Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maintaining Vitality and Preventing Burnout on the Field

I'm reading through the Bible this year, currently in Proverbs, and Prov. 13:12 stood out to me:

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."

God graciously fulfilled my desire to take Mr. J and Miss A to Washington State to spend some time with my family. When I thought about what to share on this blog, I decided it would be better to fit it in a series about maintaining vitality and preventing burnout as a woman on the mission field.*

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Women in cross-cultural missions can be vulnerable to burnout for various reasons.
  • Running a home and raising children in a context different from where we were raised ("rootlessness").
  • Dealing with infrastructure and safety issues, especially in the developing world.
  • As a result, having fewer opportunities outside of the house and experiencing consequent isolation.
  • Managing language and culture learning curves in friendship and fellowship.

This is not at all to say that missionary life is a drag or is unfulfilling! But I believe missionaries have the responsibility to intentionally maintain habits that nurture our walk with God, relationships, and general health (or sanity!) for the sake of our families, those we serve, and the gospel of Jesus. I find that consistent rhythms are essential, as well as occasional breaks from everyday life, such as a family visit in Washington.

One key is to recognize signs of culture fatigue or weariness. For me, this can look like:
  • Getting sick more often.
  • Feeling tired and irritable even after sleeping well and engaging in normally restful activities.
  • Having difficulty concentrating on what people say to me in conversation (in any language) and avoiding social settings.
  • Wanting to control minutiae, especially in my home environment, to feel peaceful and secure.

My goal is to minimize the source of these "symptoms" through wise choices, especially on a daily basis. This is why I love how our Creator God gives us freedom and creativity to pursue Him and enjoy His many gifts! Several habits I find helpful and refreshing include:
  1. Getting up early to read the Bible.
  2. Observing a weekly day of rest.
  3. Communicating with close friends and mentors.
  4. Keeping our home organized and pretty (to me).
  5. Getting out of the house.
  6. Taking trips back "home" to Washington.

Upcoming posts will discuss each of these more in depth. I'm happy this topic is being raised and widely shared in social media because awareness can strengthen relationships between missionaries and those who pray for them and support them from the home front. My hope is that those who pray for us will be encouraged by how God ministers to us through their love and kindness.

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*I experienced missions as a single woman, but for simplicity's sake will write from the perspective of a wife and mom.

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