In any venture the people are its most valuable resource. Wise business leaders know that taking care of their employees will retain those resources and increase productivity. This should come as no surprise, since God tells us that we were designed to live in a mutually supportive community. The “one anothers” of the New Testament tell us help other toward both godliness and kingdom productivity.
For missionaries that gets a bit complicated. We have moved away from our state-side Christian communities, where we had pastors, counselors, Amazon online for Christian resources delivered to our door and friends in our Sunday School class who could help out with meals in a crisis or just an empathetic listening ear. In our host country we may or may not have access to those types of resources. Add to that our unique set of challenges as we must live and work between two worlds, and you have a recipe for missionary melt-down. It happens all too often.
While the business world’s new-found interest in employee care is primarily motivated by financial gain, the missionary community has been learning to fulfill God’s command to bear each other’s burdens by being intentional about taking care of its own people. We call it “Member Care”. It is not much different that the type of care that everyone should be receiving in their local Christian community, but it requires a different paradigm. We have to find a way to make it happen across long distances while working within multiple cultures.
WorldVenture’s structure is set up to provide this nurture and development through all phases of missionary life. And so Gary and I are the “field leaders” for Costa Rica. It’s like being a pastor, counselor, friend, and administrator all rolled into one.
Even if we are not more mature than our teammates (just ask them!) our 16 years here in Costa Rica does give us an edge. Sometimes we can help with practical things, such as recommending a trustworthy locksmith. But most important we offer them face-to-face love, accountability, a listening ear, and someone who understands their unique struggles.
Costa Rica is unique in that some missionaries come here just for the purpose of learning Spanish before leaving to work in other Latin American countries. That year of language school is a major challenge, and the presence of experienced missionaries can make a huge difference. We are happy to fulfill that position for any WorldVenture co-workers that come through! Our first WV friends were Matt, Kristy, Jonah, Micah, Elijah, and Tayla Messick (yes, the name should be familiar to our BFC friends!). We enjoyed the months we spent here together, and built a life-long friendship in the process.
This year we’ve gained two families that intend to set up shop here in Costa Rica (literally): the Footes and the Mihalkos. What a joy it has been already to work together! We work hard to be safe for each other, building each other up with mutual respect, kindness, and transparency. We are thrilled that all 4 adults are graduating from language school next week, so now the real fun can begin as they set up their full-time ministry here. When you think of us, please pray that God will use us in their lives especially in the upcoming stressful months.
WorldVenture’s president Jeff Denlinger puts it like this: “To engage in an Unsafe Cause, you must have a Safe Community.” Missions is inherently unsafe for many reasons. But by following God’s guidelines as we provide nurture and development to each other, we plan to provide a safe community from which to serve the Kingdom of God and the people of Costa Rica.