While not all missionaries will welcome care, a number of factors point to our need of support beyond prayer and finances.
In his EMQ article “Alone on Your Field? Here’s What to Do“, Ken Holderman Jr. points to an important mental health perspective: “every normal person needs around 15 to 20 friends or in order to maintain health. When that number drops then even normal emotional health becomes neurotic.” Maybe that’s why some missionaries are a little odd! Or maybe there’s something more.
Neil Pirolo begins his book [amazon_link id=”1880185008″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Serving as Senders[/amazon_link] by remembering an Urbana experience. Neil recounts being jolted from his daydreaming by a speaker who said, “In secular war, for every one person on the battle front, there are nine others backing him up in what is called the ‘line of communication.’” This is also known as the tooth-to-tail ratio. While I had difficulty confirming that 9:1 ratio, it is obvious that in military combat for every one person on the battle front there are many more providing support of many different kinds.
Neil Pirolo was surprised that someone would draw a parallel between war and missionary service. You may be surprised by the connection that came to me as I got ready for my Stoney Creek missions conference speaking assignment. I was reading Philip Yancey’s [amazon_link id=”0446559857″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]What Good is God?[/amazon_link].
Yancey recounts traveling to speak to Virginia Tech survivors and mourners. He was traveling with Kacey, a survivor of Columbine. As they talked she told him what concerned her most about the survivors of Virginia Tech. She said they were going home “to be with people who only heard about what happened and didn’t really experience it. … These kids are leaving the only ones who understand.” The survivors of Columbine needed and got support from people who had a deep understanding of what had happened. The survivors of Virginia Tech were “leaving their community of fellow survivors.”
Few missionaries will endure the terrors of events like Columbine or Virginia Tech. However, most cross-cultural missionaries will face difficulty and stress that few in their supporting churches will know about, let alone understand. Because of that missionaries need a community of care, we need people who will really listen, we need supporters who will intentionally seek to learn.
In short, missionaries do need care to be effective for the long-term.