Mission in the twenty first century is becoming more and more challenging than how it used to be in the previous centuries. That could be due to the ever changing political climates of the field countries, complexities of multi-cultural teams on the fields, and field leaderships’ focus more on the activities and programmes at the expense of personal care for missionaries serving there. It is true that Mission agencies and supporting churches are as usual very active and serious about sending out missionaries to the fields. In the course of that endeavor, very often they all fail to realize the importance to providing the needed spiritual care for those serving on the fields.
God acts and Satan reactsWhen God acts, Satan always reacts. A very good example is when God created the world and man in Genesis 1 and 2, Satan brought sin into world in Genesis 3. Another example is when the first church was born in Acts 2 Satan reacted by bringing persecution to the early church from Acts 4 onwards. In the same way when missionaries are sent to the fields to serve they invariably face many challenges. Even when they help others they feel helpless when they themselves need assistance. They feel ashamed to reach out for help or do not find any trustworthy person on the field to turn to. Often they fall a prey to the demands and pressures of their ministry.
Stress-producing wolvesMission personnel often face the challenge of finding practical ways to be ‘shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves’ in order not to become prey to the stress-producing wolves of their lives. Multi-cultural issues, while they serve in a team can be one of the major causes of their stress. Loneliness, separation from dear ones, demands on the fields and lack of rest are some of the other causes. There have also been cases of moral failure among some of them too. Powerful self-deception enables them to justify and rationalize what is happening to their moral fibreDespair and hopelessnessOver an extended period of time coupled with a combination of factors, it may however lead missionaries to the verge of breakdown. They may even fall into the terrible pit of despair and hopelessness, which may at times bring their service, ministry and mission activities to a standstill. There have been cases of missionaries returning home with questions on their call and discouragement due to lack of support and understanding from leaders and team members on the field. The reason for all these problems is, in the midst of their hectic schedule and service, they would have failed to care for themselves or there would not have been anyone to care for them. That increases the significance and importance of member care for missionaries.
Caring for missionariesMission is rewarding. But it is also rigorous. Mission is plundering hell and populating heaven. It is a literal spiritual warfare. Satan knows that the ministry on the mission field will only be as spiritually healthy as the missionaries are. That is why he wants to keep missionaries divided, discouraged, ineffective, feeling like failures, and, if possible, utterly destroyed. Satan does everything he can to make missionaries lose their spiritual vitality and freshness. Thus mission agencies in the first instant have the great responsibility of taking missionaries through appropriate pre- field preparations and equipping them to face challenges on the field. At the same time God is our great Encourager. He encourages missionaries by His Word and presence during their quiet time with Him on the field. Further, the care, support and love provided by their peers and team members on the field (Acts 28:15; 2 Tim. 1:16-18) will be of great help too. Member care for the missionaries on the field must also be seen as very crucial and as an essential responsibility of the field leadership. But when the missionaries are back at home, the leadership and congregation of the supporting church and the sending office share that responsibility. The result will be a healthy and blessed missionary and ministry.