Ideas for helping re-entering and home-assignment missionaries.
Missionary Care: Home Assignment (Nesbitt)
The following article was posted on Reality-check-Discuss
We are missionaries in Tokyo with OMF International. My husband is doing the finance and admin job in the HQ office and I do evangelism in the shape of English Bible studies. Home assisgnment is a difficult time and gets more difficult as the time goes by when one has spent more of one's adult life on the filed than at "home".
In time order:
Be there to meet them at the airport. Ask some straight questions about how much cash they have on them.
Endeavour to get them accommodation before they arrive. So many people have great stress before leaving bec. they don't even have a flat or house to go into and also no equipment and furniture usually.
People need at least one week's peace to get over jet lag before one goes into debriefing sessions. Also a session of re-orientation: let them ask what they are interested in: what's top of the pops (for the teenagers), what been big news lately, where's the best place to shop (shopping can be stressful with so many varieties and the knowledge that one has been 'deprived' of these things for 4 years) politics, economics, fashion, church news, - anything that will help them to find their feet in the community.
People appreciate being asked what it was like - although no-one else but another missionary can really understand - what was the best moments, the most difficult, the saddest, the most stressful - and with questions, they should be able to unburden and talk a lot of things off their chest.
People from hot climates, very often don't have clothes for cold weather. Or their clothes in general are old and out of fashion. They are too shy to say this. Some missions may not allow their missionaries to speak of what their needs are even. You have to ask direct questions People are shy and diffident to let on how much they need.
The first month should be holiday. Preferably 2 weeks of which are at a nice holiday spot.
Missionaries appreciate a meeting with the minister or missions committee and council of the church.
There is better in depth value to speaking at small group meetings of the church than one preach at a big service .
A car is a necessity and a very expensive one. All efforts should be made to find a car for the family.
Security may be a big stresser, let them talk about it. Go over their accommodation with them and arrange for necessary burglar proofing.
It helps the wife to be in a small ladies' group for the year where she can talk and pray freely and feel she has a group of friends she can relate to in correspondence and for prayers needs in the future. Husbands the same - whether it be a church group or a group of men that fish or golf, etc.
Children have big adustments to make as they change school - care should be taken that kids have a chance to make choices and to have friends they can relate to quickly; kids who will invite them around, or aunties and uncles they can talk to, go out with. Parents should be encouraged to visit the school and talk to the class teachers so that they are aware of the child's background and special needs: teachers who make the child feel different or mock their accents are definitely OUT.
Watch that the family has enough chance to relax, go to the beach, eat out. This all costs money. To get to the beach takes petrol.
There should be adequate time near the end of [home] assignement for another month's holiday. Also time to pack and say farewells. Help in getting boxes to the post office or harbour is much appreciated. A farewell meeting with the minister and missions committee is good.
Who is looking after the financial arrangments back home? Inquire and help them to find someone reliable and efficient. Who is sending out newsletters? Maybe a small group could volunteer or be asked to be on a Support group and they could finance the newsletter or make arrangements to give them out to people in their area, or one in an area posts, etc.
Another good idea is to get names and numbers and advertise an "At Home" when the family will be at a home and anyone can come and visit to see them from 2 - 6pm one Saturday. That takes care of many visits and meals that they just don't have time or energy to see to.
Another great thing is to arrange a get-together of their Bible college or seminary friends. (I enjoyed this the most of all things on our first furlough)
...Unfortunately most of these things take MONEY, but really if you could ask them their monthly income in cash you would probably fall off your chair. And most people are still having their overseas trips, meals out, new clothes etc. , so there is money around.
Mariana Nesbitt from Japan.
QUESTION Frm: ELLEN J. LIVINGOOD 102575.3275@CompuServe
How can we help home-assignment missionaries relate to the fast-changing North American church environment? Who should be helping them? What resources should we be using? How much is the agency's responsibility? How much is it the home church's responsibility?
ANSWER From: Neal Pirolo <Neal_Pirolo@eri.org> SERVING AS SENDERS_has an excellent chapter specifically on reentry, but the whole book is talking about that personal care a group of people can give to their missionary friend.
FOR A HOME-BASED MISSIONARY WHO IS IN YOUR CHURCH
SUGGESTIONS FROM MISSIONARIES:`
Arrange a welcome home party, come and go. Also, a good-bye party would be nice when they get ready to return. It's hard to say good-bye when there are so many last minute things that you are trying to do. The church could be a big help in this area. It would be a great help for the local church to arrange housing, and car (if needed).
Housing is huge, but anything that has to due with utilities, voice mail and new technology the Missionary would like some help and support. A vehicle. Doctor/Dentist.
Is it a bulletin or worship folder, do you have a song leader or a worship leader. Do you meet in the chapel, sactuary or worship center.
Gather together needed furniture and a car.
Elicit beforehand how the missionary himself feels most comfortable serving you when in your area -- you can take him outside his comfort zone, but do it aware-fully! That way you use his gifts and don't just plug him into the church's agenda when it may not fit.
Consult with the missionary about finding an appropriate paid place of service while on home assignment with the church (probably part-time)--we want to serve the home church that sends us.
Set up your annual church calendar with the missionary's schedule in mind--don't lose him to another outside commitment because you scheduled a missions retreat, etc. at the same time. Ask him well ahead of time about his schedule while in the states.
Have some fashion-savvy ladies in the church take the missionary wife out shopping for clothes when they arrive home from the field (one church whose missions conference I participated in actually did this for all the participating wives!)
Depending on the missionary's financial status (whether he's been able to save up over the year's), the church may want to pursue funding a down payment for purchasing a house, with the missionary responsible for repaying the loan. The church could manage and keep up the home when the missionary is on the field, so that rental income could be used to repay the loan. This is a way to help the missionary set down roots in your community when on home assignment and enable him to get equity as well as a home for retirement someday.
In all things, focus on the missionary as a family unit--make the fulfillment of the needs and concerns of the wife and children just as paramount as the missionary husband.
Make available to the missionary couple a few months of marriage counseling--not because they're falling apart, but because you want them to have the best marriage of anybody around so they'll stay strong on the field.
Make available life/career planning for the missionary couple, especially if their mission agency is weak on staff and career development.
Have living and working necessities ready: automobile (with necessary carseats), furnished house with food and bedding (they need not pay the rent, but arrange in advance with missionary), office space at the church.
Express an interest in the missionary's work by asking for reports before the relevant board, a presentation before the congregation, and hosting a congregational reception wherein church leaders introduce the missionaries and their accomplishments and relate this to the life of the local church.
Be ready to advise on local schools, insurance requirements, etc.
I enjoy being given tasks which match my experience and gifts. Short of that, I enjoy being given any tasks at all.
Each time I've been on furlough, my home church has done something wonderful that has said a lot about what they think of my family. They arranged housing for our family, and had the house all set up, with food in the refrigerator, sheets on the bed, etc.
Have a car available temporarily (with any necessary car seats) until something more permanent could be arranged.
A big help to us was someone pre-registering our child in school so that he could start on time.
Sometimes just making schooling, housing, car, etc. options known is a big help when you're trying to organize one year's life from long distance without telephone, e-mail, etc.
Asking can be a good way to obtain specific answers for specific missionaries.
Missionary families would like to get to know other church families and be able to talk honestly about their needs and experiences rather than have to put on their "church face", if you know what I mean. ...sometimes people seem shocked if the missionary is really honest about their feelings.
Finances are a burden many times. The missionary family wants to "look right" but don't have the funds to buy the "right" clothes or whatever else.
Give the missionary time to readjust. Understand that there is a different way of thinking. Treat the missionary as normal forgiven saints.
Relax! Personal contact with the Senior Pastor (if he is a true shepherd) to work through feelings and issues that come up.
It would be nice for a woman or several women in the church to take the missionary wife shopping for some clothes that are in style. (The missionary doesn't need a whole new wardrobe, but a new dress and a slacks outfit would be nice. The missionary wife wouldn't feel so out of style. However, it might take the missionary some time to get used to the styles if she has been out of the States for a long time.)
Be a listening ear to the many miracles, blessings, and places God has taken us through. We need to share out thoughts, for people to be blessed on our ministry and work.
SUGGESTIONS FROM MISSION SERVICE AGENCIES/CHURCHES`
We present missionaries with one rule, and we enforce it! That is, to make themselves at home. It seems simple, but I really believe it puts them at ease and lets them rest. We make very few special arrangements for them. We expect them to eat and drink and come and go without asking. While we normally fix the meals, we have found guests in the kitchen cooking for us. I think the way they are often treated (with everything provided and furnished,) they feel like they impose.... Allowing them the freedom to be themselves, without time restraints or plans, works wonders. And it lets me work without interruption.
The small rural church I pastor built a small cabin for missionaries.
We have developed "Missionary Encourager Teams" for each missionary family/unit; this team handles correspondence, get togethers, regular prayer times and encouraging the missionary specifically. This has been really good for our missionaries, and has helped some to broaden the "missions vision" among our church family.
We have each Adult Bible Fellowship class take responsibility for 6-8 missionary families/units each year regarding weekly prayer, updates, sharing, letter writing, Christmas cards/gifts, special needs. My particular class sent out 17 Christmas packages last year as we have our current 7 units, plus 10 others who we know well, some having gone out from our class over the years. The assignment of missionaries rotates each year to a new class.
We send each month all the Sunday services on tape to each of the missionary families/units not present at our location. When I was on the field, this was one of our few "English mainstays", and good encouragement while we didn't know enough local language to understand in the local church, etc.
We have two (2) homes which we keep up for furloughing missionaries. We can't supply for all missionaries, but we do what we can. These homes were given by deed/gift from some of our own members who passed on, and our missions budget includes the maintenance. We charge rent back to the Missions Org. while families stay there, but this has been a blessing, and very timely in time of crisis.
We have focussed our Missions Pastor's job on missionary care, resulting in longer service, more effective service for our team who serve.
Our Missions Office sends out weekly briefings to our missionaries, (gleanings from each other's prayer letters) so the "missions family" is further knit together ...
We keep an email interchange going with as many as possible.