Missionaries and self-care
Staying spiritually and emotionally healthy on the field is a major challenge for most missionaries.
Living day to day life immersed among people that speak a different language and navigate according to cultural principles and practices that are very different from their own produces ongoing stress–even when they’re not cognitively aware of it.
CONVERSATIONS WITH FELLOW MISSIONARIES CAN HELP
If they have the privilege of regular interaction with fellow Americans, it can help lighten the stress.
But with the pace most of them are living at, those relationships seldom go deeper than just talking about what’s been happening back in the states or the latest developments in each person’s ministry.
Although there’s a certain level of encouragement found in those conversations, they seldom provide the opportunity for thinking about and describing what they’ve been experiencing, and then interactively talking through how they feel about what took place.
RECEIVING THE GIFT OF DEBRIEFING DEFINITELY HELPS
For those that have had the blessing and encouragement of receiving the gift of debriefing from someone else, they know by experience that the two keys for effectiveness are the questions they were asked, and the debriefer’s interactive listening skills.
When those two components are present, along with the missionary’s willingness to honestly reflect on their experiences, how they were feeling at the time, and then how they’re feeling about it right now, debriefing can be a source of God-honoring and soul-enriching encouragement.
If you know a missionary that is ever given the opportunity for a debriefing, you should strongly encourage them to give serious consideration to accepting it.
SELF-CARE IS ESSENTIAL
But until they have the gift of a debriefing from someone else offered to them, you can bless them by challenging them to consider adding a debriefing-like component to their existing end of the day, self-care routine.
If they will begin intentionally setting aside a few minutes each evening to ask themselves the following questions, and then take them to actually answer them, they can help themselves to maintain their spiritual and emotionally health.
QUESTIONS THEY SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES…AND THEN ANSWER
1–Was God’s hand clearly evident in any of the conversations or events that happened today? If so, think through what it was, and then thank Him for making Himself known.
2–What biblical truth or principle did you see validated or reinforced by something that took place today?
3–Was there a moment today when the Holy Spirit confirmed or convicted you about something you thought, said, or did? If so, think through which it was, and if it was conviction about something, examine it, confess it, and ask Him to help you turn away from it.
4–What did you learn today about your own culture, or the culture of those you now live among–and how did it compare with the culture of God’s kingdom?
5–If you were required to describe a conversation or something that took place and put it in your next newsletter/update to your supporters, what would it be? Why? (You should also consider writing it down THAT NIGHT while it’s fresh in your mind, so that you really can use it in your next newsletter).
Clearly, there’s nothing magical about the questions themselves. They are simply tools that if taken seriously and used properly, can make a difference in them as a person and even the work He has called them to do.
If they’re married, it might be helpful for them and their spouse to ask each other the questions each evening.
If they’re unmarried and they have a teammate that they see regularly at the end of each day, they might consider asking each other.
Whether there’s someone else to do this with or not, you can help missionaries know that taking the time to do a personal debrief-like exercise each evening or at least a four to five times per week is a simple and effective way to help them stay spiritually and emotionally healthy.