How can we mentor short-term mission workers well?

As an OMF worker hosting my first Serve Asia workers in Thailand in 2007, I wanted to impress on them a priority of

  1. prayer
  2. people
  3. programme.

Our Western minds are often much more preoccupied with ‘what we do, where and when’ rather than ‘who we are, how and why’. I have found that pouring out our observations, questions and feelings to our heavenly Father in prayer is vitally important, especially in much less time-oriented Eastern cultures.

Now back in the UK, it is my privilege to mentor Serve Asia workers before and after their placement. I really enjoy meeting interested individuals, even before they apply, to hear their stories and listen to how God is moving them to a particular people or project. Sometimes, the path is not smooth. Interviews are not successful and communication about placements can be complicated across the OMF family, but all this means we wait on the Lord and grow our faith in him.

Workers usually have many questions about the practicalities of cross-cultural ministry, accommodation and travel and the preparations (security, health and finances) and so a mission mentor can be an experienced and trusted adviser. The best way to be equipped for mission is to learn and live out the gospel. So in mentoring sessions we emphasis personal spirituality through reading the Bible and praying together. We long to see Serve Asia workers nurtured in their relationship with God, not just for the short-term, but for life-long global discipleship.

Before the worker travels to Asia, we talk through their expectations and how to respond when these are not met. We plan how to be ready physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, culturally and practically, not forgetting the challenges of returning home either. A mission mentor can also be an advocate at the worker’s sending church to raise support for the placement. I enjoy being part of the prayer team who is behind and upholding the frontline work.

Of course, the work goes on after the placement ends. A mission mentor will want to know how God has answered prayers and what was most significant, exciting and hard. An individual might need a helping hand to process and share their experiences with small groups or to heal any hurts with team members. We encourage workers to integrate lessons learnt into everyday life by setting specific goals to serve God back home too.

I have greatly valued seeing how God has used Serve Asia to give participants a burden for the world and a greater understanding of spiritual strongholds. Being a mission mentor is one way I can listen to God first, love his people and learn humility in following Jesus. Maybe you can too?

Caroline Steer
Caroline served with OMF in Thailand for several years and now volunteers with OMF in the UK as a mission mentor through our Bridge Asia programme.