Why on Earth Would You Go Alone?

The Critical Role of Member Care in Missions.

A few months ago friends of mine from Tennessee were in my office for a special but difficult occasion. They were here to say their final goodbyes to their daughter before she boarded a plane to head for Tanzania. She was excited and a little anxious as she contemplated this milestone event which she had prepared for over many years.

Her parents were in a different place. They had the natural grieving process of releasing their daughter and knowing they would not see her for a few years. Additionally, they had all the anxious thoughts any of us would have if we were sending off a single daughter, alone, to a remote part of Africa. Can you imagine how you would feel in their place?

The Good News of the Resurrection justifies us taking costly steps to enable people trapped in sin and the endless cycle of hopelessness to hear and respond to the love of Christ. Still, what word can comfort parents when facing these goodbyes?

Member Care is a term used in mission circles. Professionally, that refers to all the steps we take to protect our members from harm and to enable them to thrive. This includes steps like orientation with experienced workers who can show new missionaries the ropes. It also includes the great lengths we go to in order to assist in the education of missionary children. One hundred years ago, we built a model Mission Boarding School that still functions vibrantly and serves over 500 children from many different agencies. Additionally, we developed a staff and programs to support parents who choose to homeschool their children.

We have always paid attention to our members’ health and sought to have trained staff available to assist whether they are impacted by an accident or by a sickness unique to Africa. Today, many of our members can get good health care from Africans in national hospitals, but we still stay in touch and assist.

We know that living in a cross-cultural and/or remote area adds to the stress of life. Thirty years ago we laid the groundwork for a counseling and mental health center which is also vibrantly serving to this day. Numerous missionaries are still on the field because they received timely help with a crisis.

When we were making a big push to send our members to the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, we realized people living there with their families needed logistics and transportation support. So 40 years ago we started an aviation service called AIM AIR. That service is still serving AIM and numerous organizations. I received a letter today from the director of a ministry based in West Virginia that serves some of the neediest families and children living in South Sudan. Their team had just completed a trip to South Sudan and their President sent these remarks, “We as an organization owe you a debt of gratitude for your commitment to serve Nancy and her companions as they traveled by air with your pilot Joel King.” They credited Joel, and AIM AIR pilot Jim Streit for going above and beyond their jobs to assist them and to let them know they would be there for them if there were difficulties.

My listing these Member Care Services might not have been too comforting for my friends while saying goodbye to their daughter. A better way to describe AIM Member Care would be to say we become family for one another. Like the early church in Jerusalem and at Antioch, we observe the needs of those in our community and take action to serve one another. God designed us to need one another and gave different gifts so we could serve. He also planned that when we do love each other selflessly, the world would know that Jesus was alive.

So it turns out Member Care isn’t just an HR policy. Our teams are very diverse as members often come from the US, Canada, Brazil, Europe and certainly Africa. In other contexts, these groups often just stay at a distance. In Christ, and therefore in AIM, we strive to be family. And not a feuding family, (though there are occasions), but actually families who care deeply and take action to help each other. Literally, the love of Christ flows through our community/family and the world can see Jesus. Parents who are releasing their children to serve with AIM may be assured their children are not going to Africa alone.

Story by Wade Ewing

Wade serves as Africa Inland Mission’s U.S. Director. Prior to his current ministry, he’s also served as part of AIM’s International Office team based out of Bristol, England, and as a pilot for AIM’s aviation ministry AIM AIR.


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