In her article, “Some Reflections on Pastoral Care,” Belinda Ng writes, “While missionary pastoral care may mean different things to different people, it generally encompasses the following elements: understanding the special needs of missionaries, guidance, counseling, sharing, communicating, friendship, fellowship, visitation, crisis care, prayers, encouragement, and affirmation. …” (William Taylor, ed., Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition, William Carey Library, Pasadena, 1997, p. 277). From this list of elements, it is evident that pastoral care of missionaries requires study of and sensitivity to the needs of missionaries as well as interaction and openness to involvement in their lives. Ng asks, “How do we provide appropriate and adequate on-going pastoral care to ensure that those sent out remain on the field for as long as possible to fulfill their call to missions?” (ibid.)
The context of Belinda Ng’s article is the problem of missionary attrition, missionaries leaving the field. Her question is one with which we continually concern ourselves here at Siloam Missionary Homes. Our interest is not only in providing for missionaries’ housing needs temporarily, but also in how we might undergird their commitment to their original call to serve the Lord as missionaries. No doubt, God redirects people’s lives, but we see a number of missionaries who don’t return to the field for a variety of preventable factors. Ultimately, of course, the next step in ministry is between the missionaries and God, but how can pastoral care be a positive influence and encouragement at a time when a “word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11) might be the catalyst for arriving at a right decision?
What we really are talking about is Christians caring for Christians in the Body of Christ, the Church, but with a special emphasis on the particular “category” of “missionary,” one sent by the Church. As Kelly O’Donnell says, “Member care is the ongoing investment of resources by mission agencies, churches, and other mission organizations for the nurture and development of missionary personnel. It focuses on everyone in missions (missionaries, support staff, children, and families) and does so over the course of the missionary life cycle, from recruitment through retirement. Member care is also the responsibility of everyone in missions—sending church, mission agency, fellow workers, and member care specialists” (Doing Member Care Well, William Carey Library, Pasadena, 2002, p. 4)
True sending churches realize they must do more than send money to keep missionaries on the field. They recognize the need to be involved personally in the lives of the missionaries whom they support. They learn about and provide care in areas besides financial, while at the same time, meeting financial needs, which they know is essential.
While Siloam Missionary Homes is not a sending agency per se, we want to do our part in cooperating with the church and “everyone in missions” to provide “member care” for the missionaries while they are living here. Please pray for us, give financially and give your time and effort as a volunteer to help with the many tasks on site here at Siloam. Please continue to help us help missionaries that we may be an encouragement to them to “keep on keeping on.” Also, pray about and look for ways that you can care for and invest in the lives of missionaries in your circle of influence.
H. Milton Wilder