In previous newsletters, you might have heard us throw words around such as; reentry or debriefing or reverse culture shock or even the very term member care. And you are scratching your head thinking what do they mean? One way of explaining these terminologies is by going through a hypothetical story of a typical missionary family.
Greg and Valerie are your typical middle class couple with three kids ages 12, 6 and 2. They attend a local church and are very active in the community. Greg works as an engineer for a midsize engineering company. Valerie is a stay at home mom, her parents live in the neighborhood allowing them to help with the children. One day, Greg and Valerie are impacted by a missionary who spoke at their church. They fall in love with the work he is doing with an indigenous tribe in Latin America. They develop a friendship with this missionary and begin supporting him. Soon they visit him in the field and on a couple occasions help organize short term mission trips for the church to Latin America.
After a couple years Greg and Valerie begin to believe that the Lord is calling them to this mission work in Latin America. The confirmation came when the missionary emailed them about an opening for a support staff with some knowledge of engineering. They decided to go for it and went through the process of training and raising funds for a year.
Fast forward, they have been in the mission field now for three years. So much has happened, because of difficulties with their youngest child, who continuously have fits. Even though Valerie has thrived and enjoyed being in the field she started getting fatigued with the host culture and irritated with her husband who seem to have no time for them. She feels overwhelmed with the youngest and feels alone. Greg feels burned out, but feels guilty to rest or to take a break, after all many of his friends and church family donated for them to be there, "to see results!" The oldest has one more year to go and will be headed home for college. He is excited to finally go back to a culture he is familiar with, but at the same time feeling sad because this has become home for him. The middle child loves his host country, he learned the language and is engaged in the culture. He gets easily bored and out of place when they go on furlough in the United States.
So, they called Compass Ministries and decided, while on furlough, to get help. Their first day at Compass Ministries, the pastoral counselors take them through a family debriefing. It usually takes a whole day where the staff would guide the whole family to tell their story on a timeline. This allows them to reflect on their good and difficult experiences. One of the counselors is an expert in play therapy and guides the child to use toys to express what he feels. This gives insight for the parents to what the child is otherwise thinking and feeling but incapable of expressing.
The goal of this debrief is for the whole family to see their experiences in a nonjudgmental way. They reflect, refresh and realign themselves in their relationships in the family and their mission. Through these sessions, they will also be able to adjust their goals and adapt new goals due to unforeseen situations they are experiencing.
The 2nd day the pastoral staff takes time to debrief Greg and Valerie without the children. The staff guides them through a series of open ended questions to reflect on what they have learned from the debrief with their children and help them address issues that came to light. This will also setup further services they need to help them get through some sticking points they uncovered. One of the things they realized is that soon their oldest son will come home for college without them. They already saw some difficulty when they come in for furloughs several times and they are concern how their son will do independently. One of the pastoral counselors suggest they enroll the son to a reentry retreat for college age Missionary Kids (MK’s). Reentry is a term used to describe the experiences a person has once they return to their primary culture. In the reentry retreat they will debrief and identify dynamics attach to reentry such as reverse culture shock. This is when a person expects to be returning home to that which is familiar and finds out that they have changed and their friends have changed. they may feel like a foreigner again in what is suppose to be their home.
They also enroll their son to +compass where he receives a post college MK as a mentor, a pastoral counselor to help guide him during his reentry year and if he is in a college in the Tampa Bay area, a +Compass group where they fellowship with fellow MKs, receive cross culturally relevant bible studies and two times a year they join other MKs from other states for a refreshing retreat.
For Greg he agrees to go through pastoral counseling through secure video conferencing app for his burn out. For Valerie, she realizes that she is in depression and in need of mental health counseling, compass is able to refer her to their network where she will receive counseling through a secure video conferencing. While they are on furlough, both Greg and Valerie also agrees to go through training with a compass pastoral counselor specializing in parent-child play therapy, which will help them improve their relationships with their two younger children.
Fortunately, Greg and Valerie's home church is in Tampa, FL where Compass is training a group of volunteers from the mission committee and their mission pastors to serve their missionaries' needs. Some needs are practical such as hospitality, by providing a house furloughs or helping drive them to where they need to go or loaning a car for them to drive. Compass is also able to advocate for Greg and Valerie to their mission pastors on needs that are not obvious but very important. Compass can also help both the church and them to see down the road to when they come back for good. The church is vital at that time to help them in their final reentry hopefully transition them well in life at home. Member care is about team work to help our front-line people do what they are called to do in a sustainable way. It requires cooperation between the churches, agencies and specialists like Compass so that the life of Jesus may not only be preached but lived out in the body wherever the Lord may send His people.
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