Caring Through Connection

https://www.imb.org/2019/08/07/caring-missionaries-connection-three-cs/

Caring for Missionaries through Connection: The Three Cs

A perfect illustration of “out of sight, out of mind” is that of the missionary serving overseas. We have heard this refrain many times in our conversations with missionaries in our church’s care ministry. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it this way: “not able to be seen, and so not thought about. Problems in remote places can be out of sight, out of mind for many people.”

Although connection may be one of their biggest desires, it is also one of their biggest challenges. A missionary’s support network usually consists of their family, friends, and church community. These are the people who know and love them and understand their purpose and work. They are key to their well-being on the field.

Paul expressed this same sentiment in his letter to the Philippians when he mentioned being “fully supplied” (Phil. 4:18 HCSB hereafter) and joy in his renewed care (Phil. 4:10). In this way, the dynamics of missionary work have remained the same over the centuries. So church, as much as it depends on us, as we send we must also support, and support means staying connected. Here are three key elements to consider in staying well connected to your missionaries.

Consistency

Your missionary should hear from you on a regular basis. With today’s myriad of communication apps, this is easily done. There is no better encouragement (perhaps outside an actual visit) for a missionary than to receive consistent communication from their support network. Regular contact allows you to get to know your missionary really well, and it provides a level of personal security for them to be vulnerable and share needs.

Make it your goal to be so consistent in your communications that your missionary can echo the words of Paul: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil. 1:3–5) That is the sign of an excellent partnership.

Community

Paul had a reciprocal relationship with the Philippian church that he highly valued, made evident when he said, “because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7).

This kind of relationship between the church and their missionaries can be a challenge, but there are practical, effective ways to make it happen. The following ways are taken in part from Mind the Gaps: Engaging the Church in Missionary Care by David Wilson.

  • Church-wide prayer gatherings
    With your missionary’s permission, include photos, profiles, copies of newsletters, and specific requests from your missionaries and their teams in the field.
  • Short-term mission trips
    Go where your missionary is serving. “As you might imagine, this is where people really discover the real stories from the life of the missionaries and their ministries. When you’re eating, traveling and serving together, it is a great partnership and time of bonding” (Kindle loc. 1471–1474).
  • Care team field visits
    These teams can be incorporated into short-term trips, or they can be separate ventures. “A field visit goes a long way to connect your hearts and build trusting relationships that show them how important they are to us. The visit opens up vistas into the challenges these tough soldiers are facing day to day for our Lord and we see it as critical to bridge the understanding and compassion gaps that can so easily exist with the miles, time, and differences in a foreign country” (Kindle loc. 1353–1354).
  • Introduction
    Have returned missionaries recognized in the worship services. In whatever way you can, make their presence known by putting together faces and names. This will bring them closer to the church community.
  • Care retreats and conferences
    This is an excellent opportunity for your missionaries to return home for a time of connection with the congregation and for rest and restoration. Involve the church community in planning and providing for this special time.
  • Group involvement
    Incorporate your small groups, Sunday school classes, youth groups, etc. Have them consider adopting a missionary. Their efforts do not have to be burdensome. Here are a few things any group can do.

    • Prayers: set aside time for praying for them and their needs each time you meet.
    • Photos: send one of your group.
    • Phone calls and packages: Know their birthdays and anniversaries, send Christmas cards and care packages. Read and reply to their newsletters. Let them know you have sincerely interacted with their lives through the experiences they’ve shared with you.
    • Preparations: if they are returning home for any reason, find out what they need. A welcome basket is always uplifting during this difficult transition period.
    • Participation: include them in your group time (Skype or in person).
  • Church resources
    Churches are usually well-equipped for meeting needs. Examples are access to counseling, housing, transportation, perhaps even a fitness facility. Appeal to the congregation for any professional skills missionaries may need like tax or legal advice.

With Care

Above all, caring through connection means a support network that is a safe place. This requires you to be careful. Many global workers serve in sensitive areas where communication may be monitored. When you have the opportunity, ask your workers the following:

  • What is their preferred method of communication?
  • What is the best time for communication with them?
  • What words should you use or not use so you do not inadvertently put them at risk?

Being a safe place also means a support network that is trustworthy, a place where your worker can be known and accepted. Look to Paul’s letter to the Galatians for how important it is for us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1–5). There should be a few people in the missionary’s circle of support who share a strong, trusting relationship with them. This is so issues related to emotional and spiritual health can be discussed in confidence and additional help on a more professional level can be pursued if there is a need.

Finally, consider holding an information session for anyone who is part of the support network for your missionary community. Training is key for a good missionary care ministry. Use this time to cover the three Cs of caring through connection.

“I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Where Do Returned Global Workers Find Community?

Missionary Care: Providing a Place for Returned Missionaries to Gather

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Cave found at Qumran

Privileged to be a part of this project.

Daniel B. Wallace

My old friend and classmate at Dallas Seminary, Randall Price, was on the expedition that found the first Dead Sea Scrolls cave in over 60 years. Although no manuscripts were discovered, such were apparently there at one time. Thanks, Randy, for your part in this discovery and your continuing labors in archeology! See the article here:

Two other friends, Jeremiah Johnston and Craig A. Evans, sent me a link to a news post they did on this discovery. Here’s the link.

View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rightly Dividing Our Love for Country and Love for the World. Great Read from John Piper: Should Christians Be Patriotic

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/should-christians-be-patriotic

Living among other cultures intensified my love for my own country. But it also clarified the difference between the love I feel for my homeland and the love I have for my brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the world. John Piper’s article adds some valuable perspective for this July 4th weekend.

IMG_2491IMG_1912

 

Posted in Blog Entries, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Read on Diversity from Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Theological Seminary

http://www.dts.edu/read/the-lord-loves-diversity-bailey-mark-l/

boroko farewell

Posted in Blog Entries | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Total Openness: The Wrong Solution (Encouragement: The Unexpected Power of Building Others Up, by Larry Crabb)

Is sharing more than self-centered expression?

Not long ago, my husband and I were traveling in Australia. When Sunday came around, we found a place to worship. The pastor, a guest speaker for the day, was a gifted communicator. He was funny, passionate, knowledgeable…and very open. But his type of openness made me squirm. His illustrations were uncomfortably revealing and sometimes very unflattering reflections about his family, members of his congregation and other influential people who revolved around his sphere of influence. His rhetoric was a strange mix of personal confession and mean sarcasm about his own spiritual immaturity and those he considered less spiritually mature. There was no hint of humility (except for the false kind) and his message was interspersed with a lot of coarse joking. I kept thinking how mortified and hurt I would be if I were the object of a story being told by this pastor to a room full of people. I left feeling discouraged, unsettled, and even a little angry.

We westerners value freedom of expression. That desire to divulge is also evident in church culture. I think that’s what I experienced with this church (along with a heavy emphasis on entertainment). Usually openness is couched with good intentions in order to promote community, authenticity and transparency. I find it especially prevalent in millennials and it’s something I admire. I think it’s evidence of their distaste for hypocrisy. But when does openness become a bad thing?

“When we gather together, we are to experience the reality of our common heritage. But we have cheapened the idea of sharing to the point where sharing now means to exhibit ourselves rather than to demonstrate Christ to one another.” (Encouragement, p. 47)

My worship experience this particular day highlighted some important principles from Encouragement regarding transparency within the body of Christ.

  • Sharing for sharing sake, or to gain the attention and acceptance of others doesn’t always promote spiritual growth. Emotional honesty should take place within the framework of commitment to God and to other’s welfare. This is true koinonia (p. 45).

“Biblical and theological foundations are of little value unless real people in real places come to know and love Jesus in his relationship with “Abba” God as the Way of Life, and that is “life together.” [i]

Openness, authenticity and transparency are all great attributes, but they are better when tempered with sacrifice, self-discipline and obedience. (p. 48)

  • If all we focus on is expression without restraint, our relationships will run shallow, missing the shared spiritual growth that God intends for us. Our relationships require real commitment to enter into the hard areas of life with one another. (p. 48)

“We much catch the idea that time spent with one another can somehow enrich our relationship with Christ, in much the same way that two mature children feel closer to their parents after discussing with each other how much their parents mean to them. Relationships with one another can be enjoyable and fulfilling and they should be. But the basis of our fellowship is our shared life in Christ.” (p. 49)

How can I experience a Christ-centered level of fellowship with all my brothers and sisters in Christ?

  • Never speak hard words to someone or about someone unless your love for that person has formed a vision for who they are to be in Christ. Ask yourself, “Are my feelings for this person generated from love and a pure heart?” “Am I motivated by a desire for them to change for my sake – or for their sake?”
  • Don’t confuse vulnerability and authenticity. Think of them this way:

Define vulnerability as making something known to another with a spirit of entitlement that obligates the other to respond well to your concerns. In other words – Is it all about me?

Define authenticity as making something known to another that reveals where you are on your journey toward Christ-likeness and invites (neither expects nor demands) another to walk together with you toward a mutual goal of maturity.

With those definitions in mind, pursue authenticity, not vulnerability, in what you choose to share. (p. 51)

I don’t really know what motivated this person to be so mean, but it occurred to me that maybe he was preaching from a layer meant to protect him from rejection. I think his efforts to be entertaining were an attempt to be accepted, something we all crave. Sadly, his biting humor and sarcastic jokes came at the expense of his loved ones and those he’s called to shepherd in their Christian walk. The result was that he was the center of attention, not Christ. And that’s the crux isn’t it?

I realized that we all have that weakness, in one way or another. He was no different than you or me. We can be motivated to do and say some crazy things when Christ-likeness takes a back seat to worldly approval. It helps me to remember that the only one I really need to fully express myself to is God Almighty. Expression solely for acceptance is wrongly motivated. (p. 52)

Is Christ-likeness really at the center of my sharing or am I seeking attention, pity or just a place to vent frustration?

We don’t need to be funny, we don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, or the hippest. We don’t need to be an attention-seeking open book. We do need to be aware that we are self-centered creatures living in a fallen body in a fallen world. It colors everything we do and say. But we have the Spirit of the living God who gives us the ability to truly love…to honestly evaluate what others need to hear from us as we seek to build one another up with mutual affection.

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, HCSB)

[i] Icenogle, G. W. (1993). Biblical foundations for small group ministry: an integrative approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Posted in Blog Entries, Devotional Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Surface Community: The Obstacle to Encouragement

Our core emotion

Our core emotion

This week I continue my interaction with Encouragement: The Unexpected Power of Building Others Up, by Larry Crabb.

Before my move to Port Moresby, I gleaned as much information as I could about Papua New Guinea, most of it through the expat grapevine. Even so, nothing really prepared me for my first days in country. I can only describe it as sensory over load. A very experienced expat friend once told me to take special care with my first impressions of any new environment. Those first sights, sounds and smells are irreplaceable. I remember multiple shades of brown skin, the very distinctive and different facial features of the PNG citizens. I loved the expressive timbre of their shared language, Tok Pisin. I was in awe of the incredible beauty of this land.

Our Core Emotion 

But I have to confess; my core emotion was fear. I feared for my physical safety because much of what I’d heard about PNG was filled with warnings about being accosted, carjacked…and just being a woman. I also experienced a fair amount of emotional fear. I was fully aware that I was a stranger in a foreign land, amongst the PNG citizens and the expat community. I felt isolated, alone and scared.

I realized a bit of what it must have felt like when Abram passed through Canaan to Shechem and realized he was looking at a land filled with Canaanites (Genesis 12:5-6). At this point in his journey I wonder if Abram questioned God’s command for him to leave his home, and His promise to make from him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-2). Even with his entourage and all his possessions, I think he must have been terrified. Why? Because fear was his and is our core emotion.

“Before he sinned, Adam enjoyed unbroken communion with God. There were no walls, no distance, no tension. But sin immediately brought terrible consequences. Among them was the presence of a new emotion: fear” (Encouragement, p. 31).

 Our Core Motivation

Fear has dogged us since the fall of humankind. It underlies the stresses of life we face everyday as we struggle with the knowledge that we are, in our fallen condition, unacceptable. Christ’s sacrifice has changed all that of course, but we still think like the “old man”. We have trouble believing that we really are a new creation. We are motivated by a need to be accepted in this world. I think it affects everything we think, do and say.

“From childhood on, as soon as we can translate our feelings into ideas, we approach life with fear of exposure and fear of the rejection we predict will follow” (P. 36).

Our Core Strategy

Our response to our fear of rejection is to hide behind layers of self-protection. These layers manifest themselves as humor, talkativeness, shyness, arrogance, sarcasm, or my favorite, the “know it all” that Dr. Crabb describes on page 30.

“Behind me sat a man who, judging by the loud conversation I had no choice but to hear, is an authority on everything. For an hour his topics ranged from the best price on floor tiles to finding good help in the restaurant business to the quality of nursing care in Florida’s hospitals – and the man had yet to admit ignorance or even a hint of uncertainty about anything” (p. 30).

We’ve all encountered someone like that, right?

The consequence of our layered personalities is that people don’t really get to know us. This is a tragedy, especially within the body of Christ. How can we genuinely encourage one another from layer to layer? We are basically protecting ourselves from each other! Many times we find ourselves relating in a surface community rather than in an honest, authentic, biblical community where we can genuinely minister to one another. Real encouragement cannot take place in a surface community (pg. 42).

We have a God who knows all our fears and all our layers. When Abram faced the land filled with Canaanites, he needed encouragement. God came and encouraged him.

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7, HCSB)

Whatever fears your layers hide may feel just as ominous as facing a land filled with Canaanites. It is truly a hard thing to reveal our vulnerabilities to other people. But to do so is to reveal yourself to another in a way that opens the door for real biblical community. Might we get a veiled glimpse of our future, eternal community?

Can you let God give you the courage to peel off your layers?

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7, HCSB)

Next time – Total openness: The Wrong Solution

Posted in Devotional Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment