In the same sense that understanding more and more of what those who serve in the military actually experience usually increases our respect for them, our desire to pray for them, and our desire to help them in practical ways, I've discovered the same thing is true in regards to missionaries.
Because of this reality, I believe it's important to regularly and creatively help God's people to think afresh about the unique calling, challenges, and stresses that missionaries face as they obediently move forward with what He's given them to do.
With this truth in mind, here are a few questions that I hope will assist you to better understand what missionaries experience, and one of the gifts that individuals and church's can bless a missionary with.
IS RELOCATING WITHIN THE UNITED STATES STRESSFUL?
If you were going to move from one house to another in the same city and you were asked to write down the things involved with the move that might create stress in your life, how long would that list be?
And how long would you expect it to take for that stress to subside after you made the move?
If you were going to relocate from where you now live to a different city or state and decided to write down all of the things involved with that move that will create stress in your life, would that list be longer?
And wouldn't you also expect the length of time necessary for that stress to subside to take a bit longer?
HOW STRESSFUL WOULD MOVING TO A NEW COUNTRY BE?
How long would your list be if you were going to relocate to another country and begin living in a community where you can't read or speak the language and almost every aspect of daily life is different than anything you've ever experienced?
As you can easily imagine, the list of things that would create stress in that level of relocation would dwarf either of those other two lists. And it wouldn't be difficult to understand that at least a portion of the stress involved would never go away, but would require learning how to manage it.
THE GIFT OF DEBRIEFING
Because missionaries are living out these realities, the gift of debriefing is something every believer and every local should consider giving to the missionaries they know.
This is how Shepherd's Staff defines Missionary Debriefing:
Missionary Debriefing is a relational and intentional process that provides an opportunity for missionaries to tell their story–verbally processing past and recent events from their point of view, complete with their emotional responses at the time and since then.
MORE THAN JUST FELLOWSHIP
Debriefing differs from normal fellowship or just spending time together because it has a specific goal, and both the missionary and the one debriefing them know their time together is purposeful. They both have allotted an adequate amount of time and chosen a setting that will contribute to, not distract from the goal they are trying to accomplish.
It's our conviction that missionaries currently serving on the field would be blessed by receiving what we refer to as a Maintenance Debrief, which is designed to accomplish these two things:
--Confirmation of their calling
--Calibration of their lives and ministry for ongoing health and effectiveness.
Those who have completed their time on the field and have been back in the states for at least ten weeks are in great need of what we refer to as a Transitional Debrief, which is designed to accomplish these two things:
--Refreshment from the spiritual, emotional, and physical exhaustion produced by their departure from the field and their transition to life back in the U.S.
--Realignment of many areas of their lives in order to live and minister as effectively here as they did over there.
If your understanding of the missionary life is a little more understandable now, please consider joining with other individuals to give the gift of debriefing to the missionaries you know, and then encourage them to accept this God-designed gift for His glory and their good.