Missio Dei MC model--18 Sept 2016

This section includes five items that review member care history
and presents perspectives on the historical flows of member care.

“Knowing our history (re-member care) provides important perspectives
for supporting the Church endeavors to share the good news and good works
among all peoples.” 
The Missional Heart of Member Care (2015)

–See also the Tributes section of this website.
–For additional historical materials, see:
>>Brief History of Psychology and Mission in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Journal of Psychology and Theology (2016,Volume 44(4), pp. 263-267)
>>Part One (chapters 1-3) in Global Member Care (Volume One, 2011)
>>John Barclay, “Families in Cross-Cultural Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide and Manual for Families, Administrators, and Supporters” (D.Min. dissertation., Australian College of Theology, 2010)
>>Laura Mae Gardner, “Missionary Care and Counseling: A Brief History and Challenge,” in Enhancing Missionary Vitality (2002, pp. 41–48)
>>Ruth Tucker and Leslie Andrews, “Historical Notes on Missionary Care,” in Missionary Care (1992, pp. 24–36).

1. The Missional Heart of Member Care
Kelly O’Donnell
International Bulletin of Mission Research (April 2015)

2. Member Care History (1964-2014)
50 Years–50 Quotes
Kelly O’Donnell
(MC History:  Selected Quotes 1964-2014)

3. Member Care and Unreached Peoples
Kelly O’Donnell (2019 update)

Sharing the good news and our good works, with an emphasis on establishing healthy communities of Christ-followers among unreached people groups (UPGs), has been a focus throughout member care’s development. I am delighted to be one of the many passionate proponents of the missional heart of member care. Here are several examples with an unreached peoples focus from my work over the past 30 years in collaboration with my wife, Michèle.


  • Community Psychology in Missiological Context (1984, doctoral dissertation) sought to “relate and apply several basic assumptions, concepts, principles, and techniques of community psychology to the field of frontier missions” (Abstract).
  • Community Psychology and Unreached Peoples: Applications to Needs and Resource Assessment (1986, article in Journal of Psychology and Theology) explored the relationship between community psychology and frontier missions and how “Similarities between these two fields, such as their common perspectives on delivering services to underserved populations, provide points of contact between them” (p. 213).


  • An Agenda for Member Care in Frontier Mission (1992, article in International Journal of Frontier Missions) called for a reprioritization of the church’s resources on behalf of those who are doing pioneering work among the unreached, with the agenda being to “strategically raise up and direct these resources so as to put greater closure on the Great Commission” (p. 107).
  • For Everything There is a Season,,,And a Summons (1996, letter) was a call to several colleagues around the world  “to deliberately join together with a core group of like-minded colleagues in order to further develop the member care field, especially within frontier missions” (p. 1).
  • Member Care in Missions: Global Perspectives and Future Directions (1997, article in the special Mental Health and Missions issue, Journal of Psychology and Theology) pointed out “the need to develop and prioritize additional supportive resources for those working among unreached people groups and for agencies from the ‘Newer Sending Countries…” (p. 143).
  • Global Member Care Task Force (1998, network) was set up as part of the World Evangelical Alliance to facilitate “working together and with others to support personnel from the A4 regions (Asia, Africa, Arabic, America-Latina), and those working among UPGs…” (page 1, update May 2005), with similar member care networks being established regionally in the 1990s to support those doing UPG work in North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia.
  • Developing Member Care Affiliations: Personal Reflections and Community Psychology Contributions (1999, article in Journal of Psychology and Theology) highlighted the importance of forming “affiliations of member care practitioners who are familiar with missions, who band together to intentionally develop important member care resources within a specific geographic region (e.g., North Africa), people group (e.g., tribal groups in North India), or type of ministry (e.g., trauma management)” (p. 119–also included as chapter 48 in Doing Member Care Well, 2002). https://sites.google.com/site/membercaravan/test/doing-member-care-well


  • Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from Around the World (2002, book) was strongly influenced by the need for “a more coordinated effort to focus supportive resources on behalf of personnel working among those groups and regions which historically have been the most neglected by the church’s mission efforts” (p. x). “There is a purpose to human history- it is not random-and there will be a conclusion to this age, for the glory of God. God is at work in history to redeem people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev. 5:9-10). Member care, as a service ministry which supports the missions task, is a means to this end” (p. 8). “Doing member care well helps us to do missions well. It strengthens missionaries so that they can effectively love, evangelize, and disciple people groups; endure hardship; and grow as people. It is a pioneering, practical, and deeply personal ministry. Doing member care well is a direct and strategic way to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12, along with both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. That is to say, God blesses us and thus we bless others, especially those who bring the blessings of God to the unreached” (pp. 9-10).
  • · Future Directions: 12 Treasures for Member Care (2006, article in Momentum) considered “both current and new resources for supporting the diversity of mission and aid workers among UPGs.” (p. 49)  http://www.justinlong.org/pdf/200605.pdf
  • · Global Mental Health and Unreached People Groups (2010, weblog) presented an initial rationale via the Lausanne Movement’s Global Conversations website to advocate for “mental health as mission” in light of that fact that “a major number of the world’s poor are in fact part of UPGs and that there is a dearth of mental health resources available for them via government health programs, NGO development initiatives, and church-mission ministries.”


  • · Global Member Care (vol 1): The Pearls and Perils of Good Practice (2011, book) was permeated by “the compelling Biblical vision to creatively provide and develop member care on behalf of all people groups” (p. xvi).
  • · Global Member Care (vol 2): Crossing Sectors for Good Practice (2013, book). “We must grow together through the hard times, inspired by the vision to see member care develop globally—for all peoples and from all peoples. As a diverse, resilient, international community of member care workers, we will need to have clear ethical commitments in order to provide/develop quality services to mission/aid workers in many settings, often in unstable locations permeated with conflict, calamity, and corruption. And as earthen vessels we must develop the personal resiliency and mature faith that can sustain us as we take risks to do good and to resolutely confront evil in its many forms”(Afterword, p. 381).
  • · The Missional Heart of Member Care (April, 2015, IBMR). “Knowing our history (re-member care) provides important perspectives for supporting the Church endeavors to share the good news and good works among all peoples … Member care continues to expand into new areas as colleagues from diverse backgrounds are being challenged to pursue “global integration”—thinking and linking more broadly across sectors on behalf of the major challenges facing the world, including the UN sustainable development goals and prioritizing vulnerable populations and least reached peoples….We commit to develop quality member care workers from all peoples, mutually learning from those who work within their own cultures and those who serve cross-culturally.“ (pp. 91, 96)
  • Multi-Sectoral Member Care: Engaging Our World as Global Integrators
    (Journal of Psychology and Theology, December 2016).  “The past 50 years have witnessed the steady development of member care practice—growing numbers of diverse practitioners, networks, publications, tools, and other resources—in support of the Church’s worldwide mission efforts…Member care is developing its global presence and relevance as colleagues connect with counterparts in other countries, disciplines, and sectors for mutual learning and joint projects….Central to the vision for GI is a diversity of dedicated, informed, and competent global integrators. Like the scribes mentioned in the above passage from Matthew, they have become “disciples of the kingdom of heaven” who bring together both old and new “treasure”—foundational, older resources along with current and future resources. Global integrators themselves are GI gems who seek to bless the world with their lives.”  (pp. 303, 309)
  • Wellbeing for All: Mental Health Professionals and the Sustainable Development Goals (Journal of Psychology and Christianity, March 2017). “Sustainable development recognizes that our globalizing world community must prioritize ongoing progress for all people, lasting peace, and the enduring protection of the planet. For Christians, this global effort reflects the mandate (duty and desire) to seek the well-being for all people, including justice and prosperity, and to steward God’s creation responsibly in our fallen world….as Christians in mental health, we also acknowledge the undermining reality of evil and human sin as well as the underlying reality of God and His redemptive purposes in Jesus Christ. We support human efforts to do good — whether it be alleviating poverty among the one billion urban slum dwellers or protecting the 1.5 billion people living in settings exposed to violence and conflict, for example. We see these efforts as the imago Dei at work within the missio Dei, regardless of whether one believes in these things or not. Humans do good. However we think humans do better when they include and honor God in the process. And more specifically we think we can do much better at “transforming our world” if God is included and honored in our efforts and if we start with transformation in our own hearts. The world will not be a better, transformed place unless better, transformed people make it so.”  (pp. 1,5) https://membercareassociates.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/format-single-space-MHPs-and-Sustainable-Development-Goals-JPC-Spring-2017-ODonnells.pdf
  • Humanity Care: Untreached People Groups and the Sustainable Development Goals (CORE Member Care weblog, 2018). “We are considering a new series of blog entries (and/or perspectives/articles from various colleagues) that will look at the relationship between UPGs and SDGs: connecting points for collaboration, issues, and opportunities on behalf of some of the most vulnerable, overlooked, and often resilient people in the world. How does the global Church-Mission Community (CMC) involvement in the good news and good works especially on behalf of UPGs relate to the world community’s efforts (spearheaded by the United Nations and Civil Society groups) to promote sustainable development especially via the SDGs. And vice versa.  What are some examples of collaboration or non-collaboration, and the results? TBD”
  • Unreached Peoples: Reviewing and Renewing Our Roots. Member Care Update (April 2019). “We believe it is both timely and crucial to review and renew the member care field’s historic emphasis on unreached peoples–our MC-UP roots….Our hope is that this Update will encourage us all to consider our lives and work in light of the dearth of culturally-relevant Christ-followers–workers and communities/movements–present in major blocks of humanity (i.e. the estimated 3+ billion  culturally-distant people in unreached people groups). How can we responsibly shape and actively support the Church-Mission efforts among the most historically neglected peoples of the world? Let’s review and renew our MC-UP roots!” https://membercareassociates.org/?page_id=125

Into the 2020s


4. Celebrating Member Care
Kelly O’Donnell

Here are six video clips (international, music-dance) that artistically reflect member care development-accomplishments throughout the years. Let’s celebrate!
(April 2021: some of the links are no longer active)

 1900-1950s: A Poignant Prelude
This period of member care history, a pre-era, reveals poignant writings that describe the challenges and rewards of cross-cultural service. It is a beautiful prelude to the steady progression of caregivers, concepts, and commitments that were en route. Let’s celebrate!

The 1960s and 1970s: Taking Shape
People in the 1960s and 1970s slowly started to come together to help shape what was to become the member care field. The development of member care mirrored the development of mission. Let’s celebrate!

 The 1980s: Front and Center
The foundational decade of the 1980s for member care was marked with its increased visibility, influence, acceptance, credibility, competencies, and cooperation. People explored issues and resources for mission workers and helped to bring crucial matters into the front and center of mission.  Let’s celebrate!

 The 1990s: Connecting and Contributing Internationally
Member care continued to travel deeply into mission and humanitarian aid, spreading broadly around the world. It was an unprecedented time to connect and contribute together. Let’s celebrate! 
[note: this is the fullest version of the final song/dance that we can find, 3/2019]

 The 2000s: Global Faces and Facets
Member care grew and consolidated further around the world. The field welcomed many new global faces and facets. Let’s celebrate!

 The 2010s: Crucial  Directions and Commitments
As we head into the upcoming years, may the sacrificial and celebratory love of God lead us further into the missional heart of member care. May we endeavor to do all we can on behalf of the mission/aid community, our very needy world, and each another. Let’s celebrate—with all peoples!


5. Integrating Psychology and Missions
Some Personal Perspectives
Kelly O’Donnell (July 2009)

I made my first major connection with the psychology and missions area in 1983 by attending the fourth Mental Health and Missions Conference in Indiana, USA. The conference was terrific!  It was so special to meet several practitioners who were much further along than I was, many with whom I would become colleagues in the years ahead.

At that time I was just completing my doctoral dissertation on integrating community psychology and frontier missions.  I was also doing my one year doctoral internship as part of my program at Rosemead School of Psychology. And I had worked five years part time in Mexico helping to organize short-term mission outreaches. I was primed to integrate so many of my studies and experiences via the emerging area of mental health and missions.

In 1986-1987, while I was teaching psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and in preparation for an upcoming move to live and work in Europe, I assembled every article I could find that was somehow related to mental health and missions. I placed these articles in three large loose ringed folders. If you ever visit our home we can take you to our library and show you these thick, bulging folders. They are total keepsakes! It was from these folders that many of the articles were chosen for our first edited book, Helping Missionaries Grow: Readings in Mental Health and Missions (1988). Most of the articles in these folders seem to be forgotten and seldom referenced. At some point it would be helpful to make note of them again and do a short one paragraph summary of each article. (The most extensive, annotated list of articles and books related to member care is at the database section of the Missionary Care web site–www.missionarycare.com)

Anyway, I was delighted to pull out these three notebooks again recently and have a look. In particular I was looking for some materials–quotes—to get a better sense of the historical development of the integration of psychology and missions. To get a better feel for the content of these notebooks—have a look through the Bibliography in Helping Missionaries Grow. Click here to access it.