By Ashleigh Bugg
Holistically serving those who serve others in the name of Christ. That’s the job of CBF Member Care—a dedicated group of professionals who volunteer their time and invest their energy and expertise in the support of field personnel serving in dozens of countries around the world. These volunteers commit to a ministry of long-term service alongside those called to a long-term mission presence.
The group supports wellness in various areas: spiritual, emotional, relational and physical. Many volunteers are former therapists, nurses or mental health professionals, including Lindsi Hines, Member Care manager, who worked as a mental health clinician before joining the team as its only contract employee.
“We have people who have backgrounds in mental health and pastoral care,” Hines explained. “While we don’t generally have traditional physicians, we make sure our field personnel have ready access to physicians and specialists–especially if they’re serving in a remote place.”
Field personnel Ana* and John*, whose real names are withheld for security purposes, have only words of gratitude and love for their Member Care team.
“They’ve come to stay in our home with us and gotten to know our children. Because of where we serve, we can’t do things very openly,” the couple said. “It made a big difference for the kids to have these folks involving themselves with our family.”
Member Care volunteers commit to a long period of service, which allows them to form relationships with personnel and their families.
“Often, people serving in our capacity deal with states of emergency or local riots. The Member Care volunteers have been a great help in those kinds of situations. And the longevity of the program means that it is more stable,” Ana says.
Currently, the network is composed of eight units, each of which may be made up of two people. For example, a unit might be a husband and wife who were formerly a nurse and psychiatrist. Two units are assigned to a specific regional cluster with various team members and personnel. These units have a list of four to six field personnel under their care. There are also three Member Care units-at-large, made of volunteers who have retired, but who still work with one or two field personnel. The network also has one unit who is assigned to support and care for college-aged children of field personnel.
When Ana and John’s daughter made a difficult transition to college in the United States, Member Care volunteers were there to help her ease into university life in an unfamiliar place.
“She wouldn’t have wanted to talk to someone whom she didn’t know and who had not already invested their lives in her and built a relationship with her,” Ana said. “While this help wasn’t directed specifically toward John and me, it allowed us to be healthy and return to the field.”
Volunteers may aid personnel with problems they have while they are working with clients overseas. “They care for us and look after us,” Ana said. “We have used Member Care when we were caring for someone in the field, and we had questions about how to do so.”
The network is not a one-size-fits-all model, as volunteers often go above and beyond their prescribed duties. “Our volunteers are pretty phenomenal,” Hines said. “They have visited relatives and aging parents of personnel or attended funerals on their behalf. They have used their own money to visit them around the world.”
Member Care volunteer Scott Christie helped Ana and John by going the extra mile to make sure they were well. “When my husband’s back was hurt, we couldn’t get a hold of the doctor,” Ana said. “And in walks Scott. He actually flew back with my husband to the States for surgery and was with him the whole time.”
“We call him our bearded angel,” John joked.
“We have been here for 18 years and have observed other similar organizations. Member Care has been exceptional,” Ana said.
Historically, Member Care volunteers were recruited through word of mouth and networking, with the call open to various congregations across CBF.
“We really tried to maintain the idea of extending the beloved community through serving,” Hines said. “We’ve had field personnel share how meaningful this has been for them.”
Hines explained that some field personnel might now be in a different occupation had it not been for the support of Member Care volunteers. “Some have said if it weren’t for the presence and support, they wouldn’t still be in the field,” Hines said. “So, we know this is impactful and meaningful.”
“They are good friends as well as an amazing resource. We have long-standing relationships with them now,” Ana said. “Remaining healthy and knowing your children are cared for allows us to stay on the field.”
While Hines maintains that the current Member Care model is healthy and productive, she would like to expand the network to have a better recruitment and training system. As older volunteers look toward retirement, she wants new members to be able to step in and take their place seamlessly, having been provided enough time to get to know their personnel.
“I don’t want them having to minister to someone they’ve just met,” Hines explained. “We want them to feel comfortable together.”
She also hopes to compile an on-line list of physicians and other specialists so that any field personnel can sign into a secure site and access professional help when they need it.
“It would be ideal to have specialists who are invested in the mission and vision of CBF,” she said. “We need those who have a passion to support our field personnel, enabling personnel to get help with the click of a button or after making a quick phone call.”
The network continues to support field personnel through a system that treats health holistically, looking at the wellness of the whole person.
“These amazing volunteers are giving themselves and their time,” Hines said. “It takes a great deal of energy and time to keep up with everyone. They do so out of compassion, care and love.”
The dedication and commitment of its volunteers are the base upon which the whole system works. “We have a limited budget to do what we do,” Hines said. “But this isn’t something broken that needs to be fixed. We want to be able to continue to do good work.”
Despite the long hours, Hines says it’s worth the challenges. “Any time people are willing to give themselves for others and do it behind the scenes is beautiful,” she said. “It’s what keeps me excited about what I do.”
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter added that Hines’ “tremendous contributions build on the excellent foundation that former Member Care and Wellness staff and volunteers have laid.”
“Fellowship churches can take pride in the holistic care that CBF provides its field personnel,” Porter said. “As Ana indicates, this is not the case with many other mission-sending organizations. CBF’s commitment to long-term, high-impact field personnel requires a corresponding commitment to their health and wellness. That care, which is provided by gifts to the Offering for Global Missions (OGM), makes gospel witness possible among people the world has forgotten and forsaken. Please give generously to OGM.”
Learn more and support the Offering for Global Missions at www.cbf.net/OGM.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.