love you, all the days of our lives. Amen.” (A Cry For Mercy, by Henri Nouwen)

On loving your enemy, even though he’s out to get you:

“We who hated and destroyed one another—who would not live with men of a different tribe on account of their differences—now, since the coming of Christ, live in harmony with them. We pray for our enemies and endeavour to reach out to those who hate us and persecute us.” (Justin Martyr, a first century Christian who was killed for his faith by the Romans, describing the early Christian community.)

“Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting. To their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found to be their brethren in all true kindness.” (Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the persecuted Christians in Ephesus in the 2nd century.)

On loving yourself, even though you find it hard, and caring for yourself:

Being attentive to your own legitimate needs to replenish yourself is not an act of selfishness; it’s an act of wisdom and good stewardship, enabling you to be all the more effective in caring for others and meeting their needs.

“My busyness reveals my vanity. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The long hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself—and to all who will notice—that I am important. If I go into a doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good… I live in a society in which crowded schedules and demanding conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop them. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my ego is fed.” (The Contemplative Pastor, by Eugene Peterson)

May God help us as we continually rise to the challenge of loving him, our neighbour, our enemy, and ourselves.

Jonathan Ward


Jonathan Ward is a board member of Member Care Europe, involved in the Federation of Francophone Evangelical Missions and its member care network (www.resam.fr), and he serves at a retreat centre in France dedicated to caring for pastors and cross-cultural workers (www.pierresvivantes.org). He and his wife Rachel were raised on the mission fields of France and Angola respectively. They have three adult children. 

 

Vibrant possessor of hope in a contagious world

In Romania, last month, a 59-year-old engineer came from South Africa and was diagnosed with the new SARS-CoV-2 Omicron. The entire media began to shout and debate. His neighbors are worried that they could become infected with this new strain, especially after they were told that this new mutation of the virus is more contagious. The Romanian man is not allowed by his neighbors to open his window, although he lives upstairs, in a flat. Even the policemen are terrified and when they check on him, the officers are asking him to appear at the window, but without opening it.

It’s hard, it’s confusing, it’s painful, and clearly we are all waiting to see what the future looks like. But it is much more painful to see so many citizens who are alone and ostracized, and to see so much hate between people (even old friends) vaccinated or not vaccinated.

Even though this is not a pleasant view, please allow me to say that it is normal. It is normal to be overwhelmed by solitude, fear, and confusion when there is no hope. It is a normal effect to be hopeless when there is no personal evidence of the “source of hope”. We are all waiting in this dark confusion and expectation that tomorrow will be better, only to realize that for some tomorrow will never come.

Above all that the media and the church pulpit ”profess”, what can we do as possessor of hope? In His honest message, the Lord Jesus told us that in this world we will face trouble (John 16:33). We, His followers, know this, and it shouldn’t surprise us. This would not be a triumphant message except for the fact that Jesus continued by saying: “but take heart! I have overcome the world.
I’ve seen many Christians who lost their hearts: overwhelmed by negative news, social media posts, government regulations and have been caught in useless debates. As Christian, I wonder myself: what should be our attitude? How can our church be a provider of hope?

The Church needs to lift its eyes and realize that we are the possessor of hope. With its passion for Jesus, the church is called to engage in the hopeless world, to open the windows and doors and bring the Good News to its neighbors. The world needs our Good News, right now, and the Church has it because the Church does not lose its heart when trouble comes. We have the promise of our God, which today sounds so real and relevant: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6) May this statement be a reality for His Church today, as we enter the new year 2022, and a light for those who need an open window to hear the Good News of Hope.

 

Rafael Năstase is a missionary who served with his wife Alice, seven years in Republic of Moldova, being involved with Operation Mobilisation (OM) in church planting, discipleship and mobilizing churches for missions. Now he coordinates the church relation department of OM in Romania and is the national member care facilitator. Rafael is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

A whole person with a fragmented heart

For a long time, I felt like I was a different person depending on where I was. There was the Tanzania-Cecilie, who was a Danish missionary kid that liked to spend time outdoors, loved to read and tried to do everything perfect in school in order to be an honor student. There was also the Denmark-Cecilie who loved spending time with her extended family, and who was called “the White Tanzanian”. This Cecilie loved to shop, didn’t care that much about school, was very insecure about herself and would rather spend time with family than peers. Sometimes the States-Cecilie made an appearance and reminded me of the years we spend there, but as we never went back, she wasn’t very prominent.

Whatever country I was in, usually defined which Cecilie had the lead. Sometimes the other Cecilie could make a guest appearance if the subject of conversation brought her out, but most of the time she was very far away. In fact, at times I wondered whether the “other” Cecilie and her experiences were real or just dreams that felt like memories, because she felt so distant. This was especially apparent when I, at 16, moved back to Denmark and my family stayed behind. Sitting in my room and looking at pictures on the wall of Tanzania-Cecilie and her friends, was almost confusing because she felt so far away from the Denmark-Cecilie who felt lost and who didn’t really know what her place in Denmark was going to be. Even years after the move, when Denmark had become more familiar, and when Tanzania-Cecilie was more distant, I could find myself thinking of my “Tanzanian memories” and wondering whether they actually happened.

Of course, I knew with my intellect that this was not the case, but in many ways my life-story felt fragmented and there was very little overlap between the two worlds that the majority of my life had been spend in. Obviously, the contexts were completely different; one had rain season and dry season, the other had four seasons. One had a house with mosquito-nets on the windows and banana trees in the back yard, the other had apple trees and radiators. One had malaria and stomach infections, the other had colds and flues. One had Land Rovers and school uniforms, the other had bikes and the stress of picking out outfits each morning. One had English and Swahili, the other Danish. One had an international ever-changing community and the other was made up of people that had known each other for most of their lives. On top of this, the only people in two worlds that overlapped was my family, and another missionary family that we saw once in a while. When they visited, Tanzania-Cecilie thrived.

I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Tanzania-Cecilies life had also been difficult in many aspects, and that it had been easier for Denmark-Cecilie to make friends, but I still missed the confidence and purpose that Tanzania-Cecilie had experienced. When people heard that I used to live in Tanzania, many exclaimed excitedly: “Wow, really? How exciting!” But deep down, I almost doubted that my memories were real, and it was painful to talk about aspects of my life that I desperately missed and that felt like they didn’t fit into Denmark-Cecilie.

In Aaron Antonovsky (1980) theory of resilience, “a sense of coherence” is the most important asset when faced with difficult circumstances. According to Antonovsky (1980) this “sense of coherence” comes from an experience that life is comprehensive, manageable and meaningful. In working with Third Culture Kids (TCKs) comprehensiveness could be operationalized as being prepared for transitions, being able to understand ongoing processes and being able to understand own feelings and reactions. Manageability in the lives of TCKs could involve the ability to regulate and express thoughts and feelings in safe relationships, to grieve, keep in contact and to have constructive coping strategies. Lastly meaningfulness could be strengthened through the development of a strong sense of personal narrative and a congruence of who they are across cultures. It could also be through integrating and reflecting on life experiences, Lastly the meaningfulness of the children’s life experiences could be strengthened by having a resource focused view and by letting them experience that the sharing of their own stories can help others (Antonovsky, 1980).

When I first read the theory of Antonovsky (1980) it resonated very well with the way my childhood experiences slowly went from being fragmented pieces of different Cecilies to being a whole Cecilie with different experiences. It wasn’t something that came overnight, but slowly different things helped the process along. The first step was meeting other TCKs and hearing how their stories were similar to mine, despite the fact that the factual events in their lives often were very different. I think this helped me understand my own feelings in a different way, because I could see my own reactions reflected in the other TCKs.

Another thing that helped along the way, was living in Ethiopia during one of my gap years. Getting to experience transcultural transition as an adult gave me a better understanding of this process and it allowed to simultaneously try out more constructive coping mechanisms and grieve for everything that I had lost when I left my home in Tanzania. In fact, in some ways the grief that I felt when leaving Ethiopia, melted into the grief that I had felt as a teenager, when I left my home and my identity behind. I was also able to meet up with a couple that were very important to me during my years in Tanzania. I remember feeling that I had found a piece of myself in meeting them, and that seeing them in another context than Tanzania, helped integrate a part of Tanzania-Cecilie into Denmark-Cecilie, and made my sense of self a bit more congruent than it was before.

Lastly the thing that has probably had the biggest impact on my journey of coherence has been getting to work with TCKs. I have been lucky enough to be a co-therapist in a TCK-group, where newly returned TCKs could come and share their stories, and feel heard, seen and recognized. In speaking with these children and in helping them make sense of their personal narratives, I many times felt like I was speaking to Tanzania-Cecilie and allowing her to become a part of Denmark-Cecilie. Being able to use these experiences, that have been so incredibly hard and yet so incredibly good, to help others has in many ways helped piece my own story into a more whole narrative. A narrative where there is room for all the places and people and experiences that life as a TCK brings.

In a guide that we at Center for Familieudvikling have developed to help children when they return to Denmark, it says: “Remember that who you are doesn’t depend on where you’re from. You can be a whole person even though your heart is divided over all the places on the earth that you’ve called home. You can have more than one home and more than one homeland.” Some days this is harder to believe than others, but in many ways, I am thankful to be able to say that although my heart and my story is spread in different places of the world, I still feel like all of it is my heart and my story.

 

Cecilie Malmgaard Jensen is a psychologist, a Member Care worker in Denmark, and an Adult Third Culture Kid who spend her teenage years living in Tanzania.

 

 

 

Images are from unsplash.com: 1 – Hendrik Ccornelissen, 2 – Febiyan , 3 – Sammy Wong

The Critical Journey

In the July article “Hartmut Wacker: When vocation gets into a crisis…“, we were presented with some “food for thoughts” on the theme of suffering – or rather how we process and cope with suffering.

The short summary of a survey where missionaries share resources that helped them to cope, inspired me to reflect on my own experience and the experience that many missionaries and missionary candidates go through these days. At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak many were told to leave their place of service. For some, the time since then has been a prolonged period of uncertainty, unfulfilled dreams and expectations, a high degree of ambiguity: Can I go back or not? When can it happen? What to do in the meantime? Others have had similar problems like waiting for delayed papers, facing new visa restrictions, health problems or sudden development of conflict, like the Afghan crises.

Earlier this summer I discovered a book called “The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith” by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich.

In this book, a third stage is described as “the doing” stage. It is a time in life when we are working for God, being productive in his service. It is usually a very active phase on our faith journey. It is a time of responsibility, authority, recognition, titles, and often praise from others. Several of the missionaries who were sent back were probably in this productive stage of life. A good place to be. But then in the next stage we may experience external events or internal conflicts that lead us out of this productive place, and into a time of questioning and doubt. The focus is no longer our service for God, but God himself and our relationship with him. This is a battle between God and the individual, an inner journey when we struggle with questions to God and about God, as well as inner struggles with our own hurt and disappointments. It is a struggle that God allows for a purpose.

In the July article Hartmut Wacker describes this as a time of ambiguity, a time when we experience the tension between faith and doubt, trust and disappointment. It was pointed out that how we view God is a crucial factor at this stage of our faith journey. The struggle can lead to a time of spiritual failure, of giving up, but it can also become “the breeding ground for spiritual growth”. The strongest resilience factor was to be able to trust that God is in control, that He is a faithful, loving and caring God even when we do not feel like it or do not get the answers we are longing for. Experiencing His love and care in the midst of difficulties is not something we can learn academically; it is learned through real life experience.

In the survey, some missionaries pointed to the importance of “extraordinary spiritual experiences” they’ve experienced before, during or after the traumatic event. It is a personal experience when we just know that God is there, that He is real and cares for us personally and intimately.

This has also been my personal experience. Hearing God speak, recognizing His inner dealings, receiving words of knowledge through others, was the deepest and most helpful support to me at a time when I had to leave the place of service because of illness and through a prolonged time of recovery. When God and His goodness and kindness become the center, it is easier to accept His direction even if it means redirection for us. Because we trust Him and His power, we can look to the future with hope and expectation. And – as described in The Critical Journey – our service may be more fruitful because we learn to serve in dependence on Him, under His direction, rather than for Him.

 

Reidun Haugen Dalseth is a board member of Member Care Europe and of mission boards in Norway. She is thankful for the opportunity to mentor/coach missionaries serving in many countries through different net-based platforms.

When vocation gets into a crisis…

In October 2020, German member care had their meeting online. The main topic was to discuss why young people return from the mission field before their term is over or will not return to the mission field after furlough.

Hartmut Wacker, who is on the German core team, allowed me to share his presentation.

Case study

A young family moves to an African country with the goal of working in church ministry there for an extended period of time. They had independently received the call to missionary service and met each other during their Bible school education. After marriage and intensive preparation, they left the country. In the first months after their arrival, the country went through a tumultuous political period – presidential elections were coming up. The everyday life of the foreigners was restricted. During this time, they had a traumatic experience when they unexpectedly got caught in a violent demonstration. They remained outwardly unharmed, but the woman suffered a great loss of confidence in the local community. During the years of the first term, the husband experienced fulfilment in his service while his wife repeatedly struggled with health problems. After the first term, medical examinations in Germany revealed that, unfortunately, leaving the country again was out of the question.

External circumstances played a role here, as did personal factors in one of the partners. This triggered an intense struggle with God about the question of vocation, but also a struggle with themselves and their partner.

We cannot point out all the areas that belong to the holistic coming to terms with this particular form of suffering experience today. I would like to focus my attention on the theological “beliefs”, that have been shaken by the experience and look for reorientation.

The question before us is: how can we provide assistance in this particular crisis, and how can new missionaries be prepared for such particular situations of suffering during their preparation time?

There are no ready-made solutions. Rather, from the wealth of experience of missionaries who have lived through different experiences of suffering, I would like to offer various food for thought for discussion, which – in my view – can be helpful for a personal (re)formulation of a theology of suffering.

Initiating a discussion for a theology of suffering

An empirical study of mine, which dealt with the resources of missionaries in coping with experiences of suffering, has led to interesting results. I describe them as perspectives from which individual aspects of their personal journey have been interpreted and processed.

The perspective of the inevitability of suffering

No one expected Christians to live a life free of suffering and pain. In some cases, their own suffering was even relativized in comparison to the suffering of others in the host culture. Or the view turned to the question of whether good could not also come from one’s own suffering. The most serious conflicts with God were among those whose service and calling were called into question by the event. Suffering yes, but why did it have to lead to the termination of ministry?

The perspective of a God who has all situations in his hands

This reflects faith in the omnipotence of God. Nothing happens where he does not have control. This comes across as comforting rather than threatening: “My life is in his hands, even though he has led me into this situation of suffering.”

The perspective of God’s love and care

A great trust in God’s love and care “for better or for worse” proved to be the strongest resilience factor in the crisis. This trust was formed in childhood and adolescence through credible role models in the parental home or in the community. But also previously experienced and survived crises in one’s own biography were found to be particularly helpful. Sermons or one’s own Bible school education were cited as less helpful or not helpful at all.

The perspective of ambiguity

This perspective refers to the ability to bear the tension between faith and doubt, between trust and disappointment. God’s actions are not always understandable from our perspective, but are sometimes even contradictory. Not only enduring such situations passively over a longer period of time, but also actively dealing with these questions can be the breeding ground for spiritual growth, but also spiritual failure.

The perspective of growing in times of suffering

All report their own spiritual growth, albeit in very different degrees and in different areas of life. The practical help from many known and unknown Christians, for example, strengthened the appreciation for the uniqueness of the worldwide church of Jesus.

The perspective of extraordinary spiritual experience

The survey brought to light another interesting resource. It refers to experiences described by a part of the respondents as “extraordinary spiritual experiences” that they experienced before, during or after the traumatic event.  This event was perceived as an immediate support by the Holy Spirit. When faced with difficult situations, Christians must not only count on their own personal resources and the support of other people, but they can count on the powerful presence of God, who can bring light and hope to a crisis situation in an extraordinary way.

 

Renate is a member of the board of Member Care Europe and works for the Association of Evangelical missions in Germany that hosts among other conferences, the German Member Care meetings. She is assistant to the CEO.

How bridges relate to Member Care

During the difficult lockdown days that many countries (especially in Europe) continued to endure this spring, my organization required us to take at least a half-day retreat somewhere in our city, find a bridge and reflect on its significance.

As I found my bridge in a beautiful park in my city of Genova, Italy, I made the following observations about bridges:

  • Bridges are often used to cross or overcome an obstacle
  • Are often the fastest means to get from point A to point B
  • To cross a bridge can often be scary (water, fear of heights, high winds, instability, etc.)
  • Crossing a bridge also involves trust, not only in the engineering, but also in the foundation
  • Bridges require maintenance and attention
  • Bridges can be diverse and innovative
  • And finally, bridges add perspective, allowing one to see things from a different point of view

So how do bridges relate to Member Care?

In the past year, I have debriefed numerous people working in dynamic and often volatile teams of both married and single people. The thing that everyone had in common was that first of all, they all have struggled in some way or another during the Covid-19 pandemic, and second, all felt that others on the team have failed to understand or acknowledge their life situations.

Some who are single talked about feelings of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic and frustration that their organizations and teams didn’t offer more support during difficult lockdown days. In contrast, other singles felt that because they are used to managing on their own, they were better equipped not only to deal with government restrictions and quarantine, but also available to offer support and care to those who needed it the most during lockdown. But what the singles DID have in common was that all felt that their married colleagues need to learn more about how to be sensitive to the needs and struggles of singles.

One young single woman (permission granted to share her story) serving in a closed-access country offered an interesting example of the conflict and misunderstandings that can occur between single and married colleagues. During a mandatory hostage training course that her team participated in, her team went through a simulation in which kidnappers asked for a person to be offered as ransom. This particular woman was both hurt and shocked that her team said she should offer herself up as ransom in order to save the other members of the team because she is not married and doesn’t have to look out for a family. Moreover, she was shamed into thinking she was selfish for not offering herself voluntarily. Clearly her team had a lot to unpack, debrief, and reconcile.

Other single inter-cultural workers have often talked about how their married counterparts often ask them to babysit because “obviously being single means you have more time on your hand,” or “don’t lose heart, God is your husband,” to which a close friend of mine says, “No, God is not my husband, He is my Lord and Saviour!” And finally, singles often hear not only from teammates, but also supporters and churches, “we are praying for you to find a spouse,” to which singles might say, “that’s funny, I never asked for you to pray about that.”

But what about teammates who are married? Many married people have shared that this past year added a whole new level of stress on their marriage. Why? Because they were forced to spend 24 hours a day together with no break. I have heard one married person say, “Although I love my wife, I envy those who are single during Covid who at least get some time to themselves.” Cases of domestic abuse have also been on the rise during the pandemic due to added stress and married people feeling that they are living on top of each other at times.

I have also heard married people express that single people often fail to recognize the individuality and/or unique personality of each spouse. Simply put, Sarah and Abraham, while a unit, are clearly also two different people and personalities.

Interestingly, I have heard singles and married people both complain about a particular rule married people may have, albeit from different perspectives.  Many of us know of married couples who have a rule not to ever be in a room together alone with someone of the opposite sex.  I have heard married cross-cultural workers complain about their single teammates who they feel have not respected or perhaps have interfered in this rule.  However, I have heard singles address this same rule by saying, “married teammates who have this rule need to understand how such a rule inadvertently affects single people.”

Perspective!

Finally, I personally have seen both sides of the bridge, so to speak, because both my wife and I spent half of our adult cross-cultural life as both single and married.  We both have heard teammates and other Christian workers say to us AFTER we got married, “you have finally arrived” or “your spouse really completes you.”  It makes one think, geesh, what did they really think of me when I was single?  And no, it is not correct to say “My better-half, or my husband or wife completes me.” We need to all think about what our words mean and their impact, and even more so, their theological ramifications. No, our spouses don’t complete us (though they certainly can and should complement us); we are ALL COMPLETE in Christ.

What is needed and what is the Member Care lesson? Build a bridge, cross the bridge, and look at life, experiences, and the view from the other side. Building and crossing that bridge involves trust, innovation, creativity but offers our teams stability, perspective and efficiency. Both married and single teammates suffer from loneliness, being misunderstood, and feeling frustrated. But if they are willing to build a bridge and work together, beautiful things can be done collectively for the Kingdom!

*Recommended Reading:

  1. Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life by Barry Danylak
  2. Single Mission by Debbie Hawker & Tim Herbert
  3. Married in Mission: A Handbook for Couples in Cross-Cultural Service by Alexis C. Kenny

 

Mihai Lundell is a member of the board of Member Care Europe and a mission worker providing member care in Italy with OCI.

Contributions to mission worker resilience during Covid-19

As we are now well over a year into Covid-19 and for some of us the disruption and turmoil seem no closer to ending, I’d like to share some observations on our joint experience.

It seems to me (to make a subjective observation that is not robust or scientifically-based) that mission workers have, on the whole, coped with the challenges of the last 15 months with less obvious trauma than the average Christian, despite the difficulties of often being away from home for extended periods, not being in the same country as their children, or grappling with the fact that our comparative wealth gives us more options than the local people we work with.

If we have fared better throughout this crisis, what are some of the reasons?

Mission workers are already accustomed to change and turmoil.  Many of us will previously have had to move country rapidly for security or visa reasons; some of us live with an evacuation bag already packed.  We’re used to not seeing loved ones in person sometimes for years at a time.  And some of the challenges faced by the rest of the population, like home schooling or working from home, may be things we are doing already.

We have a sense of vocation which pulls us through difficult times.  Our activities may have been disrupted but we still have a sense of calling to a particular place, people group or activity which provides us with a sense of purpose and direction in difficult times.

We expect life to bring challenges.  Whether we were trained to expect difficulties, or have simply got used to dealing with them along the way, we have a theology of suffering.  We have experienced the doors closed to mission and know first-hand the risks of international mission.  So when we encounter another major challenge, it’s more like a huge pothole than the road ahead being completely destroyed.

We have good support mechanisms.  Most Christians do not have their own support groups, churches praying for them regularly, or prayer groups.  Most people don’t circulate a monthly prayer letter.  They don’t have a member care department checking in with them regularly.  We are blessed to have so many people actively praying for, supporting and encouraging each of us.

We have constructive working relationships (most of the time!)  Part of our role in being a ‘professional’ Christian is that we pray with our co-workers, expect discussion of our spiritual life to be normal, and regularly study the Bible or discuss theology as part of our work or fellowship.  This means we are constantly engaging with God, or with others about God, in our daily lives.  Our leadership is expected to take an interest in our spiritual wellbeing and may even be proactive in supporting us or holding us accountable.

It’s easy for us to forget that most Christians live and work in a largely secular context devoid of the sort of support and encouragement that we receive.  So how do we, who continue to receive so much in the midst of the current difficulties, help the rest of the church benefit from the structures, supports and relationships that are so important for helping us thrive through the adversities we experience?

It would be helpful to have feedback from our readers who are mission workers, to know what has worked to help you during Covid-19, or what help you would have liked but didn’t receive.  Email us on webmaster@membercare.eu or engage with us through social media links.

 

Tim Herbert is the founder of Syzygy Missions Support Network and provides practical and pastoral support to mission workers.  This blog originally appeared on the Syzygy website as part of a series on issues thrown up by Covid-19 and is reproduced here with permission.