By Harmony Niphakis
How Do We Care for Missionaries During COVID-19?
Last year, our organization saw handfuls of our missionary families returning to the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic. Our member care team strived to care for these displaced families, many of whom were expressing loneliness, isolation, and anxiety. They longed to return to the field, and the unknowns of when their return could occur were a source of tremendous discouragement and even depression.
Caring for Missionaries Using Zoom
Upon finding her family displaced in the United States, one of our missionary mothers approached us with a suggestion.
“Could you create an opportunity for missionary mothers to meet virtually for encouragement and prayer?”
It sounded easy enough. Just one zoom call. Limited planning. Just allowing moms to share what was on their hearts.
During that meeting, we heard a lot about their grief. These women were heartbroken, not only because they unexpectedly had to say goodbye to their home and ministry overseas, but because they were regularly witnessing the pain in their children who were crying from homesickness and loneliness. By the end of the call, my team felt heaviness in our hearts. Our families were struggling. We wanted to be able to do more to take the burden from them.
God was showing us the way to serve these families in the midst of this crisis was through prayer and a listening ear. And thus began a monthly virtual check-in for our mothers.
Caring for the Children of Missionaries
Our conversation with mothers gave birth to a second strand of virtual check-ins: monthly TCK teen check-ins.
We weren’t sure how many kids would be interested in adding yet another Zoom call to their schedule. But they came!
During our first call with the teens, we played games and laughed. A scavenger hunt had teens dashing around their houses with bags of bread, Christmas ornaments, books, and socks.
We shared about how we missed public transportation, scenery, going to restaurants where you know the owners, noodles and rice, dumplings, and sushi.
We identified our love for American things like football, Target, Dollar Tree, pizza and hotdogs, strawberries, and peaches. Our mouths watered.
The teens shared openly and freely, mostly about food, but sometimes about friends and cultural confusion and homesickness.
The “Little” Expansion
Younger siblings peeked in on the teen calls, wanting to take part in our gathering. As a result, a third online community was launched for elementary and preschool missionary kids.
We made up games to get these little ones active. With the tried and true scavenger hunt, we now saw young kids running around the house and proudly showing us shoes, Legos, cereal boxes, and beloved potty training books.
We opened up the floor to the kids to discuss what was on their hearts. They expressed excitement at seeing snow, sadness at not being able to go “home,” loneliness being away from their friends, and joy being with family.
God Is Blessing Us in Difficult Situations
That single comment from a mother six months ago has since sparked five different virtual community groups to support our missionary families. Parents are now engaging with us and we are building trust as we offer a listening ear during this challenging time.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Discouraged? On the brink of a breakdown? Reach out to your member care team today! Have confidence, friend. Our God is able to transform even the worst situations into something far better than we could even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Harmony Niphakis is a TCK Advocate with OMF (U.S.) where she finds great joy in equipping and caring for missionary kids of all ages. In her spare time, Harmony enjoys being out in nature, gardening, going out for coffee, and spending time with her family.