The specifics of Tim and Annie’s call to missions changed, but the calling itself never altered. God led the Tidenbergs to bring the gospel to the nations, and they’ve obeyed.
When they retired from their church planting role in East Africa, they moved to the U.S. to lead a church. Then, they felt led to move back overseas. Now, they spend their time in West Africa resourcing, equipping and supporting missionaries as member care consultants with the International Mission Board. In this new role, they provide pastoral care and counseling to contribute to the spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing of missionaries.
Both Tim and Annie are former missionary kids turned missionaries themselves. Annie was born in Kenya, and Tim went with his parents at age two to Tanzania. As adults, they responded to God’s call to take His Word to the spiritually lost in Africa where they have spent most of their adult lives.
Though they’ve continually felt led to Africa, they’re thankful for the years the Lord called them back to the United States. During that five-year interim, Tim led a church in rural Kansas where he gained invaluable pastoral experience.
Still, even though God had made it clear that He wanted them in the U.S. for a few years, Annie said, the couple had very little doubt about God’s direction when they received a call asking if they would consider returning to the field. There was an overwhelming need for member care.
“The mission of the member care team of the IMB, alongside the IMB medical team, is to keep missionaries healthy and on the field,” Chris Martin, the IMB’s director of member care explained. “The principal way IMB Member Care consultants care for missionaries is by providing pastoral care, counseling and counseling referrals for missionaries as needed.”
One-third of IMB member care consultants are clinically trained counselors, some of whom are licensed therapists. Two-thirds are pastoral counselors, some of whom are certified in biblical and pastoral counseling. All of IMB’s member care consultants receive additional training for their roles and engage in continuing education. The end goal is for all IMB member care consultants to engage in pastoral care and counseling that is biblically sound and clinically informed, Martin explained.
Tim described how he and Annie serve other missionaries. “We spend time with them, encourage them if they’re in a crisis situation, we pray with them and we try to get them some resources to work through what they’re dealing with.”
At a conference for member care consultants, the Tidenbergs were told their job is like a first responder for the missionaries.
A missionary may face trials, conflicts and other hardships as they seek to push back the darkness in the areas they serve. Tim and Annie seek to be proactive as they invest in missionaries. What they do is key to a steadfast missionary presence, because they help missionaries stay on the field.
“Our job is to care for our personnel in West Africa in any way that we can — spiritually, emotionally or physically — to help them remain healthy and able to stay on the field to do the task of reaching the lost,” Annie said.
The Tidenbergs know about the need for emotional and spiritual support firsthand from their time on the field. When serving in East Africa following the Kenya elections of 2007, post-election violence led to thousands of Kenyans becoming internally displaced, killed, abused and robbed. The Tidenbergs, who were living in Nairobi at the time, invited a family group of about 20 to move into their compound for safety, care, counseling and processing how they could get back on their feet again. Each member had lost their home and most of their belongings. Many had witnessed killings.
Again, in 2013, terrorists entered a mall in the city just blocks away from the Tidenbergs’ home. The attack led to some IMB personnel being trapped inside. Seventy-one people died that day with more than two hundred others injured. The IMB’s member care consultants responded with compassion, care and counseling. They equipped the missionaries to persevere and know best how to minister to each other.
That traumatic event affected everyone who lived in Nairobi. Tim and Annie were inspired to show that same kind of support to the missionaries they serve now. Member care is just one of the ways the IMB supports missionaries as they help solve the world’s greatest problem — lostness.
Annie added, “1 Samuel 30:24-25 speaks of David going out to battle but recognizing that those who care for the home front are just as needed as those out on the front line. For years we served with those on the front lines but were able to see the value of member care working to encourage and speak into our hearts to keep us healthy and on the field.”
Why did they go back to the field where they’d already given decades of service? Annie said, simply put, “We never have felt that the job was finished.”