by IM Coordinators for Spiritual Care David and Joyce Reed
We’re so excited to send missionaries to serve, but who walks beside them when things get tough?
We served for fifteen years in Southern Baja, Mexico. During those years we began to understand the need for spiritual care for global servants. Isolation, loneliness, exhaustion, and cross-cultural fatigue are constant companions in cross-cultural mission.
One of our colleagues shared the following about life as a missionary: “Many could look at the life of a missionary, especially after reading their newsletter or hearing them speak, and think they’re spiritual giants going from victory to victory. They’d never guess that they may be barely hanging on. Whether a missionary experiences successor failures, acceptance or rejection, in a cross-cultural mission context, sooner or later they will find themselves in a wilderness, either thrust upon them or one of their own making. That’s just the nature of living and working cross-culturally.”
In 2019, we celebrated twenty years as IM missionaries. Two weeks later we officially stepped into a new mission calling with International Ministries as Global Coordinators for Spiritual Care. In this new role, we are the ones who show up and walk beside global servants after they begin their ministries and during life transitions, helping them to navigate outside and inside vulnerabilities. We provide safe, sacred space to process the twists and turns of cross-cultural life. Our vision is a community of resilient, regulated, Christ-centered leaders who thrive for the long haul. Our mission is to shepherd global servants as they navigate the complexities of life and ministry in a cross-cultural context.
There are four pieces at the core of this vision and mission of spiritual care: Containment, Authenticity, Rest, Embedded in Christ.
CONTAINMENT means that an intentional space has been crafted to hold people and their stories. I am safe and my story is safe within a community. As human beings, we want a place without judgment, where we can show up even though we don’t have it all together.
AUTHENTICITY is developed over time as people choose to invest in one another. It is deciding to be real, to let our true selves be seen. It is vulnerable, and scary, yet profoundly sacred. We have served in missions for over two decades, and have experienced many of our colleagues’ struggles firsthand.
REST is acknowledging that life is not sustained by constant motion. Rest is a conscious choice to slow down, to stop, to savor life. The Bible teaches a rhythm of work and rest. Last year one of our colleagues stayed in our home for three weeks. We created a space where she could be herself with no expectations. She was so grateful to have a chance to simply be with Jesus, instead of always doing something for Jesus. Sabbath rest quiets the confusion, so we can find our way again.
EMBEDDED IN CHRIST. Choosing to live in another culture is a decision to be embedded in the mystery of Christ. Every day is an invitation to surrender to things you don’t fully understand. You’re surrendering to another language. To different food. To alternative customs. To new expressions of worship and community. Honestly, some days it can feel like you’re unraveling in the midst of constant transition. This is exactly when you need to be reminded that “Christ holds all things together” – even you. A focus of our ministry is reminding global servants that no matter what happens, in Christ, all things hold together.
The spiritual care of global servants undergirds IM’s legacy of incarnational ministry. IM is one of the few remaining mission organizations that still focuses on long-term mission service. Many organizations have shifted to short-term mission experiences of two to five years. However, our missiology says that the longer you stay, the longer you invest in relationship, the longer you actively immerse yourself in someone else’s context, then through humility and grace, the presence of Christ becomes tangible and real. This is when transformation happens — within us (the global servants) and within the communities where we serve.