Partners in hope

By Deb Fox | Wycliffe Today Spring 2022 |

In Philippians 3:1-8, Paul talks about partnership in the gospel. A ‘koinonia’ type of fellowship that involves sharing in the joys AND in the trials of one another in ministry. Working for the Lord can be joyful and fulfilling. But there are also unique challenges, difficulties and disappointments people face working in cross-cultural mission spaces.

Mark and Lorene van Rossen have witnessed firsthand the diverse range of member care needs that individuals, couples and families have after time in a different culture, language, environment and intercultural team. The specific experiences are often misunderstood by counsellors without an understanding of what mission work looks like on the coalface.

Mark explains:

Good help really helps but bad help is extremely damaging. You can visit a regular counsellor or psychologist, even a Christian one, but they don’t have the knowledge or lived experience of what cross-cultural mission is like. That’s why we have developed The Red Sea Counselling and Member Care Centre (The Red Sea). We need trained counsellors who ‘get it’, who understand the tensions and potential pitfalls of life in ministry. That’s our fuel for finding the right people to be working here as well; not just those who are available but the most suitable people, God’s people.

Wycliffe Today caught up with Mark and Lorene last year when The Red Sea was in its set-up phase. Since then, Mark, Lorene and the Board have been blown away by the answers to prayer they have witnessed. Churches and individuals have been keen to partner with them. The Red Sea is now registered as a charity with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status in Australia. The next phase towards opening its doors to clients involves sourcing an appropriate building in Cairns and raising the funds to lease, fit out, furnish and meet ongoing running costs for the first 12 to 18 months. When clientele and funds are more established, the vision is to work towards a purpose-built facility.

Mark never thought he would take on the role of CEO for The Red Sea but he is pleased that he is not taking on the role alone, but with the perfect partner by his side:

I never thought it would be me but thankfully Lorene helps me as the CEO. We do everything together. We’ve worked back-to-back for the last 20 odd years. That’s how we best operate. Lorene is the detail oriented person and I’m more the visionary and the ‘what if?’ person. It’s a real pleasure to be working side-by-side with your best mate.

Along with the partnership of Lorene, The Red Sea Board members and supporters, Mark explains that a focused, collaborative approach to mental wellbeing among mission organisations is vital for the future of mission workers:

There are so many other areas we need to be looking at to give people the tools they need to continue the work to which God has called them. Many people being sent out don’t have a good theology of suffering. Have we prepared them to be resilient? I’d love to see mental health first aid as an integral part of training in all organisations before people get sent out. There is still so much stigma attached to mental illness. We can all do better: the sending agencies, the churches, the receiving agencies. I don’t see The Red Sea as being THE answer but one player in the team.

Please pray for

  • PEOPLE: ask God to bring the best people to join as counselling staff.
  • SUPPORT: for $200,000 to cover the lease and cost of running the centre for 12-18 months.
  • CONNECTIONS: Mark and Lorene would love to connect with as many people as possible to better understand the range of needs that still need to be addressed in our mission communities.

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