Why Are They Leaving…And What Can We Do About It?

It’s complicated…or is it?

Missionary attrition has been a hot topic for years, and past research data was only collected from leadership within agencies, not the former missionaries themselves (the one’s who REALLY knew why they left!). Recently some interesting new research was conducted and the results are in. You can read the full details here.

A Summary:
One of the highest rated factors in the decision to return home was a lack of missionary care. Besides personal reasons like illness or finances, other highly rated factors were: lack of integrity on the team, lack of freedom to pursue calling, team conflict, and confusion over role on the team.

Now, this may be shocking to those of you who hold missionaries in the same esteem as Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. But let me assure you that these issues are commonplace in the world of missions. Sort of reminds us of the local church, doesn’t it? Only Gospel workers seldom have the kind of help and support that we have access to here at home.

We’ve known for a while that team conflict and the multitudes of things that spur on this conflict are often a catalyst for workers’ decision to leave their country of service and return home. But the importance of this recent research is that it clearly points to a deficiency in care as an equally driving force in that decision.

These results do not surprise us. As a matter of fact, they merely confirm what we’ve consistently witnessed ourselves in our 10 years of missionary service. The latter half of this has been directly involved in caring for missionaries and local believers. Some missionaries have been on the verge of throwing in the towel, calling it quits. Others already have their suitcases packed by the time we see them. Sometimes the chaplain visit comes just in time and we can co-create a good plan with them to stay and flourish in missionary service either in the same area or a new one. Other times its too late for them to stay well. The damage is done. The best we can do is simply help them make a plan to leave well, if possible.

Mark’s area of specialty seems to be conflict resolution and mediation. By God’s grace, he has been able to help many individuals, couples, families, and teams overcome conflict and reconcile. But often teams have no chaplain, no person trained in mediation to help them navigate the treacherous waters of conflict. Wounds grow deeper and fester, speculation abounds. The enemy builds a stronghold.  Among missionaries?! Yes, for they are human beings, sinful, broken, hurting, sometimes traumatized, sometimes angry, sometimes struggling to forgive.

Another area of great pain is marriage and family relationships. A trusted, confidential ear is needed, someone who can speak hope, life, and biblical truth into desperate situations and, when necessary, can direct them to specialists for more care.

Chaplaincy is needed to provide support for all kinds of crisis that missionaries face…dealing with traumatic stress, grief, loss, addictions, suicide….you name it. Many chaplains are ordained, licensed professionals (like Mark) who have years of experience in counseling, coaching, and mediation. Others are lay chaplains who receive certification after specific training and supervision. Whatever their training or specialty, they are compassionate and competent pastoral care-givers who long to see their brothers and sisters thrive in God’s kingdom service. By developing Chaplains for cross cultural teams, we are taking a definitive step towards stemming the tide of missionary attrition.


Security Gate or Rent?

When you lock up your house at night, do you remember to close the metal gate at the top of the stairs? And the one at the front door…and the back door? Do you sometimes worry that your husband (or wife) might be kidnapped by a terrorist group while on a routine business trip? Do you regularly rehearse the “what-to-do-in-case-of-a-terrorist-attack-when-we-go-shopping” speech with your teens? Do you feel fearful of your safety on election day? Can you easily tell the difference between semi-automatic and machine gun fire? Continue reading “Security Gate or Rent?”

Healing the Wounds of Combat Trauma Part 1

“Why should we pursue this? After all, so much is going on globally with Trauma Healing. Should I leave this to someone else? It feels all uphill some days and there are some naysayers…people who think it won’t ‘work’ with our vets…But yet, every time I lead a training I have mothers, fathers, brothers, spouses of combat veterans who say “I wish there was something like this for my ___(son, daughter, husband). They need help.”  What should we do?” I asked my very, very patient (military veteran) husband about six months ago.

And turned to see his head down in his hands, eyes closed, remembering when he first encountered the Healing the Wounds of Trauma material three years ago…

We stumbled upon the training in Kenya, thinking it would help us in pastoral care (it did). We thought we were learning it for others (we were, sort of). But we found out very quickly that it was for us, too. Continue reading “Healing the Wounds of Combat Trauma Part 1”


For several weeks, life for us had been busy – crazy busy. SIMGo training for new personnel, skype calls, debrief of cross cultural workers returning from their fields of service, presentations in Minnesota for a Missionary Pastoral Care Conference and then the Global Community of Practice meeting in Philadelphia for Trauma Healing. Finally, several days of training in the Children’s TH program -also in Philadelphia. And then preparing for a five-day  Equipping session in Charlotte and an upcoming trip to Liberia!!! On top of that, the normal family activities: driving people to practices, work, school, doctors and dentist appointments, friends over, church activities, and more. Our plates were spinning.

Then, one night about three weeks ago, we suddenly and dramatically gained a new perspective. I had just settled into a very deep sleep Continue reading “Perspective”

“Misionries” by Isaac

Isaac wrote the following essay for his elementary English Language Arts class to tell about what his parents do… just for the record, I did not know until AFTER he turned it in. So here it is -just like he wrote it- no mom spell or content checks!

“Misionaries are people who travel to different places to help do something and let people know about God. i was and i am a missionarie and i’ve lived in kenya and a lot of other cool Places. We go around the world and teach the bible but other missionaries do different stuff Continue reading ““Misionries” by Isaac”