Thursday, August 25, 2016

Maintaining Vitality Part 3: Communicating with Friends & Mentors

This is the third post in a series about maintaining vitality and preventing burnout as a wife and mom on the mission field. (Find part one at this link and part two here.) In summary, although missionaries are vulnerable to burnout, we can intentionally and creatively maintain consistent rhythms, such as solitude early in the morning and weekly days of rest, and occasional breaks, such as visits back "home" to Washington State, customized to our needs.

Strategy #3: Communicating with close friends and mentors

Being a highly relational person, I derive joy, energy, and inspiration from communicating with others. Thanks to technology and the internet, missionaries can maintain ties with family and friends far away from where they live. God uses close friends and mentors to make me feel connected and cared for, as well as instill accountability.

A consistent habit I make high priority is answering personal emails at the end/beginning of each month. Receiving a note from a friend sharing their latest adventures, trials, opportunities, prayer requests, and insights from God is a beautiful gift and always makes my day. Throughout the month, I can think about these friends, pray for them, and then reply with news from here.

God has used friends to break into specific moments and needs when I least expected it. Here are a few examples that remind me of His faithfulness and care:
  • I was once on a trip to an island known for antagonism toward Christians (I'll let you guess where) in a rural area and quite sick. I needed to get better because seeking medical care would put our team and those hosting us at risk. I specifically remember being in a makeshift outdoor sanitary facility (!), while being observed by a cow, hoping someone would think to pray for my health. A few weeks later, in another country, I received an email from a girl I went to college with, telling me that a few weeks before that she felt a strong prompting to pray for my digestion but wasn't sure what that meant. Wow!
Sick, but covered in prayer
  • During a time of particular loneliness as a single missionary, a friend, who didn't know I was feeling so lonely, emailed me to say she felt the pressing need to pray for a husband for me, a partner in life and missions. I was more than OK with that, and I'm quite happy with how her prayer has been answered. :)
I was sitting alone at this table when I received that email

  • On the day of our red-eye flight from Seattle back to Honduras this past June, I was dreading the good-byes and returning to some of the challenges of life here. (Ironically, the sermon at church the day before was about Jonah...) A friend, who had no idea I was feeling this way, gave my mom a last-minute note for me detailing her prayers for me, including joy and perseverance, and a special gift for our work. What a blessing to remember her words even driving past the remnants of a crime scene on the way to our house from the airport in Honduras.
God uses people to remind me He is Emmanuel, God with us in the midst of specific, sometimes unseen, needs, reminding us we are not alone or forgotten.

This year God has blessed me with a wise, fun, and caring prayer partner. I met Lori a few years ago at a Bible study for North American women. She and her husband have had lots of adventures as retirees in Honduras. We meet at her house every other week or so to pray together. What a blessing to receive her wisdom and encouragement in the Lord.

Miss A and I at Lori's house for a Christmas party

Another mentor figure is Tammie. She and her husband serve in pastoral care for CTEN. Tammie and I stay in touch via email and Skype, and I can always count on her to pray, be a sounding board, and share helpful information in crucial times. This kind of relationship can be a tremendous source of strength for missionary women.

I could list many others who bring a smile to my face, refocus my attention on what is most important, and strengthen my faith. No doubt, besides cultivating a close relationship with the Lord, friendships and mentoring relationships are one of the most crucial factors in maintaining vitality and avoiding burnout on the field.

Next post: what on earth do interior decorating and strollers have to do with avoiding burnout?