On January 19-22, Footstool Missions Center held its first ever Member Care Retreat. We hosted a total of 78 individuals (adults and children) who are serving throughout Asia. This retreat was the culmination of years of planning, dreaming, and praying on the parts of many individuals and organizations.  

We have seen that missionaries rarely take vacations. During the few times they do take a break from "the field" to go home on furlough, they usually end up working anyway. They spend their time speaking at churches, meeting with current and potential supporters, and sharing what God is doing through them in their ministries. 

For most of the missionaries we served, this retreat was their first vacation in a long time. Their feedback on the retreat has been overwhelmingly positive and filled with thanksgiving. The retreat was, quite literally, an answer to many of the missionaries’ prayers. Not only were the missionaries able to rest and be cared for, but in the process they were encouraged and refreshed to go back and continue the work in the under-reached places they serve. This is the very vision Footstool was founded on: to be a basecamp for missions to the 10/40 Window-- in other words, a place for field workers to rest and get refreshed to continue their work.

Most member care retreats cost up to $500 to $1,000 per person, which does not include spouses or children. With the help of some generous churches, organizations, and individuals, Footstool was able to cover the expenses for this retreat. All the missionaries were able to participate in our retreat free of charge; all they had to do was book a flight to Seoul, and Footstool took care of the rest.

We would not have been able to run the retreat without the help of our volunteers. We had about 30 different people volunteer their time, resources, gifts and abilities to help us make this retreat possible. Thank you to all the volunteers who served, we appreciate you very much! 

 

 

WE HAD A SHORT Q&A SESSION WITH A FEW OF THE MISSIONARIES ABOUT THEIR TIME SERVING IN MINISTRY, AND HERE IS WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY:

* Answers are posted anonymously to ensure the safety and privacy of the missionaries. 



 

MISSIONARY A

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SERVING IN THE FIELD? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A BREAK?

2.5 years this term.  (2.5 years before that in another city, with 2 years in the States between the two.) Last break:  Last vacation was June 2016.  Our mission organization in Japan had a country-wide retreat at the end of December as well.  Not sure that is actually a break, though.

 

WHAT DOES THE TERM “MEMBER CARE” MEAN TO YOU?

Caring for team members from preparing them for the field, orientation and integration into the team, to long-term care for their social, professional, spiritual lives, and also readjustment to life back home.  It also includes enabling members to care for themselves.

 

WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT BEING ON THE FIELD?

That life overseas is, in many ways, not that different from life in the States.  One must do laundry, pay bills, etc. here as well.  And being intentional about evangelistic living is not easier overseas;  if one doesn't share their faith at home, they likely won't overseas either.

 

 

MISSIONARY B

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SERVING IN THE FIELD? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A BREAK?

2 years. Last break was January 2016 for ten days.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE ENTERING THE FIELD ABOUT SELF CARE?

You don't know you need it until you get it. You need to be aware of what's below the surface while on the field so it does not blow up when you are relaxing or decompressing. Deal with it gradually as it arises. Make daily or weekly time to deal with emotional and spiritual issues. Get a mentor!

 

 

MISSIONARY C

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SERVING IN THE FIELD? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A BREAK?

7 years. Last visit home was 3 years ago.

 

HOW CAN WE AS A CHURCH BETTER SUPPORT FIELD WORKERS LIKE YOU?

The best way to support field workers is to break down the barrier between missionaries and non-missionaries. All believers are field workers in every vocational calling. If the church really believed that and taught that, then every field worker would be supported. We don't need to lift up missionaries more, we need to lift up all vocations to the same level so all work becomes holy.

 

 

MISSIONARY D

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SERVING IN THE FIELD? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A BREAK?  

We've been out for about 3.5 years.  We got to go home for my brother's wedding for 2 weeks last summer, though it was pretty busy since I was the best man.  Other than that, this was the first time we've had a break since we've been out.

 

WHAT DOES THE TERM “MEMBER CARE” MEAN TO YOU?  

Member care to us is the consistent caring for the needs of workers abroad - listening patiently, learning what they experience and what they go through, understanding their needs and desires, lifting them up, knowing them well enough to ask good questions to help guide them in making decisions (helping them to have good eyes to be able to see themselves and their situation clearly so they can make good decisions), being close enough with them that you can be involved in their life (helping them to be authentic and open with where they are in relationships, their work, and helping them to see blind spots that will cause them problems), and providing restful and growing respites from their work in the field.

 

WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU WISH PEOPLE  KNEW ABOUT BEING ON THE FIELD?  

That we are like them.  We have fears and doubts.  We have weaknesses and struggles.  We want to be known not just receive support.  And we want people to come and participate with us so they see and feel and understand themselves.

 

 

MISSIONARY E

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SERVING IN THE FIELD? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A BREAK?

I have been on the field for about 4 and half years.  The last time I took a break was about two years ago when I traveled to the states.

 

WHAT DOES THE TERM “MEMBER CARE” MEAN TO YOU?

To me, the term ‘member care’ means caring for the missionary- body, soul and spirit.  A lot of people just focus on one or two parts but not the whole person.  For example many missionaries are supported well financially but not always supported on a relational or spiritual level. I think a lot of people often have a unrealistic view of missionaries and think that they are super spiritual people who “have it all together” when actually we are real people who have the same struggles that any Christian would have.  Having regular accountability and pastoral care is important and very much needed as well as prayer and financial support.  

 

WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT BEING ON THE FIELD?

I think I would like people to know that it’s really difficult sometimes and although we take joy in our work, we also struggle a lot with the demand and pressures we face. The spiritual warfare is real and at times very intense and having prayerful covering is absolutely vital to our sustainability.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE ENTERING THE FIELD ABOUT SELF CARE?

I think I would tell them that missions is personal, you can’t separate yourself and your personal life from your labor because who you are comes out in what you do. Being intentional about spending regular times with God is essential, not letting the work overtake your relationship with God. That should always come first. It’s from the place of our connection with God that the ministry should flow out of. I would also stress the importance of community whether it’s on the field or back home.  Be in community and find people who challenge you and encourage you.

 

HOW CAN WE AS THE BODY BETTER SUPPORT FIELD WORKERS?

I think first it’s important to really believe in the vision of missions. If you don’t really value missions you won’t value missionaries. Once we have a heart for missions and see the value and necessity of it we can seek to support the missionary.  For me when I come back to my home country I often become disappointed when people just don’t ask me how I’m doing or what it’s like etc. When I meet people who are genuinely interested and care about the work and care about me it means so much. These are the people who are usually our biggest supporters and who have trekked with us for the long term. When someone just drops me a couple of lines in an email saying they are praying for me or asking me how things are going- it really means a lot!  It makes me feel like I’m not forgotten. I also think rest is a big one.  A lot of missionaries I know struggle with the workload and often burn out. Helping missionaries to get the rest and refreshment they need is huge and helps sustain missionaries long term.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THE RETREAT?

I felt honored. It think that was really big for me. This retreat made me realize that there are people who really love and care for missionaries and who are acknowledging what we do. 

 

 

Comment