Road In The Mountains

The Critical Journey

In the July article “Hartmut Wacker: When vocation gets into a crisis…“, we were presented with some “food for thoughts” on the theme of suffering – or rather how we process and cope with suffering.

The short summary of a survey where missionaries share resources that helped them to cope, inspired me to reflect on my own experience and the experience that many missionaries and missionary candidates go through these days. At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak many were told to leave their place of service. For some, the time since then has been a prolonged period of uncertainty, unfulfilled dreams and expectations, a high degree of ambiguity: Can I go back or not? When can it happen? What to do in the meantime? Others have had similar problems like waiting for delayed papers, facing new visa restrictions, health problems or sudden development of conflict, like the Afghan crises.

Buchcover The Critical Journey

The Critical Journey

Earlier this summer I discovered a book called “The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith” by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich.

In this book, a third stage is described as “the doing” stage. It is a time in life when we are working for God, being productive in his service. It is usually a very active phase on our faith journey. It is a time of responsibility, authority, recognition, titles, and often praise from others. Several of the missionaries who were sent back were probably in this productive stage of life. A good place to be. But then in the next stage we may experience external events or internal conflicts that lead us out of this productive place, and into a time of questioning and doubt. The focus is no longer our service for God, but God himself and our relationship with him. This is a battle between God and the individual, an inner journey when we struggle with questions to God and about God, as well as inner struggles with our own hurt and disappointments. It is a struggle that God allows for a purpose.

In the July article Hartmut Wacker describes this as a time of ambiguity, a time when we experience the tension between faith and doubt, trust and disappointment. It was pointed out that how we view God is a crucial factor at this stage of our faith journey. The struggle can lead to a time of spiritual failure, of giving up, but it can also become “the breeding ground for spiritual growth”. The strongest resilience factor was to be able to trust that God is in control, that He is a faithful, loving and caring God even when we do not feel like it or do not get the answers we are longing for. Experiencing His love and care in the midst of difficulties is not something we can learn academically; it is learned through real life experience.

In the survey, some missionaries pointed to the importance of “extraordinary spiritual experiences” they’ve experienced before, during or after the traumatic event. It is a personal experience when we just know that God is there, that He is real and cares for us personally and intimately.

This has also been my personal experience. Hearing God speak, recognizing His inner dealings, receiving words of knowledge through others, was the deepest and most helpful support to me at a time when I had to leave the place of service because of illness and through a prolonged time of recovery. When God and His goodness and kindness become the center, it is easier to accept His direction even if it means redirection for us. Because we trust Him and His power, we can look to the future with hope and expectation. And – as described in The Critical Journey – our service may be more fruitful because we learn to serve in dependence on Him, under His direction, rather than for Him.

Another thing that helped along the way, was living in Ethiopia during one of my gap years. Getting to experience transcultural transition as an adult gave me a better understanding of this process and it allowed to simultaneously try out more constructive coping mechanisms and grieve for everything that I had lost when I left my home in Tanzania. In fact, in some ways the grief that I felt when leaving Ethiopia, melted into the grief that I had felt as a teenager, when I left my home and my identity behind. I was also able to meet up with a couple that were very important to me during my years in Tanzania. I remember feeling that I had found a piece of myself in meeting them, and that seeing them in another context than Tanzania, helped integrate a part of Tanzania-Cecilie into Denmark-Cecilie, and made my sense of self a bit more congruent than it was before.

Lastly the thing that has probably had the biggest impact on my journey of coherence has been getting to work with TCKs. I have been lucky enough to be a co-therapist in a TCK-group, where newly returned TCKs could come and share their stories, and feel heard, seen and recognized. In speaking with these children and in helping them make sense of their personal narratives, I many times felt like I was speaking to Tanzania-Cecilie and allowing her to become a part of Denmark-Cecilie. Being able to use these experiences, that have been so incredibly hard and yet so incredibly good, to help others has in many ways helped piece my own story into a more whole narrative. A narrative where there is room for all the places and people and experiences that life as a TCK brings.

In a guide that we at Center for Familieudvikling have developed to help children when they return to Denmark, it says: “Remember that who you are doesn’t depend on where you’re from. You can be a whole person even though your heart is divided over all the places on the earth that you’ve called home. You can have more than one home and more than one homeland.” Some days this is harder to believe than others, but in many ways, I am thankful to be able to say that although my heart and my story is spread in different places of the world, I still feel like all of it is my heart and my story.

Picture of Reidun Haugen Dalseth

Reidun Haugen Dalseth

She is a board member of Member Care Europe and of mission boards in Norway. She is thankful for the opportunity to mentor/coach missionaries serving in many countries through different net-based platforms.

Picture of Reidun Haugen Dalseth

Reidun Haugen Dalseth

She is a board member of Member Care Europe and of mission boards in Norway. She is thankful for the opportunity to mentor/coach missionaries serving in many countries through different net-based platforms.

So, what are common themes that people put in their “Go Bag”?

The Church needs to lift its eyes and realize that we are the possessor of hope.

You can be a whole person even though your heart is divided.

About a third stage described as "the doing" and what we can learn through it.

A pattern for sustaining ministry in the frantic world of the twenty first century.

A book to encourage and equip single mission workers.

Designed to assist and encourage people who live overseas.

A work-book for those considering a cross-cultural marriage.

Christian Quartier

He is married to Simone and is father of 3 adult TCK. He is passionate about strengthening, resourcing and empowering cross-cultural Workers and their families through debriefing, critical incident debriefing and brief counselling. Restoring a sense of peace (shalom and wholeness) in their lives when that peace has been disturbed or shattered is at the core his ministry. He is also active in membercare training and consultancy.

Scott Shaum

Scott Shaum‘s deep joy is living life with his wife, Beth, their three sons and wives, and three grandchildren. That and really good food shared amongst a bevy of friends; or in solitude with a stack of books. As Associate Director of Barnabas International (20 years) and an ordained pastor, the Father’s goodness in his life is reflected as a pastoral, companioning presence with other shepherd-leaders scattered globally and locally. A scary-tough decade resulted in authoring The Uninvited Companion: God’s Shaping Us in His Love Through Life’s Adversities. He has contributed to Trauma and Resilience (ed. Schaefer and Schaefer) and Tender Care (Barnabas Books). You can find his latest rambles at tendingscatteredwool.com.

Gary W.

Gary W. left the US in 1983, following a call from the Lord to serve overseas, and served as a tentmaker in France until 1988 and then in Switzerland where he lives now. As a professional, he worked full-time as a research chemist and in later years as an IT specialist. In terms of ministry, he has served mostly in pastoral settings with services of teaching, preaching, counseling, and inner healing. Since taking an early retirement in 2013, he has done short-term ministry trips in eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. He joined OM in 2017 and has been doing pastoral care for workers in Asia through short visits and online. Gary is married to Beverly and they have five adult children.

Cathy Thompson

Cathy Thompson is a missionary kid with degrees in Physical Education, Anthropology, and Cross-Cultural Leadership. She has further studies in Ministry Leadership Development, Member Care, Conflict Management, Counseling, Child Safety and Forensic Investigation. Since 1992, Cathy has served with Pioneers as Team Leader in Hungary and since April 2009 as Area Leader for East Central Europe. Cathy also serves as Pioneers’ Child Safety Officer for Europe, as a member of several working groups on training and leadership development, and on the executive team of Shoulder to Shoulder. She is committed to seeing teams work well as they incorporate singles, couples and families into multicultural teams.

Charley Warner

Charley Warner has been involved in member care in Eurasia since 1992. He and his wife, Cheryl, serve with Barnabas International and live in Irpin, Ukraine. Charley is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

Suzy Grumelot

Suzy Grumelot has served with World Team in urban church planting in France for the past 35 years. In 2012, with French partners, an historic new church was birthed in central Paris. In addition to discipling women and overseeing Bible studies, Suzy is involved with training, networking, prayer, and mentoring of new believers and church planters. She serves on the executive team of Shoulder to Shoulder and is the co-author of Sacred Siblings: Valuing One Another for the Great Commission.

Amrei Wehmeyer

Amrei Wehmeyer has been working with DMG interpersonal and TEAM in Portugal since 1991. She is currently leading the Member Care Center ReCanto da Fonte in Lourinhã on the Silver Coast of Portugal. Amrei also serves on the board of Member Care Europe.

Barry Danylak

Barry Danylak is an international speaker, author, and pastor-theologian with expertise on topics related to singleness, marriage, sexuality, and family in the biblical and modern world. Barry serves as Executive Director of SEE Global, a ministry based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that equips church leaders around the world. He is ordained and has served as a pastor for over 10 years with the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada. Barry holds a PhD in New Testament with the Divinity Faculty of the University of Cambridge and is author of Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life, Singleness in God’s Redemptive Story, and a forthcoming book, Paul and Secular Singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, scheduled for release by Cambridge University Press in 2024.

Maria Techow

Maria Techow is a Clinical Psychologist in Denmark with a heart for mission. In her working life she is the head of department for Psychiatry & Existence, and Competence Unit for Expats at Center for Family Development. She has been working with mission organizations for more than 13 yeas, screening candidates for the mission fields, offering crisis counselling and online therapy and helping families in their re-entry process, among other initiatives leading TCK groups for years. She is the co-author of the book: GO! My personal guide and diary before, during and after moving abroad, an interactive book for TCKs. The book is as a starting point for conversations between children and their parents, for children’s groups, in schools and across cultures and border. She is the mother of four, a writer and a speaker in various Christian settings. Maria is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

Evi Rodemann

Evi Rodemann lives in Hamburg, Germany and works as a theologian and event manager. She engages in the international work of the Lausanne Movement and the Mission Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance as well as being the CEO of her own organisation LeadNow. Her focus is the younger leaders generation. She has a Master in European Mission and Intercultural Christianity and currently works on her PhD researching event impact. www.evirodemann.com, www.leadnow.center

Rafael Năstase

Rafael Năstase is a missionary who served with his wife Alice, seven years in Republic of Moldova, being involved with Operation Mobilisation (OM) in church planting, discipleship and mobilizing churches for missions. Returning in his home country, Romania, he stepped in the leadership position from 2007-2019 as National Director of OM. Now he coordinates the church relation department of OM in Romania and is the national member care facilitator. Rafael has a BA in Philosophy and Journalism and got a master in Theology at Baptist faculty. Being born in a Romani (Gypsy) family he is passionate working towards getting his doctorate in ecclesiology and ethnography at the University of Bucharest, researching on the role of the church in transforming Roma communities. Rafael also serves on the board of Member Care Europe.

Sonja Pichler

Sonja Pichler is a happy single, born originally in Germany and has been living in Switzerland since 2010. During her time in Switzerland, she finished her studies as a counsellor; currently she is responsible for Member Care in OM Switzerland. In the international setting of OM she is involved in the Face2Face courses, both German and English. For the AEM in Switzerland she ministers in the annual debriefing week for intercultural workers. Sonja also works for a local church and as a licensed counsellor, both part time. Her professional qualifications are Psycho-Social Counsellor, Trauma focused counselling, Supervision (in process). She simply loves to see people thrive in who they are and who they are becoming. Her recreational oasis she finds in reading, walking and journaling (Bullet point and Bible Art). Creativity is one of her big resources.

Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell has helped to form national member care networks in countries like Romania and Italy. He served for over 20 years as a missionary and country director for the mission One Challenge in Romania before he and his wife Tammy accepted a new challenge in Genova, Italy caring for and coming alongside local pastors and Christian leaders. As a member of the European Member Care Board, Mihai works to build Member Care awareness and networks in eastern and central European countries that are just beginning to understand the need for MC. He is passionate about building bridges between new and old generations and making sure the voices of Eastern Europe are heard and respected. He is a former investigative journalist for WCCO television in Minneapolis with a doctorate in missions from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN and a masters in child psychology, trauma and developmental disorders from the University of Minnesota. Currently he collaborates with the Gaslini Institute in Genoa Italy in child trauma counseling and serves as an advisor for the Association of Christian Counselors in Italy.

Sarah Hay

Sarah Hay has a background in HR, initially in the National Health Service, UK and then in Nepal with International Nepal Fellowship for 3 years, where she also began member care for expatriate mission workers. After returning to UK and starting a family, Sarah began working as HR and Member Care Manager with European Christian Mission Britain, where she’s been for almost 15 years.  This continues to involve her in the recruitment and preparation of new workers, their member care whilst overseas plus debriefing and re-entry assistance when they return. Since 2015, Sarah also became Course Leader of the MA in Member Care at Redcliffe College, before then developing a new MA in Staff Care and Wellbeing at All Nations Christian College following the college merger. She has the best of both worlds in being a member care provider but also an equipper and encourager of member care students across the world. Last but by no means least, Sarah is married to Rob and has two sons who are now both at university. Sarah is also a board member of Member Care Europe.

Jonathan Ward

Jonathan Ward is involved in the Federation of Francophone Evangelical Missions and its member care network (www.resam.fr), and he serves at a retreat centre in France dedicated to caring for pastors and cross-cultural workers (www.pierresvivantes.org). He and his wife Rachel were raised on the mission fields of France and Angola respectively. They have three adult children. Jonathan also serves on the board of Member Care Europe.