World Globe

When vocation gets into a crisis…

In October 2020, German member care had their meeting online. The main topic was to discuss why young people return from the mission field before their term is over or will not return to the mission field after furlough.

Hartmut Wacker, who is on the German core team, allowed me to share his presentation.

Case study

A young family moves to an African country with the goal of working in church ministry there for an extended period of time. They had independently received the call to missionary service and met each other during their Bible school education. After marriage and intensive preparation, they left the country. In the first months after their arrival, the country went through a tumultuous political period – presidential elections were coming up. The everyday life of the foreigners was restricted. During this time, they had a traumatic experience when they unexpectedly got caught in a violent demonstration. They remained outwardly unharmed, but the woman suffered a great loss of confidence in the local community. During the years of the first term, the husband experienced fulfilment in his service while his wife repeatedly struggled with health problems. After the first term, medical examinations in Germany revealed that, unfortunately, leaving the country again was out of the question.

External circumstances played a role here, as did personal factors in one of the partners. This triggered an intense struggle with God about the question of vocation, but also a struggle with themselves and their partner.

We cannot point out all the areas that belong to the holistic coming to terms with this particular form of suffering experience today. I would like to focus my attention on the theological “beliefs”, that have been shaken by the experience and look for reorientation.

The question before us is: how can we provide assistance in this particular crisis, and how can new missionaries be prepared for such particular situations of suffering during their preparation time?

There are no ready-made solutions. Rather, from the wealth of experience of missionaries who have lived through different experiences of suffering, I would like to offer various food for thought for discussion, which – in my view – can be helpful for a personal (re)formulation of a theology of suffering.

Initiating a discussion for a theology of suffering

An empirical study of mine, which dealt with the resources of missionaries in coping with experiences of suffering, has led to interesting results. I describe them as perspectives from which individual aspects of their personal journey have been interpreted and processed.

The perspective of the inevitability of suffering

No one expected Christians to live a life free of suffering and pain. In some cases, their own suffering was even relativized in comparison to the suffering of others in the host culture. Or the view turned to the question of whether good could not also come from one’s own suffering. The most serious conflicts with God were among those whose service and calling were called into question by the event. Suffering yes, but why did it have to lead to the termination of ministry?

The perspective of a God who has all situations in his hands

This reflects faith in the omnipotence of God. Nothing happens where he does not have control. This comes across as comforting rather than threatening: “My life is in his hands, even though he has led me into this situation of suffering.”

The perspective of God’s love and care

A great trust in God’s love and care “for better or for worse” proved to be the strongest resilience factor in the crisis. This trust was formed in childhood and adolescence through credible role models in the parental home or in the community. But also previously experienced and survived crises in one’s own biography were found to be particularly helpful. Sermons or one’s own Bible school education were cited as less helpful or not helpful at all.

The perspective of ambiguity

This perspective refers to the ability to bear the tension between faith and doubt, between trust and disappointment. God’s actions are not always understandable from our perspective, but are sometimes even contradictory. Not only enduring such situations passively over a longer period of time, but also actively dealing with these questions can be the breeding ground for spiritual growth, but also spiritual failure.

The perspective of growing in times of suffering

All report their own spiritual growth, albeit in very different degrees and in different areas of life. The practical help from many known and unknown Christians, for example, strengthened the appreciation for the uniqueness of the worldwide church of Jesus.

The perspective of extraordinary spiritual experience

The survey brought to light another interesting resource. It refers to experiences described by a part of the respondents as “extraordinary spiritual experiences” that they experienced before, during or after the traumatic event.  This event was perceived as an immediate support by the Holy Spirit. When faced with difficult situations, Christians must not only count on their own personal resources and the support of other people, but they can count on the powerful presence of God, who can bring light and hope to a crisis situation in an extraordinary way.

Picture of Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell

Renate is a member of the board of Member Care Europe and works for the Association of Evangelical missions in Germany that hosts among other conferences, the German Member Care meetings. She is assistant to the CEO.

Picture of Mihai Lundell

Mihai Lundell

Renate is a member of the board of Member Care Europe and works for the Association of Evangelical missions in Germany that hosts among other conferences, the German Member Care meetings. She is assistant to the CEO.

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.