Backpack

What’s in YOUR “Go Bag”?

In the past two years, we have seen the world go through unbelievable pain and anguish that have left many people displaced, cities destroyed, and people’s homes turned into public grave yards. For sure, this is not the first time that we are seeing massive amounts of refugees searching for a new life in a foreign land, nor will it be the last. Yet, for me personally, the last months have been remarkably difficult.

In August last year I learned of friends of mine working in Afghanistan who were beheaded by the Taliban in a public square for their faith as they were not able to get to the Kabul Airport (hundreds of kilometers away) without first being interrogated and targeted at check points that ultimately led to their death. Then news came of people I had debriefed on numerous occasions who were massacred in an attack on an underground church shortly after the Americans left the country.

In January, my wife was stranded in Stockholm, Sweden due to a positive PCR Covid test prior to our flight home to Italy, which required her to remain in quarantine an extra week. Expensive for sure, but even more costly was the fact that her father died during this time and quarantine prevented her from being able to fly home and say a last goodbye to her dad before he went home to the Lord.

Since February, I have been debriefing and helping Ukrainian families going through trauma, transition, grief, (pretty much you could name anything). My wife and I have had the opportunity to house refugees in our home and listen to their stories and see the pictures of total devastation that they had to leave behind. Seeing the images and hearing the personal stories is heavy on the heart.

Yet, there is something that connects all of these tragedies: a backpack, a suitcase, or what others would term: The GO BAG! .

Many of us in Member Care are familiar with this term/idea of the “Go Bag.” In the simplest of terms, the “Go Bag” is what one packs and has at the ready to leave in an instant. Therefore, the “Go Bag” is full of the bare essentials. For refugees, it may be the only thing left one can take from their homeland. For people like my wife, it may be the only keepsakes, pictures, books (in her case her father’s Bible with his handwritten notes), etc., that she has of her father before donating his things or selling a house.

As I work with these diverse groups of people going through trauma, whether children or adults, I often have them bring their “Go Bag” and talk about why they chose those particular items.  Every person is different. Some people pack what one might think: several shirts, underwear, toiletries, a few pictures, socks, shoes, etc. Others pack the bag full of things that some may find interesting or even useless:  ceramics, games, toys, favorite food spices, etc.  One mother had a zip-loc bag of a dried-up flower and others with dirt. When I asked her why she chose that for her “Go Bag” she said, “I don’t want to forget the smells of where I came from.”

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

  • Heirlooms, memories and keepsakes: for many people, they may never have the opportunity to go back to where they came from. Packing something that brings back a memory, a smile or preserves their heritage in some manner is very important. These could be deeply personal: a handmade card that a child made when he or she was a little kid. It could be a sport’s trophy. For one young boy, it was his mother’s famous Lasagna recipe. Everyone is different.
  • Something Patriotic: nearly every Ukrainian I have worked with has packed a Ukrainian flag. Why? Because they tell me they have no idea if their country will be identified by a new flag. Others have preserved and packed CD’s, records and other recordings of music. A Moldovan I work with who fears Russian aggression is imminent tells me he is going to pack a traditional Moldovan folk costume.
  • Documents: no not just passports, but birth-certificates with official stamps and emblems, family-trees. Others pack old maps and official geographical documents showing that yes, Ukraine, or Syria or Sudan exist, or at least existed on a map. One Italian has preserved a copy of the first constitution of Italy once the many kingdoms of Italy were united into one country.
  • Essentials: clearly a displaced person has no idea how long the journey will last, so obviously, many people pack clothing, toiletries, etc. But as one talks to displaced people, one finds that the definition of what is or is not “essential” is highly subjective.

Asking people about their “Go Bags” is a way to encourage and foster discussion, healing, understanding and reflection for those experiencing immense grief. It’s a great ice-breaker for trauma and grief counseling both for children and adults, but one should be prepared that many, if not most, of the recounting of these stories will be painful, deeply personal, and overwhelmingly emotional.

So, what’s in YOUR “Go Bag”?

Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell is a member of the board of Member Care Europe and a mission worker providing member care in Italy with OCI.

Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell is a member of the board of Member Care Europe and a mission worker providing member care in Italy with OCI.

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

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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.