Partnering Well

Shonna Ingram

About The Episode

How can a church congregation best provide care for a missionary abroad? On this episode of Essentially Translatable Rich Rudowske discusses the congregational care model with Shonna Ingram of Pioneer Bible Translators. Shonna serves as a Trauma Care Specialist, as well as a Career Transition Specialist with Pioneer Bible Translators. She has dedicated over 15 years to missionary care both on and off the field.  

Shonna shares about her experience supporting missionaries overseas and how it has led her to create resources that discuss navigating life in transition. There are many unexpected challenges that impact the missionary journey. From family emergencies to unexpected cultural differences, there are many elements to a missionary’s daily-life that require prayer and support. Listen to learn about how churches or families can prioritize supporting missionaries through more than just financial gifts.  

It is a great blessing to be able to invest in each other as supporters of God’s Mission.  

This episode highlights the many challenges missionaries face, the role of trauma care, the significance of congregational support, and practical ways to support missionaries.

There’s just a lot of stresses that come along with living overseas. So making sure that they were okay physically, emotionally, spiritually. We had a chance just to be with them and just to serve them.

Welcome back to another episode of the Essentially Translatable Podcast. My name is Rich Rudowske, the Executive Director here at Lutheran Bible Translators, and I am excited to share this content with you today. I just had the chance to talk with Shana Ingram, who works at a partner organization, Pioneer Bible Translators, in their member care area, and we covered quite a bit of ground.

On the episode, but the main focus is on how to care for missionaries in your congregational or small group setting. And so, uh, before we dive into that content, I just wanted to encourage you to share the Essentially Translatable podcast [00:01:00] with your friends if you, uh, enjoy this content and find it edifying.

Getting that look into, uh, God’s work around the world and different glimpses and facets of God’s mission. Uh, we’d appreciate it if you share it with others. You can forward the email that you were sent if you’re listening from there or, uh, share on your social media from any podcast platform that you’re on, Spotify, iHeartRadio, YouTube music.

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So on the podcast today we have Shauna Ingram from Pioneer Bible Translators, I’m so excited to have you here today. Welcome to the podcast. [00:02:00] 

Thanks for having me, excited to be 

Here. So we actually have a long history together. Can you share a little bit about how you and Lutheran Bible Translators got to know each other and share about your role within Pioneer Bible Translators?

Yeah. Sure. Thanks Well, our first part of the role is that I work in the care department of Pioneer Bible Translators, and that looks different depending on the day. I work in trauma care, I work with people in re entry, it’s just whatever the missionaries need, depending on the day. A lot of debriefing, a lot of one on one counseling spaces, so yeah, so we’re just always wanting to help serve our, our missionaries and how to serve them well and learning how to do that well.

That’s a lot and, and just hearing you, it’s like, thank goodness for technology and being able to have that briefing continuously, even at a distance. Yeah, so dive back a little into your, your prior work and [00:03:00] background with pioneer Bible translators. Tell us how you got involved in Mission and with pioneer Bible translators particularly.

Yeah, so, I thought maybe I’d start, like, how we got into ministry in the first place. Sure. Because we weren’t, That wasn’t really our plan. We started off in college of, was a social worker, actually became a travel agent. Had four children, three within three years. And then as soon as my son was born, our third son, he was born in October.

In December, we found out my husband was going to lose his job. And, but we were okay with that, even though we had three little kids, because we really felt like God was saying, there’s something different and something new for you. So that led us to selling our four bedroom house and moving to a two bedroom apartments on a seminary and had our fourth.

So I held there and he was in [00:04:00] ministry and then the president of Pioneer Bible Translators came and showed us a video of the people getting the Bible in their own language for the first time. And just an excitement there. And so he’s like, Hey, maybe we should be a part of that. And that was 15, 16, 17 years ago.

Rich: It does add up. 

Yeah. And yeah, I came to Dallas and met Rich and Maya and their family. And that’s how we were able to connect. And you guys headed off to Botswana and we headed to Tanzania. That’s right. And then we came back. Around the same time. 

And they had a, uh, green Ford Windstar. They left before we did and we needed a second vehicle, so we inherited the Ingram green Ford Windstar for a little season there and, but yeah, more importantly, we studied together in linguistics training and it was a, it was a good time.[00:05:00] 

And so, while on the field in Tanzania, was it in translation, or literacy, scripture engagement, or others? 

Yeah. So, for me, the first part was just getting our family settled. And then I became the on field care facilitator. And there, when we got there, there were three people on the field when we left.

There were 17, but we really felt like our main job was to make sure that those people were okay, and that they were going to come back for their second term. And we weren’t totally sure if that was going to happen at the, at the moment. So, yeah, so making sure that they were. Okay, physically, emotionally, spiritually, there’s just a lot of stresses that come along with living overseas and a lot of these families where this was their first time moving or even like buying a refrigerator or buying those things.

So us being a little bit. Older, I would say we had a chance just to be with them and just to serve them. My husband was the director at the time. So we were just helping them, you know, survive in Africa. Thriving to thriving would be great. So hopefully we were able to do that. And again, that looked different on different days from taking them to.

The grocery store to a crisis debriefing. If something bad happens, we’ve had, had, you know, people been broken into their homes and, and things like that. So just always being there for what that looks like. 

So just being present with people in the country, understanding the context and their needs. And now your role is much broader in scope of the regions that you’re serving alongside.

So, how did your time in Tanzania prepare you for the different contexts and situations people walk through? 

Yeah, so we’ve been through the whole missionary life cycle from the beginning. To the metal of actually [00:07:00] being on the field to, to retreating home. And I think that just gives us and our family just a different perspective of all the pieces that come with that.

So now I get to do that with everyone in our organization if, if they want that. So being able to provide, um, spaces, I, I’ve received training specifically in trauma recovery and I’ve. And career transitions, and I’ve actually been able to work with Whitcliffe, um, on that case too. So, I like also actually being sort of a 3rd space of not always having within your organization, but being, being a place that’s outside.

So, I work with other organizations, like Asmara is a women’s retreat program that I’ve been able to go overseas with. So, yeah, just being able to. serve them wherever and whatever [00:08:00] they need. 

And, and, you know, missionary life is, is, has some complexity to it and some difficulties. And the one aspect we wanted to zero in on a little bit more today is how congregations can support missionaries.

So how did you get interested in this aspect of ministry or what, what led you to see, like, this is something that could be important? 

I think for me, just having, You know, we have to raise our support. So we talk with lots of churches and having, and each church sort of does it a little differently. So, um, just send a check, um, check in on you weekly.

Or monthly, so I think having just an opportunity to discuss like, well, what is it, what does your congregation need or what can they do and maybe give them some space to understand what’s like, maybe really going on. In a missionary’s life would [00:09:00] be helpful to talk about today. So 

There’s a biblical foundation for congregations being sending bodies as in like you write a check and there you go But there’s also a biblical foundation for a more intimate relationship of care and support So what’s been a driving force for you biblically in this congregational care model?

Well, I think back to the Bible, you know Paul’s missionary journeys and how you know some churches The different things for them, you know, Antioch was sort of his, his main sending area and, you know, the Philippian church, you know, sent financial pieces, but the, you know, they all provided something different and.

I don’t know, I, you know, I sort of like that because then they don’t necessarily feel like, you know, you’re that main person or that main congregation. I don’t know how it all works with you guys, but, [00:10:00] you know, I have different people send us, you know, birthday cards or anniversary cards, or I actually have a lot of individuals that support us as well.

So there’s, you know, just different pieces. Love all that. 

Yeah, I really like what you’re saying there about there’s not, this is an opportunity to experience joy and how God’s at work and not some kind of rule or law so congregations can sort of explore and opt in at a level that makes sense to them and.

to conduct themselves that way or to grow into something different. That’s a, that’s a great perspective on it. When congregations do this and sort of say we’re going to step up and be more attentive to the missionaries that we support and support them in other ways besides financial only. What’s the potential win win and in this if congregations really lean into this?

Yeah. So I think, I think the work’s going to get done faster if the missionaries are healthy, [00:11:00] that’s a main area. Latest research shows that, you know, one of the reasons that missionaries leave is because they lack missionary care. So I think just being. Uh, supportive and understanding that is important.

I think it’s just helpful for the American church to know what’s going on, you know, around the world. So, you know, there’s a, a win win for both sides, them, for the missionary and for the churches to be able to partner well together. 

Now, when it’s not okay, and missionaries are having to leave the field because of not having missionary care.

Is there something lost for the congregations when they’re not participating actively, like, what does that look like? 

I think they lose hearing stories of what the Lord is doing outside of, you know, their local context, I think. For everyone, we’re, we’re focused on what’s, you know, [00:12:00] even with what’s happening within our community, but I think being a part of something bigger than gives them an opportunity to, you know, do the great commission, right?

At the end of Matthew, where he’s like, go out, you know, not everybody can go out and live in another country. That’s not what everybody needs to do, but they can support that work. Yeah. You know, we send out newsletters about what’s going on and how to, to help. You know, sometimes there’s specific projects that need to be funded or, or sometimes you can actually go and visit.

Depends on lots of things, but I think that’s an opportunity just to, to see what the Lord is bigger. Sometimes we put, like to put them in a box. One of the best things I learned in Tanzania was like, wow, the Lord is so much bigger than what I thought. And he can do so many new things and different things and works in a lot of different ways.

Yeah. There’s a, there’s a proliferation of opportunities for connectivity with like internet access and social media. How does that play a role? Like how can that be beneficial? Or maybe how can that be something to, to manage and watch out for too? Oh 

Yeah. So I think with this whole social media experience.

I mean, it’s good and bad because now missionaries, I mean, we’re doing stuff instantly where it used to be write a letter and it would take months to get there and things happen. And, you know, and then it was like phone calls that cost, you know, a hundred dollars to do a phone call. But I mean, just this idea of, Social media is like automatically, I, I don’t personally like social media, but sometimes that’s how I find out what’s going on with the missionaries, you know, it’s like we could have a conversation for an hour and a half and then they post something on social media and it’s like, Oh, well, I didn’t know that we were having a [00:14:00] conversation.

You know, so I think that, but then we’re also getting information. So when, you know, maybe somebody passes away quicker, you know, back home and then flights, you know, we can do it, you know, we can be there within 24 hours. Possibly, or at least 48, anywhere in the world. So it just, it’s just a really different way of looking at, it’s just, it’s a smaller world.

I mean, everybody, like when we were in Tanzania 10 years ago, everybody had cell phones. And they didn’t have electricity in their house, but they had cell phones. They would go down to the local Duca and get in and pay 20 cents or, you know, get it charged. But just that. It also causes problems for, you know, one of the hardest things that missionaries deal with is pornography addiction, and so that is coming into your home, [00:15:00] just like everyone else.

So that’s It’s not a good thing that has happened with the social media space and in the internet space for your missionaries. But like with everything, there’s good in the bad. 

So bringing up these kinds of facets of how social media can be positive or negative, there’s probably a lot of our listeners that are thinking about this with new insights.

Maybe they’ve been thinking about Congregational missionary care differently or they never really thought about it before so so with this new lens of thinking How is it that congregations can be supporting? What are some things that they should be aware of in order to support missionary as well? I 

Think that one of the things about missionary life is living in transition and that you are continuously living In this space, uh, you know, between the space between and that’s just really [00:16:00] hard and especially if you have kids, like, well, where’s home and what does that look like?

We actually do a stress assessment. I’ve actually written up that sort of a tools that I’ve created to to look at and usually we think, oh, it’s it’s hard because you’re living in another culture. But really, there’s lots of other reasons that we’re. That can be grieving and, uh, family members or, I mean, even childhood trauma plays into a place that gets triggered while they’re on the field.

There’s just, I, I would have people come back and say, I just felt guilty. And it’s like, well, Like, why do you feel guilty, you know, and it, it’s sort of this difference between what’s unhealthy guilt and what, like, well, did you do something wrong? No, I just, they didn’t need an expectation that they thought they were going to meet.

So that, that’s a really [00:17:00] big, big area that I work in and see much daily. 

And that’s not showing up in their prayer letters, 

Right? Right. Yeah, that’s actually another one that sometimes you’re not. Getting the full story, even organizations aren’t always getting the full story of what’s, what’s happening.

Yeah, I think there’s working in the space of reentry right now. It’s like how a lot of what I do is partnership development coaching. It’s like, well, how do I tell my church that we’re coming home? How do I tell my church that we’re, I just got a divorce, you know, how do I tell my church, uh, we have to come home because of a sin that was happening.

So, I don’t know how to help the congregation to know that, like that’s, sometimes we’re, we’re telling the good, Of what’s going on, but I, I think that’s changing a little bit. I think there’s a little bit more vulnerability on people’s parts on both sides, on the congregational side and the missionary that they’re, they’re willing to say, you know, this is really hard, really hard.

And that’s a really thing. 

Yeah. It’s really like the metaphor of the body of Christ that we’re all. Brothers and sisters needing support that when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. It’s close. It’s messy. It’s more than just like, okay, well, this person’s representing a ministry out there. Bible translation.

It’s about, hey, this person is part of us and the mission is ours together, and we all walk through this together. So you’d shared a little bit about being a contributor to the blog, A Life Overseas, and in it you shared about trauma. I remember care coordinator Allie Federwitz also shared about trauma earlier and discussed the impact it’s had on our lives, whether you’re stateside or internationally based.

Can you share a little bit about what congregations should be aware of when it comes to trauma for missionaries? [00:19:00] 

Yeah, so in those articles, I wrote, you know, it’s three sections and the first one is about, you know, just general trauma. But I think for a missionary, we, we come up against different types of trauma.

And I think that the main one that we’re seeing a lot of lately is one that’s called moral injury, where somebody goes against their belief system and, and, and, and it just, You know, it just connects to something in their core. And I think that’s one that I think is starting to get a little bit of traction here in the States.

We think of, you know, we think of people that go to war, that they have to do things that are against their values and their core beliefs, but missionaries have to do it all the time. And to do it once might be okay. I mean, that could be just having to [00:20:00] bribe a police officer to seeing something that is, you know, You know, just not healthy.

You know, I had somebody watch a child get beaten. They didn’t do it, but they saw it and just, you know, just that piece of it is, is just really hard. But yeah, to do some research on what moral injury is, has been something that I’ve really researched. Another one is. The survivor’s guilt has happened a lot during COVID when, uh, missionaries were being told by the organizations, you have to leave, but then they had to leave their friends, you know, can I even get back in, into their, their countries?

And so those were, were some of those specific ones that we were really seeing, especially during the COVID. Time on top of everything else that they lived through, there’s just a big [00:21:00] piece of grief and loss that comes with living this life in transition that I’m not sure congregations really know. And I don’t know, I mean, I didn’t know it until you go through it yourself.

It’s one of those pieces that you have to, you just have to experience yourself. 

Yeah, so, would you say that one of the ways congregations can be helpful is kind of a mix? In some ways, they can understand better, be more empathetic, pray, but in other ways, they, the way the congregation could help is to just know There’s some things that are just difficult to understand that missionaries experience, and to give some, some space for that somehow.

I mean, any examples where you’ve seen that work or anything like that? 

Uh, yeah, I think we can just have space, you know, we’re, we’re a big space and learn how to listen well to our, our [00:22:00] missionaries. We actually, Talk about like three questions in the Trauma Healing Institute called, and I call them sort of the head question, heart question, and the gut questions.

The head question is tell me what happened so they can sort of replay their story. The, the second question is the heart question of like, how did that make you feel? Just an, you know, opportunity to sort of hear their hearts. And the third question is, I call the gut question is like, what was the hardest part of that?

And you’ll be totally surprised about what you think they might be upset about. Isn’t necessarily what they’re really upset about. No, I actually had this happen to me. My mom passed away unexpectedly. And of course I was in trauma training at the time. So my mentor, like he, you know, walked me through those three questions.

And, you know, you know, it’s really easy to [00:23:00] talk about what’s. It’s going on in our head. This is what happened. This is how she passed away. This is what we did, but you know, that emotional piece to it is like, I didn’t really, I didn’t really have time to process that. And they had a, you know, just an opportunity just to sit with them and to listen, you know, to listen to their hearts.

But then when you got to the, the gut question, it’s like, oh wow, I didn’t realize that was what I was, what That was the hardest part of this. It wasn’t that my mom passed away, but that, you know, who, who was going to take care of my dad? And how is that going to affect us? So, we use those questions quite a bit, and I think it’s just a really easy, simple way to, to, you know, sort of have in your back pocket, and not just with missionaries, with anybody really.

Is there a particular scenario or situation that you would say, hey, this worked really well? Like, I know it’s all in progress and there’s always room for improvement, but is there something that a church can do in their practice of supporting [00:24:00] missionaries that you’ve personally seen as a win for both sides?

I think 

Having a space to, to share, you know, share from their hearts. I’ve seen churches that help in that space. They, you know, connect with their missionaries, you know, once a month, but, you know, that might be too much for your, congregation to do, even quarterly or just reach out just to say, Hey, you know, what is, what kind of prayer support can we be providing is helpful.

I think sending gifts, I think the kids really being able to support the kids if they have kids, you know, to live on them, especially when they come home. Yeah. But not too much, you know, normal kids. But like when my kids came home, like their Sunday school teachers were like, your kids know so much [00:25:00] about the Bible, you know, and started putting them up on a pedestal.

And that wasn’t really good for me either. But being able to support them in a healthy way, especially like, especially if they’re The mom needs to homeschool the kids, you know, even providing homeschool curriculum. They’re on home assignment, you know, gift cards to, to go out to eat, places to stay. You know, I, I think a lot of it is to do when they’re on home assignment or, or shore low that you can get them involved in your, your congregation.

You know, if you have a small group, invite them to a small group, have them be a part of, of your church family, I think is some of the things that we’ve seen that work really well. You know, if they’re in your area, 

Yeah, I would also just add from my own experience having been a missionary and supported by congregations as well that I think it’s important for congregations to think of [00:26:00] their missionary in in some ways, the way that they think of their pastor.

I’ve seen congregations that really care well for their pastors as well and for their families. And so, yeah, You know, missionaries for your, if you’ve got a more established mission board or some other function that oversees ministry, missionaries and their families aren’t just like an investment that your congregation is making, that you’re looking for a return on investment.

I mean, there’s a good balance and like, we’d like to understand what’s happening and, and if there’s any way we can pray and help, but we also want to know about you and care for you and remember that. Uh, a missionary that’s being supported by a congregation is, uh, conducting ministry in on behalf of the congregation.

And that’s a wonderful part of the story, but also think about how you care for the folks that conduct ministry on behalf of your congregation. And if there are structures that, that you’ve developed for that, for, you know, the local pastor that you have there, maybe there are some things that, that help [00:27:00] with care for missionaries as well that can be adapted there.


They were just normal people. That’s right. 

Yup. So as you’re continuing in your role, how is it we can be praying for you and the ministry of Pioneer Bible Translators? 

Yeah. So we have just started a re entry ministry, helping as people come back from the field. It’s new to us, but we had quite a few families come back during COVID, but then, you know, they continue.

You know, some are still staying with the organization, but some. Are leaving and so just wanting to do that. That well in that space, because there wasn’t a lot of resources. So we are actually, I’ve created some resources specifically for that. And now other organizations are asking, Oh, I, I want that, or I need that.

So we’ve actually sort of stepped out to the, To do it with [00:28:00] any church or any mission organization to help. So that’s one of the things I love about Pioneer Bible Translators is that we don’t just care for our missionaries. We’ll care for any missionary and we have, have the space for that, but definitely this re entry space.

So we created, you know, workbooks and. Digital courses about, there’s actually three areas of reentry. First one is the main one when people come home, getting their physical needs, which is great. So this is actually one of the areas I would love churches to understand is reentry, and then the second one is.

Sort of this liminal space of not exactly knowing what the next step is, and then, and then they can rebuild. So there’s three different spaces within that reentry space. So, so, yeah, I really love prayers for that. And then, um, [00:29:00] Also, for my husband and I are the, like I said, chaplains for the mainland Southeast Asia team, which is a really hard place to live, and we need more people.

We need more people in that area. So that’s been our prayer this year for that space. 

Very good. We will definitely be keeping y’all in prayer, and thank you so much for being on the podcast with us today and talking a little bit about how congregations can think about and pray for and support missionaries better.

It’s been a great conversation. Thank you.

So I really found this conversation with Shauna stimulating and mainly because there’s just a great opportunity and a great blessing in going deeper. And as a congregation, a small group, a mission board, or even as a family, being willing and able to invest in the missionaries that you support and to learn a little bit more about how to care for them.

It’s a great blessing for the missionaries, for sure, and [00:30:00] also for you. And it just continues to, to build into the. The reality that we are walking together in mission, serving in Christ. Some are sent and some are the senders and supporters and much more than a, just a transactional relationship. This has the opportunity to be an.

An incarnational relationship, growth available for everyone and just that joy that always comes in, in walking together in Christ. So if you’d like to learn more about Pioneer Bible Translators, we invite you to check out their website at pioneerbible. org. And thanks for listening in. Thank you for listening to the Essentially Translatable podcast, brought to you by Lutheran Bible Translators.

You can find past episodes of the podcast at or subscribe on Audible Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow Lutheran Bible Translator’s social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or go to [00:31:00] to find out how you can get involved in the Bible translation movement and put God’s word in their hands.

The Essentially Translatable Podcast is edited and produced by Audrey Seider. Artwork designed by Sarah Rudowske. Music written and performed by Rob Veith. I’m Rich Rudowske, so long for now.


  • Shonna Ingram works in the care department at Pioneer Bible Translators
  • There are methods for effective congregational care that are more than just financial gifts
  • Shonna has conducted research into trauma care and the common ways missionaries experience trauma

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