At OC International family isn’t just a value – it’s a real practice. The largest culmination of this value is at OC’s Personnel Enrichment Program, or PEP. This is an opportunity for missionaries to come together for a time or rest, rejuvenation and reflection. In the midst of a busy furlough or at the end of a stressful term, PEP allows missionaries to connect with others in the mission and have the opportunity to unload both personally and corporately.
“PEP is important to missionary families because it gives a safe place to tell of their experiences,” says Director of MemberCare and MK and Family Ministries Deänne Boesel. “Often, while missionaries are on home assignment, it is hard to find someone who can relate to their experiences. It is important for people to have a safe place to tell their stories and process what they have experienced.”
In order to cultivate that safe environment of understanding, OC has seasoned missionaries act as mentors for the PEP participants. “There is a level of understanding that cannot be explained. It is important to have people that are gifted in listening and have discernment and insight into what people are saying and how they are processing. It is not about the mentors; it is about the missionaries,” says Deänne.
Ralph and Joyce Anderson, OC’s mission pastoral couple, have participated in PEP for over 18 years. They have served as mentors and Ralph teaches the Word during the worship time. “We love it when members of our far-flung flock are together and we can serve them by listening to their stories, giving logistical help, pointing them to resources, and encouraging them through teaching the Word,” says Joyce. “For us, it is like a huge family reunion! Getting to connect and share in their lives is the highlight of our summer. We consider it a privilege to be allowed to invest in our personnel in this way.”
PEP is not only essential for the rest and reconnection for adults, it’s also a time for missionary kids to connect with other missionary kids and have the opportunity to share their stories. A vital aspect of this is having older missionary kids act as mentors of sorts for the MK participants. “I want missionary kids (or third culture kids) to work as the staff for our program, because of the unspoken connection they have with the kids they are working with. They can relate to each other on a deeper level faster and with compassionate understanding,” says Deänne.
Although the program is only 10 days the bonds made last a lifetime, especially for missionary kids. “The bond that we share at PEP as missionary kids is so valuable and special that I carried that with me throughout college, knowing I could share that connection with other MKs,” says OC MK Andrea. “Being able to connect with other missionary families like my own is a safe place for me to be, and something I look forward to every time I am able to be a part of it.”
PEP happens every summer, and each year is different. Connections are made, tear shed, laughter fills every room – no two summers are the same but the Lord is the center of them all. As MC of PEP events Steve Aldrich says, each summer is and will be “the best summer ever.”