Compassionate Care

We cannot overestimate the value of a missionary. Humanly speaking, he is the only one standing between a group of people and Hell! If a missionary leaves the field prematurely, he is often discouraged and feels that he has failed the Lord and those people who believed in him. He, his church, and his mission agency should be asking some questions: What went wrong? What could have prevented it? And what should we do now? A missionary that we know well worked with his wife and children in a very remote mountain village, accessed only by plane or helicopter. Alone, they faced a very frightening experience and were in imminent physical danger. Almost miraculously, they were rescued by helicopter. They returned to the States very traumatized. Their pastor—the one who should care most—spoke with them for less than one minute and then apparently wrote them off as quitters. Talk about adding insult to injury! What they needed was a thorough debriefing with caring, competent counselors.

Gospel Furthering Fellowship (GFF), under the direction of BBTI graduate Rodney Myers, specializes in proper preparation for the mission field. This includes a strong recommendation that the missionary acquire Advanced Missionary Training at BBTI. They also offer help and debriefing, not only for their own members, but for any Baptist missionary. Consider the words of GFF Missionary Care Director Chris Luppino in his article, The Crisis that Few are Talking About:

The closing challenge of Jesus to His disciples in Mark 16:15 is clear, compelling, and challenging. They were to take the Gospel to every living person in every corner of the world. It is Jesus’ commission to the Christians of every generation during the church age. He highlighted one of the challenges to fulfilling His command in Matthew 9:37 where He said, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.”

In comparison to the need, the number of laborers (missionaries) is small. In the face of the challenging task of cross-cultural evangelism and church planting, many of the laborers are weak. The inherent weaknesses are amplified by the fact that missionaries are often sent woefully under-prepared. The director of our mission was challenging a pastor with some of the difficulties the missionary that his church was sending was likely to encounter and with the need for him and his wife to be properly prepared. In response to a list of the challenges that the missionary could reasonably be expected to face the pastor replied, “He will just have to learn as he goes along.” [Fortunately, that missionary couple did attend BBTI and are now successfully learning a tribal language that people told them is impossible to learn!]

Once laborers are sent, they are often neglected. If they “crash and burn” or just quietly go away (leave the field), the ridicule, blame, and scorn is usually targeted at the missionary. They are labeled as quitters, not being “tough” enough, not being made of the right stuff, or being a John Mark. We have no words to describe the sending church, sending pastor, or sending agency that let them down. If we are going to take the Gospel to each living person in every corner of the world, we must do better…much better!
The crisis that few are talking about is missionary attrition. A 2017 survey of 745 former missionaries cited a lack of missionary care as the number one cause of missionary attrition.

Gospel Furthering Fellowship is an Independent Baptist mission service ministry. We do not send missionaries or start churches. GFF serves churches that send missionaries to start churches. We come alongside churches and missionaries by using our experience and expertise to encourage and promote long-term missionary service among unreached people groups. Churches have a biblical mandate to intentionally, not accidentally, produce career missionaries. We are honored to serve them as they seek to do so.

We at home cannot possibly understand what a new missionary faces. He is concerned about the children’s welfare and education. Culture stress is often overwhelming. The pressure he feels from his supporters to produce results may derive from his own mind, but it is there, nonetheless. The missionary is tempted to take shortcuts and minister before learning the language. When language learning suffers, he eventually realizes his inability to effectively communicate. Why didn’t someone warn me that this language and the hearts of these people would be so hard? This dear man of God and his wife may question their spirituality. Surely, if we were right with God, we would love these people!
Missionaries may feel reluctant to share with anyone, including their pastor, what they are going through. After all, they told him and a bunch of others what they were going to do. They never entertained a thought of failure. The pastor needs to exercise his gift of discernment, read between the lines, investigate, and be sure that his missionary family is indeed doing well. Even if he does not suspect a problem, a personal visit might be a great encouragement to his missionary family.
It is the work of the church to get missionaries to the field. It is also the work of the church to keep them there. If they return early, it is the duty of the church to love and welcome them as the heroes they are. The church should attempt to restore and resend them. Compassionate care, not criticism, is needed.

Winter 2023-24