Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 20 of Missions on Point. We're in the second of a three-part series on missionary care. I'm calling this one Missionary Care, a Specialized Focus.

As we begin, I want to acknowledge a couple of assumptions. The first is that the things we're going to be talking about today have to do with a specialized focus on missionary care, but it really relates to those missionaries that have a special relationship with your church. You may be the home sending church of your missionaries. You may have a special relationship in terms of the amount of support you give or the amount of relationship and connection you have over time with missionaries on the field, and you want to have the same kind of special focused missionary care relationship.

A second assumption that I have is that this function is a function of the local church. There's two directions you could go that are different than that. The first is calling missionary care member care, that is a function of the mission sending organization, and mission sending organizations over time have grown in their appreciation and respect for the need for a stronger sense of missionary care, not just leaving their missionaries out on the field or giving them direction about certain organizational type of things, but actually pastoral shepherding care of them with regard to counseling them through issues on the field. There is a ton of literature out there done by very professional people on member care. In fact, some mission agencies actually partner with or hire the services of a pastoral group that serve as a separate nonprofit organization to provide pastoral care for their missionaries on the field. Many times, the mission organization is psychologized in their approach, but what I mean by that is they're not a function of body life and of biblical counseling, but of more therapeutic and investigative types of psychological testing and therapy.

If you want to find out more about member care, just do a search on missions member care, and you're going to find thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of information, theories and research about member care. That is not what I'm talking about. Our emphasis here is on missionary care from the local church relationship.

There is another way that you could take it, and the original book that is a key source book for missionary care is a book called Serving As Senders or the later version, Serving as Senders Today by Neal Pirolo. His original book took the stance that this missionary care team or support team was a function of friends of the missionary, not necessarily related to the local church or a function of the local church, but it's because of the climate and environment that Neal Pirolo was in and came out of that generated this concern for missionary care that wasn't directly related to the local church. I'm not talking about that perspective either. I'm talking about this special function missionary care as being a role of the local church.

The specialized focus I want to talk about in this episode is a particular assigned group of people that meet together to give missionary care to one specific missionary family. Different churches call it different things. Some churches call it prayer and care team. Others call it a support team like Neal Pirolo calls it a support team, but somehow that makes it sound like a psychology therapy group. I like to call it a Barnabas team, that's what Bethlehem Baptist has called it, and it's been generated across many churches. A Barnabas team seems to have the right tone to it and carry the right weight of emphasis on encouragement and care for the missionaries out on the field.

In an earlier episode, I gave you the 10 categories that I use. The first six come from Pirolo's book and then I've added four sort of more modern ones that deal with other issues. It probably could easily be expanded to 20 categories, but these 10 seem to capture the basis. First is moral support. That's encouragement. Secondly, logistics support. That's not just getting from here to there, but getting stuff from here to there, whatever that means. Thirdly, financial support. There's a lot more depth to that than you might think. Then, prayer support, communication support, reentry support. I add children's missions education, children's education on the mission field, then security and contingency as another topic and technology. Finally, field visits and short-term missions teams or projects. The field visits aspect I'm going to unpacked in the third part of our three part series on missionary care, so we're going to work primarily with the first nine in this one, giving you, again, just a little bit more in depth overview of these categories.

The people that volunteer or you select for the team should be committed to meeting monthly to at least pray for, if not, discover and try to meet the needs in all of these different areas of mission support. So they're getting together regularly, they have an inside track, presumably the missionary has a special email list of communication or Skype calls that they give to people on this Barnabas team so that they are a little bit more in the know than just the general church congregant out there.

Moral support is fairly easy to grasp right off the bat. You want to encourage them. Obviously, someone in charge of moral support on the Barnabas team should be an encourager, someone that just loves the missionary and wants to meet their needs and communicate with them and find out about them and learn how to pray for them in ways that are meaningful to the missionaries. This would include things like making sure that their birthdays and anniversaries and the children's birthdays are noted and celebrated. There may be special markers or milestones on the field of achievement, whether that be graduation from elementary school for one of the kids or a milestone of achievement in ministry. The point of moral support is that the missionary understands and has tangible communication that lets them know they're loved, they're thought of regularly, and the Barnabas team on behalf of the church wants to make sure that they are encouraged.

The financial support category of the Barnabas team starts even before the missionaries have gone to the field with the Barnabas team assisting and helping them in whatever way they can to win and gain the financial support they need to get to the field. Even if it's that outgoing or launch fund, the Barnabas team has a role that they can play to assist and make it easier for the missionary to raise the support. They shouldn't have to do it all on their own. They're not swimming out in the big ocean of financial support raising by themselves. They have people around them that know how to make phone calls and write letters and emails and help them out with the structure of financial support to see that the job gets done.

But after they leave for the field that's not all. There may be need for people at home to be co-signatures towards on a checking account or a savings account or have authority to send and wire transfer funds from one country to the other. They may need somebody to help them file their IRS tax forms and reply to anything from local financial authorities and federal financial authorities. If you stretch it just a bit, financial support can include all the legal stuff that's needed to make sure that they're taking care of their retirement funds, that they have a valid will, that they have medical powers of attorney and all of that stuff in play for themselves and their children so that they're taken care of in every legal possible way, meeting all financial support needs.

The fourth thing is prayer support. Prayer support is big enough all by itself for someone to be appointed to be sort of in charge of that on the Barnabas team because it's not just praying during the monthly meeting, but it's making sure that prayer requests get generated and communicated to the rest of the body and perhaps even outside the body to the entire support constituency of those missionaries. Some missionaries serve in such high security places that they don't send their own email newsletter out themselves. They send it securely via text and VPN to someone on the prayer support team who then produces the prayer letter and sends it out on their behalf.

The fifth area is communication support. There is overlap between some of these categories. Communication support means that the Barnabas team wants to be sure that the missionary is doing their job to communicate properly and that they are receiving communication regularly from the church, whether it's from the Barnabas team, other missions advocates within the church small groups or the church pastoral staff having regular communication with them. The communication support people make sure that happens. It may actually mean that the missionary needs to get some training from the Barnabas team in how to communicate and what kind of tools to use for communication for the digital communication of these days.

This next category is reentry support. There's two aspects of this. One is reentry, when the missionary family comes home for a shorter period of time for what we used to call furlough now is mostly called home assignment. Usually that time can be anywhere from say three weeks to six months. Most missionaries today have approximately a two-year term and about a three-month return to home assignment or furlough after that. However, reentry support can also mean that final entry when they return from the field permanently. In both cases, the needs are similar. It's just that the first case of shorter term furlough or home assignment, it's a shorter term, and permanent stay means long-term reintegration into life in America and in the church. The home assignment case does not require employment and long-term housing. The second case for permanent stay does.

This is one of those overlapping categories because in reentry support there is need for logistics, finances, prayer, communication, and encouragement all along the way. Reentry support generally includes things like making sure they get picked up at the airport with all of their luggage. It means that they have a car available, housing available, food at least temporarily provided for them to get started. It may mean that you provide or find a loaner phone, computer, internet service, all of those things. They may need to find out about utilities for the place they're staying and medical needs for their family, dentistry, vision. All of those things all wrapped up in reentry support. And sometimes the missionary stay is so rushed that they have to cram all of that into a six, eight, nine-week period of time and get all of that stuff done and then head back to the field basically to recover and relax from the blitz that they had at home. All of those things are included in reentry support.

The seventh area or category I want to talk about is children's education. This happens to be one of those issues that is a key issue for many missionary families. A lot of missionary families end up leaving the field because they did not properly anticipate and have the right expectations with regard to their children's education on the field. And because they want their kids to have a good education, they're not willing to just dump them over to whatever the local public school system allows. Almost humorously, couples that go to the field without having had children before they arrive generally will have children on the field. They tend to adjust a little bit better because they have no expectations. But if the family has school-age children that they bring to the field with them, they already have certain expectations about their kids' education and they have certain plans for them and what kind of college they want them to get into and what that may mean for their education on the field.

This is no small issue. Parents need counsel and resources with regard to children's education on the field, and trying to make the best choices available to them in a wider range of availability than their predecessors had generations before.

And just to solve this assumption before it happens, there are countries in the world where it is illegal to homeschool your children. Put that into your equation.

The next category is security and contingency. This certainly involves developing it a lot further, but someone needs to be up on this topic, which means some reading, some study, some information, particularly with regard to technology and security. But there is a mindset of contingency planning and information that the missionaries need to know, and in most cases, it needs to come from outside of the Barnabas team and perhaps even outside of the mission agency to have the right kind of philosophy and mindset for handling themselves in a foreign, often more dangerous field.

The last category that we're going to deal with today is technology. This is a big wide open field, but certainly you need a specialist on the Barnabas team that knows about technology, knows some of the latest software solutions, and knows how to have patience in both supplying it and tutoring or training the missionaries in this. Missionaries are not techno-geeks, generally speaking. They're going to need a lot of help to stay up with the pace of what is needed for them in the areas of communication, technology and development of things using their laptop computer and their smartphone. They need to be able to manage passwords and encryption and things like that, which they may be totally unfamiliar with before getting into the missionary world.

In the third and final episode, we're going to deal with field visits and touch then on short-term missions teams and projects for missionaries on the field. I hope that this section on Barnabas teams, the focused specialized care group for your missionaries makes sense to you. There is more available on the website.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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