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Preparing for Cross-Cultural Ministry?

Six Recommendations from a Family Counselor

The autumn issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, “Member Care for Chinese Missionaries,” focuses on the currently underdeveloped area of member care for cross-cultural workers from China. In submitting her article on caring for families, one contributor, Lisa Tsai, included a list of her recommendations for those who are preparing to follow God’s call into cross-cultural ministry. We’ve pulled those out as good reminders for all who are considering serving Christ in another culture.  

Recommendations from a Family Counselor

1. Set up a solid support system before you leave and on the mission field.

There is no contradiction between faith and preparation. The longer you plan to stay on a mission field, the more you need a support group to pray for the needs and uphold you when you face spiritual warfare. They can also provide emotional support so that you will not feel lonely. Find people in your church who know you well and would like to be an advocate, encourager, and supporter for workers—singles and couples. For those arriving on the field, build support groups. Look for other missionaries in the area to be peer caregivers. Make friends with local people.

2. Be properly prepared in your personal life.

This means you need to have an end goal for your personal career and family development. Take counseling courses and psychological tests, study the language, take care of your spiritual life as well as your physical life, and resolve interpersonal conflict. All these preparations will help you reduce failure on the field. For some people, it might take years of preparation before departing.

3. Make a long-term financial plan for you or your family.

Plan to have money to go home for unexpected issues, for children’s education, and for retirement. God is faithful, and we are called to be good and faithful stewards of the money he entrusts to us.

4. Deal with the sense of shame.

When you face financial needs, psychological struggles, and emotional hurts, find someone safe and trustworthy to open up to and seek help. Shame can lead a person to feel the whole self is flawed and bad. It can discourage a person, causing them to withdraw or hide in addictions. Satan can use shame to damage you and your ministry.

5. Be a tentmaker as much as possible.

While this may seem like leaving you with less time to do missions, it helps you solve the identity issue of who you are in the community. It gives you financial security. It provides a useful platform for reaching out to people. It makes you more understandable and less suspicious to the local people.

6. Develop flexibility.

Missionaries constantly encounter a changing environment. Sometimes it is a change in the political environment or a financial change. This requires missionaries to have a high degree of flexibility to adjust to changes as they arise. Otherwise, these changes often leave a worker in a state of loss and stress. And it is easy to bring out the missionaries’ previous physical, psychological, and spiritual vulnerability.

Watch for more from Lisa Tsai and others involved in caring for cross-cultural workers from China in the autumn issue of ChinaSource Quarterly out next month.  

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Lisa Tsai

Lisa Tsai (pseudonym) is a trained family therapist from China and has done research on the needs of cross-cultural workers sent out from China. View Full Bio

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