Together we can provide excellent missionary care.
I am often asked what I do at SIM, and when I reply, “I am part of a team that gets to care for our missionary workers,” the person asking the question typically responds, “You have a team of people that care for your missionary workers?” Yes, we do!
So how can churches and mission-sending agencies work together to care well for their shared people?
A good starting point is acknowledging that we need each other. At SIM USA we recruit, prepare, and journey with Christians sent by churches to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ where needed most. My team and I are each sent by our local churches to serve people sent by other U.S. churches to participate in God’s Great Commission. One crucial facet of caring for missionaries is a collaboration between the mission-sending agency and the sending church.
Missionary care matters to God.
People matter. Tasks, goals, outcomes, and all the rest will come and go, but people are eternal and how we treat them matters. SIM was founded in 1893 because there were people then—and now—who live and die without hearing God’s good news. We partner with churches across the country to send people to share God’s good news, and we are committed to doing our part to care for those serving in cross-cultural ministry.
Partnering with churches to care for missionaries sent by churches.
Most mission-sending agencies help churches with practical aspects of sending workers (readiness assessments, financial requirements and processing, donor care, preparation, training, visas, insurance, health considerations and vaccinations, housing, education options, etc.). SIM USA and other mission-sending agencies also partner with each worker’s church to help the people we care about thrive in their ministry and cross-cultural ministry location. Missionary care is a priority for SIM USA as we partner with churches sending missionaries.
Why specialized care for missionaries is essential.
Missionary care is a vital ministry. Because serving in cross-cultural ministry settings exposes individuals and families to challenges not typically experienced in one’s familiar location, specialized care for these missionaries is essential. Global workers leave behind a network of family and friends, holidays, and ways and rhythms of life to encounter new people, customs, and rhythms. What was comfortably routine is now a completely different experience. It takes time to build routines. Because of this, for a long season, everything requires 100% of the worker’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive reserves. Every sound, circumstance, and minute of every day requires awareness, vigilance, and processing. Add to that the challenges of intercultural communication with the people they are there to serve and the multicultural people on their teams. Living in a new culture can be exhausting, but it is worth it! Specialized missionary care is crucial for the people’s health and the ministry’s well-being.
Because of these unique challenges, many mission-sending agencies have people committed to providing emotional and spiritual support to their workers. Effective care facilitators have served overseas in one location for several years, struggled to learn the language and customs, and have experienced the joys and sorrows of living in that new culture. They are trustworthy people committed to listening well and safeguarding confidentiality. Many SIM practitioners of missionary care have received training in coaching, debriefing, stress assessment, trauma healing, grief, spiritual warfare, risk mitigation, burnout, and depression.
How can SIM help the church care for missionaries?
Keeping the lines of communication open between the missionary, the sending church, and the missions-sending agency is critical.
- Trusting Relationships:
When church representatives and the missions-sending agency build trusting relationships, coordinated help and care for missionaries is optimized.
- Coordination of Care:
Each organization is vital in caring for individuals or families in cross-cultural ministry. The church may bring a more personal insight, and the missions-sending agency brings cultural, team and ministry information that helps all involved.
SIM USA is available to recommend resources, debrief new situations, and partner with churches as they navigate caring well for their missionaries.
Communication is key in coordinating care for missionaries.
The first crucial facet of care collaboration is the commitment to communicate. Find out if your missionaries’ sending agency has a care facilitation team, and if they do, cultivate a relationship with their care facilitator. Appropriate information shared promptly is valuable for the workers’ care. Knowing their home church and agency are aware of specific needs or concerns reminds them that they are not alone in what they do. Of course, the workers need to know about organizational collaboration and agree to share information.
SIM USA care facilitators provide initiatives that promote resilience, effectiveness, and renewal in the life and work of our cross-cultural members and their families so they may flourish spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and relationally as they serve with SIM. We take a holistic approach, recognizing that a person’s well-being is affected by their emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, occupational, financial, physical, and environmental contexts. We spend a LOT of time each week connecting with workers via email, Zoom, or in person.
Excellent missionary care is not complete without the church.
We also recognize that no individual care facilitator can provide everything needed. Still, by working on a team that values local church involvement, we can draw from our colleagues’ experiences and strengths to meaningfully come alongside the people entrusted to us. We are available to our workers’ churches and liaise with them as requested or needed as we journey with the people they send, and we both have responsibility for and love.
An excellent resource is Well Sent: Reimagining The Church’s Missionary Sending Process by Steve Beirn and George Murray (CLC Publications, 2015). Agencies alone cannot provide the breadth of emotional and spiritual care our shared people need, and missionary agencies can help provide a broader perspective to local churches. Inviting a care facilitator to overview your global workers’ unique cultural and emotional challenges will enable the home team to pray with greater understanding.
A positive byproduct of expanding cultural understanding may also be an increased awareness and acceptance of immigrants blending into American society. Many American Christians are generally unaware of the challenges faced by global workers. Recommended books are David Livermore’s Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World (Baker Academic, 2009) or Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions With Cultural Intelligence (Zondervan, 2012).
Contact us today to learn how SIM USA can partner with you to send more workers. Connect with us.
Deputy Director, Member Care
Bob is a Third Culture Kid born in Nigeria to SIM missionary parents. He and his wife, Amy, served for over a decade with another agency as church planters in Japan before joining SIM in 2004. Bob has cared for global workers in a variety of ways since 1992.