Healthy, Resilient, & Effective in Cross-Cultural Ministry by Laura Mae Gardner is the latest book I've been reading, highlighting, and bookmarking. This book calls itself, "a comprehensive member care plan." As I am the Member Care Coordinator for MAG, Missionary Air Group, it makes sense I am carefully engaged within the pages.
What is member care? I'm so glad you asked! I will quote the sample job description from Gardner's book, "to prepare, equip, strengthen and empower our staff for effective life and service within our organization... and beyond!" Sometimes I've described member care as the soft skills required for effect international workers. In MAG's case we specialise in aviation that primarily supports medical missions in Guatemala, Honduras and Gabon.
The technical skills of the job are obvious, you must know how to fly a plane and maintain it. As an international worker you likely will need to learn another language and culture. Those hard skills are
clearly necessary to succeed in being a pilot deployed to a field program with MAG. However it's the soft skills side of the job I am most heavily involved with developing for our organization.
Soft skill sets are vital for effective international workers. Those soft skills are mostly encompassed within an individual's spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health. In order to be on mission with God one must maintain spiritual health, often far from heart-language church services and discipleship. This requires a dependency upon the Holy Spirit and a deep understanding one's identity in Christ.
Some of the emotional and relational health markers are hardiness, resiliency, life-long learning, self-awareness and getting along well with others. Such things don't come so easily to us human beings especially under the cumulative weight of living cross-culturally.
As member care coordinator I am building avenues through which our members can develop, maintain and grow along the way. That means I am heavy on networking with like-minded organizations. MAG is a fairly young organization so we are thrilled to get to join in and share resources with others. I have had the honor to join JAARS staff in their Intercultural Communication Course, ICC, which is a four plus week intensive training course for new international workers. Our MAG members are able to get excellent training through this program.
As I continue to develop member care for MAG I am continually researching how other mission sending organizations equip and train their staff. It is a big job but one I am passionate about. There are many other aspects of my job I am still in development of such as screening of new members, resourcing counseling, debriefing and writing policies and procedures to ensure consistent care standards.
Please pray for me as I do not have a strong gift of administration. Writing of policies and procedures is slow going for me. The things that have taken up most of my time in this first year has been directly connecting and caring for our missionaries.
All this to say my job has stretched me greatly. I am on a high learning curve and at times feel very out of my depths. When those times happen I push into God and reach out to other more experienced professionals. I am greatly blessed to work with a wonderful headquarter staff here in North Carolina. I have been on field visits to Guatemala and Honduras to get to know and connect with our international staff. As we move forward pray we stay in step with Christ and boldly push into hard places with great love and compassion.
Monday, July 17, 2017
A few weeks ago I was able to join some dear friends to pause life a bit and linger together. We talked about all kinds of things but what truly anchors us is not our classic canvas chucks but our shared striving after a Spirit-led life.
Leanne's Prius carried us miles stretched across smooth ribbons of road. In the air conditioned hybrid we found our conversation drawn to the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5-7 The Message (MSG)
5 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
These words both trouble and comfort.
The Traveling Chucks has been a gift. These remarkable women I get to adventure with have inspired and encouraged me on a soul-level. From our first trip days after I took our two oldest children to boarding school a country away on a foreign continent in 2010, to this last trip in 2017 God has shown up. He spoils us by showing us the wonder of this planet and the joy of traveling together. We've been on land and sea, near and far. We've seen elephants, hippos, and african grey parrots in the wild. We've even rescued a sea turtle much to the chagrin of a Gabonese fisherman. God is the author of adventure and friendship. He knits us together in this great big life. A life fraught with heartache and loss as well as love and purpose.
The Sermon on the Mount is a clear call us to live out His Kingdom culture. His Kingdom culture is vastly different from the cultures of this planet. It's a tall order and one that can not be fleshed out in my strength alone. I need His Spirit and fellow adventures to inspire and encourage me along the way. Honestly everyday I have to fight against the culture of this world that values self and comfort and puzzles over such sentiments of being less in order to be filled more with God. I can be so easily swayed by HGtv and entertain thoughts that pop-corn ceilings are evil and granite counter tops are the answer to the all that ails.
Thank you fellow Traveling Chucks:
Lisa Marie Mangang
Stephanie Meckley (Bean)
Robin Roark Frey
And thank you to the many, too numerous to count, that have sojourned with me in this life. Our feet are not just shod with classic canvas converse shoes but vastly more importantly, "with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15).