Global Member Care: Crossing Sectors for Serving Humanity[1] by Kelly O’Donnell & Michèle Lewis O’Donnell

‘Have you understood all these things [in the lessons of the parables]?’ They said to Jesus, ‘Yes’. He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things that are new and fresh and things that are old and familiar’ (Matt 13:51-52 Amplified).

Life in our precarious, often perilous, yet precious world is tough. As people of faith or of no particular faith, we are all subject to the maims and moans of fallen creation. At the same time, we as believers are called to rest in Christ’s reconciliation and renewal of all things in heaven and earth (Col 1:20). And we await and yearn for our full adoption as the children of God (Rom 8:18-25).

Global Integration

For the last ten years we have been working increasingly across sectors (humanitarian, health, development, United Nations) as psychologists in mission.[2] Central to our work has been a simple, strategic framework which we call Global Integration (GI).

GI is a framework for engaging actively and responsibly with our world, locally through globally, for God’s glory. We seek to ‘integrate’ our lives by connecting relationally and contributing relevantly on behalf of human wellbeing and the issues facing humanity, finding common ground for the common good, linking new and old ‘treasures’ (resources and directions) for sharing the good news and our good works, and doing so in light of our integrity, commitments, and core values (eg ethical, humanitarian, human rights, faith-based). GI is thus a mindset and a skillset, a perspective and a practice, for how we live and work in our world as followers of Christ.

We discuss GI below in terms of three directions for following Jesus globally: Humanity Care, Global Integrity and Global Integrators. How can these GI directions apply to the church-mission community, your organization, and you personally?

Direction one: Following Jesus into humanity care

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‘We must recognize that in some fundamental ways, our world is going backwards. More countries are experiencing violent conflict than at any time in nearly three decades. . . . Record numbers of people are on the move, displaced by violence, war and persecution. We see horrific violations of human rights. . . . These are all indications that we need greater unity and courage…to set the world on track to a better future’, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on 24 April 2018.[4]

There is huge effort underway, spearheaded by the United Nations and many international organizations, to promote sustainable development and wellbeing for all people. [5] This effort calls upon the world community to change its course drastically and to partner intentionally and accountably in working towards peace, justice, prosperity, and the protection of the planet. As Christians, we have an unprecedented opportunity to get involved globally and to partner with others in such efforts—what we call ‘humanity care’.[6]

Partnering in humanity care is a core part of GI’s emphasis on ‘finding common ground for the common good’; and, just to be clear, underneath our common ground in partnering and many ‘secular’ involvements is the foundational and historical person of Jesus Christ.[7] We thus also acknowledge the underlying reality of God and his redemptive purposes in Jesus Christ in dealing with the undermining reality of evil, sin, and brokenness.[8]

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Our humanity care work in mission is based primarily in/from Geneva, a strategic platform for ‘connecting relationally and contributing relevantly’ as emphasized in the GI framework. It includes regular interactions with personnel/events in the United Nations, World Health Organization, international NGOs, and faith-based organizations. Hence there are several materials, perspectives, and news items that we review to inform our work and regularly share with colleagues.

For example, in addition to our monthly Member Care Updates, we regularly send Global Integration Updates to over 1,500 colleagues (some examples/links below). We also host Trio Gatherings in our home for more informal and personal interaction with colleagues across sectors on topics such as integrity, poverty, peace, leadership, and work-life balance. [10]

Global Integration Updates

  • Global Action Plans: Healing our Globe-ails? (June 2019)
  • Being Faith-Based and Evidence-Based (May 2019)
  • Keeping Up with the UN: Tools for Tracking UN News (April 2019)
  • A Framework for Engaging with Our World (December 2018)
  • Wellbeing and Mental Health: New Materials-Milestones (October 2018)
  • Everyday Global Heroes: Moral Lives Matter (August 2017)
  • Doomsday: Next Stop, Global Dis-Integration? (June 2017)

We believe that a variety of people must be at the ‘global tables’ and in the ‘global trenches’—and everything in-between—in order to help research, shape, and monitor agendas, policies, and action. That includes people from all countries, sectors, and faith backgrounds, who are informed, skilled, and dedicated to the common good. Here are some suggestions for working across sectors in humanity care, oriented for faith-based colleagues, for your consideration.[11]

Connecting and Contributing Across Sectors: Suggestions for Faith-Based Colleagues and Organizations

Faith is not simply a strategic resource to leverage for our important projects/agendas.

Rather faith is a fundamental reality that underlies all of life, including projects/agendas.

Faith is not merely a component but the core part of one’s life/identity.

  1. Prioritize and show up at strategic, humanity care events—often. Better to be on time than to be invited.
  2. Be conversant with the terms, issues, major players, and main documents—and reference them freely. Get a grid for staying informed.
  3. Be aware of mutual (mis)conceptions that can alienate everyone. Examples: proselytization, partiality, prejudices, paternalism, right-left politics etc.
  4. Commit to mutual learning and mutual resourcing. It is a two-way, actually multi-directional, street. No one can do humanity care alone.
  5. Demonstrate relevance with action and research—how you ‘earn your stripes’.
  6. Develop personal relationships when possible, not just ‘functional’ relationships.
  7. Do not apologize for your faith but in general avoid apologetics. One is not just a ‘faith-based’ person but rather a fellow human who is a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, ‘None’, etc. Hold your head humbly high.
  8. Get dirty—it is a difficult world—but do not play dirty. Diligently maintain your moral health as you immerse in the challenges of humanity care.

So what exactly are some of the coordinated efforts to promote sustainable development and wellbeing for all people and the planet? Chief among these efforts are the UN’s:


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We encourage you to familiarize yourself with these efforts, especially the 17 SDGs and their progress reports:

  • Review these ambitious efforts to see how different countries, sectors, and colleagues are interfacing with them.
  • Consider applications for your own work and that of your organization as well as how you may already be interfacing with them, perhaps using other terms.

It can feel ‘foreign’ and even overwhelming at first; but be persistent, pace yourself, and explore the SDGs together with others! As Teresa of Avila said, ‘Patience accomplishes all.’

Direction two: Following Jesus with Global Integrity

‘Let us strive for a culture of full integrity and transparency. We will choose to walk in the light and truth of God, for the Lord tests the heart and is pleased with integrity.’ Cape Town Commitment (2009), Lausanne Movement.[14]

Global Integrity’ (GIn) is a central emphasis and an inseparable core of GI. It involves living consistently and accountably in moral wholeness at all levels: individual, interpersonal, institutional, and international.[15] It means following Jesus resolutely in spite of the consequences, knowing that ‘Popularity contests are not truth contests. . . . Your job is to be true, not popular’ (Luke 6:26, The Message). Kelly’s presentation at the United Nations Geneva during Geneva Peace Week 2018 is a good example of how we highlight and integrate GIn’s main messages into our work: ‘Moral Health for a More Whole World’.[16]

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GIn, like GI itself, is not about imposing a moral code on others. Nor is it about setting up a system of global governance, neutralizing national sovereignty, and ushering in an authoritarian world order. Rather it is about fostering moral dialogue, cooperation, and good governance at all levels, from the local to the global. Further, GIn is not about pushing for human homogeneity, cultural conformity, or ethical relativism. Rather it is about living in integrity at all levels by embracing our common humanity, prizing our rich variations, and engendering responsible lifestyles.

Paragraph 53 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals states that ‘The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands’ (Transforming Our World, 2015). We understand this sobering comment in terms of the world community’s moral responsibility courageously and wisely to act with integrity, and the dire consequences of inaction or inept action. Furthermore, from our faith-based perspective, our understanding is that humanity and the planet ultimately lie in God’s hands.

So we support human efforts to act with integrity and 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. 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 sustainably better, transformed place unless better, transformed people of integrity make it so.[18]

Direction three: Following Jesus as global integrators

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‘You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world’ (Matt 5:13-14).
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In summary, GI is a framework to help us invest in fellow humans in every sphere of influence in which we live. It is a guide and a goad to help us to forge new relationships and pursue new opportunities in addressing major issues affecting our world and especially the church-mission community’s work among unreached peoples.[20] It supports our efforts to be salt and light, to live as global citizens for God’s glory, calling upon our best selves, the common sense of our human belonging, identity, and mutual responsibility.[21]

We finish now with seven practical directions/commitments for GI. We encourage you to join with us as ‘global integrators’ who are committed to following Jesus, bringing together new and old treasures in the service of all people and the planet.[22]

Directional Commitments for GI as Global Integrators

  • Commitment 1. We commit to pursue diligently our own journeys of personal and professional growth—to grow deeply as we go broadly.
  • Commitment 2. We commit to integrate the inseparable areas of our character (resilient virtue) and competency (relevant skills) with compassion (resonant love).
  • Commitment 3. We commit to go into new areas of learning and work: crossing sectors, cultures, disciplines, and comfort zones.
  • Commitment 4. We commit to embrace our duty to work in difficult settings, including those permeated by conflict, calamity, corruption, and poverty, as those in great need are often in places of great risk.
  • Commitment 5. We commit to have clear ethical commitments and standards that guide our work, respecting the dignity and worth of all people.
  • Commitment 6. We commit to working with others to promote wellbeing and sustainable development, building the future we want—being the people we need.
  • Commitment 7. We commit to base our work on the practice of fervently loving people—agape. Agape is the foundational motive and the ultimate measure of our GI work.

Endnotes

  1. The Global Pearl of Great Price. This header/image is a cover detail from our edited book, Global Member Care: Crossing Sectors for Serving Humanity, vol. 2 (Littleton, CO: William Carey Publishers, 2013). Used by permission from William Carey Publishers formerly William Carey Library. It is also an artistic representation of the GI emphases in this article.
  2. Member Care Associates Inc. (MCA) is a Christian non-profit organization working internationally from Europe and the USA. We focus on wellbeing-effectiveness for mission, humanitarian, development, and health workers and their organizations (global member care); mental health and wellbeing for all (global mental health); and promoting integrity/confronting corruption globally. Our services include consultation, training, research, developing resources, and publications, emphasizing those working with vulnerable/unreached peoples.
  3. Image from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA): Yarmouk refugee camp, February 2014. Palestinian refugees residing in Syria—forcibly displaced again—hence refugees twice over. Current estimates of forcibly displaced people worldwide are over 70 million (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).
  4. You can access the UN Secretary-General’s entire speech here: UN General Assembly’s High-level Meeting on Sustaining Peace (24 April 2018).
  5. The current, main example of the UN/world community’s efforts on behalf of all people and the planet is Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015).
  6. See our current weblog entries on Humanity Care: Unreached People Groups and Sustainable Development Goals (CORE Member Care, Member Care Associates).
  7. ‘Finding common ground for the common good’ is very much related to our understanding of the theological concept of common grace.
  8. See the ten points in ‘Foundations and Worldview: The Centrality of Jesus Christ’, Global Integrators, CORE Member Care (26 November 2015).
  9. Image from Nicolay Abril/UN. Avenue of the Nations, UN Geneva. The broken chair monument in the plaza facing the UN is a memorial to land-mine victims. It is also a constant witness to all of us of the need to do all we can to confront and change our inhumanities in humanity—injustices, violence, traumas, etc.
  10. Trio Gatherings provide a relaxed, neutral place where colleagues interact on important topics for mutual learning and mutual support. They are informal and not sponsored by any organization/group. The gatherings are part of our commitment to encourage ‘global integration’ and are done in sets of three, hence ‘Trio’.
  11. Based on Global Integration Update (May 2019). Being Faith-Based and Evidence-Based:
    Strengthening Empirical Research and Essential Roles of Faith-Based Organizations and Faith-Sensitive Programs.
  12. See also One Week—Five Summits: Action for All People and the Planet (Global Integration Update, September 2019).
  13. Image of the logos for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For more information on the SDGs see the UN’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
  14. Cape Town Commitment (2009), Lausanne Movement (Part 2, IIE. 4).
  15. Global Integrity. Our main reflections are featured in the 25 weblog entries on Global Integrity (CORE Member Care, 2016). See also our 2018 presentation, Global Integration-Global Integrity: Applications for Christians in Leadership (Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, USA) and our 2018 Lausanne Global Analysis article, ‘A Summons to a Global Integrity Movement’.
    Other examples of major efforts for integrity: Lausanne Movement-World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Integrity/Anti-Corruption Network, Faith and Public Integrity Network, Transparency International, and Complaint Mechanisms for Non-Governmental Organizations (2017).
  16. Health for Peace: Contributions from Peace Psychology (presentation 7 November 2018, Geneva Peace Week, United Nations). Watch the 25 minute video on integrity and moral health for a more whole world.
  17. Private Image: Health for Peace panel, Geneva Peace Week, 7 November 2017, United Nations Geneva.
  18. We understand that there are different perspectives about the United Nations, the ‘world community’, the Church-Mission Community’s global roles and concerns about compromise and syncretism, etc. Nonetheless: ‘We affirm the combined efforts of [the humanitarian, development, and health sectors] and their dedicated personnel who take risks and make sacrifices often at great personal cost. However, we also appreciate informed critiques—such as aid and development being an industry, bureaucratic inefficiencies, private/corporate and geopolitical special interests, entrenched systemic and power inequalities, national sovereignty compromises, etc.—and know that there is much room for improvement in organizations, sectors, and the global community’s efforts. The [major UN efforts such as the] 2030 Agenda, Mental Health Action Plan, and One Humanity, in our view, are crucial rallying and guidance points to truly make a difference regarding the horrific conditions affecting so many fellow humans’. Well-Being for All: Mental Health Professionals and the Sustainable Development Goals, Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell, Journal of Psychology and Christianity (March 2017). Note that there are regular prayer times with UN Staff and special events held at the United Nations Geneva by the United Nations Christian Association (Faith and the UN Mandate for Peace, UN Special, April 2016). See also our Prayer for the United Nations (Brigada Today,1 March 2015).
  19. Image courtesy and ©2018 Erin Noëlle O’Donnell. Regardless of whether this is the developmental dawn or the developmental dusk for humanity…our goal is to be pleasing to God (2 Cor 5:9), living faithfully as salt and light (Matt 5:13-14), awaiting the appearing of the blessed hope—our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
  20. See our current weblog entries on Humanity Care: Unreached People Groups and Sustainable Development Goals. (CORE Member Care, Member Care Associates).
  21. Global Citizens. For more information see the Global Integration Update (June 2016) on Global Citizenship, featuring the UN Conference, Education for Global Citizenship and the resulting Gyeongju Action Plan. Kelly was privileged to attend this conference in Korea and to join with many others from Civil Society to give input on the Action Plan.
  22. Global Integrators (GIn). These seven directional commitments are based on Well-Being for All: Mental Health Professionals and the Sustainable Development Goals (Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 2017, 36 (1), 70-75). Our main GIn reflections are featured in the 25 weblog entries on Global Integrators (CORE Member Care, 2015). See also our article, Multi-Sectoral Member Care: Engaging Our World as Global Integrators (Journal of Psychology and Theology, 2016, 44 (4), 303-314), including a list of seven ‘GIn Indicators’. We plan to do a series of webinars in 2020 on Following Jesus Globally— Global Integration.
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Dr Kelly O’Donnell and Dr Michèle Lewis O’Donnell are consulting psychologists based in Geneva with Member Care Associates (MCA). They focus their work on staff wellbeing and effectiveness, good practice and ethics, global mental health and sustainable development, and unreached peoples. Kelly and Michèle are representatives for the World Federation for Mental Health at the United Nations. Their resources and recent publications are on the MCA website. Email: [email protected]