SUPPORTING MISSIONARIES ON THE FIELD:
First and foremost, pastors should be aware of the dangers that face their missionaries and be prepared to assist in an emergency situation. Some organizations that offer support in crises are listed on the Crisis Management page.
Missionaries are not super-human or super-Christian. They are normal people who struggle with all the things that others on your staff and in your congregation struggle with, but with the added stress of cross-cultural living and the added difficulty of isolation. They usually have few in their immediate circle with whom they can share their struggles, and they are frequently forgotten about by those they left behind. Be aware of this and keep in touch with them. Provide them with the same support and accountability as you would anyone on your staff or in your congregation. Provide them with opportunities to go to missions retreats and conferences. There is an extensive list of counseling and retreat centers specifically for missionaries here. Some of these organizations also provide counseling online and by telephone. Maintain good communication with your missionaries so that if a crisis strikes, they know that you are someone that they can trust to help them get the help that they need.
Care packagaes are always welcome for those items from home that are most missed. Find out what items are particularly longed for, sometimes these are a particular food or toiletry item. Sometimes it's a craft item, an office supply, or clothing item. Also while living overseas, a missionary can become disconnected from the current trends in Christian publishing and music. They frequently have a hard time keeping up with which new authors and artists are good. Buy your missionary a Kindle and an ipod and when you find an excellent new book, buy them the Kindle edition, doing the same with the ipod and good new music. Send recent releases in quality Christian dvds that they and their families would enjoy. Send over educational materials and good reading materials for their children as well.
Missionaries can also begin to feel disconnected from their home churches when they return after several years overseas to find that staff members or families in leadership have left or that there have been major changes within the church. Keep your missionaries aprised of what's going on within the church with regular newsletters a few times a year or when major changes occur. It's still their 'home church' even if they aren't there on Sunday mornings.
Missionaries always enjoy visits from their pastor or others on their church's leadership team, but they can enjoy those visits more when the visitors come with a heart to minister to the missionary and offer support and encouragement. Before you visit, find out what supplies the missionary family needs and what treats would be a blessing to them. While there, be sensitive to their schedule and routines. They will want to spend time with you and show you around, but they also have regular commitments that must be met as well. Become familiar with missionary debriefing (great sources of training in debriefing are on the Member Care Websites page) and give them the opportunity to download about any issues that they are currently facing. The blog A Life Overseas has an excellent article on how to do short-term missions well. Much of what they recommend would be applicable to visits from a pastor or leader as well.
Maintain a list of medical professionals within your fellowhsip who are willing to provide phone consultations with your missionaries. Encourage them to register with Missionary Telemedicine Organization to be available to other missionaries as well.
Maintain a list of educational specialists (those who specialize in speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, or special educational needs and those who can provide educational assessments) who can consult by phone or Skype with missionaries about any issues their children may be facing. Perhaps someone in your congregation would feel led to become an educational consultant by going through the training offered by the Professional Association of Cross-Cultural Consultants in Education. In addition to providing professionals who can help remotely, all missionaries with children should, when their children are pre-school aged and they are making decisions about their education and again when their children are middle-school aged and they are making decisions about high school, be offered the opportunity to attend a conference with either Share Education Services (in Europe), Anchor Education (in Africa), or Asia Education Resource Consortium (in Asia). I am unfortunately not aware of a similar organization in South America.
Though this website focuses primarily on providing information for long-term missionaries, enquiries about short-term missions have led us to gather some information on books and articles on the topic:
"What to Do About Short Term Missions" by Sarita Hartz on the website A Life Overseas
"There's Nothing Short About Short Term Missions" by Ramon Lull on the website desiringGod
Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore
Livermore begins by making a case for re-thinking the way the Western Church does short-term missions in light of some of the weaknesses that have been revealed. He goes on to explain that short-term missions trips can be improved if effort is made to increase the cultural intelligence (CQ) of people going on these trips. After describing the four aspects of cultural intelligence, CQ drive, CQ knowledge, CQ strategy, and CQ action, and ways to develop each aspect, Livermore concludes by detailing ten starting points for doing short-term missions with cultural intelligence.
Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help and How to Reverse It by Robert D. Lupton
Drawing on his experience in urban ministry in Atlanta, Lupton explains how charitable giving can and often does cause more harm than good to the communities that individuals are wanting to help because, "Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people." Instead, he espouses community development which focuses on working with those in need, identifying and building on local assets, identifying what the local community sees as the most important needs, investing with the poor, developing local leadership, and working at a pace that the community is comfortable with in order to bring about lasting change.
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
Corbett and Fikkert explain that an incomplete definition of poverty in terms solely of material poverty in combination with the God-complexes of the materially non-poor and the feelings of inferiority of the materially poor lead to harm being done to both the materially poor and non-poor. They articulate strategies to develop policies and programs that will help a community by addressing both broken systems and broken individuals using a highly relational approach.