by Linda Parker, LMFT
As agency administrators and member care personnel, you care about God’s global workers and the national fellowships they serve. You train, mentor, encourage and coach when needed. You counsel them through the inevitable bumps in the road. But there may be times you wonder if, with so many under your care, you really have a pulse on how things are going. The job seems too big. You wish you had an extra set of eyes to see, ears to hear and hands to help.
Many agencies today are realizing the sending fellowship is a welcome partner in caring for their workers. Whereas in the past agencies have sometimes viewed the fellowship as primarily helpful for financial and furlough support, agencies today are realizing that the lifelong relationships fellowships have with their workers, as well as their resources, can supplement what agencies do to help sustain workers while on the field.
Before joining the Olive Tree Counseling Center counseling team I had the privilege of leading a team of seven people in my fellowship to proactively care for those we sent out around the world. We built strong relationships with our workers through field visits and regular contact so they could voice concerns before they became unmanageable. Any of our workers that took the time to come to our annual global worker conference were treated to a retreat where they could connect with other workers and receive special care and teaching ministry from our pastors. There was also money in our budget for one of us to travel quickly to support a worker in a grave emergency.
We built relationships with key member care people in our workers’ agencies and established mutually satisfying confidentiality agreements so that we could work well together, especially should a crisis arise. At first, agencies were surprised at the level of involvement we, as a fellowship, wanted to have in ensuring the sustainability of our people. When they saw our respect for the agency as the primary caretaker and that we were there to enhance their care, and not take it over, they were excited about working with us.
Our team served as a link to the wider involvement of the congregation. Short term ministry trips were planned for people in the fellowship who had skills that could enhance global workers’ ministries. A resource list was developed for needs such as housing, vehicle use while at home, computer technical help, educational consultations for their children, and psychological and/or medical help. A group of people faithfully met every Sunday to pray for them and trust was built so that workers felt free to be candid with struggles and real concerns. We linked them with existing fellowship and study groups which they could be a part of while at home and who kept in touch with them while on the field.
Our pastor thought we were doing something unique and asked us to write a book to help other fellowships begin to see the important role they can have. We were encouraged by agency leaders and member care personnel that this could be used to train fellowships, many of whom have the desire to be more involved but don’t know how. Mind the Gaps, written by the Care Team of my home fellowship community, is intended to help fellowships begin a care team, understand what workers go through on the field and how fellowships might partner with agencies. We hope agencies will use our book to help facilitate fellowships’ partnership in member care and we would love to see workers give this book to their fellowships to stimulate greater involvement. Look for it on our website MindTheGaps.org.
This past February I left my counseling practice of 30 years and came to Central Asia to serve at Olive Tree Counseling Center. Now, as a global worker myself, along with the excellent member care from my agency, I’m on the receiving end of this kind of care from my home fellowship. What a difference it’s made!