What is our responsibility to missionaries sent out from our church?
It is a mistake at every level to assume that your homegrown missionary’s sending agency is going to provide the shepherding care needed over the long haul. When serious crises happen on the field or the missionary is terminated, the sending agency inevitably turns over the wounded missionary to their home church. If the sending church is going to be responsible for picking up the pieces of a shattered marriage, family, or life, it is in your best interests to be involved from the beginning and come alongside with preventative maintenance, pastoral care, conflict resolution, and strategic guidance all along the way.
In a sense, we believe the home or sending church has a responsibility to ensure the financial support of your missionary. This doesn’t mean that all the funds have to come from your church. Rather, it means that your missions team or the designated support team for your missionary comes alongside to assist an advocate for whatever fundraising needs there are. Accountability during the deputation process, creative assistance in developing partnership materials and presentations, targeted prayer for the fundraising process, administrative assistants for mailings and phone calls–the home church can get involved in all these areas.
Mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are best met through the like-minded fellowship and relationships of your church with your missionary. After all, your church knows them best; you helped guide and prepare them for the field. The local church training or mentoring process no doubt included many hours of private discussion and counsel in which there attitudes and outlook were tuned to meet the extraordinary challenges of cross-cultural living in their appointed place of service. Continuing to get beneath the surface and ask, from a foundation of genuine love and concern, the hard questions about their spiritual life, marriage, family relationships, team relationships on the field, how they’re handling difficulties, etc. should be practically second nature for the missions leadership of the church.
The local church must develop and insist on a deep level of honesty and transparency with their missionary. The goal is long-term effectiveness for the glory of God. The stakes are high. So the level of ownership, communication, and loving concern must also be high. There is indeed a special responsibility toward the missionaries sent out from your local church. And, you hope and pray that other missionaries you support come from churches actively fulfilling their responsibilities as a sending church, also.
Missionaries that have such a loving and generous accountability with their home church are the envy of other missionaries on the field.