Global Member Care, Volume 1: The Pearls and Perils of Good Practice

by Kelly O’Donnell

William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 265 pages, 2011, $16.99.

Reviewed by Brent Lindquist, president, Link Care Center.

How can we keep up the good work of member care in this new and challenging time of crisis, trauma, violence, and change? In Global Member Care, Kelly O’Donnell has pulled together a wealth of materials, surveys, and vignettes for further thought. He has made special effort to include global voices; this allows the discussion to continue increasing the number of international voices. Each chapter contains numerous applications that stand out in making this volume an important component of one’s member care library.

The book is structured in three parts focusing on Exploring Member Care in Mission/Aid; Promoting Health in Mission/Aid; and Developing Guidelines in Mission/Aid. Included in each chapter are numerous resources, including health promoter questionnaires, book lists, research finding, and standards, which are very helpful in expanding knowledge. I especially benefitted from the research summaries on issues faced by mission workers. People newly assigned to member care, as well as veteran caregivers, can find much of use in this one volume.

I especially appreciate that O’Donnell integrates information from diverse sources not typically referenced in traditional mission-based member care thinking. The reader will become familiar with extensive information from the larger global relief and development arena.

The only major concern I have has to do with the tone the book takes throughout in terms of what I would call the roots of the problems between person and organization. While I happen to be a clinically-oriented resource person, I am also a leader and administrator of an organization. As much as we want to wish organizational realities away, there are certain activities and legal and ethical issues the organization must take into account which could be seen as going against the need of the individual. These legal, ethical, and fiduciary realities are too easily swept into the organizational corner and not seen as beneficial for the individual. This is especially apparent in the chapter on dysfunctionality. It is easy to draw the conclusion that the organization is always at fault, and that fault is serious and one-sided.

Too little attention is given to the flaws of a recalcitrant person who is blind or unwilling to see his or her contribution to the dysfunction, but who is skillful at identifying the dysfunction in others. This is a serious flaw for me because I work with leaders and the organizations they lead, as well as individual members. For too long, counseling-oriented member care practice has ignored the good functionality of organization limits, constraints, policies, and protections.

With the caveat that there are some unfortunate perspectives seeming to be biased against organizations, however, this is an excellent book for those trying to understand and grow in their effectiveness in caring for missionaries.

Check these titles:
Hay, Rob, Valerie Lim, Detlef Blöcher, Jaap Ketelaar, and Sarah Hay 2007. Worth Keeping: Perspectives on Good Practices in Retention. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

Hoke, Steve and Bill Taylor. 2009. Global Mission Handbook: A Guide for Cross Cultural Service.  Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.


EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 498, 500. Copyright  © 2011 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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