Coaching: the need for coaches in missional leadership

“We’ve all been there. We’ve been working so hard to take our ministry to the next level and it is just not going. The frustration we feel at that time can lead to discouragement, and if it’s not dealt with, it will lead to a missionary leaving the field because they feel like they have nothing to offer.”

This is Susan Querfeld, speaking in front of South America Mission’s leadership team and TEAM’s Latin American leadership. She brings up a diagram of roadways and GPS scenarios.

“When the situation on the mission field changes, the goal of the missionary does not need to change. A coach can help a missionary navigate particular pains or hardships to help them figure out a new route to their goal.”

Heads nod throughout the room; there’s an unspoken shared experience. A calling to ministry overseas is often strong and definitive, but there comes a point where what you felt called to do, or the original intention of the ministry, faces an obstacle. Do you climb over it and continue in the same direction? Do you go around it? Do you divert to a new path? Do you succumb to the feeling of insurmountable futility?

Changes in ministry are never easy. They often involve a sense of loss, or an actual loss of partners and fellow coworkers.

Even abrupt or stark differences in expectations upon arrival to a ministry area can leave cross-cultural missions workers in long periods of doubt and frustration.

But what about when ministry becomes “too much”?

“There are often too many good options, too many different ways to get to where we want to go and how do we choose the right route?” Susan asks. “You came to do church planting, but you wound up spending 80% of your time counseling others. The after-school tutoring, the prison ministry, the discipleship–they’re all good things, but no one person can do them all. How do you decide which one you choose?”

This is why, she argues, we need people with coaching mindsets in missions leadership. It is impossible for ministry area leaders to mentor all of the missionaries who report to them.

Learning how to be a coach can lighten the load for leadership by helping their missionaries problem solve and take ownership of their own goals.

“A coach asks questions based on your gifts, passions, or talents. Or a coach helps you discover those things. They will guide you through determining your angle.”

She differentiates a coach from a mentor in that mentors focus on the present; they talk you through what you’re currently experiencing and either reproduce their own habits and mindsets in you, or they give you advice. Susan defines coaching as an effort to help someone self-discover their path. A series of pertinent, critical questions can lead someone directly out of doubt and into discovery.

If we enter the mission field rigidly, believing we have the answer and with a determination to follow our plan without flexibility, we set ourselves up for failure.

There is a need for humility when entering cross-cultural ministry—an acknowledgement that our own culture, customs, and preferences are not superior or perfect, and that the people we serve have their own rich culture. Likewise, there is a need for humility within ourselves, understanding that we don’t have all the answers and that our plans must adapt to remain viable.

This process of transitioning to a new culture contains many unique challenges, but those challenges don’t inherently mean that it’s an impossible task. A coaching mindset in missional leadership could just be the answer to missionary longevity.

Proclama. Psalm 96:3.

Proclama mobilization ministry based in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

“I’d like to tell you about Sandra. She is a dear friend and a member of my church in Santa Cruz. God placed a burden on Sandra’s heart for unreached peoples when she was 15, and that burden has developed into a calling to serve Him to reach the people of the Middle East.”      – Dana Wilson

In 1969, missionaries from South America Mission planted the Christian Missionary Church (Iglesia Cristiana Misionera or ICM) in the heart of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The faith community of ICM still stands today, and they are sending Sandra to serve in cross-cultural ministry in the Middle East. Though it does not have sufficient funds to provide all of her financial support, this local church has recognized God’s call on Sandra’s life for ministry and God’s call for the church to help.

When Dana Wilson arrived to Bolivia in 1998, she attended ICM, not knowing what would come of her service there. She began working as an English teacher at the church’s school, eventually transitioning out of teaching into missionary mobilization. In her second year, Dana helped the church complete its first mission trip to share the gospel in a neighboring town, and by her fourth year in country, she joined the SAM Bolivia Missions Team.

Proclama. Psalm 96:3. Mobilizing the Church in Latin America.The Centro de Entrenamiento Transcultural or CET, based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, invited Dana to receive mobilization training in order to help local Bolivian churches develop a vision for their participation in God’s global mission. Though this encounter with CET felt like an accident at the time, 14 years later, it has become the resource and responsibility of PROCLAMA (derived from Psalm 96:3, which in Spanish reads, “Proclamad entre las naciones su gloria…’), an entity newly formed in 2015 (under Dana Wilson’s leadership) with a vision to see a missionary movement catalyzed from within the South American church to reach the Nations for God’s glory.…Read the entire article HERE.


City Church, Lima, Peru

City Church gathering, Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru, is the “new global culinary epicenter”, according to a recent article in Condé Nast Traveler. If you ask Julio Chiang what makes Lima so great, he’ll talk about the cuisine, confirming epicurean journalists’ opinions. But he’ll become more reflective, too, thinking about the greatness of the city where he was born and now lives as the founder and lead pastor of a new church—Iglesia de la Ciudad, or City Church…

The City Church video was produced in partnership with Silent

Yes, the ceviche is exquisite, but Lima finds its true greatness in its 10,000,000 people. It’s a fair question: “What’s so great about an urban mass of humanity?” For Julio, the heart of Lima is about millions of God’s image bearers, so close he can touch them, all needing the gospel of grace. Recently, Julio shared how Iglesia de la Ciudad is acting as a dispenser of grace in one of the world’s greatest cities:

The name of your church is Iglesia de la Ciudad. You prefer the translation, “City Church”. Why did you choose this name for your church plant?

We wanted our name to actually include the word “Church” because we believe the only hope for the redemption and transformation of Lima is the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s the vehicle for redemption that God has chosen.

Also, we’re a church that is for the city, or “city positive”, a church that builds for the welfare of the city. Over the years the church in many instances has separated itself from urban life and culture, but God, just as he instructed Israel through the prophet Jeremiah upon entering Babylonian exile, has called us to be connected to and serve the city.

Tell us about your logo for City Church. What does the design communicate? 

First, the vertical and horizontal lines represent city streets. They intend to remind you of an urban map. Then the small circle layered over the “streets” creates the image of a cross, conveying the concept of Christ at the center of our city.

City Church, Lima, PeruAnd then the way the streets and the circle intersect, the effect is a reminder of stained glass, which for us is about tradition and history. We need to emphasize certain historical traditions of the church and contextualize them for our culture today…Read the entire interview HERE.

Abiding Community

AbidingIn the weeks following our SAM Centennial conference and celebration, our executive director sent out a prayer calendar, encouraging us as a mission to gather in prayer on specific themes through the end of the year and into the new. The first set of prayer topics comes from SAM’s strategy map, where we have identified “who” we want to be: an abiding, loving, redemptive, suffering, and growing community. First, we focused in prayer on being an “Abiding Community”.

This trait comes from John 15:5 which, in context, reads:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:4-6, ESV

Though it might seem obvious that missionaries abide in Christ, and though it may even appear to be part of the job description, there is great necessity for overseas cross-cultural workers to intentionally evaluate and work to stimulate their own relationship with Christ.

In Panama, we had a recurring discussion on the topic of Biblical “rest”, and an extension of that discussion is the concept of being an abiding community:

Aside from Christ, we cannot rest.

The need for a mission organization to dwell in God’s presence is made abundantly clear when looking at the statistical data for missionary “burn out”, or emotional and physical suffering due to stress. The following information comes from a report completed by Heartstream Resources, an organization dedicated to serving cross-cultural workers and enabling their mental and emotional success:

“In Holmes and Rahe’s original study [on stress], they found that when people scored 200 points during a given year, the cumulative stress had an impact well beyond that year. They found that 50% of those scoring 200 points were hospitalized within the subsequent two years for heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, and other severe illnesses. When the scores reached 300 points, 90% were hospitalized for these illnesses within the subsequent two years… The amount of stress experienced among cross-cultural workers averages around 600 points on the Holmes-Rahe modified scale, with levels peaking up to 900 and beyond for people in their first field term.” (Heartstream Resources)

Statistically speaking, it is only by the power and grace of God that missionaries can be sustained in cross-cultural work. Personally speaking, it is only by the power and grace of God that South America Mission has served the past 100 years, and continues to enable the advancement of the gospel in South America. Only a community of believers who abide in God’s power and love can effectively and healthily build for the Kingdom.

So, what did we pray for?

We prayed for passion, we prayed for perseverance, we prayed for hope, we prayed for peace: we prayed for God’s presence. To be an abiding community of believers, South America Mission must be filled with, and surrounded by, the presence of the living God. Only through Him can His kingdom come.


Celebration of a Century

SAM Centennial Celebration

SAM Centennial Celebration, September 21-16, 2015, Panama.

As we arrived, slowly trickling in from various pockets of the world, there was an overwhelming sigh of relief. We made it. SAM’s celebration of a century was about to begin and we were finally there!

Our missionaries gathered with SAM leadership, our board of directors, various family members and supporters, along with many ministry partners to celebrate the glories, triumphs, trials, and history of South America Mission over the past 100 years. The setting could not have been more picturesque as we worshipped within walking distance from a breathtaking shoreline at the cusp of the Pacific Ocean.

Every day was a cause for celebration and praise to the great God who has sustained our mission and ministries this past century.

It was made clear, however, from the moment of our first official gathering that this week in Panama was not for the sole purpose of reflection. We had gathered to fellowship and rest as we look ahead at what God holds for South America Mission in the next 100 years.

On that first night, our board of directors served us communion, intentionally entering a place of humility and servitude, and ultimately setting the tone for our celebration. We were encouraged by pastor Worth Carson of Granada Presbyterian Church to enter into a place of Biblical “rest” and consider God’s warning in Isaiah 30:15 to those who neglected to rest in the Lord. He continued on throughout the week to expand the topic of physical Sabbath rest into a calling that God has placed on our lives to physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, rest in His promise and sovereignty in all things.

Before each evening session, a hum of excitement whipped through the gathering place as missionaries from all over South America exchanged stories and finally met their fellow workers face to face. Even during the afternoons when we had a break from meetings, if you walked through the resort grounds you would not go far before encountering a new group of missionaries, supporters, or family members finding new stories to tell and new people to encounter.

Each morning and evening there were workshops and teaching sessions to edify, connect, and exhort us. Bob Moffitt, president of the Harvest foundation, exhorted us to remember the Church’s role to not just proclaim the good news but to demonstrate it as we build for the Kingdom in our communities. Captivated and convicted, we continued to discuss the role of discipleship and holistic ministry throughout the week, considering the ways our current ministries can be enhanced in this capacity.

One incredible and crucial element to our week in Panama was hearing from author Philip Yancey across multiple evenings on the topics of grace and prayer. The stories he lavished upon us from his personal travels and personal struggles exemplified his charge that we must continue to expand our capacity for grace in our ministries and pursue a life filled with prayer.

We were amazed to hear stories of how God is working currently in South America. From Lima, Peru, José Raúl Galindo welcomed us into his ministry, Decisiones Con Valor, which ministers to men from the burgeoning middle class of Latin America. SAM missionary Jorge Enciso shared about a house church movement in Bogotá, Colombia, that is reaching the city with the whole gospel through evangelistic and community development initiatives. And finally, SAM missionary Alex Chiang challenged our perspective by giving us a Latin American viewpoint on the role North Americans have in the advancement of the gospel in South America.

For 100 years South America Mission has grown by God’s grace to captivate hearts for the gospel and bring people together in His name. We are redeemed children of God. We work to reproduce authentic disciples of Jesus, to multiply dynamic, beautiful churches that are shaping Godly leaders and transforming their communities.

We are South America Mission, and we are joyfully stepping into the next century of God’s work in South America.

Elementary Teachers at the SCCLC, Bolivia.

Elementary Teachers, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

The Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center (SCCLC) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is seeking Elementary Teachers to fill key roles for Kindergarten and grades 2-5. SCCLC is a Pre-K thru 12 school following the American school system. At SCCLC, the future leaders of Santa Cruz receive a comprehensive and multilingual Christian education that exceeds national and international academic standards, preparing its students spiritually, academically, and socially to transform their world. With less than 250 students, approx 80% of whom are Bolivian, SCCLC creates a relaxed and intimate educational environment, giving staff and faculty the opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders at a personal level, and affect substantive change in one of South America’s developing nations. Those serving at SCCLC will be fully integrated into SAM’s team in Santa Cruz for encouragement and support. Beyond the walls of the school, SAM’s missionary team in Bolivia is planting churches, developing leaders for the church, and mobilizing missionaries alongside the vibrant Bolivian-led churches of Santa Cruz. As such, SCCLC’s missionary staff has opportunities to see and contribute to a wide variety of missional activity throughout Bolivia.

Contact Allison Lee at, or visit to begin a dialogue with us today.