By Brian Stark, Community and Outreach Pastor
South Hills Church, Kennewick, WA
As a former vocational missionary, I’ve seen both good and not so good member care in action. When God transitioned me and my wife back to the U.S. to a pastoral role to oversee missions in a local church, I wanted to apply much of what I had seen and learned.
God placed us in a church that had a heartbeat and vision for missions. They were generous to the works; they were engaged in and sent out short-term teams, but when it came to actually knowing and caring for the missionaries they supported, it didn’t really get beyond a check and prayers.
Last year I took a small team from our church to Care ConneXion and it totally changed their understanding and perspective of what missionary care looks like. They are becoming so much more involved and engaged in the lives of those we send and support and are looking for practical ways to care for those missionaries.
As a direct result of the Care ConneXion Conference last year, we started with some small, simple steps, like acknowledging people’s birthdays and anniversaries with cards and seeking out what unmet home assignment needs there are. For one family, that meant supplying and paying for a cell phone while in the U.S. For another, that meant connecting them with a local dentist who provided work for free or reduced rates.
I am excited to take a team back again this year. We have a young family preparing for long-term, cross-cultural service, and I know my team will be well equipped to develop and implement a Care Team around this young family, something our church has never implemented before.
As a Mission’s Pastor, it is so good for my team to hear from other people the same concepts I have been sharing and to hear it in a fresh way. And we know it is making a difference. I have missionaries who have told me that in 20 years of being supported by our church, they have never felt cared for in this way before!
With the amount of money we invest as churches in sending and supporting cross-cultural workers, why would we not want to take the time and effort to equip our people to better care for those workers and to help ensure their long-term health and success??