Healthy, Resilient, & Effective in Cross-Cultural Ministry by Laura Mae Gardner is the latest book I've been reading, highlighting, and bookmarking. This book calls itself, "a comprehensive member care plan." As I am the Member Care Coordinator for MAG, Missionary Air Group, it makes sense I am carefully engaged within the pages.
What is member care? I'm so glad you asked! I will quote the sample job description from Gardner's book, "to prepare, equip, strengthen and empower our staff for effective life and service within our organization... and beyond!" Sometimes I've described member care as the soft skills required for effect international workers. In MAG's case we specialise in aviation that primarily supports medical missions in Guatemala, Honduras and Gabon.
The technical skills of the job are obvious, you must know how to fly a plane and maintain it. As an international worker you likely will need to learn another language and culture. Those hard skills are
clearly necessary to succeed in being a pilot deployed to a field program with MAG. However it's the soft skills side of the job I am most heavily involved with developing for our organization.
Soft skill sets are vital for effective international workers. Those soft skills are mostly encompassed within an individual's spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health. In order to be on mission with God one must maintain spiritual health, often far from heart-language church services and discipleship. This requires a dependency upon the Holy Spirit and a deep understanding one's identity in Christ.
Some of the emotional and relational health markers are hardiness, resiliency, life-long learning, self-awareness and getting along well with others. Such things don't come so easily to us human beings especially under the cumulative weight of living cross-culturally.
As member care coordinator I am building avenues through which our members can develop, maintain and grow along the way. That means I am heavy on networking with like-minded organizations. MAG is a fairly young organization so we are thrilled to get to join in and share resources with others. I have had the honor to join JAARS staff in their Intercultural Communication Course, ICC, which is a four plus week intensive training course for new international workers. Our MAG members are able to get excellent training through this program.
As I continue to develop member care for MAG I am continually researching how other mission sending organizations equip and train their staff. It is a big job but one I am passionate about. There are many other aspects of my job I am still in development of such as screening of new members, resourcing counseling, debriefing and writing policies and procedures to ensure consistent care standards.
Please pray for me as I do not have a strong gift of administration. Writing of policies and procedures is slow going for me. The things that have taken up most of my time in this first year has been directly connecting and caring for our missionaries.
All this to say my job has stretched me greatly. I am on a high learning curve and at times feel very out of my depths. When those times happen I push into God and reach out to other more experienced professionals. I am greatly blessed to work with a wonderful headquarter staff here in North Carolina. I have been on field visits to Guatemala and Honduras to get to know and connect with our international staff. As we move forward pray we stay in step with Christ and boldly push into hard places with great love and compassion.