Archives for : reflection

What’s in YOUR “Go Bag”?

In the past two years, we have seen the world go through unbelievable pain and anguish that have left many people displaced, cities destroyed, and people’s homes turned into public grave yards. For sure, this is not the first time that we are seeing massive amounts of refugees searching for a new life in a foreign land, nor will it be the last. Yet, for me personally, the last months have been remarkably difficult.

In August last year I learned of friends of mine working in Afghanistan who were beheaded by the Taliban in a public square for their faith as they were not able to get to the Kabul Airport (hundreds of kilometers away) without first being interrogated and targeted at check points that ultimately led to their death. Then news came of people I had debriefed on numerous occasions who were massacred in an attack on an underground church shortly after the Americans left the country.

In January, my wife was stranded in Stockholm, Sweden due to a positive PCR Covid test prior to our flight home to Italy, which required her to remain in quarantine an extra week. Expensive for sure, but even more costly was the fact that her father died during this time and quarantine prevented her from being able to fly home and say a last goodbye to her dad before he went home to the Lord.

Since February, I have been debriefing and helping Ukrainian families going through trauma, transition, grief, (pretty much you could name anything). My wife and I have had the opportunity to house refugees in our home and listen to their stories and see the pictures of total devastation that they had to leave behind. Seeing the images and hearing the personal stories is heavy on the heart.

Yet, there is something that connects all of these tragedies: a backpack, a suitcase, or what others would term: The GO BAG!

Many of us in Member Care are familiar with this term/idea of the “Go Bag.” In the simplest of terms, the “Go Bag” is what one packs and has at the ready to leave in an instant. Therefore, the “Go Bag” is full of the bare essentials. For refugees, it may be the only thing left one can take from their homeland. For people like my wife, it may be the only keepsakes, pictures, books (in her case her father’s Bible with his handwritten notes), etc., that she has of her father before donating his things or selling a house.

As I work with these diverse groups of people going through trauma, whether children or adults, I often have them bring their “Go Bag” and talk about why they chose those particular items.  Every person is different. Some people pack what one might think: several shirts, underwear, toiletries, a few pictures, socks, shoes, etc. Others pack the bag full of things that some may find interesting or even useless:  ceramics, games, toys, favorite food spices, etc.  One mother had a zip-loc bag of a dried-up flower and others with dirt. When I asked her why she chose that for her “Go Bag” she said, “I don’t want to forget the smells of where I came from.”

So, what are common themes that people put in their “Go Bag”?

  • Heirlooms, memories and keepsakes: for many people, they may never have the opportunity to go back to where they came from. Packing something that brings back a memory, a smile or preserves their heritage in some manner is very important. These could be deeply personal: a handmade card that a child made when he or she was a little kid. It could be a sport’s trophy. For one young boy, it was his mother’s famous Lasagna recipe. Everyone is different.
  • Something Patriotic: nearly every Ukrainian I have worked with has packed a Ukrainian flag. Why? Because they tell me they have no idea if their country will be identified by a new flag. Others have preserved and packed CD’s, records and other recordings of music. A Moldovan I work with who fears Russian aggression is imminent tells me he is going to pack a traditional Moldovan folk costume.
  • Documents: no not just passports, but birth-certificates with official stamps and emblems, family-trees. Others pack old maps and official geographical documents showing that yes, Ukraine, or Syria or Sudan exist, or at least existed on a map. One Italian has preserved a copy of the first constitution of Italy once the many kingdoms of Italy were united into one country.
  • Essentials: clearly a displaced person has no idea how long the journey will last, so obviously, many people pack clothing, toiletries, etc. But as one talks to displaced people, one finds that the definition of what is or is not “essential” is highly subjective.

Asking people about their “Go Bags” is a way to encourage and foster discussion, healing, understanding and reflection for those experiencing immense grief. It’s a great ice-breaker for trauma and grief counseling both for children and adults, but one should be prepared that many, if not most, of the recounting of these stories will be painful, deeply personal, and overwhelmingly emotional.

So, what’s in YOUR “Go Bag”?


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

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 (, and he serves at a retreat centre in France dedicated to caring for pastors and cross-cultural workers ( He and his wife Rachel were raised on the mission fields of France and Angola respectively. They have three adult children.