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Pastoral care provider

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care,
watching over them – not because you must,
but because you are willing . . .” – I Peter 5:2

Those willing to watch over the missionaries in God’s flock provide important protection to persons building God’s kingdom in frontier settings. Missionaries who go where the church is not . . . yet go where there are no Christian pastors . . . yet. And missionaries can become so busy that they neglect their own spiritual and emotional well-being.

A pastoral care provider commits to mentor the missionary in spiritual and emotional well-being throughout preparation for service, time on the field, and re-entry into the home culture and sending community.


Who can be a pastoral care provider?

A missionary’s pastoral care provider can be his or her current pastor, an elder from the home congregation, a mentor, or any other trusted spiritual adviser. Ideally, the person serving in this role has relational history with the missionary and develops awareness of the missionary’s areas of vulnerability and struggle before departure for the field. For a couple, we recommend having two separate pastoral care providers to maximize the care given to each person. 


A special word to pastors

In Acts 13:1-4, we see that early church leaders set apart Paul and Barnabas for their missionary journeys. EMM rejoices when church leaders take the lead in identifying and shoulder-tapping missionaries for service. EMM desires that all missionaries are walking in partnership with church leaders and going with their blessing.


Bridge builder

Pastoral care providers who are not pastors or elders provide an important bridge between congregational leaders and the missionary/MST. Take the lead in confirming that the missionary is walking in partnership with and going with the blessing of his or her church leadership. Keep church leadership updated on the missionary’s well-being, and take back to the MST any resources that church leaders offer.


Commissioning

Pastors and elders serving as pastoral care providers are invited to take the lead in planning a commissioning service for the missionary. (If you are not a pastor or elder, work with church leaders to plan the service.) EMM conducts a larger group commissioning service that the missionary will likely participate in, but the smaller, more personal commissioning service with the home congregation can be especially meaningful and provide good opportunity for warm goodbyes and blessings.


Pastoral care

Together with the missionary, decide on a system for monthly check-ins concerning his or her relationships with God, family, and neighbors and his or her emotional well-being. You can do this via phone, email, or Skype. Ask questions that lead to sharing from the heart:
  • What are you sad about? Angry about? Where do you hurt?
  • What are you glad about? Giving thanks for?
  • How are you maintaining your connection with God?
  • What are you struggling with? Anything you would like to confess?
  • What is God showing you? Teaching you?
  • Where do you see God at work in you? Through you?
  • How is your marriage growing? What are the struggles?
  • What are your parenting joys? Challenges?
If you see signs of acute or chronic stress that concern you, please send your concerns to your MST Coach to pass on to the EMM Human Resources Director, who is committed to making sure that missionaries receive member care as needed while on the field.


Pastoral visit

Missionaries often report that the best way to bless them is by a visit! They say it is hard to overestimate how much a visit encourages them. You may want to organize a work or prayer team from your church to go and encourage the missionary, or consider sending someone from church leadership for a pastoral visit. When a pastor visits the mission field, the whole church is included and educated as a result.


Spiritual encouragement

Consider sending resources and input to feed the missionary’s spiritual life, such as sermon recordings, Christian magazines and books, or worship music. Be sure to confirm safe ways to send these types of materials with the missionary before sending.


During re-entry

Re-entry into the home culture at completion of service can be a difficult time for many missionaries, often producing more stress than the adjustment to the new culture at the beginning of service. So the pastoral care provider’s role does not end when the missionary returns.

Pastoral care providers walk closely with the missionary during the 3-6 months following re-entry – listening, loving, encouraging, and helping the missionary to integrate his/her experiences on the field with the current realities of the home culture and sending community. Stay open to God using you to help the missionary discover his/her new place or role within the sending community.