We just spent two weeks in Kenya offering pastoral care to the SIM South Sudan team and some members of SIM Kenya. We had over 73 visits with missionaries during that time. The Lord constantly refreshed and renewed us thanks to your prayers. Also during those two weeks, Stacey was able to help lead the Advanced training of 20 South Sudanese in the Trauma Healing program. Mark took part in leading another class on Security and Situational Awareness. Keep in mind that the situation in South Sudan remains highly tenuous. Since there is always the potential for conflict, personal security training is important for all team members.
During our time with the team, we were also able to share the team results from a cross cultural stress assessment survey (CSA)and use these to help the team brainstorm good strategies for minimizing stress in the three key areas we identified from their report. It was a useful tool and lead to some great discussion. Besides the stress-assessment, Mark also lead a session on Internet Accountability.
The next few days were spent at the annual Spiritual Life retreat. The worship team this year came from Scotland and the speaker was SIM’s UK Director. Mark really enjoyed getting to know Steve -and may now finally be won over to cricket and rugby!
Both of us really enjoyed our time with the team and with local friends. It was good for us to return and be with them again. Its not always easy to explain what we do since Pastoral care involves confidentiality, but one of our SIM families wrote this very kind note and asked us to share it with you:
To the supporters of the Conards-
Words cannot express how deeply we as a family are appreciative of your empowerment of their ministry. This past week we had our annual spiritual life conference for our team and Mark and Stacey came out to offer member care to our team. This was such a healing ministry for us personally and the team as a whole. It was at times hard to find Mark and Stacey as they went on countless walks, and drank countless coffee listening, advising and praying with many in a confidential way. My husband and I met with them to review our safety policy and get input from someone outside of leadership (with jobs to fill) as to good and healthy ways to engage as a family those we so dearly love while evaluating our child’s safety and well being. We really needed and valued from their advise, counsel, and empathetic listening ears.
The number one reason missionaries leave the field is due to conflict with other missionaries and Mark and Stacey’s mediation and conflict resolution training have been so invaluable. Often it is just the simple act of listening that allows us to release the hurt done against us, even if it in unintentional and focus on what God has called us to do. In sending and supporting the Conards you send and support each of us as we serve. Thank you!
It was difficult for me (Stacey) to leave at the end of two weeks, but at the same time I was ready to get back home to the kids! Mark continued his travels on to visit the SIM Ethiopia team which has almost 150 members -from all over the world! He wrote this after arriving in Adis Ababa:I(Mark) just arrived at the guest house in Ethiopia. The night I arrived I was scheduled to speak to the new arrivals about how they can stay healthy on the mission field. I would tell you what I talked about, but I can barely remember, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. After it was over I went to the guesthouse and slept like a rock, but then I had another presentation I was scheduled to give at 0830 the next morning. I was so thankful to God that this meeting with the Ethiopia leadership went well. I was given two hours to talk about what it is I and the member care team do for teams on the field. I discussed, the CSA Test, Mediation training, Trauma Healing, and Chaplain/Pastoral Care. A lot of great discussion came out of that meeting and it ended up going over in time because there were so many questions. Praise the Lord! I have already been meeting with missionaries since my arrival two days ago and I already have more appointments scheduled to meet with others in the days to come. I am also scheduled to fly to northern Ethiopia to meet with a team up there on Monday. Please be praying for the flight and for the meetings with this team. Blessings.
Mark will be in Ethiopia until February 7th and then on to a Global Member Care Conference in Turkey. He flies home on the 15th of February. Mark and I have officially been invited to return and provide Pastoral care for the SIM Ethiopia team’s Spiritual Life Conference Dec 28th later this year.
Our teenage daughter has a sign hanging in her room that says“I’m in my own little world. Don’t worry. They know me here.”
She has carried that thing through three military moves and to Africa and back.
Oh, to be known!
Transitions are painful. Sometimes painful as in sharp and stabbing, gut-wrenching. Sometimes painful as in that dull ache that will not really go away. Transition means move and change when maybe everything in us is longing for the comfort and security of the way things were – the familiar. Even when the familiar was not always perfect, at least we knew it and it knew us.
Transition usually means grief and loss. It can be messy and deep. On the surface, though, it may look neat, tidy, and manicured. But every now and then a weed of hurt will pop up, belying what is under the surface. No matter how well you try to make the change with “good” goodbyes, or how necessary it was, or how things all line up, there is still the sadness of leaving and beginning again.
I don’t know which is worse – saying goodbye to people and places you have come to love and trust, or reinventing yourself somewhere else where YOU are unknown and untrusted.
Missionaries seem to be in a near constant state of transition. This past month we met a new crew of them here in Charlotte. All are preparing for service abroad with SIM. God has called them to take the road less traveled and they are on their way. But it’s tough. We know what they are heading into and as part of the Chaplain team here at SIM USA, we get the awesome privilege to speak a little encouragement into their lives during this pre-field training. Part of pastoral care means we had the fun of hosting both the ladies for a fun “Ladies Connect” and then the men for a “Men’s Only” night at our home. It helps us get to know them better before they go overseas. It also introduces them to the idea of Chaplain care and the many ways we are available to them in the future, both on the field and when they return for home assignment one day.
Another fun thing that Mark especially enjoys is encouraging the new missionaries in their support-raising endeavors. Here at SIM we call it “Relationship Development Ministry” because we truly believe that we have an important relationship with our financial partners. Because inviting people to join your support team can be pretty daunting, Mark reminds new missionaries that just as God has called them to GO, He has called others in the church to SEND them! It is a joy to partner with churches and individuals and together see the Gospel spread to all nations.
There is also a growing vision in SIM USA for what the military calls “Family Readiness” as we work to do a better job of sending families who are better equipped -spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically…and I (Stacey) am finding a niche in that as an “Educational Consultant” – specializing in home-school support. Basically that means I keep doing one of the things I did in South Sudan and Kenya – I work with missionary families to develop an educational plan for their children and support them in doing it. This involves parent interviews, field visits, resourcing, etc. We are also working to develop a screening tool for families that will help with field placement, depending on the needs of the family. This type of care allows SIM USA to say YES to families who might otherwise be rejected by missions organizations because of the ages, learning challenges, or developmental needs of their children.
When not working with new folks, we are pretty busy following up with SIMers on the field who need care and also with those returning for home assignment. In January, Mark and I will head back to Nairobi for two weeks to work directly with the South Sudan team. Mark will remain in Kenya then visit some other fields before attending a Member Care conference in Turkey. He is hoping to make three to four extended tours next year, visiting different SIM fields where pastoral care and Chaplain training is needed. His travel budget for this will be about $25,000. If you are interested in supporting this specific need, please click here
As a family, we are really enjoying the Fall season and the opportunity to be with the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for the holidays. Katie is a part-time employee at Chik Fil A and Grace is volunteering at SIM part time (as school allows). The boys are busy with homeschool co-op activities. Thank you for praying for us!
If you’ve been reading the news, listening, or watching it on TV lately, then you may be feeling pretty discouraged. Maybe you sense that things just seem to be getting worse and worse – the Ebola virus reaches into Dallas Texas and ISis exploding across borders into Turkey.
Imagine if you are a global worker overseas, where insecurity and unrest are becoming the norm. Every day is a new challenge to your faith and endurance. On top of the international tensions, you live with the daily pressures of adapting to another culture and language. You may also be sweating it out everyday, or freezing, in a climate you are unused to. Your children may be struggling, your marriage may be coming apart at the seams. You may feel lonely and isolated and perhaps your ministry is beginning to suffer. You struggle to make ends meet with limited financial support. Sometimes you just feel unable to cope. Discouragement hangs over you like a dark cloud…You need hope.
This week, we attended the annual Pastors to Missionaries Conference at Ridgecrest in NC. As hope-bringers, we were encouraged in our mission to shepherd those serving Christ around the world. We were reminded that we must always point people to the real hope that comes through knowing and serving Him. Our hope is not in WHEN (“when I finally learn the language…when my wife gets better…when my kids adjust…) but in a WHO. And that WHO is Christ Jesus.
We serve real people with real needs. They are not spiritual super-heroes. They are just normal, struggling people who have been called to do an extraordinary task. Sometimes they lose hope. When that happens (and BEFORE it happens) we must come alongside them and minister hope and healing and restoration.
As part of the conference, we met many pastoral care folks from other organizations as well as missions pastors, retired missionaries, and lay church members who just have a heart to serve God’s servants. We attended various workshops like “Going Alone: What its Like To Serve in The Absence of Missionary Care”, “Women in Missions”, “Debriefing through Collage”, “Blind Spots and Worldview Assumptions”, and “Bringing Hope to Ministry Marriages” just to name a few.
We would love to see more churches send representatives to this conference next year! As one attendee (Deneen) who is on her church missions committee told us “This has been so eye-opening for me! I never really understood the strain of the missionary life before. I did not understand how to care for them when they came home. But now I do and I can’t wait to tell others so we can better minister to them.”
Please continue to pray for us as we minister to God’s global workers.
Several times these past three weeks, we have felt a bit like our heads were ready to spin off our bodies! That’s just how busy and crazy our transition has been. So please forgive us if we have been out of touch for a bit.
Being back together again as a family feels fulfilling -like finishing a puzzle and having all the pieces fit snug and tight. Its nice to be under the same roof again -especially when it is now our home and we can settle in. The house-finding story was distinctly God’s provision. Suffice it to say that in His perfect timing the Lord introduced us (through a co-worker at SIM) to an elderly Christian woman who had been praying to find the “right” person to sell her home to, as she needed to move to a retirement community. After meeting with us, she and her family offered us her home -so certain that God was directing them that they lowered the price to within our limited budget. Not only this, but they also gave us ALL appliances and several pieces of furniture, paid all the lawyer fees and half the closing costs! Later, her daughter’s church helped us with more second hand furniture and household items. So we have been greatly blessed, to say the least. What could have been a very stressful, costly transition has been made so much easier by these dear folks, as well as all of you who have faithfully continued to give and pray.
So now that the beds are up and boxes unpacked, Mark and I headed over to the SIM USA offices this week to have our debriefing and meet with our new Personnel Director and Member Care Director to discuss our roles.
We came away from these meetings with a new sense of awe, a sense that even through difficult circumstances, the Lord is doing something new and exciting (“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19NLT).
After seeing the success of pastoral care with our South Sudan team, SIM USA has a great vision to expand Chaplain care to SIM missionary teams worldwide. This will involve travel (for Mark especially) to many strategic areas of the world. It will involve the training of lay-chaplains on various fields. There are also urgent missionary needs worldwide for pastoral care and mediation. As part of the US member care team, we will also be debriefing and offering pastoral care for missionaries who return to the US for Home Assignment/Reassignment or Retirement. One role I (Stacey) am especially excited about is acting as a Homeschooling Advisor for moms on the field. I found this to be a great need among mission organizations in East Africa. Already I’m finding plenty of work here as I meet with both seasoned missionary moms who need new resources and new-to-homeschooling missionary moms who need guidance to get started. Mark and I are also hoping to continue our work with Trauma Healing, training missionaries in the material both here and on the field. We are pretty excited about all the possibilities – and so happy that we have been able to also stay involved with our South Sudan team via Skype calls and email. In late January Mark and I will be traveling back to Nairobi for the Spiritual Life Conference and to do some trainings for the team on Mediation, Chaplain Care, and Child Safety.
So, a few days ago a friend emailed asking if we were still missionaries. The answer of course is: YES! YES! YES! We are still missionaries who raise our support just like before. The only difference is that we will be based in the US now. We will still be doing the same pastoral care work with missionaries -and even more soas our ministry sphere widens. We are so very thankful for those of you who believe in this ministry and recognize the incredible need for pastoral care so that missionaries can thrive in their place of service. We pray that you will continue to stand with us both prayerfully and financially.
Thank you also for praying for our children over the past several months. Everyone is doing very well. It was a relief to see Katie more her old self again when we returned and also to find that all of our children are sleeping better. We will start a familiar homeschool routine next week, including two days per week with a local cooperative.
Katie’s Happy 16th Birthday!
During the month of September, Mark will be traveling a bit to visit many of our supporters. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about our pastoral care ministry to missionaries, you can call Mark at 803-818-0629 for a phone call or a visit if he is in your area.