“Oh, what a need for what you’re planning to do!” That’s the typical response I hear when someone learns of an exciting new ministry I’m starting. Technically it’s part of “member care,“ (Member Care is the ongoing preparation and taking care of missionaries for strong personal lives and effective ministries.) Not that member care hasn’t already been going on, but it’s new to me. The question I have is why aren’t there more counselors doing what I’m doing? When I put it together in the form of a job description, I begin to understand why not.
Member care requires a lot of travel.
I will be taking 4-6 trips a year to various places in the world. I like to travel and I love to get to know people in the areas where they live and work. The trips will not include all the comforts of home but I will experience how a lot of different people manage.
Member care requires a lot of counseling experience.
After 37+ years of counseling, I feel pretty comfortable helping people express their concerns. I can listen non-judgmentally while discerning deeper issues. People who are struggling don’t need as much advise or criticism as they need encouragement and clarification of issues. They need to see how their behaviors impact others as well as how others impact them. Generally speaking, we tend to evaluate others on the basis of their behaviors while we evaluate ourselves on the basis of our intentions. What a wonderful opportunity to put my experience to work in the challenging situations involving individuals, couples and groups in conflict overseas where they are feeling stressed and alone.
Member care requires cross-cultural flexibility.
Having taught cross-cultural counseling and providing counseling in several different countries, I’ve discovered that a lot of things that we assume to be true here in the US do no fit in other cultures. When I was in Zanzibar, for example, I discovered that there is no word for “depression” in Swahili. It turns out that in their interwoven corporate society, they don’t experience depression like we do. They help each other out of their down times. We tend to push our rugged individualism beyond the limits of our abilities to cope. Some places respond to stories, some to small group interaction, while others to applied Bible passages. This leads to a fourth requirement that tends to filter out a lot of people.
Member care requires a deep knowledge of Scripture plus training in counseling.
What a blessing it’s been for me over the years to see the ideas taken from my PhD in counseling turn into applications of Bible truths that I learned while getting my ThM in New Testament studies at Dallas Seminary. The Bible is truth, but sometimes it’s hard for us to understand how to apply it. Psychology seeks to apply principles in a practical way, but isn’t always anchored in truth. How exciting to see the truth of God show itself in cross-cultural, practical and trans-historical timeless ways.
Member care requires submission to the authority and structure of a mission organization.
East-West Ministries, International has been so gracious to make a place for me among their missionaries so I can work on a team. The job that needs to be accomplished is too big for one person or a small group. East-West Ministries has missionaries in 40 countries and their vision calls for adding 200 more missionaries in the next five years! That will require a lot of screening, training, developing, supporting and encouraging. My first assignment may be to train counselors in China.
Member care takes a lot of money.
As a missionary, I’ll need to raise financial support, both one-time gifts and regular monthly contributions to pay for one-month’s living expenses (I cut back my Dallas Seminary contract to only 11 months) and for all the trips plus administrative expenses. Will you consider committing to a monthly contribution? All contributions are tax-deductible.
To contribute on-line, click here. East-West has made it very easy.
I would very much appreciate your support in this important endeavor, both in the form of prayer and finances, however large of small. Many, many missionaries don’t make it for more than a few years because their adjustments are more than they can bear. My hope is that my encouragement and perspective will strengthen them in continuing with the Lord’s work.