Re-Entry Care – Post-Field Care:
Post-field care can be the most challenging care for churches to provide. Missionaries come home for numerous reasons—scheduled visits, life events, abrupt endings or retirements—and just as the church needs to be the launching pad for its missionaries, it also needs to be the place to which its missionaries can safely and confidently return.
Churches should assure their missionaries by being a safe place for openness, honesty, and transparency and plan towards this re-entry phase. Planning begins by acknowledging that no one-size-fits-all approach to reentry care exists and that providing appropriate care will require considering variables such as a missionary’s length of time on the field, unique needs, and attitudes. Our church put together a process by which we knew six months to a year ahead of time when the missionary would be returning stateside. Because we had a mission house at our disposal, we were able to plan for meeting tangible needs through the house and the amenities it included, as well as helping with schooling and transportation needs.
Churches must not only plan with their missionaries for this post-field season, but also be present, as missionaries return home. Just as Paul and Barnabas spent “no little time” with the church at Antioch after returning from their first missionary journey, missionaries need to have significant opportunities to interface with their sending church. This time of interaction as missionaries share stories, successes, difficulties, and challenges is known as debriefing. Debriefing allows the missionary to share burdens of missionary life with others who will provide a listening ear.
As churches and partners plan for post-field care and make themselves present for debriefing, the third area in which the church can assist with reintegration is providing on-ramps into the church. Church leaders will need to establish clear avenues and boundaries for ministry as they incorporate their missionaries back into the life of the church, ensuring their missionaries feel valued, but not overextended.
All three of the stages of missionary care—pre-field, on-field, and post-field are essential and tie into one another, in laying forth a wholistic strategy for missionary care. Determine as a church what the right next steps are for developing a strategy to provide such care. Seek out members who have strong relationships with sent ones and a passion to lead in this ministry, then watch the church labor side by side in caring for your missionaries. Care so much for those you send and support that you can join with Paul in saying, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess 2:8). Your sent ones have been called by God to go out from your church to share Christ in another part of the world, and you can help them persevere in declaring, demonstrating, and displaying his gospel as you hold the rope and never let go.