By Jessa Chadwick, Faith Editor
“A big part of it is when you leave. You’re out there wondering if anybody remembers who you are,” Director of Global Outreach Doctor Joy Turner said about being a Christian worker overseas.
There is often a gap between Christian workers on the field and the church in America. This series will share the stories of workers and encourage fellow Christians here to reach out in support to those on the field. To start off the series, there needs to be a definition of what a worker on the field is and how their call differs from other Christians.
“Going to the field is just doing your laundry somewhere else,” Turner said. “It’s all about obedience, and the rest is geography. Where does God want us to be obedient?
“I do distinguish between ministry and the field,” she said. “There’s a lot of ministry we can take part in and that can be woven onto the work on the field. But when I’m thinking about that work, then I’m thinking about the gospel and having a message to take to people who don’t know Christ. How we do that, ministry and going to the field, can look different for a lot of people; relating to giftings and passions and careers.”
While on the field, many workers experience what Dr. Turner called “consequences” to following God’s call to another country. As a body of Christ, the church at home should encourage and support those on the field, whether that’s down the street from the physical church or overseas.
“It’s getting to know them and then praying for them,” Turner said. “We need to study those on the field. We shouldn’t just put them on a pedestal. Understanding what they’re doing, not just have a blanket, ‘God bless all the workers,’ but choose a few. I have a few that I pray for their work. A lot of time it’s the children that do all the encouraging, the letter writing. We need to do it as adults. We’ve got to get it beyond the children and the women.”
As fellow believers, the church is called to pray for one another.
Prayer heals and encourages those all around the world as they go out to share the Word of God. With prayer comes the need for communication. Support is not only prayer, but communicating with those on the fi eld and those in the church at home. Like Turner said, even with family and new friends on the fi eld, a new worker can become lonely.
“When a worker is struggling with something, they need to be able to talk to someone without fear of losing their job,” Professor of Cross-Cultural Ministry and WMU Professor of Missions Dr. Bruce Carlton said. “That’s where member care comes in. Someone can come and just listen to the troubles. At times that support system is good, at times it isn’t. It’s constantly needing to be looked at and improved. Be someone who can care for the worker, especially when they’re stateside.”
This care may look like taking a worker on sabbatical out to coffee or bringing them a meal or sending a letter.
As for those who are called, they must remember that everyone is called.
No Christian is better than another because they are on the field or on staff at a church.
“There are specific callings and some of that is the way God’s made us,” Turner said.
“He’s given some of us the ability to transition between cultures and not everybody has that ability; and that’s where the call comes. It doesn’t diminish the person who says, ‘I’m going be a business woman or a teacher in my neighborhood.’ You can learn a lot of that but there’s something within us. An ability to live life somewhere else and not do everything that you would normally do, that comes with the calling.”