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.
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.
Go to https://redsea.org.au/ for more information.
Making a way: the Red Sea Centre
By Deb Fox | Wycliffe Today Autumn 2021|
Mark & Lorene Van Rossen
Exodus 14:1–31 is an example of God’s redeeming love in action. He made a way for his people through the Red Sea, from captivity to deliverance, from despair to hope. Mark and Lorene van Rossen hope to offer a similar place of refuge and care to cross-cultural mission workers. The unique counselling centre they are developing is being designed to deliver people from a place of brokenness to one of healing: the Red Sea Counselling and Member Care Centre.
The van Rossens have spent over 20 years in various roles with Wycliffe in Australia and SIL in Papua New Guinea. Lorene says this new counselling project has developed from ‘a career-long exposure to the need for good member care’, particularly culminating from their last year on the field in PNG. She says:
We often forget about the struggles that accompany long-term cross-cultural work. It can take a huge mental and emotional toll on the entire family. Our most recent term in Ukarumpa [Papua New Guinea] at the beginning of 2019 was as the Staff Care Managers for SIL-PNG. It was horrible seeing so many people suffering from many different crises.
We’ve seen so many mission workers from a range of different organisations pack up and leave and never come back. All of the training they’ve gone through, the supporters they’ve built up and time they’ve spent on the field just falls in a heap. The thing is, so many of these issues are preventable.
Around 11 years ago, an SIL counsellor tried to get a similar counselling centre established but unfortunately there was not enough traction to keep moving forward with it.
Mark says there was great need for it back then and there is an even more critical need for it now:
The high attrition rate amongst missionaries in this part of the world cannot continue. We need to do something about it and we need to do it now. We have prayed continuously that God would provide a way for it to come to fruition.
Mark explains that the Centre needs to be a place without connections to any particular organisation, sending agency or denomination:
This is a totally independent venture so that people from all different backgrounds and mission organisations feel safe sharing their experiences. This is a felt need from a vast number of mission agencies. It will be a shot in the arm for all mission organisations to offer a service for people who have left the field to get help and get back into the ministry God has called them to do.
Mark and Lorene recently moved to Cairns to begin working through the legal and financial requirements with the Board and Co-founder, Dr Roger van der Veen, for the initial stages of setting up the Centre.
When we first started out with the Red Sea Centre, we thought, ‘How on earth are we going to do any of this?’ But God has provided everything we have needed. He is nothing but faithful. We hope to provide a facility that will provide much needed clinical, professional, psychological and spiritual help to support our fellow mission workers. We want to help them become more resilient and find the tools they need to live strong and healthy lives. We want them to not just survive but thrive; to continue their ministry to the people they were called to serve.
To find out more or to support the van Rossens, go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/mark-lorene/ and discover how God used Mark’s dog training skills to open doors for Bible translation!
Jessie’s journey: recognising God’s fingerprints
By Deb Fox | Wycliffe Today Autumn 2021|
Jessie first heard about the work of Wycliffe through a friend in Australia and says it was ‘daunting to know that so many languages are still without a single verse of Scripture’. She was unsure of how to help the work of Bible translation until a pastor suggested that ‘helping someone else through prayer and financial support is just as important as serving on the mission field’.
Reading news from the family she supported in Kenya made Jessie feel connected to the work they were doing. She looked forward to receiving their newsletters and decided she wanted to visit them to see the work for herself. Jessie did not have the money to fly overseas but an achievement award from her workplace provided the airfare and expenses necessary to cover the cost of the trip.
It was an eye-opening experience. Jessie found herself in a remote desert land with no roads or medical facilities. She witnessed the poverty and tribal wars that occurred on a regular basis. The safety and comforts she was accustomed to in her new home in Australia now seemed like a distant memory. Jessie shares:
Before I left, I read books about mission workers and imagined them with golden halos around their heads. Perfect people who had all the answers. I thought to myself, ‘I’m not a saint! I don’t have a halo. I’m not someone important. But this is important to God’.
Seeing real cross-cultural workers on the field helped Jessie realise that they are just ordinary people like her. Jessie’s experience led her to apply to serve as a Wycliffe member in the ‘area of most need’. Later, she found herself in the French-speaking area of Africa. Her time there cemented Jessie’s desire to support the Bible translation movement so she came back to Australia to get formal theological training.
Then Jessie received a call from her sister in Hong Kong with tragic news that their mum had suddenly gone into a coma. She rushed over to be by her mother’s side and recalls: ‘I felt so completely overwhelmed. I could not see what God was doing but now I can see his fingerprints on it all.’
Jessie stayed in Hong Kong to help care for her mother and her time there also enabled her to volunteer with The Journey program. She enjoyed helping people discover how they could use their unique gifts to serve God.
Jessie shared with her mother her desire to continue ministry in Australia. Sadly, only a week after Jessie left, her mum’s condition deteriorated and she passed away. Jessie was devastated but having her mother’s blessing spurred her on to continue the path set before her.
Jessie’s time in Hong Kong helped prepare her for her current role as a representative for Wycliffe Australia’s NSW office among the Chinese diaspora in Australia. She is now a member of Wycliffe Australia and is passionate about connecting Chinese churches and leaders with mission opportunities, and encouraging others to use the unique skills God has given them to serve him.
Mission is at the centre of the Father’s heart. It is my goal to help others realise that they are a part of this mission. We often feel like we have to be perfect, have everything in our life going perfectly or have the ‘right’ skills or qualifications to serve God. The truth is, we don’t have to worry too much about the details—we just need to be obedient to what the Lord calls us to do. Like a piece of blank paper, he writes his story on our lives. We need to trust that he will equip us and provide for our needs along the way.
To support Jessie go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/jessie/
For more information about the next Journey Program, https://wycliffe.org.au/eventtype/the-journey/