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Pre-field: the Journey before the Journey

“For a laborer heading into the harvest, the journey from their initial calling to getting on that airplane is fraught with uncertainty, barriers and challenges. I have seen many lose their way, grow weary, and give up before fulfilling their calling. A faithful and informed, emphatic shepherding process is necessary to guide the new worker through the gauntlet of training, support raising, and moving to the other side of the world,” says DL, a veteran mission mobilizer, who has helped workers, churches, and agencies in the U.S., Taiwan, Hong Kong, and East Asia.

prefield11Dennis Martin, Director of Pre-field at the US-Mobilization Center, has taken on this role of shepherding, coaching and cheerleading OC’s appointees for three years now, and OC hope for many years to come. From the time a new worker is accepted into the organization, until they deploy to the field, Dennis helps them navigate the “gauntlet.” “I’m their administrative touch point for the organization,” says Dennis. “I pretty much say, ‘Come to me with all your questions, and I’ll go get your answers.’” His role is, however, much more than administration. Pre-field preparation is a combination of training, support raising, and coaching, all done with a shepherd’s heart.

Pre-field Training

Upon acceptance to OC, new appointees receive a brief orientation to the ins and outs of the organization. This is OC Orientation, or OCO, where the appointees look more closely at the mission, vision, strategy and value statements and are introduced to how the systems work, like finances and monthly letters.

LifeworkxAbout halfway through their appointee journey workers attend CORE, a three-week training that focuses on the “self” and how one works in a team. Central to CORE is Lifeworkx, which is much more transformational than informational. The remaining two weeks of CORE address OC research, OC Global Ministries, and other topics like spiritual warfare, spiritual life, conflict resolution, and how to be a team player.

Finally Transitions Orientation (TO) is largely focused on fleshing out the meaning of cultural adaptation. It also includes the real issue of crisis management, depending on where in the world one will be serving. Transitions Orientation takes place closer to the appointees’ departure date, and also includes saying goodbyes and resolving any relational conflicts one might be leaving behind, an important step as one leaves for a foreign field of service.

“Our people still have to go through the cultural shock and all of that, but as much as one can prepare somebody here, that’s the passion of training,” says Dennis. “We are seeking to do this better and better so that the new workers are aware of more and more before they go out.”

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Pre-field Support Raising

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
Romans 10:14-15 NIV

“Support raising” is a huge, and often challenging, piece of an appointee’s journey in pre-field preparation. Traditionally it looks like workers seeking to find churches and individuals to partner with them financially and prayerfully. Over the last three decades, support raising has changed its face. With improved technology, communicating, especially to those who are offering supportive prayer, has become much easier. However, raising funds seems to have gotten harder and for most workers is a dominant theme of their appointee journey. Yet, it is a part of the journey that is an exercise in trust, where the Lord grows each person and shows His children big and small miracles.

“The ways that God provides financially in our support raising journey, from places where you didn’t necessarily go looking for it – obviously a God thing – those are cool stories and that happens for everyone,” says Dennis. “The blessing for me is to see the person experience that and recognize that it is probably something they will remember for the rest of their lives as a way that God specifically provided for them. So they feel: ‘I am His child, I am not just one of a flock that kind of gets lost in the shuffle.’”

Pre-field Coaching

Dennis spends a good amount of his time coaching via Skype. Monthly, or more frequently, Skype sessions look different for each appointee. It can be very pastoral and very shepherding. Dennis, who spent 18 years in France as a mission worker says: “To be able, as a former worker out there, to journey with new workers has blessed me. I understand, at least in broad strokes, some of the challenges they will be facing, probably that they are unaware of. And I just love to journey with people in spiritual life, so it’s a real privilege to be able to do that with these people. If I can help them wrestle with some stuff here, before they go, hopefully they can be even stronger spiritually, or have thought through some things, or pray to God in a different way, or realize the grace of God in a deeper way, before they go. Hopefully, it will have an impact for them in the future.”

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Leadership in OC values Dennis and his heart in his role of Pre-field Director. Debbie Smith, Senior Director of Personnel, sums up the job this way: “Pre-field Director requires an unusual mix of gifts and skills, including a blend of financial and administrative skills with people skills, pastoral gifts, and cheerleading skills, all working together to help people from the first steps of joining OC to the day they leave for the field for their first term.”

Pre-field preparation is a faith journey before the field journey requiring training, support raising, and a good coach to cheer you on. In addition to the work Dennis does, there are the prayers of many others, lifting and launching these obedient workers to their fields of service.

Pre-field Prayer Focus

Here’s how you can join in getting them to the field.

  • Pray for the appointees – for wisdom and open doors from God and the ability to listen and hear His voice in the process of fundraising.
  • Pray for Dennis and the Personnel department – that they structure the training so as to best prepare our workers before leaving for the field.
  • Pray for Dennis – for wisdom, insight and loving patience as he journeys with the many appointees. Also for wisdom to know what fundraising might look like in the future, listening to what God wants to tell us and not just automatically default to some handbook method.
  • Give – you may send a gift and designate it Pre-field, and we will use it to accelerate getting workers to the field.

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