A Leg in the U.S., an Arm in the U.K.: Caring for Our Missionary Body

By Eileen O'Gorman on December 08, 2016

I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “missionary member care,” but I remember the words having a distinct impression on me. More than the idea of “an individual that is part of a group” the term reminded me of a body made up of different parts—like a leg or an arm. Think 1 Corinthians 12.

With that image in mind, it’s not a far stretch to think that when believers send a missionary to a far-off land, we who are in Christ—by extension—are also in that land.  We are part of the same body. The “sent ones” not only represent us, but also are part of us.

As we share in life with our international, cross-cultural missionary brothers and sisters, how can we best remember that we are with them, and remind them of that same truth?

It seems to me that international missionary life is one of joy and sorrow tied together in a unique and vivid manner. When you live away from your home culture, loss is real every day because you lose almost everything and everyone you have known as home. But gain is also real every day when you pray and work and see God’s Kingdom coming in unexpected places.

Frankly, it’s easier for missionaries to tell us about the Kingdom coming than to report on the losses they feel.

Maybe it’s easier for me to write about the stresses of international missionary service, because I am not personally deployed as this kind of a worker. But I hear their stories. They have stories of joy—great joy. And of sorrow—great sorrow.

Sometimes I hear their stories and become weak-kneed, thinking they should just “come home.” But I also see their victories and know they have experienced the deep love of God in cross-cultural and fresh ways among different nationalities, classes, and language groups.

Inside of Serge, we strive to give our staff safe places to process their losses, stresses, and unique challenges. We want their service to not only be inspired but also sustainable.

Serge is an organization that, by design, stands in the background and works to help these “sent ones” do their jobs. We do this in an inseparable partnership with local churches, from which our missionaries are sent. Together with the local church, we do the work we call “missionary member care.”

Missionary member care includes lots of things that never make the headlines but are essential to supporting missionaries. Things like:

  • Offering retirement plans
  • Shopping health care benefits
  • Recruiting and vetting co-laborers
  • Pre-field and on-field mentoring
  • Finance/bookkeeping support
  • Providing regional leadership and oversight

These things are not flashy, but they are irreplaceable.

Recently, one Serge missionary said:

It’s been over 20 years that we have had the privilege of serving overseas. We have undergone changes in jobs and locations, but we’ve always wanted to stay with Serge. Why? They take care of their people!”

As we come through a season that is wrapped up in giving, incarnation, and home, may I suggest that one way we can show our solidarity with missionaries serving abroad is to give to Serge’s Missionary Member Care Fund? Missionaries tangibly represent God’s incarnational love in all kinds of places, and we can suffer with them by giving a piece of ourselves to a fund that stands behind them in all they do.

In addition to giving a gift, would you consider reaching out to a missionary that you know? The holidays can especially highlight distance and loss.

>>> Give to Serge Missionary Member Care.

Eileen O'Gorman

About Eileen O'Gorman

Eileen serves as a the Director of Communication and Development for Serge. She holds an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary and an B.A. in International Relations with a minor in Writing as a Profession from Webster University. When she is not communicating for Serge, she loves to dig in the dirt! She resonates with these lines from Julian of Norwich: "Be a gardener. Dig a ditch. Toil and sweat...make...abundant fruits to spring. Take this food and drink, and carry it to God as your true worship."