Help Your Missionaries Emotionally
This is the second “Guest Post” by Dave Lewis, of Paracletos Ministries, taken from his Blog. In this series he’s dealing with how a local church can help their returning missionaries in practical ways. Here are some excellent suggestions that take the emotional pressure off your Harvest workers on a visit back home!
Ways to Help Returning Missionaries: Emotionally
Posted: 18 Jun 2014 03:59 AM PDT
Missionaries are accustomed to juggling many relationships. Some are temporary, others are life-long. Family members, best friends, sending churches, fellow missionaries—there are many types and levels of relationship, and each demands emotional energy to maintain. As someone involved in missionary care, you want to be able to help.The people who left your church to go to the mission field are not the people who return. Likewise, you are not the same as when you said good-bye to them. Trying to discern the differences and navigate them successfully can be tricky and emotionally draining. Here are some ways in which you can take the edge off.
- Provide them with the latest copy of your church directory.
- Refresh your memory so you are sure to get their names right, as well as the name of their country, city/town/village, and people group.
- Take a special interest in the children. Parents love it when their kids are acknowledged and accepted.
- Give them time to get adjusted. Don’t expect them to arrive one day and plug into VBS the next.
- Allow them to determine their schedule and agenda as much as possible. Recommend that they punctuate speaking engagements and visits with personal and family time.
- Provide them with a personal debriefing, either from a trained person in your church or from one of many organizations that offer it. They need a time and place to unpack their emotional suitcase, preferably before they get involved in speaking engagements and ministry presentations.
- If things come up during the debriefing that indicate follow-up counseling would be wise, make sure they get it.
- If you plan any gatherings, start with groups where they will already know most of the people present. You can introduce more new people later.
- Try to pair MKs with children in their age group who can show them around, introduce them to people, invite them to group events, etc.
- How well do you know these missionaries? Are they extroverts or introverts? That is, are they energized by being around people or by alone time? Everyone needs to operate out of their comfort zone from time to time. Just don’t push too hard in the opposite direction of their personalities.
Jet lag, trauma on the field, strained team relationships, difficult living conditions—there are many things that can take a toll on a missionary’s emotions. Be sensitive; listen thoughtfully. Feel free to add your thoughts here as well.
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