The Missional Heart of Member Care
Kelly O'Donnell, 2014
Sharing the good news and our good works, with an emphasis on establishing healthy communities of Christ-followers among unreached people groups (UPGs), has been a focus throughout member care’s development. I am delighted to be one of the many passionate proponents of the missional heart of member care. Here are several examples with an unreached people group focus from my work over the past 30 years in collaboration with my wife, Michèle..
· Community Psychology in Missiological Context (1984, doctoral dissertation) sought to “relate and apply several basic assumptions, concepts, principles, and techniques of community psychology to the field of frontier missions” (Abstract).
· Community Psychology and Unreached Peoples: Applications to Needs and Resource Assessment (1986, article) explored the relationship between community psychology and frontier missions and how ”Similarities between these two fields, such as their common perspectives on delivering services to underserved populations, provide points of contact between them” (p. 213).
· Helping Missionaries Grow (1988, book) was compiled to promote growth and fulfilment “through a fuller participation in the cause of Christ for all peoples” (p.4).
· An Agenda for Member Care in Frontier Missions (1992, article) called for a reprioritization of the church’s resources on behalf of those who are doing pioneering work among the unreached, with the agenda being to “strategically raise up and direct these resources so as to put greater closure on the Great Commission” (p. 107).
· Missionary Care: Counting the Cost for World Evangelization (1992, book) was shaped by three core convictions with the second one being that ”member care resources must be reprioritized to support those who are targeting and working among th least evangelized” (p. xiii).
· International Journal of Frontier Mission (October 1995, special issue) provided the opportunity as gust editor to assemble articles “to help keep frontier missionaries resilient and effective and that were “directly relevant for frontier settings” (169).
· For Everything There is a Season,,,And a Summons (1996, letter) was a call to several colleagues around the world “to deliberately join together with a core group of like-minded colleagues in order to further develop the member care field, especially within frontier missions”(p. 1).
· Member Care in Missions: Global Perspectives and Future Directions (1997, article) pointed out “the need to develop and prioritize additional supportive resources for those working among unreached people groups and for agencies from the ‘Newer Sending Countries…” (p. 143).
· Global Member Care Task Force (1998, network) was set up as part of the World Evangelical Alliance to facilitate “working together and with others to support personnel from the A4 regions (Asia, Africa, Arabic, America-Latina), and those working among UPGs…” (page 1, update May 2005), with similar member care networks being established regionally in the 1990s to support those doing UPG work in North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia.
· Developing Member Care Affiliations: Personal Reflections and Community Psychology Contributions (1999) highlighted the importance of forming “affiliations of member care practitioners who are familiar with missions, who band together to intentionally develop important member care resources within a specific geographic region(e.g., North Africa), people group (e.g., tribal groups in North India), or type of ministry (e.g., trauma management)” (p. 119—also included as chapter 48 in Doing Member Care Well, 2002).
· Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from Around the World (2002, book) was strongly influenced by the need for “a more coordinated effort to focus supportive resources on behalf of personnel working among those groups and regions which historically have been the most neglected by the church’s mission efforts” (p. x).
There is a purpose to human history— it is not random—and there will be a conclusion to this age, for the glory of God. God is at work in history to redeem people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev. 5:9-10). Member care, as a service ministry which supports the missions task, is a means to this end (p. 8).
Doing member care well helps us to do missions well. It strengthens missionaries so that they can effectively love, evangelize, and disciple people groups; endure hardship; and grow as people. It is a pioneering, practical, and deeply personal ministry. Doing member care well is a direct and strategic way to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12, along with both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. That is to say, God blesses us and thus we bless others, especially those who bring the blessings of God to the unreached (pp. 9-10). https://sites.google.com/site/membercaravan/test/doing-member-care-well
· Future Directions: 12 Treasures for Member Care (2006, article) considered “both current and new resources for supporting the diversity of mission and aid workers among UPGs.” (p. 49)
· Global Mental Health and Unreached People Groups (2010, weblog) presented an initial rationale via the Lausanne Movement’s Global Conversations website to advocate for “mental health as mission” in light of that fact that “a major number of the world’s poor are in fact part of UPGs and that there is a dearth of mental health resources available for them via government health programs, NGO development initiatives, and church-mission ministries.”
· Global Member Care: The Pearls and Perils of Good Practice (2011, book) was permeated by “the compelling Biblical vision to creatively provide and develop member care on behalf of all people groups” (p. xvi).
· Global Member Care: Crossing Sectors for Good Practice (2013, book). “We must grow together through the hard times, inspired by the vision to see member care develop globally—for all peoples and from all peoples. As a diverse, resilient, international community of member care workers, we will need to have clear ethical commitments in order to provide/develop quality services to mission/aid workers in many settings, often in unstable locations permeated with conflict, calamity, and corruption. And as earthen vessels we must develop the personal resiliency and mature faith that can sustain us as we take risks to do good and to resolutely confront evil in its many forms” (Afterword, p. 381).
Celebrating Member Care
Here are six video clips (international, music-dance) that artistically reflect member care development-accomplishments throughout the years. Let's celebrate!
1900-1950s: A Poignant Prelude
This period of member care history, a pre-era, reveals poignant writings that describe the challenges and rewards of cross-cultural service. It is a beautiful prelude to the steady progression of caregivers, concepts, and commitments that were en route. Let’s celebrate!
The 1960s and 1970s: Taking Shape
People in the 1960s and 1970s slowly started to come together to help shape what was to become the member care field. The development of member care mirrored the development of mission. Let’s celebrate! www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k&feature=player_embedded
The 1980s: Front and Center
The foundational decade of the 1980s for member care was marked with its increased visibility, influence, acceptance, credibility, competencies, and cooperation. People explored issues and resources for mission workers and helped to bring crucial matters into the front and center of mission. Let’s celebrate! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaHmcCp77JE
The 1990s: Connecting and Contributing Internationally
Member care continued to travel deeply into mission and humanitarian aid, spreading broadly around the world. It was an unprecedented time to connect and contribute together. Let's celebrate! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZzn2F3_FL0&feature=related
The 2000s: Global Faces and Facets
Member care grew and consolidated further around the world. The field welcomed many new global faces and facets. Let's celebrate! www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY
The 2010s: Crucial Directions and Commitments
As we head into the upcoming years, may the sacrificial and celebratory love of God lead us further into the missional heart of member care. May we endeavor to do all we can on behalf of the mission/aid community, our very needy world, and each another. Let's celebrate—with all peoples! www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8R9ZPT2T-I
Member Care History (1964-2013)
50 years--50 Quotes
Integrating Psychology and Missions:
Some Historical Quotes and Historical Perspectives
Kelly O'Donnell, 7/2009
I made my first major connection with the psychology and missions area in 1983 by attending the fourth Mental Health and Missions Conference in Indiana, USA. The conference was terrific! It was so special to meet several practitioners who were much further along than I was, many with whom I would become colleagues in the years ahead.
At that time I was just completing my doctoral dissertation on integrating community psychology and frontier missions. I was also doing my one year doctoral internship as part of my program at Rosemead School of Psychology. And I had worked five years part time in Mexico helping to organize short-term mission outreaches. I was primed to integrate so many of my studies and experiences via the emerging area of mental health and missions.
In 1986-1987, while I was teaching psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and in preparation for an upcoming move to live and work in Europe, I assembled every article I could find that was somehow related to mental health and missions. I placed these articles in three large loose ringed folders. If you ever visit our home we can take you to our library and show you these thick, bulging folders. They are total keepsakes! It was from these folders that many of the articles were chosen for our first edited book, Helping Missionaries Grow (1988). Most of the articles in these folders seem to be forgotten and seldom referenced. At some point it would be helpful to make note of them again and do a short one paragraph summary of each article. (The most extensive, annotated list of articles and books related to member care is at the database section of the Missionary Care web site--www.missionarycare.com)
Anyway, I was delighted to pull out these three notebooks again recently and have a look. In particular I was looking for some materials--quotes---to get a better sense of the historical development of the integration of psychology and missions. Let me share some of the quotes that I found. Most of the quotes below are from these materials (about 1970-1988). I have also added a few more recent ones. There are so many additional quotes that can be included below--from other journals and conferences, so many other incredible colleagues, practitioners from other nations etc. This is just a sampler. Any suggestions for quotes to add to this initial list, just let me know.
What an amazing foundation and legacy the field of member care has in its mental health and missions roots! Enjoy!
1970: Joseph Stringham
1970: Harold Fife
1973: Bruce Narramore
1974: Sally Folger Dye
1974: Ken Williams
Characteristics of the More Successful and Less Successful Missionaries
Dissertation, United States International University
The problem of the study was whether there were identifiable characteristics which differentiate more successful missionaries from those who are judged less successful. ….MSS were generally younger and had fewer children...MSS had more extracurricular leadership experience in college; they had higher college GPAs, linguistic course GPAs, an Bible examination GPAs. A higher percentage of LSS had reported themselves as nervous, depressed, anxious, and having alternating moods.
MSS had higher overall reference ratings, and had fewer negative characteristics noted in ratings. Ratings made I linguistic courses indicated that MSS were rated excellent more often in health, drive, maturity, and linguistic ability. Staff members observed more negative interpersonal, motivational, and psychological characteristics of LSS.
In the Jungle Camp program staff members rated MSS higher in compatibility as partners. MSS received more excellent ratings in self-mastery, team sprit, dynamism, and morale. LSS received more below average ratings in self-mastery, morale, adaptability, pioneering aptitude, social integration, an family/partner relations. (pp. 1, 3; Abstract)
1976: Stanley Lindquist
1983: LeRoy Johnston
The opening in the door came approximately 30 years ago when psychological assessment was initiated in the screening process with missionary candidates. Although it took a few years for this psychological screening to be accepted, virtually every major mission board now utilizes some form of psychological screening, including psychological tests, in the process of selection.
With the growth of counselling courses offered at the seminary campus and the availability o trained pastors and Christian psychologists, mission leaders have recognized the value of the mental health professional. Mission boards have indicated the willingness to use appropriately trained mental health specialists to counsel missionaries who are experiencing some form of emotional stress. Psychological depressions, psychotic episode, etc. …In most every case where a mental health professional is used by a mission board, the person possesses "secondary" credentials which make him acceptable.
1983: Al Dueck
1987: Richard Gardner
1987: William Hunter and Marvin Mayers
The history of missions throughout the centuries suggests that each era has determined how learning and scholarship would serve adjunctive and supportive functions in Gospel proclamation. For example, both medicine and education have played important roles in mission strategy and practice for many decades. …it should be no surprise that a number of misconceptions and unfortunate practices have caused the Christian public (even more specifically, the more conservative element) to question the value and contributions of Christian behavioral scientists.
… The involvement of psychology in missions is not altogether new. Daring and creative pioneers in the late 1920s began to use psychological and psychiatric services in the process of selecting missionaries for overseas service (Hunter, 1965). Those initial ventures were harbingers of what has been a slow but growing use of psychological services by missionary agencies (Johnson and Penner, 1981) and continuing efforts to create effective working relationships between mental health professionals and mission agencies (Johnston, 1983). (pp. 269, 270, 271)
1987: Clyde Austin and Billy van Jones
Reentry Among Missionary Children:
An Overview of Reentry Research from 1934-1986
Journal of Psychology and Theology Volume 15, pp. 315-325
Despite the thousands of MKS reared overseas, only five reentry studies are noted in the first 50 years of the 20th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, six additional studies appear in the literature. In the 1970s, a burst of scholarly activity at Michigan State University opened new vistas in MK research (Austin, 1984). (p. 315)
1987: Marjory Foyle
EMQ articles and Honourably Wounded
1987: Laura Mae Gardner
Proactive Care of Mission Personnel
Journal of Psychology and Theology
Note--included in Helping Missionaries Grow (1988)
1988: Kelly O'Donnell
A Preliminary Study of Psychologists in Missions
Helping Missionaries Grow (1988) (pp. 118-125)
This study is an initial attempt to identify important factors which are needed to effectively work in missions as a psychologist. …Important preparation experiences included working on the mission field, receiving formal study in psychology, and having background counselling experience. Overall, the five most useful components suggested for training were overseas mission involvement, an academic background in psychology, training in missiology and anthropology, general cross-cultural experience, and supervision and/or an internship experience in mental health and missions. (p. 118)
1991: James Beck
1992: Ruth Tucker and Leslie Andrews
1992: Hans Ritschard
1995: Jeffrey Ellis
This movement we now call member care is not new or original to twentieth century Christian missions or to local congregations. Scripture is replete with illustrations of people actively caring for Christ's flock. Here at the end of 1 Corinthians, we come face to face with a specific example of what caring for frontier missionaries can look like: a team of Christians who have found their niche in the Great Commission by traveling to the field and serving the saints. The household of Stephanas did not wait for Paul to return to Corinth so they could serve him. Rather, they took the initiative to go and serve. There, during his final missionary journey, Paul became the benefactor of what we now call member care. It is heartening to read Paul's response, "I rejoiced at their arrival for they refreshed my spirit."
Spirit refreshing ought not become a lost art. It is as needed today on the frontier, as it was nearly two thousand years ago--and considering the complexities of modern missions, maybe more so! (pp. 171, 174)
Jumping ahead now...from 1995 to 2002
2002: John Powell and David Wickstrom
The Annual Conference on Mental Health and Missions: A Brief History
Enhancing Missionary Vitality (pp. 3-11)
The beginning of the Mental Health and Missions Conference [which was first held in 1980 in Indiana USA] was predated by a growing interest in the use of mental health professinals to provide care for missionaries. In the 1960s, individual work was focussed largely on pre-field clinical evaluations and counseling with missionaries both on and off the field with psychologiccal and/or family issues. Missionary training seminars with topics such as family and marriage, interpersonal relationships, stress management and emotional well-being, were also led by mental health professioinals.
Few Christian counseling organizations provided integrated help for missionaries, and little general knowledge existed pertaining tto the psychological distinctives of mission service and culture. There was a paucity of empirical research in this area, and available research was largely anecdotal or based on master's theses or doctoral dissertations. However, the decade of the sixties saw emerging interest and growth in mental health and missions and set the direction for more rapid growth in subsequent decades.
By the seventies mental health professionals served missions in a variety of ways. Wycliffe Bible Translators Counseling Department was begun in the sixties and developed in the seventies and beyond. Instituted by Dr. Phil and Barbara Grossman, who had seen the desirability of counseling services for Wycliffe members, it was soon fully utilized and began developing additional activities related to the understanding, care and development of missionaries (see chapter 5 by Dr. Laura Mae Gardner).
Individual practitioners outside mission agencies were asked to share their expertice. Psychologists Dr. Henry Brandt of Michigan [USA] and Dr. Clyde Narrramore of California, each of whom established Christian counseling centers, sparked interest in missions and mental health by writings from field visits. These began to define needs, identify issues and outline opportunities which were soon built on by others. By the mid-seventies, both mental health professionals and mission leaders realized that a viable relationship was taking place (see chapter 3 by Dr .Frances White for a more extended history). (pp. 3-4)
2002: Kelly O'Donnell
To the Ends of the Earth, To the End of the Age
Doing Member Care Well (pp. 1-10)
In addition to the NSC [Newer Sending Countries] and international emphases in developing this book, I was also guided by the idea of the non-primacy of any single specialty domain for member care. Mental health has an essential role, as do medical care, logistical support, personnel management, and pastoral nurture. Hence this book intentionally includes material from a variety of member care colleagues, including pastors, personnel development specialists, church leaders, physicians, psychologists, and missionaries themselves. Further, many authors not only share about their respective topics, but they also add a personal touch as they share their hearts for mission personnel, national Christians, and the unreached.
Another distinctive of the book stems from my concern that any good movement, such as the international member care field, can stagnate or become "institutionalized." To avoid or at least help minimize this process, I have long sensed a need to incorporate new voices and fresh input for member care from both inside and outside the evangelical missions community. I thus earnestly endeavored to launch into and learn from new areas as I prepared this book, pushing the usual borders of member care into several additional realms:
**The international health care communities and non-government organizations in the humanitarian aid sector.
**Spiritual warfare as it relates to the personal life and ministry of member care workers as well as to mission personnel.
**The member care needs of nationals/locals who are the focus of missionary service.
**Applications from personnel programs within the military.
**Emphases on human rights and religious liberty advocacy.
**Trauma care and contingency management approaches.
**Information from the field of human resource development.
**Perhaps above all, a balanced perspective on the cost of missions, including martyrdom, informed by 2,000 years of the church's sacrificial commitment to take the gospel compassionately to the unreached. (p. 3)
2009: Kelly O'Donnell
Staying Healthy in Difficult Places: Member Care for Mission/Aid Workers
Over the last 20 years, a special ministry within the Christinan mission/aid sector, really a movement, has developed around the world that is called member care. At the core of member care is a commitment to provide ongoing, supportive resources to further develop mission/aid personnel. Currently there are an estimated 458,000 full-time “foreign missionaries” and over 11.8 million national Christian workers from all denominations (Barrett, Johnson, and Crossing, 2008). These figures do not reflect the number of Christians involved in the overlapping area of humanitarian aid, nor do they reflect the unknown number of “tentmakers” or Christians who intentionally work in different countries while also sharing their faith. Sending organizations and churches, colleagues and friends, specialist providers, and also locals who are befriended are key sources of such care.
The development of member care is reflected in the many conferences and special training symposia that have taken place. Such events have been occurring in the USA for 30+ years, gaining major momentum in the 1990’s and beyond. Similar events have also occurred over the last 15 years in countries like India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Korea, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria, Cyprus, Germany, The Netherlands, Brazil, El Salvador, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Member care has truly become international, is increasingly mainstreamed into the ethos of sending groups, and is considered to be a central part of mission/aid strategy.
1. There is so much that could be quoted from the authors and editors in the two landmark books on attrition/retention and good practice: Too Valuable to Lose (1997) and Worth Keeping (2007). Again I want to acknowledge the many incredible people and organizations, and their materials, which are not even mentioned (yet) in this sampler of quotes!
2. For a broad overview of the development of the member care field, see the first section of the article by Kelly O'Donnell:
Staying Healthy In Difficult Places: Member Care for Mission/Aid Workers (2009).
Reflection and Discussion-Questions