Thursday 23 April 2009

Member Care: Pearls and Perils, Lecture 1

Staying Healthy in Difficult Places:
Member Care for Mission/Aid Workers
This first lecture at Fuller School of Psychology (February 2009) looked at historical milestones in member care, listening to our global voices, and future directions for this field. The lectures are available on line for free in written, audio, and video formats. We have included a few excerpts below from the first lecture to help encourage you to download and watch the video.
A Somali woman at the gate of the UNHCR compound prior to
registration and admission to a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, October 2008.
© Manoocher Deghati/IRIN. Used by permission.


Historical Milestones
Opportunity, danger, duty, hell. Life can be as difficult as it can be wonderful. And helping those whose life is even more difficult than our own can be very difficult indeed! There is so much misery that requires the interventions of the faith-based, government, and civil society sectors (e.g., natural and human made disasters, poverty, HIV-AIDS, malaria/diarrheic disease, and internecine war, to name a few). For the mission/aid community, helping can often involve staying sane—and alive—in unstable, insane places. It is not that mission/aid work always deals with life-threatening experiences, of course. Rather it is just that helping to relieve the “maims and moans” of creation takes its toll. Mission/aid workers, like the people they are helping, have some special challenges and needs indeed.
Over the last 20 years, a special ministry within the Christian mission/aid sector, really a movement, has developed around the world that is called member care. At the core of member care is a commitment to provide ongoing, supportive resources to further develop mission/aid personnel. Currently there are an estimated 458,000 full-time “foreign missionaries” and over 11.8 million national Christian workers from all denominations (Barrett, Johnson, and Crossing, 2008). These figures do not reflect the number of Christians involved in the overlapping area of humanitarian aid, nor do they reflect the unknown number of “tentmakers” or Christians who intentionally work in different countries while also sharing their faith. Sending organizations and churches, colleagues and friends, specialist providers, and also locals who are befriended are key sources of such care.
The member care ministry and movement did not develop easily. It was often through crises, mistakes, and failure that we began to realize that Christian workers needed quality support in order to help them in their challenging tasks. One of the first books written to help with this need was written by Marjorie Collins in 1974, providing many ideas for how churches and friends could better support mission personnel (Who Cares About the Missionary?). Previously in 1970 Joseph Stringham, a psychiatrist and missionary working in South Asia published two landmark articles in Evangelical Missions Quarterly on the mental health of missionaries. Stringham identified a number of external and internal challenges including culture shock, being disillusioned with others, children, medical care, etc. (external) and resentment, sexual issues, marital struggles, dishonesty, guilt, spirituality, trauma/deprivation in earlier life, motivation etc. (internal).
Listening to our Global Voices
Expendable Humanitarian Workers, Africa, Viola Mukasa. I’m a humanitarian worker living in a location in Africa that is in prime need of help/missions. I’ve experienced many types of stress as I have worked in various mission programs. The most sustained tension that I have experienced has been related to the urgency and the amount of work to be done in a potentially explosive social and political environment. The challenge here is not only to produce expected results quickly, under tense and sometimes risky circumstances. The challenge is also to deal with the constant worry about the security and health of those within my immediate world and where I, my family, and friends fall within that world.
(Excerpts from chapter 27 Doing Member Care Well 2002)
Grave Consequences. India, Dr. Manoj. The recent deaths of many young missionaries in different parts of the country have been very shocking. More so, because the causes of the deaths are malaria, enteric fever and other common treatable and preventable causes. Today when medical science has advanced so much, it is sad that these young budding lives have been lost through what could have been ignorance, neglect, or delayed/improper treatment….As a health professional, I would recommend that every missionary sent to the field, especially to the remote areas, be given a proper training in basic health and be oriented to the health realities of their locations, in addition to other areas of preparation.
(Missionary Upholders Trust, Care and Serve Bulletin, March 2004; excerpts p.3)
Research on Mission Workers, Dorothy Gish, 1983 Sample of 547 field missionaries in several countries and with several organizations, Stressors (reported by 40%+ to be moderate to great):
· Confronting one another when necessary
· Crossing language and cultural boundaries
· Time and effort maintaining donor contact
· Amount of work
· Work priorities
(Journal of Psychology and Theology, reprinted in Helping Missionaries Grow (1988)
Future Directions
The need for old/new treasures [directions and resources] must also take into account the significant shifts in demographics among the world’s 2.1 billion “affiliated Christians,” especially the growing majority of Christians in/from the Global South and the proportional decline in Christians in/from the global North (Johnson and Kim, 2006). These treasures must also support the efforts to resolutely and responsibly deal with the world’s greatest problems, including the need to eradicate poverty (e.g., the 910 million urban slum dwellers), provide universal education, promote gender equality, combat HIV/AIDS, foster environmental sustainability, etc. (United Nations Millennium Development Goals Here are 12 such treasures...
Treasure 3. Relief/Aid Workers—Psychosocial support is increasingly being recognized as a necessary and ethical organizational resource for workers in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (CHEs). This support includes briefing, stress management, debriefing, and practical help for relief workers as well as equipping them with trauma/healing skills to help survivors (e.g., see the account in Randy Miller’s interview with a World Vision relief worker, “Staying Sane and Healthy in an Insane Job” (1998) and the many accounts in Sharing the Front Lines and the Back Hills, edited by Yael Danieli, 2001). Many disaster scenarios provide opportunities to interact with and help UPGs, leading to ongoing joint programs in community development. It is especially important to consider the reality of “neglected emergencies”—the ones that get overlooked due their chronic, seemingly unsolvable problems and overall lower profile— including “fragile states affected by ongoing conflict, poverty, corruption, and weak infrastructure (Gray, 2008, Moeller, 2008). One timely resource is the radio program and materials created to help survivors and caregivers in both natural and human-made disasters ( See also two publications in particular from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Managing Stress in the Field (2001) and Psychological Support: Best Practices (2001)
Treasure 6. Special Support for A4 Workers—There is an increasing number of Christian workers from the A4 Regions. A4 senders/workers desire to provide develop quality member care approaches that fit their own sending groups, personnel, and cultures. Their experience in member care is also relevant for those from other sending nations (e.g., see the article on the India organization, Missionary Upholder’s Trust (Ethne-Member Care Update 11/08; Quality care is also emphasized in a special listing of “15 Commitments of Member Care Workers”, developed with consideration for diversity in MCW backgrounds (Upgrading Member Care, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 07/06). The commitment to quality care for A4 workers is also clearly stated in these excerpts from the Declaration by the Philippine Missionary Care Congress of October 2005...
Reflection and Discussion
1. List a couple items that strike you as being especially relevant for member care: in its history, current status, or future direction.
Comment on any of the above paragraphs in light of the concluding paragraph in this lecture/article (below):
Love. Above all, the core of E2MC [Ethne to Ethne Member Care--that is, the vission and strategy to promote member care by and for all people groups] involves the trans-ethnê, New Testament practice of fervently loving one another—like encouraging one another each day; bearing one another’s burdens; and forgiving one another from the heart. By this all people will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35). The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are inseparable. Our love is the final apologetic. It is the ultimate measure of the effectiveness of our member care.

1 comment:

Pat said...

Love meant for joy, not as a solution for pain.

To use love for pain is to seek sanctuary for distress; love is meant to celebrate, not to encapsulate and harbor.

Love can soothe but used only for that purpose, it becomes sterile and over time loses its vitality.

Warmth of relationships provides safety for the obvious reason that freedom exists, and that freedom lifts hearts rather than nursing broken hearts. Nursing is always for temporary aid, and never meant to be permanent.

Post traumatic disorders create the need and sometimes the desire for permanent nursing care, a distortion of what love was meant to be. Emotionally healthy persons do not need permanent nursing care. If they do, they are torn up inside, fragile, and delicate.