Missionary Member Care Movement

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Time Period
1980
Description
The Missionary Member Care Movement began in 1980 with an informal get-together which later became the annual Mental Health and Missions Conference (MH&M) in Angola, Indiana. MH&M provided impetus to reduce missionary attrition and promote lifelong health, often through connecting church and mission leaders with mental health professionals. The movement rapidly embraced holistic care, extending into pastoral, medical, relational, life stage, and systems issues.

Missionary member care became more prominent with various publications and new organizations. The work of Kelly and Michele O’Donnell (1988, 2002) brought awareness to needs of missionaries. Empowered by the ideals of the MH&M founders, new organizations emerged, including Heartstream Resources as well as Barnabas and Pastors to Missionaries.

Since the 1980s, resources have multiplied as the movement has spread globally to areas of Europe, South Korea, India, South Africa, the South Pacific, the Philippines, and other countries.
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Narrative
The field of Missionary Member Care developed to enable cross-cultural, humanitarian workers to thrive across the life span. It encompasses careful screening and selection and progresses through training and into field life and beyond. In both home and host country it emphasizes preventative and proactive care. It provides for various levels of prevention and intervention, including pre-crisis preparation, contingency planning, and crisis care. Ideally it includes training for those "back home," such as churches. Member care emphasizes effectiveness with longevity -- "thrival," not just survival (Dodds, 1997), raising the consciousness of leaders and grassroots workers.

Origins

The movement began in 1980 with an informal get-together which later became the annual Mental Health and Missions Conference (MH&M) in Angola, Indiana. Catalysts included John Powell, David Wickstrom, Esther Schubert, Marjorie Foyle (UK), and later Laura Mae and Richard Gardner and Kenneth Williams. MH&M provided impetus to reduce attrition and promote lifelong health. These founders created a vision, a rationale, and a vocabulary for missionary care, convening church and mission leaders with mental health professionals. They empowered many to create member care programs and places by lending credibility to professionals entering the fields of medical and mental health care for cross-cultural workers. The movement rapidly embraced holistic care, extending into pastoral, medical, relational, life stage, and systems issues.

Early Development

The O’Donnells’ (1988) anthology and others contributed significantly to the awareness of the need for member care. So too the personnel meetings of the IFMA/EFMA of the United States. Another impetus was the Missionary Kid Consultation and Resource Team/Committee on Research and Endowment (MK-CART-CORE), made up of educators and mental health professionals, including David Wickstrom, and world conferences on "MKs."

In the 1990s some major missions began creating member care roles and appointing Member Care Facilitators (Dodds, 1997). Concurrently newly birthed organizations were empowered by the MH&M founders: Heartstream Resources; Alongside; Barnabas and Pastors to Missionaries; Le Rucher and One Another (France), Barnabas Zentrum (Austria), Tumaini Center (Kenya) and Mobile Member Care Team (West Africa). Others expanded into the movement: Narramore Christian Foundation, Link Care, InterHealth (London), and Missionary Health Institute (Toronto). Crisis Consulting International began training in contingencies, risk management, and hostage negotiation. In the early 2000s, other entities sprang up, including Cornerstone and The Well in Thailand.

Taylor’s Too Valuable to Lose (1997), a landmark study from the Reducing Missionary Attrition Project (ReMap), awakened churches and agencies to the terrible rates of attrition and that prevention and care could reverse huge losses in personnel, mission effectiveness, and constituency dollars.

Continuing Global Developments

The past 20 years have multiplied resources as the movement has spread globally through conferences such as the European Missions Member Care Conference/Consortium and on into South Korea, India, South Africa, the South Pacific, the Philippines, and other countries through conference and forums. Materials about member care have been translated into various languages. Special services have sprung up, such as the daily radio program MemCare, broadcast by TransWorld Radio, and a magazine for women working abroad, Thrive (formerly Women of The Harvest). In 1997 Heartstream Resources pioneered academic training in Missionary Member Care. In 2004 Colombia International University began courses which later led to a doctoral program.

In 2008, the first Asia Member Care Network conference met in Malaysia; the fourth one in 2015. The first World Congress took place in Thailand in 2012; the second in 2015 in Turkey. This movement has led to promising improvement in the health of missionaries and reduced attrition in an estimated one million missionaries around the world -- half of them from the United States.

References and Resources

Dodds, Lois A., and Gardner, Laura Mae. 2010. Global Servants -- Cross-Cultural Humanitarian Heroes. Volume 1: Formation and Development of These Heroes, 2011. Volume 2: 12 Factors in Effectiveness and Longevity with Chen, Alice, 2013. Volume 3: The Art and Heart of Agency Care. Liverpool, PA: Heartstream Resources, Inc.

Dodds, Lois A., and Dodds, Lawrence E. 1997. "Caring for People in Missions: Just Surviving --or Thriving? Optimal Care for the Long Haul." IFMA/EFMA Personnel Conference, Orlando, Florida. Collected Papers. Liverpool: Heartstream Resources.

Hay, Rob, et al. 2007. Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Missionary Retention. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

O’Donnell, Kelly, and Michele O’Donnell, eds. 1988. Helping Missionaries Grow: Readings in Mental Health and Missions. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

---. 2002. Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from around the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

Powell, John, and Bowers, Joyce, eds. 2002. Enhancing Missionary Vitality: Mental Health Professions Serving Global Mission. Mammoth, CO: Missionary Training International.

Taylor, William. 1997. Too Valuable to Lose. Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
Photographs

Narramore Christian Foundation- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Pgarriott (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Lois Dodds

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