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Missions for Everyone: Caring for Cross-Cultural Workers – Debriefing

Date: 23 March 2024

Presenter: Michelle Tan, Member Care and Prayer Coordinator

By Grace Tan

Member Care on Debriefing
Member Care on Debriefing

When someone is going through a tough time, say, a missionary who has recently returned from the field, it really helps for them to be able to share their feelings with a trusted person. Some people who may be called on to do debriefing might be a church leader, a member of the missions committee, or a cell group leader.


In this session, Michelle shared about general debriefing, an important part of missionary care. The debriefer listens to the missionary tell his/her story with a sympathetic ear. This gives the missionary an opportunity for emotional release, promotes connection with others, and helps them to recover.

Michelle explained that debriefing is an essential part of “member care” measures that should ideally be in place to help returning missionaries. A good debriefing will help them bring closure to their time overseas, reintegrate into Singaporean society, or retool to go forth again. The main purposes of debriefing are to listen well, understand accurately, and facilitate closure to the person’s experience.

The good news is that listening skills can be learned. Much of this workshop was about how to be a good listener. Some characteristics of a good listener:

·       a genuine interest in others

·       a reputation for keeping confidence

·       an accepting, non-judgemental attitude

She made it clear that debriefing is not intended to address or deal with deeper or long-standing problems, though these may come to light during the debriefing process. If deeper issues – “bubbles” – surface or are hinted at during a debriefing, the person should be pointed to counsellors and other qualified people for help.

Two people shared their stories about debriefing they received when they returned from the field. In both cases, there was initial debriefing, but complete healing did not come until years later, at a Re-entry Retreat for returned missionaries and other Christians who had lived overseas.

The attendees were interested in debriefing as well as other aspects of missionary care, and it was a lively and interactive session. Michelle ended the session by sharing some materials on debriefing, as well as further resources.

About the speaker:

Michelle served in an Asian country for over two decades doing administration, HR, member care and training. Now back in Singapore, she is the Prayer Coordinator and one of the Member Care personnel.

Image: ©brgfx, Freepik

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