We’re in charge of workplace safety. We assess risks, warn the organization and protect staff.
The Duty of Care team cares for people. This care could mean looking into child abuse. It might mean working in teams to help others with their issues. We work through policies. We investigate, document and solve problems.
In this area of service, you’ll interact with people in government, corporate and industry roles and with like-minded partners. You’ll live and work remotely, either at an SIL center or in your home country. You’ll probably do some domestic and international travel.
You could serve as a Field Security Officer, on a Crisis Management Team or on a Contingency Preparation Committee. A Duty of Care role is usually a worker’s secondary role in SIL.
SIL and outside providers will train you on the job. You can take courses and do some self-study customized to you and your assignment.
For this role, you need skills, but you also need a heart to shepherd people. You need to push through challenges, understand difficult situations and bring resolution. Culture and Language awareness will be great assets, as will a mindshift that allows different perceptions of “fairness” and “justice” from that in your home country. You need to be flexible and resilient.
A Missionary Kid Finds a Place in Missions
Josh wondered how he would serve God in missions. Because he grew up as a missionary kid, he always had an interest in living and working overseas when he was older.
His parents joined Wycliffe Bible Translators when he was in elementary school, and the family moved from Indiana to Brazil. They traveled around a bit, and Josh met his future wife while attending middle school in Papua New Guinea. As adults in their first few years of marriage, Josh and his wife talked about what they wanted to do with their lives. The more they prayed about it, the more Wycliffe seemed like an obvious choice.
At the time Josh was working full-time in administration and management. For a while, he juggled working at his job, developing partners and support and parenting their young son. Finally, he quit his job to focus full-time on partnership development. Things took off from there.
After completing a six-month manager development program in Dallas, Josh worked in that department for a year. When an opportunity came for him to move overseas as an office manager, he took it.
But once there, he discovered that the current Contingency Preparedness Coordinator really preferred to work in finance and was looking for someone to take over the security role. Josh admitted he didn’t have any background in security or contingency preparedness, but he was happy to learn.
“This wasn’t necessarily something I set out to do, but it presented itself and seemed to be a good fit,” Josh said. He learned a lot on the job and completed crisis management training. Josh has now been an SIL Contingency Preparedness Coordinator for 13 years.
Josh’s main task is to keep up with all the news in his part of the world. This covers a wide area with small groups spread across different countries.
He watches the political and security climate for anything that could affect staff in those areas. He scours the news and subscribes to security analysis services that send out multiple reports and updates every day. And if he notices a problem developing, he warns SIL staff.
People serving in a security role don’t need a background in military or law enforcement. More than anything else, security staff need the ability to take in large amounts of information, analyze it and boil it down to what people can understand.
“It can be a challenge,” he said. “It’s a lot of information.”
But he likes what he does. “I enjoy learning about what’s going on in all the places and countries that we [work in],” he said. “I get to have an overview.” He meets and works with many different people, and he travels to see the contexts they serve in.
Risk assessment and contingency preparedness planning make up another part of his job. He helps staff become familiar with potential risks and judge the probability and impact of a problem.
Josh also does security training. Different staff require different types and levels of security training depending on where they live and the risks they face. So Josh keeps track of who needs what and makes sure staff get the online course or in-person workshop they need. He often tailors a session to the specific needs of the group or finds a faith-based third-party service to provide several days of high-level security training.
He fulfills his duty of care by demonstrating to staff and to their sending organizations that each member is being taken care of. This means a lot of communication back and forth.
For himself, Josh stressed the importance of staying calm under pressure and keeping his life balanced.
“I’ve found it’s pretty important to be able to separate work and home and to have good margin in your life,” he said. “Otherwise, this type of work—if it’s all you think about and do—can be quite depressing sometimes. In some ways, you always have to be ready to receive that phone call if something’s going wrong, but [you can’t dwell] on it at all times.”
Returning to the United States to do partnership development and raise more funds often encourages Josh.
“Without fail, God always provides what we need,” he said. “Often it may be from places we least expect, and I’ve seen that happen over and over again.” That provision confirms for Josh that he’s doing what God wants him to do.
He’s also grateful that his four children are able to grow up in another culture and know another language.
“Both my wife and I like that because we both had good experiences growing up overseas,” he said. “So to have our kids go through something similar…it’s really cool.”
Josh also feels rewarded to see his work make a difference for missionaries on the field. Often he trains groups in different security or crisis situations, and then afterwards the staff will find themselves in similar situations on the field.
“It’s encouraging to me to know that I’m meeting a need in terms of preparing people for different security-type situations,” Josh said. He doesn’t wish crises on anyone, but it satisfies him to know that he prepared people well to handle those crises.
“More times than not, those [unreached people] groups are in high-risk areas,” he said. “In my own small way, I’m enabling our staff to be able to live, operate and work in those higher risk places so that those language communities can have access to God’s word.”
If staff want to visit a remote village with potential security issues or high-risk scenarios, Josh helps them think through the preparation process. And if something goes wrong, staff need to be prepared to mitigate the consequences and continue their work. For example, he might help staff develop a well-thought out evacuation plan.
“We’re never going to be able to eliminate all risk,” Josh said, but he wants to reduce the risk and keep staff as safe as possible.
“I don’t think things are going to get any easier,” he said. It will be more and more important for individuals and organizations to understand their own theology of suffering and to define their risk threshold.
Josh added not many people are jumping up and down to do security work.
“It’s not usually the first thing people think about when they think about missions,” he said. “But it’s really a need. We could use all the help we can get.”
Part of Josh wonders what he’ll do next in missions. But for now, he’s happy doing what he can to prepare and protect SIL staff.