Good shepherding is forward-thinking. It looks ahead. It anticipates without presuming.
Certain struggles are common to all people, and certain challenges are predictable on the mission field. We can prepare ahead of time for coming alongside global workers to speak into their lives in ways that they would expect and appreciate.
But people themselves are not predictable. We cannot make assumptions about their motives, or the state of their soul. To offer prescriptions in many cases would be spiritual malpractice.
We must practice our ministry with one ear on the missionary and one on the Holy Spirit. As he helps us interpret what we hear from the person, we can then make ourselves available for the Great Shepherd to care for them through us.