This week are taking a new turn in our series on mental health for expats and asking, “How can the church help?” We are featuring two different pastors and leaders from within the American church who have had a lot of experience taking care of both missionaries and those within the marketplace that go overseas for the sake of the Gospel. Today we are sharing an interview we did with Tim Lubinus who is the Executive Director and Treasurer for the Baptist Convention of Iowa. He and his family spent time doing collegiate ministry in South Korea, and then he worked as a team leader in Turkey. After about 10 years in Turkey, they moved back to Iowa where Tim transitioned into the Director of Global Missions at a church. Keep reading to hear what he learned as they sent numerous teams and people out to the nations.
When you were the director of Global Missions at Cornerstone Church, how did you care for the people you sent out around the world? Skype calls? Care packages? Pastors counseling?
We had several dozen people to support; too many to support centrally. So what we did was ask each person or family to find one or more of our church’s small groups to connect with. We put the burden on them so they were part of the process rather than getting a group assigned to them. Our idea was that the small group could actively interact with their updates, do Skype calls, pray, and care for them and their families while back in the states. We also coordinated Christmas gifts for each family member by using Amazon wish lists.
In addition, we sent gifts from the church (often a book or other gift at each person’s birthday). We also send periodic news from the church so that missionaries could keep up with big church news.
Visa issues and the uncertainty of residence and local identity, national and political disasters that threatened Americans or missionaries, struggles with living as foreigners in countries where Christians and missionaries were not welcomed, discouragement over lack of progress in the ministry, discouragement over lack of progress in language learning, concern over elderly parents and other family members’ well being, concern over the development of children, unevenness of cultural adjustments of spouses, e.g. the husband or wife adjusts better than the other.
What are some ways the local church can help care for people as they deal with these issues?
We must have long term ongoing relationship so that ongoing issues don’t have to continually be reintroduced to caregivers. Try to eliminate systems of care as no one wants to be a project or cared for by a machine or a checklist. Relationships should be natural and mutual. Try to visit missionaries and others you send out in their home country.
What can people living abroad do to help their church better care for them?
Actively connect during time back in the states and develop real relationships. Don’t think you are communicating well because you periodically send a bulk newsletter. Take off the “all-is-well face” and be real. Don’t make everything all about you. People who aren’t missionaries or don’t live far away from home need friends too. Relationships should be mutual, not one-way. Shock church leadership by offering to serve based on their schedule not yours; sacrifice to serve and give to the church rather than only receive from the church.