Changing the Oil on your Cross-Cultural Worker
By Mark Boughan
on Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Your car serves you. It takes you places. It can entertain you. It can keep you warm when it’s cold and – if it has AC – cold when it’s hot. It’s a goods carrier, an ambulance, and a school bus. With the right tires it can cross sand and snow, go up a dirt lane, and travel at speed on a super-highway.
And you know, it’s a lot like a cross-cultural ministry worker.
They too must be prepared to work at many different tasks in multiple environments when the need arises. And for them to be ready and able to serve, they need both preventive maintenance AND access to a repair shop. Like pastors, they are leaders in the places they serve. Maybe they are leading in worship, in educating, in translation, or any of a number of different tasks. And often on the same day!
So how do we serve our missionary leaders? I think that we can use the way that we care for our cars as an analogy.
Step 1: Choosing and Equipping the Right Car (& Selecting and Preparing Cross-Cultural Workers)
Selecting a car should be far more than picking a colour that you like. You want to know if it can do the job that you want it to. Does it have the capacity for the intended tasks? Is it large enough, is it in good shape, does it have the accessories that you need?
My current car was a gift from God six years ago. It had been owned by a faithful child of Christ who could no longer drive. She sold it to me at a low cost and then turned the amount I had paid her into a donation to the ministry that I led. It had low miles and was very comfortable, which would stand me in good stead with all the highway miles that I would be putting on it. Even so, I made sure that it was in good shape before I bought it AND I added an accessory that I knew I would be using constantly. Now, 230 000 kilometres later, I know that it was the right purchase.
In the MORE Network, we’re concerned with member care, and that starts with the selection and preparation of cross-cultural ministry workers.
The various ministries who share in the network must select and either ensure that prospective workers have the necessary training or get the necessary training for their intended field of service.
But churches have a tremendous role to play in choosing and preparing someone for service. There needs to be encouragement in the church for those feeling God’s call, and that starts in kid’s clubs and youth groups. Pastors get involved as mentors and the church needs to pray for the development of the next generation of workers.
Step 2: Servicing Your Car (& Serving your Cross-Cultural Workers)
This is where a lot of us fall down. We go too many kilometres between oil changes. The car is dirty, and the brakes need servicing. Our faithful vehicle needs some TLC.
And here’s where the MORE Network focuses efforts because our ministry workers need the maintenance care that they so often miss. Think of the dollar support that they receive as gasoline. Like a car, they need far more than that!
Cross-cultural workers need regular inspections. When someone contacts them and asks how they’re doing or, even better in many cases, comes to the field to see how they are feeling, it can make a huge difference. My wife and I have been developing an intended ministry in MORE called Alongsiders, in which trained retired people can make intentional visits to those on the field who feel the need of ‘maintenance’.
They need servicing and new parts. A good inspection of a car goes far beyond asking what it does, it looks at the condition of the parts.
And when we serve those workers who we have sent to represent Christ and us in the field, we need to go beyond asking what they do and how THAT is going, and take time to see if there’s wear and tear that needs caring for in their spirits, bodies, and emotions.
The agency member care workers who form part of the MORE Network are devoted to just such servicing.
And MORE Network, specializes in needed maintenance in ways such as:
- the MORE Network Resource Library and the specialized Mental Health Resource Library
- through collaboration in sourcing counselling for workers and education for their children
- by offering the ReBoot program for teens and young adults returning to Canada
Still, nothing is better than such care coming from a home church.
Step 3: Retiring Your Car (& Transitioning Care for Cross-Cultural Workers)
Sometimes your car no longer fits your needs, but it still has good life left in it. In this case, you don’t junk it. If you want to ensure the best outcome, you clean and shine it up, and find a new owner.
At other times you’re not sure about what to do with the car and so you take it in for a detailed inspection and – perhaps – an overhaul. There may be more years of life left in your old friend but perhaps in a different capacity.
Servicing your ministry worker in this case means finding out if they would like some further specialized education or even help them decide if it’s time to follow God’s call to move to another mission in need of the skills and experiences they’ve gained.
Then, finally, sometimes it’s time to retire your vehicle. But you don’t park it on the curb and let it rust, you find a place for it to go.
Is your home church ready to receive a returning worker?
Are social circles opened up so people can reconnect with friends?
Are their skills valued and used in the church?
Does the church continue support while adjustments are being made to life in Canada again?
And did you know that there are charities that you can give your old car to so it can benefit others (and you get a tax receipt). One of the greatest ways you can serve these leaders – and the church in Canada – is to help find and then support them in entering new ministry situations here at home.
In all these cases, MORE workers and associates seek to help with the transition of workers from field situations. MORE workers provide debriefing that helps returning workers make sense of their return to Canada. Going deeper, MORE collaborates on the REVIEW program offered by MISSIONPREP that provides a retreat setting for those who have returned. And, of course, MORE advocates for the development of return care.
A Modest Proposal
What’s YOUR role in servicing your cross-cultural ministry worker?
If you have a car, why not make sure that every time you have it serviced, you commit to
servicing serving(!) a worker through an email or text, sending a special personal gift, or committing to a week of prayer for them and their ministry.
The MORE Network operates as a network of like-minded Canadian Christ-centered organizations committed to proactively providing member care to each other’s cross-cultural workers. We are comprised of mission sending and training organizations, churches, and a host of individuals. Together we agree to work collaboratively and collegially with each other, giving freely of our gifts and abilities (counselling, debriefing, nurturing, training, administration) as God has gifted us.
The MORE Network exists to bolster, strengthen and encourage Canadian Missionaries and their children in times of transition. We facilitate care for singles, couples, and families, particularly as the repatriate from the cross-cultural assignment, and facilitate the resourcing of member care support staff. We provide group support, education and resources for foreign workers and their families.
For more information about MK Retreats, Missionary Transition Retreats, Training and Equipping Events, and Member Care, please check out the MORE Network website.
Mark Boughan, and his wife Ruth, have extensive ministry and theological education experience. They work with the MORE Network, providing Member Care support for international missionaries. Now 'retired' from 43 years of ministry and service, Mark & Ruth are dedicated to creating a 'finishers' ministry to cross-cultural ministry workers who are experiencing significant stress.