Caring for people in Asia

Dr Vivian Soesilo

Dr Vivian Soesilo, BST Pastoral Care lecturer (Chinese program)

Dr Vivian Soesilo, BST’s pastoral care lecturer in the Chinese program regularly travels to Indonesia where she is involved in pastoral ministry and lectures at Southeast Asia Bible Seminary. Vivian completed a Master of Arts in Counselling and has extensive experience in children, individual and marriage counselling. She also has theological qualifications form Asbury Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary. We recently caught up with Vivian to find out some of the pastoral care issues that she’s encountered in an Asian context.

Expectations of church leaders

When providing pastoral care in any context, people require a lot of your time and attention. Amongst Asians, there is an expectation that the pastor will be available at any time of day or night to be there for members of the church and their families. In many cases, it’s also expected that the pastor and the pastor’s spouse provide pastoral care together. Working closely with people means that you may also form close personal bonds, so the pastoral care giver needs to be aware of this and maintain professionalism while still being sensitive to the needs of the people who require care. For example, boundaries can be crossed when the pastoral care giver exchanges text messages about daily matters or event eating meals alone with a member of the opposite sex. This is generally a big no-no in an Asian context.

The influence of the pastoral care giver is an important consideration when engaging with vulnerable people. Healthy professional boundaries are needed to protect those who are in a vulnerable position and to avoid situations of potential conflicts of interest, or exerting undue influence over someone’s personal circumstances. It’s important in these contexts, whether Asian or any other culture, that those involved in pastoral care create healthy boundaries and understand their own limits and capabilities, not only to protect those receiving care but also to prevent the care giver from reaching burn-out.

Caring across generations

In many Asian countries, it is normal to find three or more generations living under one roof—the grandparents, parents, and the children. It is general practice that the elderly will be cared for at home with their families, so pastoral care is sometimes provided across the generations on a single home visit. This can be time consuming and requires those involved in pastoral care to have flexibility in addressing the different needs of the families. One of the benefits of being able to see the family together is gaining a better understanding of the home environment and the relationships that impact on the individuals.

Vivian will teach Foundations of Pastoral Care in our Chinese program (all lectures will be in Mandarin) as a semi-intensive to be delivered every Saturday over six weeks starting from 12 August 2017. If you would like to audit this subject (sit in on lectures) or to enrol for credit, please email or call our office on +61 7 3870 8355