Missions

Care of missionaries vital

Oct 2011    

THE TYPICAL MISSIONARY EXPERIENCES STRESS LEVELS between three and four times higher than that considered to be “at risk” under normal circumstances.

This is due to the discomfort of being in a different country and culture, facing high expectations from sending churches or agencies, the unconventional nature of mission work, being distanced from supportive friendship networks, and insufficient support received by the missionary and his family, whether accompanying or staying behind.

This was stated by the Rev Dr David Tan, who has been training and caring for Asian workers over the past 10 years. He was one of the speakers at the second plenary session of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) Missions Conference on Aug 20, 2011. The full-day conference, part of MMS’ 20th Anniversary celebrations, saw about 130 participants attending two plenary sessions and their choice of two out of five available workshops.

The plenary session began with each of the speakers having seven minutes to give the attendees a glimpse of his or her topic which would be covered in the workshops after lunch. Mr Craig Shugart, co-founder and CEO of Ibex International Associates, spoke about “Business As Missions”. Ms Magdalene Kooi from the MMS Education Missions Committee shared about “Education Missions”, and Dr Andrew Wong, Missions Committee Chairman of Pentecost Methodist Church, spoke on “Medical Missions”. The Rev P. John Wesley, General Secretary of the Indian Evangelical Mission, shared briefly on his topic of “Church Planting”.

The Rev Dr Tan’s workshop put the spotlight on whether missionaries were being sent by churches with sufficient understanding of the resources, material and non-material, required on an ongoing basis to nurture and develop missionaries and their family members throughout the missionary life cycle. He pointed out that missionaries need more strategies of dealing with the exponentially higher levels of stress they experience, and require much regular support from leaders of the sending church, church members and mission agencies.

However, he noted that cost-cutting mindsets often deprived missionaries of sufficient support. Instead, sending churches and mission agencies should look into the ongoing spiritual and emotional needs of the missionary, their spouse, their children, their aged parents, and make plans for the eventual retirement and reintegration of the missionary into the home country.

THE TYPICAL MISSIONARY EXPERIENCES STRESS LEVELS between three and four times higher than that considered to be “at risk” under normal circumstances.

This is due to the discomfort of being in a different country and culture, facing high expectations from sending churches or agencies, the unconventional nature of mission work, being distanced from supportive friendship networks, and insufficient support received by the missionary and his family, whether accompanying or staying behind.

This was stated by the Rev Dr David Tan, who has been training and caring for Asian workers over the past 10 years. He was one of the speakers at the second plenary session of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) Missions Conference on Aug 20, 2011. The full-day conference, part of MMS’ 20th Anniversary celebrations, saw about 130 participants attending two plenary sessions and their choice of two out of five available workshops.

The plenary session began with each of the speakers having seven minutes to give the attendees a glimpse of his or her topic which would be covered in the workshops after lunch. Mr Craig Shugart, co-founder and CEO of Ibex International Associates, spoke about “Business As Missions”. Ms Magdalene Kooi from the MMS Education Missions Committee shared about “Education Missions”, and Dr Andrew Wong, Missions Committee Chairman of Pentecost Methodist Church, spoke on “Medical Missions”. The Rev P. John Wesley, General Secretary of the Indian Evangelical Mission, shared briefly on his topic of “Church Planting”.

The Rev Dr Tan’s workshop put the spotlight on whether missionaries were being sent by churches with sufficient understanding of the resources, material and non-material, required on an ongoing basis to nurture and develop missionaries and their family members throughout the missionary life The Rev Dr Tan shared that the reintegration of the missionary into their home culture was the hardest process. His personal experience was that he needed one-and-a-half years to recalibrate to his home culture – in which time he could not function as per normal.

He also shared about the lack of retirement funds or arrangements such as repurchase of housing and some churches’ expectations of sending missionaries “cheap”. Thus, he suggested that local churches work with the MMS to improve support for missionaries.

Opening the conference earlier, the Rev Wesley emphasised that it was imperative for Christians to obey all of Jesus’ commands, which included God’s desire for “all men” to be saved. He referred to the book of Isaiah, through which the Lord reminds all His servants to both preach the Word and intercede for perishing souls.

He said: “The cutting edge for us as disciples of the Lord Jesus is to hold fast to what we believe and proclaim it unashamedly, unreservedly and unrelentingly, making sure that while the message remains unchanged, the method and strategy might evolve with the times.”

MMS Executive Director Rev Lawrence Chua mapped out the path along which the MMS had grown, beginning with cultivating opportunities and relationships in the first 10 years, equipping believers in the next 10 years, and finally accelerating church planting efforts in the 10 years ahead.

The Rev Wesley closed the conference with a short message in which he drove home the point that each Christian is a co-builder fulfilling the job given to him by God. He exhorted the attendees to “get involved, get interested, get invested” in the crucial work of missions, pointing out that whatever skills they lack, every Christian can get involved in the “closet ministry” – that of interceding for God’s work in missions.

By Grace Toh

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