By Dr. William (Bill) Britt, PhD
A group of us were recently on our 31st annual backpacking trip, this time in the drought-stricken Sequoia National Park in California. The ranger station informed us there may not be enough water at our hoped for campsite, but they were unsure. We met a hiker just 20 minutes from where we planned to camp, and he told us there was too little water there, and we would have to go to a lake 4.5 miles further to camp. However, when we got there and followed the stream, there was enough water for us.
Likewise, as a Church Care Team, we need to make sure we get accurate information about our missionaries’ situation before taking precipitous action. We need to make sure we get the perspective of the team leaders, the agency, and perhaps a visit to the field before taking such drastic action as agreeing to let the missionary come home.
Our hiker informant gave accurate information about a half-mile part of the trail to the lake that was at a 15-degree slope with no switchbacks. As we went down this part of the trail, all of us dreaded the hike back up later that day. As leader, I decided I would set a slower pace so all of us could be together as we went up this steep slope. That way, no one would be left behind and become further discouraged. We made it up by taking breaks and encouraging each other much faster than I imagined.
Our missionaries need us as a Church Care Team to work together with them and the agency when they hit tough climbs in their service. This could be an illness, getting thrown out of the country, or debilitating team conflict. We need to walk with them together, helping set a pace they can follow, with rest periods and plenty of encouragement. This may be the difference between weathering the crisis or coming home prematurely.
Another observation during the trip was that one person can’t carry the entire load; one needs to carry the tent, another food, another the water filtration pump, etc. Also, some are better climbing up, but others are better going down.
We need to utilize the strengths and acknowledge the weaknesses on our care teams and make sure the load is evenly distributed. Sometimes the team leader may think he or she is the only one who can get things done to the appropriate standard, then becomes overburdened by the load, not realizing others on the team may have strengths in areas that person lacks.