Your Support Circle of Six

A trusted friend and counselor once told me that it’s hard to have more than six meaningful relationships in your life at any one time. Even that number may be tough, depending on your personality and where you are serving. Her point was that while you probably have many acquaintances, the spiritually edifying relationships you need tend to develop within a smaller circle of friends. 

There are hints of this in Galatians 2:1-10. Paul mentions five people in his support circle as he recalls the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. This group was diverse in culture, background, and age, but especially in personality. We know something about their different temperaments from Scripture. Barnabas (the encourager), Titus (the faithful administrator), James (the instructor), John (the cautious), and of course, the impulsive and larger than life personality of Peter. Together with Paul (known for being quite direct), this group formed a powerful support circle of six. 

Do you think this band of brothers had any idea of the impact they would have on the world? This passage demonstrates the beauty of how Christ brings unique people together to edify one another and accomplish His work. 

My friend suggested we can find something similar to the following characteristics in our support circle. I’ve taken the liberty of giving each of them a title.

  • The Encourager – Who lifts your spirit, inspires you with courage and confidence? 
  • The Intercessor – Who is always ready to pray, when you ask and even when you don’t?
  • The Counselor – Who is the spiritually mature person who gives wise Biblical counsel and you trust to keep your confidences?
  • The Accountant – Who holds you accountable, tells you the truth, not necessarily what you want to hear, but what you need to hear?
  • The Comic – Who makes you laugh, and reminds you of the importance of joy and merriment in life? 
  • The Comforter – Who will sit with you in silence or offer comforting words? The one you can cry with without inhibition. 

Do you recognize any of these life-giving characters in your support circle? Which one are you? As we sharpen one another, our circle of six can be a powerful witness for Christ to the world. 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Shirley Ralston

This devotional was originally published at Thrive Ministries.

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Three Essential Elements of Self Care

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1–2

Nancy was a military wife for 30 years. Her experiences raising a family overseas while navigating other cultures made her an invaluable friend and mentor. I’ll never forget her advice: “Take care of your mental health, your spiritual health, and your physical health.” Her wise counsel kept me whole during my years abroad. 

There is much in Scripture about holistic care of the mind, spirit, and body. Paul writes about the renewal of the mind in Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed, but be transformed”. Warren Wiersbe states the idea is best expressed as metamorphosis1 – defined as a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means

The Holy Spirit transforms our minds as He guides our thought processes. In this way, the creeping caterpillar of conformity becomes the transformed butterfly, enabling us to examine our lives from a biblical perspective. 

In 3 John 2, John expresses joy that his friend Gaius is “walking in the truth”. He is acknowledging Gaius’ spiritual strength, but he also prays for his physical strength. John knew that Gaius’ holistic health was vital to his ministry to fellow brothers traveling and preaching the Word. 

It is evident that John and Paul followed Jesus’ example of care for others and himself. Jesus prayed (Luke 5:16) and meditated (Matthew 4:4). He knew when to eat and rest (Mark 6:30-32), and he had a support group (Mark 3:13-14). Jesus’ care for himself was an integral part of carrying out his ministry while he lived on earth. 

Sister, be encouraged, and follow the example of Jesus, Paul, and John. Pay attention to your mental, spiritual, and physical self, areas that are easily overlooked as we serve others. Take to heart the wise words of Elisabeth Elliott, “Work is a blessing… He gives us hands and strength to do it. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.” – Elisabeth Elliott, The Glad Surrender 

Heavenly Father, I pray that You will guide us in the proper care of ourselves so that we will be renewed and strengthened for the work that You have given us to do during this season of life. I pray that as we care for ourselves, we can care for and love others, and continue to make Your name known among the nations. Amen.

1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 542). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. 

This devotion was originally published at Thrive Ministry

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A Window into the Worship to Come

by Shirley Ralston
This devotion was originally published at Thrive Ministry

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“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’”

Revelation 5:8-10
When we moved from the United States to the Middle East, I expected to have some restrictions placed on my religious freedoms. There were a few, but they didn’t hinder the thriving international church in my new home. Our city turned out to be a melting pot, one that included Christians from all over the world. Every Friday, hotel ballrooms all across the Emirates became a place of worship for believers from many different countries. 

My American worship experience had been rather homogenous. Worship now looked more like the redeemed people of every tribe, nation, and tongue described by the Apostle John in Revelation 5:8-10. Week after week, I participated in a foreshadowing of this passage, a time still to come when the heavenly hosts will worship the Lamb as they sing about the saved from all the nations on earth. Believers who are made to be “a kingdom and priests to serve our God.”(v. 10) 

Worshiping with God’s people, wherever you are serving in the world, is a window into the future. It will clarify your view of God’s eternal plan in a real and practical way. Maybe it will also give you a better perspective on your role in His plan as you share His saving message with others. Why? Because in John’s vision, the Gospel, “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood” and the fruit of its spread through global work, “from every tribe and language and people and nation”(v. 9), reveal a future where you will have been a vital link in the chain. 

Be encouraged. In this prophetic passage, you are present in two places: in the multitude of the redeemed and in the people you touch with the Gospel who will then be standing alongside you.  

“We will have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few short hours to win them.”  ―Amy Carmichael 
Lord Jesus, You are worthy of all blessing and honor and glory. When we gather together for worship, you give us a glimpse of what the multitudes will be like on a much grander scale when you return. We look forward to who will be there worshiping with us on that day because of the saving message you have given us to convey. Amen. 
The peoples of the world are mentioned several times in the book of Revelation (5:9, 7:9, 10:11, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6, 17:15). What do you think John’s reaction would have been to the broad diversity in people’s ethnicities that his first-century eyes had never seen?
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Market Madness

by  Shirley Ralston
A version of this devotion was originally published at Thrive Ministry
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“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Psalm 57:1

In my host country, security concerns prevented me from driving my own car. Every trip to town required a secure car with a GPS locator and with a vetted driver. Everything had a call sign, including me. My identity was my call sign – Papa 2 Whiskey.

Our radio exchange went like this: “Dispatch, this is Delta 219 leaving Tango 9 for HQ, Papa 2 Whiskey on board, over.”

“Papa 2 Whisky, proceed.”

The special treatment made me feel foolish and embarrassed. It set me apart and hindered my adjustment to the local culture.
But an incident on the way to town one day highlighted how equal we all are in our need for God’s protection. Heavy traffic came to a standstill in both directions as gunfire erupted all around us. Hundreds of shoppers from a local market filled the streets. “Ma’am,” my driver said, “I can’t go forward, and I can’t turn around. We’ll just have to wait for the danger to pass.” It did pass eventually.
It turns out the local police were clearing the market of illegal activity. But at that moment, with all my preparation and security precautions in place, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I was just as vulnerable as everyone else.
David was a mighty warrior in a league all his own, and yet he expresses this same vulnerability in Psalm 57. He placed his trust in the Lord to protect him from Saul’s pursuit.
No matter who we are, the one person we can trust when threatened is the one who holds our fate and future in His hands. We can seek refuge in the shadow of His wings until the danger passes.
“You are loved with an everlasting love,” that’s what the Bible says, “and underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Elisabeth Elliot
“I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me. Selah God sends His faithful love and truth. For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches the clouds. God, be exalted above the heavens; let Your glory be over the whole earth.” Psalm 57:2–3, 10–11
The Lord honors our trust in His sovereignty and the attention we give to our safety overseas. How do you pray specifically for guidance in regards to your safety? Do you have a safety plan in place in case of political unrest, medical emergencies, etc.?
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God’s Presence In Your Absence

This devotion was originally published at Thrive Ministry
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“Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Isaiah 46:4
The familiar number displayed on my phone caused me to hesitate to answer. Maybe guilt, rather than honor or true concern, compelled me to pick up. I heard my father’s panicked voice, “I need help!” My mother had passed away three years earlier and now my father’s health was failing. He was alone, scared, and unsaved. Even under the best of circumstances, Dad was a challenge. Our relationship wasn’t great. Now he was reaching out, and I was nine thousand miles away. Talk about feeling helpless. The emotional turmoil of that time defies description.

Are you a global worker with aging parents, facing tough decisions surrounding their care and support? It is becoming one of the top reasons global workers leave the field. This may be especially true for women, who tend to fill the caregiver role. What do you do when there is no one else to stand in the gap? Whether you are called to return or remain on the field, the choice is heart wrenching.

Take comfort that God has foreseen your circumstances and He understands your struggle. Just as God speaks through the prophet Isaiah to assure his people of His sustaining power “until your old age,” you, too, can trust His provision for your family. Whether you stay or go, know He will “bear you up” and your aging parents.

My father passed away before I made it home. During preparations for his funeral, my sister told me of God’s unique provision for him in his last days. Two wonderful Christian ladies we had known since childhood, life-long friends of our mother, had stepped in to care for Dad in the midst of his physical suffering and intense fear of dying. And, where my own sharing had fallen on deaf ears, these special saints led my father to Christ the day before he passed peacefully into the arms of Jesus.

When your thoughts turn to concern for your aging parents, be encouraged as I was by the words from the beloved hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” where John Rippon captures God’s promise of provision for his people until the very end:

“Even down to old age all My people shall prove, My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love, And then, when grey hairs shall their temples adorn, Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”
Lord, we praise your unchangeable character. You have told us that you are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We thank you for keeping your promise to carry us and bear us up. Help us to remember that you walk alongside us with wisdom and discernment in the decisions we make about care for our families–especially our aging parents. Amen.
If you have faced a tough decision involving the care of your aging parents, how did God lead you in resolving the issue and giving you a path forward? What counsel do you have for other global workers who may face this dilemma?
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Crossing Cultures

This devotion was originally published for Thrive Ministry

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“…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings…”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Adapting to a new culture can be a challenge in your life as a global worker. The initial honeymoon phase of any assignment can be replaced by isolation and loneliness as the strangeness of your new land becomes a reality. God has called you for a purpose to this place, but you also must live in this place.

My own struggle to adapt to a new culture is encapsulated in a vivid memory. A representative from our local bank explained to me that, as a woman, I needed my husband’s permission to have a debit card and that he would get a text message each time I used it. “Yes, this is the law,” she explained. I would face other, similar issues during my time in this new land. Freedoms I had enjoyed and taken for granted in my home country were replaced by laws I viewed as regressive and unfair. Over time, this new way of life and I declared a truce. I came to accept my new surroundings, encouraged by the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul indicates his willingness to become a participant in other cultures for the sake of the Gospel. He moved with courage among other people groups, his outer persona conforming to the surrounding environment–yet the truth of his message never wavered. Not surprisingly, he had an excellent teacher.

Jesus was masterful in his response to everyone he met. His interactions with Mary and Martha in Luke 10 and the Samaritan woman in John 4 are great examples. They illustrate how he spoke the truth to each one in a manner they understood, regardless of their social position.

Are you struggling with cultural norms where you live? You are in good company. Jesus and Paul chose to step into the lives of others who were different in order to share the message of eternal life. Take heart, my friend, because you are a result of their work in those early days of the Christian faith, and you’ve been given the perfect example to follow.
Father, I pray for the willingness to set aside my freedoms in order to reach those in the culture where you have placed me. Make me alert to any opportunity to engage others with sensitivity and humility so that I can share the message of eternal life in a way they can understand. Amen.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced in adapting to the cultural norms in your place of service? How did you reconcile this change in your life?
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More Than Money: How Local Churches Care for Global Workers

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Have you ever given toward your church’s mission offering and wondered about who your dollars were supporting? Have you ever wondered how they’re doing—their ministry, personal life and spiritual well-being—but didn’t know how to find out? Are you aware that many global workers return from the field because of preventable reasons related to a lack of care?

Unfortunately, these situations are all too common in today’s mission environment. Over time, there has been a shift in roles as sending organizations have expanded in number and size, causing global workers to rely more on them for resources. Subsequently, the local church’s role and the global worker’s relationships with their home church have diminished.

How can the local church reconnect with their global workers and care well, helping to sustain them on the field? There is an example we can follow.


Sending organizations—whether formed as an arm of a particular denomination or as an independent entity—are vital to worldwide missions. However, when it comes to global worker care, they get mixed reviews. Even in the most established organizations, centralized headquarters, travel logistics, and size can make it difficult for workers to receive the personal, holistic care they need.

“Even in the most established organizations, centralized headquarters, travel logistics, and size can make it difficult for workers to receive the personal, holistic care they need.

When Paul and his companions traversed the known world in the first century, care looked quite different than it does today. The New Testament paints a picture of personal care in all areas of life by the local church and local believers.

Perhaps the best example is found in Romans 16, where Paul lists approximately 26 people associated with the local church that comprised his community of support. He speaks of a large and diverse group of people involved with those churches who supported him. They include benefactors, loyalists, companions, co-laborers, and hosts who assisted him in his ministry efforts. In essence, Paul was cared for by those who knew him best and were the strongest supporters of his work. Their names are immortalized in this passage—what a beautiful picture of community!

Can you imagine today’s global workers being able to list 26 people from their home church who provide this kind of support?


Our care team has observed that the scope of care (and the meaning of support) in the local church is generally understood to be purely financial. And while no one would dispute the necessity of generous financial giving to missions, the reality is that support means so much more. We see it in the timeless applications of holistic care in the New Testament writings.

As an example, in 3 John 8 we read of John’s commendation of Gaius’ hospitality. The Greek term for support (hupolambánō), according to one lexicon, conveys a sense of sustaining “to supply people with what they need” or “to give to people what is necessary” or “what they should have” (Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).

Paul’s writings bear this out as well. He mentions prayer (Rom. 15:30), refreshment (1 Cor. 16:18), participation (Phil. 1:35), fully supplied (Phil. 4:18), companionship (Rom. 15:24), physical care (Gal. 4:13–14), and spiritual health (1 Cor. 16:18). We get a picture that there are many different currencies of care by the local body outside of monetary support.

There is no question that today’s care environment is very different, but the fundamental needs described by Paul remain the same. Can we provide first-century care in our twenty-first-century world?

As our care team has stepped through this process, we have discovered three key areas that are essential to creating a culture of holistic care.


Andy Johnson writes in a book on global missions that

a healthy church partnership generally presumes that the congregation, not just a few leaders, actually owns the partnership. When the average church member understands something of the focus and direction of the church’s partnership, then the ground is laid for a fruitful relationship. This can be encouraged by regularly updating the entire congregation on the church’s international involvement. (Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global, 140)

Establishing this kind of care begins, as Johnson writes, with church leadership. They are the primary stakeholders and the ones most able to raise awareness of the importance of care. They can do this via weekly messages, social media platforms, and updates from supported workers (virtually or in-person). Leadership can communicate the number of workers the church supports, the agencies their workers represent, where they’re serving (if safe to do so), their mission, and most importantly, their needs.

Global workers are real people just like the rest of us with real struggles—which are only intensified by living in a different culture, navigating a foreign language, and most of all, experiencing intense spiritual opposition.


Regular communication is a healing balm for the isolation and loneliness many experience on the field. Remaining in contact will strengthen the relationship and build trust. The goal is to be a safe place where workers can be transparent about their lives.

Whether volunteer or vocational, a care team and dedicated care contacts are vital components of the local church’s connection. Consider connecting your global workers with someone with a heart for global workers or with a Bible study class that has chosen to “adopt” them.

It can be difficult for most sending organizations to provide this kind of intentional and personal contact, but individuals within the local church are well situated to be a safe haven.

Make it your goal to be so consistent in your communication that your worker can echo the words of Paul, “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3–5). That would be the sign of excellent partnership.


If church leadership has successfully cultivated an awareness of care, the message will filter down and out into the local body, and people with the heart and passion for global workers will rise to meet worker needs. But they must know what the needs are.

“If church leadership has successfully cultivated an awareness of care, the message will filter down and out into the local body.

There is always a need for short-term housing, long-term housing, transportation, assistance with schooling, and medical issues, to name a few. One of the most prominent needs is for fellowship and community. Integration into the church community through small groups and bible studies is vital. We have found that a homegroup focused on returned global workers provides a safe place to share with others who understand their experience.

Care retreats are also excellent opportunities to involve the church community. Whether they are at home or on the field, they require people with a myriad of skills including prayer warriors, childcare workers, worship leaders, small group leaders, and counselors.

Care retreats on the field are a wonderful chance for church members to see what the life and work of a global worker really entails. David Wilson describes field visits in his book, Mind the Gaps, as “critical to bridge the understanding and compassion gaps that can so easily exist with the miles, time and differences in a foreign country.”

Going where workers are serving provides the opportunity to engage with a global worker’s life. Wilson goes on to say, “As you might imagine, this is where people really discover the real stories from the life of the missionaries and their ministries. When you’re eating, traveling and serving together, it is a great partnership and time of bonding.”


If you’ve ever traveled outside your home country, you’ve probably felt the weight of excess local currency in your pocket as you prepare to come home. You feel an urgency to spend it all. Why? Because that currency is of no value to you once you leave.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28 includes the local church, and the local church has the local currency to spend for the care of our global workers. It’s valuable now, for those who take the saving message of Jesus Christ to the nations. It is of no value when we’re gone.

As Andy Johnson writes, “we see the motivation that should drive all this going and sending and supporting—love for the glory and knowledge of the name and truth of Christ” (Missions, 65).

Reader, you are part of the Great Commission. As a member of the local church, let your love of Christ compel you to care well for those who carry Christ’s name to the ends of the earth.

This article was originally published at

Shirley Ralston (MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the Missionary Care Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the Pastor’s Research Team and teaches Life Bible Study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband Jeff now reside in Houston after several years living in the Middle East and the South Pacific. You can find her writing on her personal blog, as well as The Upstream Collective and Thrive Ministry. Follow her on Twitter.

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Healthy At Home: More Resources for Healthy Minds, Bodies, Souls, and Practical Needs

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Over the last couple of weeks, we have talked about holistically caring for returning sent ones—caring for their minds through debriefing and counseling, caring for their bodies, caring for their souls, and providing for their physical needs. Below is a list of resources that can give you further information on caring for sent ones in all of these areas.

Healthy Minds



Healthy Bodies

Healthy Souls

Helping Hands

Shirley Ralston (MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the Missionary Care Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches Life Bible Study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband Jeff now reside in Houston after several years living overseas. You can find her on Twitter and

This article was originally published at

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Healthy at Home: Helping Hands

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One of the returned global workers I’ve come to know served in the Middle East. She lived and worked in a modern Emirate governed by Sharia Law. Still, the Emirate had a thriving Christian community and it was filled with expats from all over the world. The confluence of international people in this modern city made for a unique and colorful living experience. When she came back to the U.S., I heard the lament in her words, “When I returned, I just felt like my life lost a lot of richness.”

One of the things this worker loved most about her host country was the ease with which she lived her daily life. The city was safe and easy to navigate. It had excellent public transportation and easy access to most everything she needed. A very different landscape awaited her upon reentry to the U.S., to a sprawling metropolitan city of 2 million people with an equally sprawling freeway system. One of her biggest challenges was just getting around. “I really hated driving. I missed the train and walkability of my host country.”

This is a familiar sentiment among many returned workers. Nostalgia about the life they left behind, combined with sudden emotional and mental adjustment of reentry, is compounded by the question they all face, ‘How in the world do I navigate daily life?’

Meeting Practical Needs

Neil Pirolo gives a great example of this in his book, The Reentry Team,

“… your missionary has been hurled at jet speeds of five to seven hundred miles per hour from one continent to another in less than twelve hours to face the challenges of a metropolitan freeway system. He is driving a Ford Expedition at an outrageous seventy miles per hour, with cars around him honking for him to get out of the way! ‘You’re going too slow!’”

Talk about stressful.

“Relying on the local church for travel, lodging plans, and fellowship has long been the norm for those sent out to deliver the Good News. Can the modern-day local church follow this model?”

Our care team experience has shown us that an integral part of reentry is meeting practical, everyday needs. Coming “home” is rarely permanent, but the essential elements of daily living remain. Even in the first-century church, this was true. On his way to Jerusalem Paul writes in Romans 15, “But now I no longer have any work to do in these provinces, and I have strongly desired for many years to come to you whenever I travel to Spain. For I hope to see you when I pass through, and to be assisted by you for my journey there, once I have first enjoyed your company for a while.” (Romans 15:23–24).

John Stott relates that the word, assist (propempō) was a term used for helping missionaries on their way. The dictionary definition of propempō is to “help on one’s journey with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc.”

Relying on the local church for travel, lodging plans, and fellowship has long been the norm for those sent out to deliver the Good News. Can the modern-day local church follow this model? Those of us in global worker care can take our lead from Paul’s example. I believe we can address the everyday needs of our returned workers in a healthy way. But it requires the involvement of the whole church.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Unless your returned worker is in a city with an amazing public transportation network, they need to get around, and it can be a scary business. What are the possibilities?

  • Ridesharing – This service is usually easily accessible, and it is a good transportation resource.
  • Driver – Who is willing to serve as a driver to get your global worker where they need to go, especially in those first days of return?
  • Extra Car – Is there someone willing to share that extra car sitting in their garage?
  • Rental Car – Who in the church community can step up to cover the cost?
  • Car Ministry – It’s rare, but ministries that provide cars for global workers do exist. Our care team is fortunate to have access to a car ministry associated with our church.

A Place to Lay My Head

Most global workers will need housing when they return. This is another area where close and regular contact with your global workers is important. Their housing needs must be assessed in advance, according to family size and anticipated length of stay. Because of Covid, this has been a bigger challenge over the last year as returns have been unplanned and more numerous.

Pray for those in your church community with a heart for global workers who are willing to share their housing resources. Reach out to those who have second homes, rental property, or extra space.

Over the years, our church has developed housing dedicated to returned global workers. Because of our location in a large metropolitan city and the number of workers in our charge, our housing is rarely vacant. We consider it to be one of the greatest blessings we have to offer in our global worker care ministry.

My Father’s House

Do your workers know the rhythms of church life? Simple things like a schedule for church services, bible studies, and home groups are key for reintegration into the community. Be sure to include other resources like childcare and schooling options.

Do the church leadership and the church community as a whole know they are returned? Allow them opportunities to speak about their work to different groups within the church if they so desire.

“It is unlikely that any church budget or returned worker’s support will cover all of the returned worker’s needs. This level of care requires the involvement of the whole church community.”

Is there an effort to mobilize them in ministry at home, if they are interested? Remember that your workers are endowed with a variety of highly regarded skills and years of experience. They are valuable additions to the life of the church.

It is unlikely that any church budget or returned worker’s support will cover all of the returned worker’s needs. This level of care requires the involvement of the whole church community. It takes a committed team of laypeople and church leadership to connect and support returned global workers. It will require a combined effort to raise the level of awareness in your local church about missions and the importance of care for your returned ones. And there is the added blessing of allowing the church community to engage their many spiritual gifts.

Finally, remember the example set by Paul in Romans 15. It is a story of sacrifice. According to John Stott, Paul turned a fifteen-hundred-mile journey into a three-thousand-mile journey in order to serve the saints well. Or, as another commentary states,

“In our modern age of jet travel, this does not seem like such a sacrifice. But all one need do is read the accounts of Paul’s ultimate journey to Rome when he is shipwrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 27:13–28:11), not to mention three previous shipwrecks, once spending a day and a night in the open sea (2 Cor. 11:25), to realize the cost of his decision. Such is the nature of a servant…. The next time we are asked by God to serve another saint or the church at large in a way that taxes our strength, we might only remember the apostle to the Gentiles who gave himself for others.”

Is your team and your church community committed to go the extra mile to give your global workers a healthy return?

Shirley Ralston (MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the Missionary Care Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches Life Bible Study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband Jeff now reside in Houston after several years living overseas. You can find her on Twitter and

This article was originally published at

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Healthy at Home: Healthy Souls

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“I’ve been adjusting well, though I also feel kind of lonely in ministry here. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m on a team in my host country, but it’s just me when I’m back home. I miss the interactions with my team.” – Michael Detana, Returned Associate Pastor.

Michael conveys what is common to many global workers on reentry. They leave behind their community and ministry team and enter an environment, at least at first, that is devoid of community support. It can be a lonely time, especially during our current pandemic, when people are not gathering together. Even so, care teams don’t want to miss out on those first days of reentry and the opportunity to connect their workers to the community.

In the words of care contact Rachel Hannusch, “Deep and lasting care of the soul cannot be done in isolation. God made us relational, and we are best healed, shaped, and sharpened when in community with other believers. Transitions for global workers disrupt those all-important relationships, and we as a care team need to do whatever we can to reestablish those vital connections as quickly and seamlessly as possible.”

I spoke with mobilizer Herschel Rothchild, who serves as the South Central Regional Director for SIM, U.S. His words ring true to the experiences our care team has had with our own returning workers, “When cross-cultural workers come back, they need to have a person or people that will pray for them, listen to what they have to say, and validate their experiences.”

It Takes a Village

If you want an illustration of what a support network should look like, read Paul’s litany of names in Romans 16. He lists at least 26 people that comprised his community of support. Striking in its diversity, he speaks of churches, benefactors, loyalists, companions, co-laborers, and hosts who assisted him as he traveled from place to place.

“Paul was able to do the work God had called him to do because of the incredible support of those brothers and sisters who are immortalized in Romans 16.”

Warren Wiersbe comments, “He (Paul) did not try to live an isolated life; he had friends in the Lord, and he appreciated them. They were a help to him personally and to his ministry.” Chapter 16 ends with the reason care teams do what they do, a doxology that gives glory to God and praise to Jesus Christ for the Gospel, and a command that Paul (and our global workers) “advance the obedience of faith among all nations—” (Romans 16:26b).

Paul was able to do the work God had called him to do because of the incredible support of those brothers and sisters who are immortalized in this passage. How can the local church strive to emulate Paul’s model described in Romans 16? Our care team has found there are three groups of people critical to global worker soul care on reentry; church staff, care contacts, and a global worker’s home group.


A designated person in your church or your missions staff should be the central point of contact for workers and supporters. This individual should be the one that knows all the workers supported by your church, where they are, what they do, and, regarding reentry, the timing of their return, including the details of their transition. This type of care requires consistent contact with your workers, and it allows for proper preparation well in advance of their reentry.

“Maintaining healthy souls on reentry is a community effort that takes time and commitment.”

The foremost priority is to know why they are returning. This will go a long way in identifying needs. Is it burnout, team conflict, regularly scheduled furlough, family or medical concerns? Knowing the reason, and the practical details, like flight arrangements, housing, transportation, schooling needs, etc. allow for mobilizing a support network that stands ready to welcome your global worker back into the community.

Care Contacts

Ideally, each supported or sent worker should have an established relationship with a home-based contact or advocacy team. If they don’t, then follow Woody’s moving buddy orders in Toy Story, “If you don’t have one, get one!” These relationships are the first line of defense against a lonely reentry. Your missions council members, bible study classes, and small groups are great resources for care contacts and advocacy teams. Recruit and train them to be part of your global worker’s support network.

Home Group

My own experience with reentry was the catalyst for opening up our home to returned workers. When my husband and I returned from overseas, we left behind a thriving home group vital to our well-being. We wanted to re-create that environment as part of our church’s care ministry. It has been our experience that a returned worker’s home group is by far one of the best things you can do for them.

A gathering place for people with the shared experience of serving the Lord overseas is therapeutic, and it meets a critical need for encouraging these servant souls while they are home. It is a place where they are seen, heard, and truly understood. They are on common ground with like-minded people.

Any local church of any size can do this for their global workers. All you need is a willing host. I promise, your home will feel like the first-century church, right out of the Acts of the Apostles.

Commit Together

Maintaining healthy souls on reentry is a community effort that takes time and commitment. Everyone involved in the ministry of global worker care has their own part to play to ensure a loving support network quickly surrounds returned workers. I encourage you to consider, “What role do you play?”

Don’t leave your global worker hanging out there alone. Embrace them with open arms, spend time with them, listen, and learn, as you walk alongside them during their reentry.

Shirley Ralston (MA Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a founding member of the Missionary Care Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She also serves on the pastor’s research team and teaches Life Bible Study to single young adults. Shirley and her husband Jeff now reside in Houston after several years living overseas. You can find her on Twitter and

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