Due to the over use of the term "missionary" within churches today we have elected to use the term "cross cultural worker" throughout the following pages to define the person God has called from your church to serve Him in a cross cultural setting or in a role that supports such people.
This Section is a general overview answering some of the basic questions of cross cultural workers' member care. Cross cultural workers, their supporters and their sending churches will be able to benefit from it.
Member Care is a combination of both pastoral care and personal development. It is the ongoing investment of resources by churches and agencies for the nurture and development of missionary personnel done over the course of the cross cultural workers' life span.
Member Care involves the following:
Master Care – Care from and care for the Master – the “heart” of member care.
A deep personal relationship with God through Christ is essential. The cross cultural worker must be reliant upon him first and foremost.
Self and Mutual Care – Care for oneself and from relationships within the expatriate, home and national communities – the “backbone” of member care. Cross cultural workers are responsible to monitor their wellbeing - spiritual, mental and emotional health, personal development and close relationships. Both seeking and giving help from team, friends and family.
Sender Care – Care from the sending church for their cross cultural worker from recruitment through retirement - “sustainers” of member care. In partnership, church and agency have a responsibility to ensure appropriate care and personal growth are taking place.
Specialist Care – Care from specialists which is professional, personal and practical - “equippers” of member care. Cross cultural workers may require culturally relevant attention from a medical professional, counselor, and/or educational specialist.
Network Care – Care from international member care networks to help provide and develop strategic, supportive resources - “facilitators” of member care.
Doing Member Care Well: Ed Kelly O'Donnell 2002 pg 17-18
We have seen that we all are responsible in some varying degree in the care of the cross cultural workers we send out, whether we are a church, mission agency, family or a specialist at sometime in some way we have a part to play in the overall care of cross cultural workers.
If a church sends out a cross cultural worker through a mission agency then both the church and agency are to co-operate together to support cross cultural workers throughout their entire life – from candidate to retirement.
It's a partnership of all concerned to develop, agree to and implement a member care program that will have at its focus the total wellbeing of the cross cultural worker. Each of us has areas of uniqueness and expertise that need to work in unison in order to achieve our aims.
Cross cultural workers as people are our most valuable resource for taking the Gospel to peoples who have not yet heard. There are many traps and pitfalls along the road that determine how well and for how long these people stay on the field. It is for this reason that the church and mission agency need to work together to provide the commitment, compassionate care and supportive resources for the cross cultural workers we send out.
The book “Serving as Senders” says it this way: “Today no cross-cultural worker should leave home without a committed, strong, integrated, educated, knowledgeable, excited-as-he-is, active team of people who have committed themselves to the work of serving as senders.” pg 21
God designed us to be in relationships with him and with others. Only when man tried to go it alone did things go wrong. Christ came to restore broken relationships broken by mankind's independent attitudes.
The Bible doesn't speak about individual Christianity. Instead, as members of the body of Christ we are interdependent on each other to survive, grow and function. This interdependence is especially pertinent for cross cultural church planters who work in the least reached parts of the world.
This kind of interdependence is seen in several parts of the New Testament.
In Luke 8:3 we read that people out of their commitment and love for Jesus were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
In Acts (11:29, 13:1-3, 14:26-28) the Antioch church sent, supported, provided resources to those in need, and welcomed home Paul and Barnabas.
In Philippians (1:3-6, 4:10-20) the church supported Paul in the ministry he was doing. In Paul's view it was a partnership between himself and the church.
The cross cultural worker is dependent on God and the sending church for the support they need. Caring for those sent is a natural outflow of the pastoral care that the church provides to all its members.
Other Scriptural References:
1 Tim. 5:8
1 Cor. 10:24
1 Pet 5:2-3
The following is one example only of a Missions Committee. Obviously your church will come up with its unique vision, strategies and goals.
A select group of people from within the church who have a passion to see the fulfillment of the Great Commission through reaching the lost people of the world and seeing churches planted.
All efforts are done in obedience to and support of the Great Commission, as found in Matthew 28:19-20:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Rather than having a shot gun approach to caring and supporting your cross cultural worker, why not organise Care Groups who adopt a cross cultural worker. In this way it is not left up to individuals but rather it is a team effort to keep in contact, share information, pray and generally be the support base for your church planter.
Such a group could come into being through existing Home/Bible study groups or more significantly the cross cultural worker working together with the missions pastor or committee to select people they know, trust and value. If the group is based on already established relationships the relationship will hopefully continue despite the distance and separation over a long period of time.
The role of the group will vary depending on the needs of the cross cultural worker and the giftings of the Care Group members.
As we partner with each other and other supporting churches it is hoped that the cross cultural worker will receive the level of care and support they need while overseas, on home leave or whatever stage they are at in their career.
Before the cross cultural worker leaves;
While the cross cultural worker is overseas;
When the cross cultural worker visits Australia;
This how to guide will help you care for your cross cultural worker when they are preparing to go to the field for cross cultural missions.
During training and preparation a cross cultural worker can often feel in no mans land.
It is good if they know of their sending church's enthusiasm, passion and excitement about their upcoming cross cultural ministry.
So, here are a few suggestions for how a sending church can provide support during this phase:
When preparing to relocate to another country the cross cultural worker has a lot to organise. The specific needs depend on the country to which they are going and the individual circumstances but following is a list of possibilities.
A good send off
In Acts 13 we read that the Antioch Church sent Paul and Barnabas off by fasting, praying and then laying hands on them, commissioning them to fulfill the work into which the Holy Spirit called them.
So, following this practice the sending church today can hold a commissioning service. This confirms to the cross cultural worker and the church that they are in partnership with each other in taking the Gospel to the unreached people groups of the world.
An article from a missions magazine suggests the following:
“An important aspect of the pre field experience is the opportunity for proper farewells. The commissioning of [cross cultural workers] is an important step in the process, but often the less formal aspects of departure are just as critical. Being certain that a 'RAFT' is built to help one get to the new location is important.
“Reconciliation of any unresolved conflicts as much as possible is the first section of the transition raft.
“Affirmations are next, for both the departing and the remaining in order to express appreciation to each other. The Farewells from family, friends, and body of believers need to be done at different times and in culturally appropriate ways, and these represent the third part of the raft.
“Finally, key to leaving and entering is the exercise of thinking about one’s destination: developing expectations that are both realistic and positive will minimise disappointment and enhance resilience. Friends and family are especially important caregivers at this time.”
WEA Missions Commission – Connections February 2003 Issue pg 15
There are a number of tips for caring for your cross cultural worker while they are engaged in ministry.
Prayer is an important way to support and care for cross cultural workers. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that our fight is a spiritual one (6:12) and we should 'pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.' Paul goes on in verses 19 and 20 to give some guidelines for praying for those taking the Gospel to those who have not heard. He asks people to pray that:
These are excellent things to pray for your cross cultural worker.
To make those prayers more specific, up to date information is important. The following may be ways in which you can get current news from your cross cultural worker.
Once you've got that information flowing, consider the following
Be selective. It is impossible to pray in-depth for everyone and everything. Be selective and concentrate on those special to you or on issues you sense God is leading you to pray.
Know the agency. If your cross cultural worker is serving with a agency like WEC International it would be helpful to know what they do and how they operate.
Understand the ministry. Knowing exactly what the cross cultural worker is doing, the type of ministry, what involvement they have and what issues are involved are important if you are to pray directly into their situation.
Recognise the factors that hinder effective ministry.
There are many factors that can be discouraging. Here are some:
Pray that the cross cultural worker will know their authority over Satan. It is essential that they stay alert to the spiritual fight they are in and know their authority in Christ to overcome any temptation or attack.
Pray for spiritual vitality. A key to victory is the cross cultural worker's own personal walk with the Lord. A big danger for any cross cultural worker is spiritual dryness.
Pray for physical vitality. Overwork due to the lack of personnel and not taking time out is potentially a factor that might have physical repercussions. Pray that they will recognise the danger signals before it is too late. Pray too for physical protection from accidents and sickness.
Pray for mental vitality. Constantly living and working in a second culture and language can be very taxing. Lack of relaxing activities, books and other refreshing materials can also add to mental tiredness and depression. Pray against depression in any member of the family or single cross cultural worker settling in.
Pray for the family as a whole. Sickness, education issues and family concerns at home are some of the ways that cross cultural workers have been limited, frustrated and even forced back home by. Pray for the whole family's protection and well-being.
Be aware of the financial pressures. Cross cultural workers face expenses that sending churches may not be aware of. School fees are often very expensive, travel expenses (international flights etc), health insurance, visa costs, language study fees, conference costs are all added expenses on top of the usual living expenses. Which country the cross cultural worker lives in also determines how much it will cost them to live. Make yourself aware of these things and pray that God will provide all their needs.
Pray for relationships with other cross cultural workers. It is very common for cross cultural workers to have problems working with other cross cultural workers. Especially in an international team setting when there can easily be miscommunication and misunderstandings. Pray for team unity, the ability to forgive and a willingness to be flexible.
Keep the passion burning. During the tough times or even after being overseas for a long time it is easy for the cross cultural worker to lose sight of why they went overseas in the first place. Pray that the passion for the lost and the burden to see churches planted will not be lost.
Relationships with the local peoples. This point is key to seeing peoples reached. Pray for wisdom in knowing with whom to build relationships with. Pray for a servant heart and a willingness to be Christ like in all relationships.
Praise God for the answers. Let the cross cultural worker know that you are praying and ask for regular feedback so that you are aware of how God answers your prayers.
In times of need, wanting prayer cover for specific meetings, things that crop up between “official” prayer letters or in crisis situations it is good to set up one of the following so that your cross cultural worker only has to contact 1 person in your church. They in turn get the news to others.
Do you have trouble remembering what to pray for? Here is a suggestion to help with this. When you receive a prayer letter from your cross cultural worker, get out a blank business sized card and write down 1 praise point and 3 prayer points from that letter. Then carry that card with you or place it in a place that will remind you to pray. Use it when you are driving to work, waiting in a queue or washing the dishes. Husbands and wives or two friends could agree on the prayer points and additionally claim the promise of Matthew 18:19. The prayer of agreement is powerful! It will cost nothing but mean so much!
Communicating with one another is the backbone to any relationship. Effective two way communication is essential in developing a healthy partnership between the church and overseas worker. If there is no or little communication it will not be long before the relationship breaks down and dies.
For the well being of the cross cultural worker this is an essential part of the overall care package.
Ideally your church will have a definite plan in place to make sure that you and your worker stay in touch. Some churches assign a home group to a family or single worker overseas and give them the responsibility and privilege of partnering with your overseas workers.
These days there are many ways to communicate, really there is no excuse for not staying in touch. How we do it and how often are really the main questions.
One of the biggest issues related to communication is security. It is very hard for people living here in Australia to realize how important this is for the cross cultural worker, especially if they are working in a closed country of which there are many these days. Not only can lack of security jeopardies the worker, but the whole organization and even more importantly the national believers.
In many places around the world to be a Christian can lead to severe persecution and even death. In Australia we need to realise this and take to heart the guidelines and methods that the worker suggests. Thankfully modern technology both hinders and helps in secure communication.
Computers are the tools we all use and they are potentially the main cause for security breakdowns. It is imperative that your worker knows how to use a computer and all its security features. Computers are where we often store a lot of confidential and private information. We do not want to share this information with others so having a computer means that it is necessary to have it set up with Virus Scan software, Anti-spyware and a good Firewall. And it is imperative that those at home also know how to communicate securely using modern technology.
When is a good time to be in contact, the simple answer is anytime is a good time. The important thing is try to be consistent and regular. Obviously birthdays, Christmas and other important occasions are a great time to send a card, small presents etc. Why not make a date in your diary to be in contact in some form on a monthly basis. One pastor we know schedules a time every month to “visit” via his web cam!
Here are a few ideas of how to keep in contact using secure means:
Email: Sign up with an offshore secure server. Cotse, Securenym, Swissmail etc. They cost a bit but well worth the peace of mind. By using these servers we can rest knowing that our email traffic is fairly secure. Especially if both computers are sending and receiving via the same server. Look up these providers on the net, sign up, set up your email program and you are ready.
The organisation with whom your worker works may have security guidelines for correspondence. Take note of these and put them into practice. If you are unsure ask your worker.
Skype: Web based secure way to both “chat” on line or speaking through a mike and listening via your computer speakers. A headset with mike and earphones makes it even easier.
It is free and secure. www.skype.com
Web cams: Using Skype and other providers like Windows Messenger you can use a web cam to actually see and talk to each other via the Internet. Why not plan to have a monthly “pastoral” visit with your worker via the Internet!
Snail Mail: While emailing is the most common form of communicating across the oceans, don't forget about the old hand written letters. There are some people who either don't have access to the internet or are not comfortable at using it. A hand written letter being delivered to your door / post box can be a very welcome sight for someone far from home.
Parcels: At this stage we can't scan a block of homegrown chocolate into the computer and send it overseas. So again parcels are a very good way to encourage your cross cultural worker. Christmas and birthdays are great times to do this. Including things that are typically Australian are very much appreciated.
Beware that if you send meltable or perishable things, that more often than not the receiver on the other end is in the northern hemisphere where it is the opposite season to downunder!
Telephone: Calling on the phone can be expensive, but these days you can purchase phone cards for $10, $20 or more and call overseas for a fraction of the price. Sometimes for as little as 2 cents a minute. There are many different cards. Here is one site to visit to find the best card for where you want to call to.
A friendly, familiar voice is a most welcome encouragement.
Web Sites: More and more people have their own web sites. These are great for a cross cultural worker to have and use to post prayer points, news and photos of what they are doing on a regular basis. They can be known as a Blog.
These web pages also enable the site visitor to reply and comment to what has been posted on the web page.
If the worker isn't able to do this themselves why not find someone in the church who can put it together for them and then instruct the worker how to add and edit the site.
One negative side to web sites is that the people at home have to be pro-active in visiting the site to stay up to date. Maybe an automatic notification can be built into the site to inform people that it has been updated (such as RSS or email updates).
There aren't many excuses for not keeping in touch these days. Everyone connected to the care and support of cross cultural workers needs to make the effort to stay in touch and stay informed so that our prayers for them are current and hitting the mark!
Showing you care doesn't have to cost the earth. Here are a few ideas under ten dollars.
Questions show you care and you can really begin to understand what is happening in the ministry of your cross cultural worker. Some churches have a form they send at regular intervals to ask specific questions of their cross cultural workers. This could entail topics such as family, spiritual well being, finances etc. If you would like an example of such a form drop us an member [dot] care [at] wec [dot] com [dot] au (email).
Financial support is one of the most talked about areas of support. In fact when cross cultural worker support is mentioned finances are the first thing people think of. Maybe the only thing!
In reality financial support is only part of the support and care for which we have to be aware and concerned for. Obviously it is a big and important part. Like you and me cross cultural workers have to eat, live and survive. To do this in a foreign country is the same as here, we all need money. In some cases our cross cultural workers may even have more expenses than we do at home.
After years of experiencing life as cross cultural workers, we can tell you that finances are one of the major stress factors in life. Especially if you are an Aussie, NZer or Brit. cross cultural workers from these countries are commonly the lowest financially supported when compared to others from countries like the USA, South Korea, Singapore and some European countries.
Why is this area of support such a struggle for so many of our cross cultural workers? Is it because we don't value what they are doing? As people we don't usually spend money on things we don't value. So if our cross cultural workers are not being supported very well does this reflect that we don't value what God has called them to do. It is not that there is no money, it is how it is being used. Alan Webb in his book "Your Church Can Make a World of Difference" on page 85 states:
"Today we face a real crisis in so far as missionary giving is concerned. It is not so much a monetary crisis which we face but a spiritual crisis. It is not so much how to raise more money, but how to release the money which is already available in bank accounts, super funds and investment portfolios of individual church members."
What can we do about this problem? How can we ensure that our cross cultural workers have the financial support they require so that this aspect of life is not a constant point of stress and worry?
There are a few churches who excel at financially supporting their cross cultural workers. These
churches tend to have some or all of the following characteristics:
1. They have a definite cross cultural ministry vision.
It is integrally central to all that the church is and does.
2. They budget for it.
3. The cross cultural worker is seen as a valued staff member of the church.
4. Many encourage and use the "Faith Promise Giving" principle over and above the giving from the church budget. This principle is central to Alan Webb's book "Your Church Can Make a World of Difference"
Whatever it takes we the church need to ensure that our cross cultural workers have the resources they require to do what we have sent them to do.
The following pages will hopefully give you some ideas as to how you can better financially support those you send out.
How Much Is Needed?
The weekly/monthly amount your cross cultural worker requires depends on a few factors, are they single, married or a family? Obviously a family will need significantly more than a single. The major factor to determine the amount needed is where the cross cultural worker will live and work. To live in Japan or a country in Europe will require a great deal more than if they were to live in Africa or Thailand. The best way to determine the amount is to get in contact with our support [dot] services [at] wec [dot] com [dot] au (support services) office or the field in which your cross cultural worker is living. Or ask your cross cultural worker for an honest breakdown of their expenses. This may not be easy for a new cross cultural worker going for the first time and so the advice of the team will be needed.
Other Expenses that your cross cultural worker could have:
Not every church will be in a position to fully support their cross cultural workers from a financial perspective. If this is the case then what can and should the sending church do to help with raising and building the necessary financial support?
It is essential that the cross cultural worker and the church is aware of the issues related to tax and Centrelink. Most agencies will be able to supply the information of which you need to be aware. Contact the agency administration office for any information or help.
A good handbook that we would recommend that is of great value in terms of raising personal support is called "Funding the Family Business" by Myles Wilson. It can be ordered online via this web page. http://www.fundingthefamilybusiness.org/
For other questions or clarification on WEC's financial policy see the FAQs in this section of our website.
The financial burden of living and serving overseas shouldn't be a source of concern for the cross cultural worker. Let's all be sacrificial in our giving to see that the peoples of the world are reached and that churches are planted!
A small team from the sending church visiting the cross cultural worker in their location is one of the most significant things that a sending church can do for itself and the cross cultural worker.
For your church it can awaken and enthuse your church for missional activity, in both the global and local context. It also enables a great level of understanding and empathy for the cross cultural worker. When the team returns the letters from the cross cultural worker mean more because there are people in the church who have seen the living and ministry context of the cross cultural worker. They have:
This enables them to 'translate' or add perspective to the letters for the rest of the church and what is real and important for the cross cultural worker is important and real for the church.
Who should be on the team?
It is good to get some orientation before you leave. Check with your cross cultural worker's agency to see if they can assist with this. Make yourself aware of the situation into which you will be going, especially security issues. Check with your doctor about immunizations well before your departure date.
An unfortunate by-product of living in the world is that of being vulnerable to factors beyond our control. These events can lead to emotional and physical harm, sickness, injuries and even death. These events are known as crisis situations and unfortunately cross cultural workers are not immune from these. In fact they are often in places where the chance of being caught up in one increases dramatically.
As churches obey the Great Commission by sending out their workers to the four corners of the world they must be prepared for their workers being caught up in some form of crisis at some stage. How can the church prepare for such a situation, what should it do or not do? These are some of the questions we are aiming to answer here.
Here is one definition:
“a situation that has reached an extremely difficult or dangerous point; a time of great disagreement, uncertainty or suffering”
“A crisis is a time-limited event that demands a response or some sort of intervention. It is usually temporary, accompanied by mental or cognitive uncertainty, disequilibrium, perhaps even immobilizing some of the participants, causing paralysis of thought or will. Participants will not plan well or think well. The situation feels like it has no exit – yet emotions are at such a high level that something has to give. There are exaggerated defense mechanisms such as rationalisation, blaming, and compensation. Fear is usually present, and may even begin to look like phobia if the crisis goes on for an extended period of time.
Examples of crises that affect cross cultural workers:
Laura Mae Gardner : M Care pg 136ff
It is important to seek professional input and help when needed. Knowing the right people to call upon at any given time will make it less stressful for everyone if such a situation arises. If you don't know of anybody with such qualifications ask the agency for advice.
Anyone that goes through a crisis usually will be suffering from various degrees of grief. The loss of life, home, ministry and friends are things that can leave a big hole in ones life. The emotional and possibly physical scares may need a long time to heal. Your gift to a worker in this state will be your prayers, understanding, patience and generousity. Give them time, space and love.
Assign a mentor – somebody who is there for the cross cultural worker to call upon.
Identifying – try putting yourself in their shoes. Answer these questions and then you can prepare for the cross cultural worker's return.
Awareness – promote awareness that the cross cultural worker will be returning soon by inserting photos (up to date ones) and a biographical information in the church bulletin a few months in advance.
Also use notice boards and maps in high traffic areas to make people aware of the cross cultural worker's intended return.
Anticipation – Write in advance to the cross cultural worker to ask specific questions about what they may need when they return.
Contact the parents of the cross cultural workers and see if they have any information or needs they know about. How can you help each other to welcome back the cross cultural worker?
Give them time – re-entry is a personal thing. They may be burned out, in poor health, resigning or changing ministries. Each situation will require unique needs and time may be needed for the cross cultural worker to adjust to all that's been happening and their new surroundings in Australia.
Solitude –before the onslaught of crowds of people or speaking engagements the cross cultural worker may need sometime to be on their own. Does anyone in the church have a holiday house they are willing to share?
Something is Different – Spending an extended time in another culture will result in your cross cultural worker being a changed person. Their way of thinking will be more aligned with their host culture.
People at home have also changed so all need to be aware and make allowances for these changes.
It is essential that your cross cultural worker have someone to de-brief with. The WEC leadership will organise this with you and your cross cultural worker shortly following their arrival in Australia.
Where are we? - A trip back to Australia for the kids, is not a coming home trip, this is not home, they are only visiting.
School - If your CP family have been living in the northern hemisphere then working out what is the best alternative for school in Australia may be difficult. The school year in the northern hemisphere begins in September thus there is always a need for the kids when they come back to Australia to either repeat or jump up a grade. It is good to be aware of this and to assist in anyway possible. It is for this reason that many families can only come back to Australia during the months June, July and August. The summer holiday period in the north.
Maybe teachers within your church can help the family.
Can a local Christian school be flexible in accommodating the children if need be?
Not a preacher – not every cross cultural worker is a gifted preacher. Offer alternative avenues for them to share their stories if they are not comfortable to share in a large open meeting.
Experiences and Passion – cross cultural workers are people with experience, passion and expertise that can enrich the church. Look for ways for them to expand your churches mission impact.
Take a genuine interest in their ministry
Find out what it was like for them. How did they cope with the strangeness of the culture? What went well, & gave encouragement? What didn’t go well, & discouraged them?
What are their dreams? Their fears? What’s next for them? What does furlough hold for them?
Inclusion – many cross cultural workers can come “home” and be lonely people. Yes they may be different but they need to be included and welcomed back into circle. Don't wait for them to make the first move.
Welcome them into your life. Take a step back, widen your circle of friends, & invite them in. It doesn’t matter what your age is, invite them around for a BBQ. Invite them to Home Group to talk all night. 10 mins isn’t enough!
Give them 100% support. Make sure they are doing OK financially. Start praying for them while they are here, so when they go back…
Ask them to put you on their email list
Care for them in practical ways. Remember the kids’ birthdays--& mum & dad’s! If you have a spare car, ask if they need one for their furlough. If you have a holiday house, offer it to them. Ask if they have a mobile phone, & provide one if needed.
Apart from spending quality time with your church the cross cultural worker may need to spend time on the road visiting other supporting churches and friends. They may also need to see an increase in their support so will need time and opportunities to do this. Do they need equipment to do this?
Life Cycles – at what stage of life is your cross cultural worker going through, try to anticipate their needs. Invite them or send them to appropriate classes or seminars such as:
Further Studies – opportunities for further study may have been non-existent or very lacking encourage your cross cultural worker to do courses that will enhance their ministry and life once they return to the field.
Most mission agencies will require that the cross cultural worker have a comprehensive medical check-up. This is essential to make sure that they have not picked up something while they have been away. Also good to update any immunisations they may require.
The cross cultural worker may also have the need to talk to a professional counselor, see other specialists to answer and talk through issues that may be bothering them.
It is important that the church organises a re-commissioning service, a farewell meal or a combination of both. This confirms to the worker and the church that they are in partnership with each other in planting churches in unreached people groups.
Useful Links for further information:
Help for your cross cultural worker when they leave their mission field and return home to stay.
There comes a time when your Church Planter will need to come home, not for a home leave, not for a short time but in order to re-enter the Australian culture and make their home here once again. When and how they come to this decision is usually:-
Planned – This refers to the conscious decision to end their ministry overseas and return to Australia. From the outset they might have only planned to be away for a set number of years, maybe their children have graduated from school and need to come home or maybe the church planter is at age of retirement. Whatever the reason, they plan towards the leaving and have an opportunity to have good closure.
Unexpected – On the other hand your church planter may be returning permanently to Australia due to ill health, unexpected educational issues with their children, political unrest, deportation or some other form of crisis. For people in this position, the decision to leave has been forced upon them and as such may have had little opportunity to have a decent closure.
It is important that if your church planter fits into this category that you realize that they may be bringing home many feelings of hurt, loss and sadness. If so make sure that they have opportunity for de-briefing, getting professional help if needed and giving them time and space. A period of grief at the sudden loss and change is to be expected.
If your church planter is preparing to return to Australia for an indefinite period, it is worthwhile considering the following.
Eighteen to 12 months before they are due back send a couple of people or a small team to visit the Church planter in their location. Then six months or closer to their departure date send the same people or others from the church to visit and assist with bringing things back for them.
This builds relationships between the church planter and the congregation, giving them people in the church who can empathise with all the church planter is adjusting to in Australia.
While married people have each other with whom to identify, it can be especially helpful for single people to have someone in the congregation in Australia who smelled the same smells, tasted the same foods, have visited favourite places and met their friends/ colleagues face to face.
Not everyone comes back to Australia and automatically goes back into a “normal” life. Some church planters may be asked by their mission agency to continue full time work here in Australia. If this is the case in your situation then it is essential to talk through with the agency and your church planter how things might change when it comes to support.
Unfortunately for many church planters in this situation the supporting churches all too often don't consider them to be church planters any longer and as such cut their support or reduce it significantly. More often than not, it should be the opposite because living in Australia is not cheap!
Home support workers are a vital link in keeping people overseas. We would encourage you to support your worker if they are in such a position.
WEC Australia encourages all home based workers to be involved in active church planting activities. There are many such opportunities among unreached peoples right here in our cities. We no longer have to be overseas to be planting churches in a cross-cultural situation.
This is a big subject, there are many books and other information available on the Internet. We recommend a good little book written especially for churches to help their church planter re-enter Australia. It is called:
Re-Entry, The Home Coming Missionary
Helen Macnaughtan, July 2004 kandh [dot] macn [at] westnet [dot] com [dot] au
WEC Australia has also put together a good resource to assist a church planter find information in relation to Centerlink, Tax and other legal issues. If you would like a copy of this PDF file please e-mail: member [dot] care [at] wec [dot] com [dot] au
Encourage and send your church planter to a Re-Entry Weekend. Missions Interlink in NSW and Victoria usually organise such weekends at least once every year in both states. Contact WEC Member Care for advice on the next Re-Entry weekend. We also can run a one day Re-entry seminar if your church planter can not make it to one of the special weekends.
It may be necessary to babysit so that the parents can get along to such a weekend.
Don't forget that the children of the family may also need assistance in re-entry as well. Especially if they are teenages.
Contact the MK Network for more information.
For specific information and suggestions on how to help your retiring church planter click here.
Resources in your pews.
The ideal people to assist others re-enter Australia are people who have done it themselves. If you have retired or former church planters in your congregation enlist their help and advice.
He asked for our five passports and started leafing through them. 'I see you've been in Thailand.' 'Yes,' I answered. 'Five years.'
He continued inspecting our passports, and then he stamped them and said, 'Welcome home!'
Those words were so encouraging! It really felt good to be home again! Why? What's the big deal? That short conversation was spoken in English! I could still speak it!
Even though we were back in our home country, we were very aware of some major differences. For instance, when we left for Thailand, we only had two passports; our oldest child was on his mother's passport. Now, we have five passports.
Of our family, only [my wife] and I were returning 'home.' Our three children were coming to a foreign country.
During our time in Thailand, we learned three languages. We had also changed spiritually. We knew firsthand what it was like to live in a non-Christian country. We experienced God's help and encouragement in many profound ways. Instead of grape juice and bread for communion, we had water and glutinous rice. It wasn't uncommon to share our church service with dogs, cats, chickens, and innumerable bugs, while we sat on the floor. Even though we'd grown spiritually, we were also discouraged, tired, and drained emotionally.
We needed some attention and help.
The sad part about it was that we didn't know how bad we were. Not every missionary is in this condition when they return home - some are worse! I know of another missionary whose wife collapsed soon after returning home. She spent a month in bed.
Can churches help missionaries in this readjustment? Absolutely! Actually, there is probably no better group to do so. As the church reaches out to the missionaries, the church's focus and attitude need to be, 'What can we do to serve and help our missionaries?'
First, one thing they need, for sure, is an opportunity to talk about their experiences. Give them some private, one-on-one time with a mature man or woman - someone like the pastor, the missions pastor, an elder and his wife, or a respected member of the congregation. Missionaries need to talk about not only their experience of working cross-culturally, but also their experience with co-workers, their mission, and their spiritual life. Your missionaries have been through a lot over their previous three to five years, so don't just give them an hour to talk about it. They need some uninterrupted, quality time with a good listener.
Second, allow your missionaries their own pace. Their readjustment to [their home country] can be difficult. Let them know that you want to see their pictures and hear their reports on what God was doing through them while they were living abroad - but only when they feel ready to do so. Give them opportunity to talk about their time abroad and let them set their own pace as they readjust.
Finally, try to arrange for them to have a vacation, where they can rest, reflect on their spiritual journey, and recoup emotionally.
By doing these things, you will be making an investment that will benefit your church, benefit your missionary, and benefit those who would never otherwise never hear of or know of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ.
Churches need to be aware of possible needs of the retiree(s),
Needs will vary depending on the "field situations" they have been living in.
i.e. more "primitive," basic, simple in life style,
e.g. tribal, poor, less developed area
or more "advanced," modern, sophisticated
e.g. city, more affluent, highly developed.
Retirees in the first group, i.e. from the more "primitive" areas will probably need more help than those in the second group. The further removed the "field" lifestyle from our home lifestyle, the more the help that will probably be needed.
Retirees fall into 2 groups – single or married.
Marrieds possibly/probably have children who can/will help them.
Singles may not have any relatives (or close friends) able or prepared to help them.
Help needed can be in any or all of the following categories:
B. Emotional and Psychological
They may have health issues and hence need advice re medical help, Medicare privileges and their limits. Help with transport to appointments may be appreciated.
They are older and therefore probably not as physically strong as before even if healthy. So in the setting up of their place of residence, practical physical help will probably be needed. Advice as to where to buy, or how to obtain, articles necessary to setting up a home (e.g. bed, furniture, fridge, etc), reliable brands, etc. could be necessary.
Such practical help demonstrates that the church really cares about the retiree, and this is of great help to the retiree in ways beyond the physical. It helps to encourage and comfort a retiree who may be grieving the separation and "loss" of friends, ministry and a way of life that have been a part of him/her for many years.
It is helpful if the church knows about these and how they can impact the retiree. This will help with understanding the person, with being patient when necessary and thoughtful, and how to help.
As already mentioned, the retiree may be grieving the separation and "loss" of friends, ministry and a way of life that have been a part of him/her for many years. It may be intense like the loss of a loved family member.
Leaving any ministry, especially one that has been fruitful and satisfying, or challenging, and coming home to no ministry, perhaps few old friends, and a new situation, can be very hard to cope with. There can be a certain loss of identity, and of self-esteem or self-value. These can all add to the trauma for the retiree.
The retiree has spent many years in a culture with worldview and thought patterns quite different to ours. That culture etc has become the "home" culture of that person, and our culture has become "foreign" to him/her. The retiree may still be operating (unconsciously) according to that adopted culture and needs to relearn how to operate in our culture.
It is good for the home church to know about these possibilities so that they can understand the retiree, and know practical steps they can take to help. Some of those steps may be:
A newly returned retiree may feel spiritually dry from years of giving out spiritually without sufficient intake. Or lack of ministry at home, and other readjustment problems, may cause a feeling of dryness. So a spiritual refreshing is needed.
This, and other spiritual needs, can be met through the ministry of the Word in the church. The encouragement to Bible Study and discussion in a small group can also be a great help.
All of the above is not exhaustive – just suggestive….