Their identity is continually challenged
“I feel like a child again. I am in the middle of language learning. I can’t join in conversations, I miss the punch line in jokes, and progress is so frustrating. I don’t know who I am here – back in the UK my job, family and church gave me an identity which I just don’t have here yet.”
These words echo the feelings of most workers in the first years of entering a new culture and being in the initial learning phase. For many it is a slow, difficult time where their identity is continually challenged, stripped of the normal roles that they tend to lean on in our home culture, they are forced to really find their identity in Christ in a new way.
The support of established teams is vital
Being part of established teams that support each other through these challenging phases of cultural adjustment is vital. Teams provide places where members can pray and worship together, talk through the daily challenges of life, share vision and enjoy some relaxed social time. However, teams are not immune to their own conflicts, and unresolved issues with fellow team members can be very destructive and a cause for people to leave the field.
Living far away from ‘home’ can be very isolating, especially when there is a medical, political instability or other potentially life-threatening situations. Workers need to quickly learn resilience, to depend and trust in God in ways they have never had to before, while learning to depend on other team members and local support.
Member care and the honourably wounded
In extreme situations, a worker can experience what is described as complete ‘burn-out’. They are no longer able to cope with the continual stresses and conflicts, reaching a point where they are no longer functioning on a healthy emotional and spiritual level, and are forced to leave the field to seek professional help.
The emotional, spiritual and physical health of workers is vitally important to mission organizations, and as much as possible they seek to provide different levels of pastoral care (often called ‘member care’) both on the field and back in the UK. They don’t always get it right, and there can be unintended ‘casualties’ in the battle to bring the gospel to such challenging regions of the world. The phrase ‘honourably wounded’ has been used to emphasise to workers that these often painful experiences are a normal part of cross-cultural service and not a sign of weakness to each other and their sending churches.
Please pray for PI and other mission organizations as they seek to provide the right level of pastoral care and support both on and off the field. Pray for workers who have been ‘honourably wounded’ serving in Central Asia, that God would bring healing and the restoration of vision and calling.