Last month, eight of the ZOE missionary women spent time away at a women’s conference. The retreat was planned around the theme of “joy” and the sessions, speakers, worship, and workshops were all linked to the theme in some way.
Over the years, I have seen many married couples and families arrive in Thailand full of joy and energy to serve overseas, but within two to three years, they have returned back home oftentimes discouraged, disappointed, and exhausted.
At ZOE, our missionary care team do a wonderful job trying to support our families, couples, and singles on the field, but there is also an onus on each individual to maintain their own self-care. The statistics relating to missionaries are actually quite startling.
Did you know?
80% of missionaries burn out and don’t finish their term.
46% of missionaries have been diagnosed with a psychological issue.
87% of those with a psychological issue are diagnosed with depression.(Source: freerainint.org)
Keeping in mind the high statistics of missionaries who do not thrive living cross culturally, I am all too familiar with the transitional environment in which we live and work, having seen countless friends outside of ZOE and coworkers “go home.”
By setting aside time this past weekend to receive teaching, have fellowship as well as take moments of quiet reflection and meditation, I am personally taking one step to care for myself in a way that I know helps me to thrive.
Taking breaks is so important and yet is often one of the first things that gets overlooked. Even small breaks like stopping for a coffee, lunch breaks (leaving your desk), having a Sabbath, going out of town every so often and taking vacations - actually help us to get more done!
Sometimes, missionaries find that their time is taken up trying to meet the demands of supporters, board members, in-country directors, nationals, governmental red tape, their families, etc. all while trying to serve people who have been marginalized, have suffered abuse and violence, or are in poverty.
They feel guilty for taking breaks and try to get “more” time by cutting out the very things that would actually be beneficial to their well-being. This may lead to less and less engagement in times of intentional prayer, meditation, reading the Word, time with friends/spouse/children, exercise, sleep, hobbies, and other outside interests. (missionarycare.com)
I will finish with an excerpt taken from missionary blogger Mari Hernandez-Tuten’s post entitled, “Just Take the Vacation.”
“Our vacation was not sinful...We are not being unwise stewards of our money by taking a vacation...We personally used our own funds for this trip. In fact, we are doing something wonderful for our ministry by taking a vacation. Who wants burned out missionaries on the field? Who wants missionary families on the brink of divorce because they can’t say no to ministry needs?...No one does!…So, if you’re a missionary and you’re reading this and you feel guilty about taking a vacation please hear me out – Take the vacation! Don’t go somewhere else only to include some ‘work’ engagements so you feel better about your vacation. Just go and rest with your family or by yourself.”
A word of gratitude!
If you’re a person who has supported a missionary, encouraged them to take time off, have respite or go on a vacation...or maybe you’ve even given a specific donation to be used for self-care. Thank you!