Stewarding the Call: The Crucial Role of the Wellness Team in Missionary Resilience

Stewarding the Call: The Crucial Role of the Wellness Team in Missionary Resilience

It can be easy to find ourselves thinking of missionaries as the ultimate Christians. They’ve said “yes” to leave behind all they know in order to bring the Gospel to the 4 in 10 who have never heard it.

But it’s important to remember the humanity of our missionaries. They still struggle with emotions, physical pain, spiritual battles, mental health, natural disasters, war, tense political climates and so on. Sometimes because of what they’re called to do, those struggles can even seem magnified.

The good news is, by rallying a Wellness Team together for missionaries, Global Partners prioritizes providing care in several ways.

Sandy Emmett, director of wellness, explained that the Global Partners Wellness Team exists to support missionary resilience through facilitating preemptive, responsive and network care.

Over the years, some of the struggles and issues missionaries have highlighted with the Wellness Team have remained the same, while others have surfaced more often during times of unknown throughout the pandemic.

Wellness Coaches Rod and Nancy Zotarelli said much like the rest of the world, there’s been an uptick in anxiety among some missionaries. They said amid the new reality COVID has cast across the world, they’ve walked with missionaries who have faced deep uncertainty within their ministries and personal lives.

Linda and Randall Freeman meet with two M’s overseas.

Randall Freeman, who serves on the Wellness Team with his wife Linda for missionaries in the Turkic-Arabic area, said the waves of COVID crackdowns have brought struggles to these missionaries serving in a place that is heavily relational.

Aside from COVID, various other medical battles have lingered with injuries or surgeries, which can turn to spiritual attacks as well.

Other personal conflicts simply stem from the cycles of life we all experience. Rich Stinehart serves with his wife Deb on the European team and said the high level of concern so many missionaries hold for their families back home was something he didn’t initially expect.

Rich Stinehart spends time with an M kid while her parents lead a ministry meeting.

Similarly, many missionaries have aging parents in nursing homes, Linda Freeman echoed. Transitions in general bring a sense of fear and stress, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed.

The Wellness Team aims not only to be a source of encouragement and to provide listening ears, but also to fortify resilience.

“The resilience piece is really what we’re focused on: helping people continue doing kingdom work and doing it well. Maturing, processing things, being able to really incorporate what their experiences are on the field and become kingdom builders,” Sandy explained.

This aspect of resiliency doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wellness Team forces anyone to stay on the field, Sandy noted. Rather, the team is working to steward the calling each missionary has received.

From a Biblical standpoint, Rich compares their roles to Barnabas. While the Apostle Paul might have been “getting the headlines” on his missionary journeys, Barnabas was with Paul providing a source of encouragement. For the Stineharts, whether it’s listening to their missionaries talk about whatever is heavy on their hearts or Deb baking and delivering cookies — they are able to act like Barnabas by providing encouragement in those moments.

If you’d like to pray for the wellness of GP missionaries, Mary Beth Bagley, missionary kid wellness specialist, and Jim Rice, risk mitigation and crisis management wellness coach, both asked for prayer for families who are in transition, or their children are in transition.

“We have all kinds of transition among our families … it can be overwhelming if you’re not careful,” Jim said.

Linda said praying for encouragement, especially for missionaries who have been in an area for years with few to zero new believers, is needed. Rich added prayers for physical health not just for the missionaries, but for their families back home.

Lastly, I ask that you also pray for the Wellness Team — as they put in the time and effort it takes to uplift and wholeheartedly love our missionaries in any way that they can.