ml 04 coping


Maintaining Spiritual Life

From Interview with WF and FF by KW
Be careful of your priorities. Work can easily become number one, to feel like you haven’t done enough or done what you should have done. Put God first.

(interview with D’s)
It is very important to be in an area where there is a Christian presence of some sort. Attend a Christian church. Have personal devotion time. Get together with other missionaries. Have spiritual retreats. Look into getting tapes from the United States of English services. Listen to the radio.

(interview with SL)
Maintaining spiritual life can be both easier and harder. It’s easier because you have more time. You also feel lonelier, so you sense a greater need for God. Yet, it is harder when you are unable to attend English services and you don’t understand the local language. Meeting with other missionaries for devotions is a great help, as well as forming a small group for women .

(interview with Dr. C)
You have to be intentional about keeping up worship in the local language, as well as keeping up with your own personal devotions

Interview with BO:
It’s really a fight to maintain spiritual life against time and the climate and the spiritual atmosphere

From 2nd video of the T tribe (Philippines), by KW. Spiritual life will go through hills and valleys. In struggles you may want to draw away, but keep on seeking God. They missed the opportunity to worship with other Christians in English, but that was more at first. As time passed they learned to get more out of worship with the people they were with because they were growing with them.

When surrounded by another language and culture, you have to go to God more because there aren’t other Christians to just be there to help. You don’t have the advantages of a church and programs to make sure you are spiritual healthy, the responsibility lies on you. They as a family emphasized spending time together and having devotions. That is more easily pushed aside in the states because life is so busy.

From interview with Mrs. B by KB.
Spiritual life is not easy to maintain. Make sure to be strong in personal devotion time, get in scriptures. Draw strength from the Lord. Family devotions can be an important way to keep everyone spiritually healthy. You may not always be fed by the culture’s worship where you are. It can be hard to understand, and you may not want to go to church.

From Interview with WF and FF:
Be careful of your priorities. Work can easily become number one, to feel like you haven’t done enough or done what you should have done. Put God first.

Interview with JF:
Worship with other English missionaries on a regular basis. Attend church at native church. You may not understand the words, yet you are united at least in the Lord’s Supper. Before going overseas, develop a daily personal devotion time.

From Stepping Out:
How to keep in the Word while doing the work (Ch. 25)
Build convictions by seeking God. Be sure that you really desire a strong life in God’s Word. Remind yourself of how inadequate you are to serve God on your own. Set your heart to seek God. Ask God to bring you to this place of conviction in His own way.

Discipline yourself by anticipating distractions. Discipline only really starts when you get free from other good activities worthy of your time. Determine that no “ifs” will keep you from the Word, such as: if the weather is right; if I don’t feel too tired; if I get my letters written etc.; Keep flexible by making plans, but try not to waste emotional energy worrying or feeling frustrated when you can’t execute your plans. Keep focused by varying your method — try different approaches to keep your interest.

The key to any ongoing effort to study Scripture is to do what you hear (James 1:22). Your short term overseas could be the best chance you’ll ever have to grow in your Bible study life. That’s because you are already in daily, intensive action for God. With so many opportunities to obey God directly, you’re bound to understand His word more and more. Don’t miss out on such an opportunity to know God. Keep in the Word (135)

Expose yourself to regular spiritual nurture and direction from Christians in the culture; (Stepping 114). Don’t allow the pressure of activities or the demands of duties on your short term crowd out time for personal communion with God; prayer is essential to do the work of God. In fact, prayer allows God to do His work through us. (Stepping 129)

Practical ways to take time for prayer (Stepping 130-132). Make it a priority. Schedule an appointment for prayer each day. Pray short, impromptu prayers throughout the day.

Occasionally plan for extended time in prayer. Have a place for prayer. Recognize the power of prayer. Pray with an open bible; listen to God. Pray with a team. Be specific in you prayer; that way you can see the answers and be glad. Be thankful!

From Culture Shock:
The difference in language puts a severe strain on the mental capacities; When the new missionary first goes to church on Sunday, he finds the service picturesque and fascinating, but after several weeks, he finds that trying to gain spiritual nourishment from the sermon is extremely difficult;finally, after six months of strained mental concentration, he may get the gist of the message and be able to find Bible references easily, but worship is still a tiring and demanding experience; (52)
Maintaining spiritual discipline and prayer, as well as reading devotion books, will help to cope with discouragement

In work there is little time for worship, especially if one is working only to gain approval from his fellow man. When work interferes with a man’s relationship to God, then it must be interrupted. Work must not be allowed to become a substitute for spontaneous worship. (68).

If done with right motives and attitudes, obtaining spiritual nourishment is a marvelous past-time. If done due to guilt or only from necessity, devotions are as exciting as rutabaga stew. We are supposed to be in love with Jesus: If we really know the goodness of the “man” to whom we are betrothed, we will not find interaction with Him a grudging and difficult undertaking. (91).

Coping with Discouragement and Frustration

From KB, 2004
There will be times of discouragement and frustration. There are always hills and valleys that we are traveling on. In all times we need to look to God to be our strength, to keep on seeking Him with all our hearts, giving Him all our worries and concerns. He will take us through the hard times. It is when we try to do it on our own that we can’t make it. Looking to other believers would be a source of encouragement and being in the Word. To cope in those tough times, take one day at a time. Look not at the things going wrong but the things that are going well. Trust is a big part of coping, but it is very hard to do when things may not seem well at all. I want to learn about the hard times of mission work, the ultimate lows and struggles. I want to find out what people have done to get through each day when all efforts seem useless. What are some frustrations and discouragements to be aware of? How have others played a part in those times? How has God? What brought on the frustrations? When did they start? Was it a growing thing that gradually built up? Or from a situation that arose quickly? Have they ever wanted to leave? Why or why not? Why did they stay? Is there anything that can be done to avoid discouragements? What became of the frustrations? Did fruit come from the pruning?

From MM, 2003
Always remember that missionary work is a sacrifice, but it is worth it. Don’t plan on things always being easy and pleasurable, plan ahead so you will know what kind of sacrifices you will have to make, and create strategies for dealing with the losses, and changes.

From interview with JF:
Keep in mind that missionary work is a sacrifice – but that sacrifice is worth it.
Expect some of your programming to fail. You will be humbled. But the thing that matters the most is who you are, not the programs you started.
To prevent conflict with other missionaries, be sure to communicate openly and often. Remember,Even if these institutions fail, the work I’ve done with individual people will never be lost. Keep in mind that it takes an average of 7 times to hear the Gospel before some people will accept it. You may be the 6th time. Even if they reject it, you’ve planted a seed.

When you get there, count on the fact that you’re probably going to be fantastically disappointed, but remember that’s normal.

How to cope with discouragement (KB. Video): Maintain spiritual discipline and prayer. Find people you can talk to. Plan times to get together with people from your culture. Read devotional books (bring them ith you!). Keep a journal. Keep supporters informed of your prayer needs: Then you get letters in return! Complain in letters, but not to your family because they’ll beg you to come home! Go on vacations.

(interview with BO)
There are frustrating times, but it’s easier because we really believe God wants us there.

(interview with Dr. C):
The first 24 hours may be the most frustrating as you realize that you are incompetent at the very basic levels of living. You don’t know how to get food, how to talk to anyone, how to take a shower. Even when you know the language well enough to carry on a conversation, it will still be a struggle to have deep, heart-to-heart conversations. Even if they know English, they will still probably think different than Americans do. Sometimes the best way to communicate is simply to listen.

Interview with SW:
You may have to change part of who you are in order to adapt to the culture. Realize this, accept it, and gradually change yourself.
Make friends with the other missionaries as well as with the native people. It does not work to keep all your emotions and thoughts to yourself. Opening yourself up to others is one of the best ways to cope with frustration. Pray!!

Interview with D family:
Realize that the first six months will be exciting, but for about the 6th-9th month expect to be very frustrated and discouraged. If you are expecting this to happen it will not be as bad.
Rough times included: illnesses, war, evacuation, loneliness, and unfulfilled expectations. Satan wants to keep you lonely and depressed. He wants you to doubt why you’re there. To cope with this, Don’t question in the dark what God has made clear to you in the light.

Realize that the work you think you should be doing may take longer as a result of cultural aspects. We would be doing translation work and someone would come by who needed us to drive him/her to the clinic. Also, on days of funerals (which were fairly frequent) all work stopped.

From the book Culture Shock.
Self love and self esteem are necessary for healthy living (26)
“Self-love in its essence is a love for one’s own soul: an appreciation for the worth of oneself as a person made in the image of God.” (26)
“Self-esteem is the evaluation which an individual makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself. It expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which the individual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful and worthy.” (26)
The person who loves himself can afford to be gentle, understanding and generous in dealing with others and with himself. (30)
People with low self-esteem experience many debilitating problems such as discouragement, depression, mental inefficiency and emotional pain. (37)
Cross-cultural stress results in a significantly reduced level of performance by those under its influence (47)
Direct exposure to an alien society usually produces a disturbing feeling of disorientation and helplessness that is called culture shock (47)
What is threatened most by entry into an alien culture is one’s self-esteem (50)
One of the earliest struggles the new worker has is in the area of language learning (51)
;Not only do missionaries face tremendous stress due to the difficulty of the work they are trying to do but also because of the very high standards expected of them (61).
The missionary does not need to worry about whether or not he is adequate for all of the trials that will be set before him. His adequacy is from God (II Corinthians 3:5) (63).
The present image of the missionary held by most Christians is unscriptural because the emphasis is put on doing rather than being (68).
God said, “I am who I am.” He did not say “I do what I do.” His character determines his action and not vice-versa (68).
Response to the idealist image of the missionary
The typical response to the inflated image of a missionary is to work harder to try to measure up to it (65).
In the new missionary role, expectation quickly outpaces performance. New workers believe that once they have become choice servants of the Lord they will automatically achieve more. In reality, because of culture stress, achievement is drastically decreased (66).
Illness may continue indefinitely as a defense mechanism against the impossible demands of the missionary image (67).
If you could once make up your mind in the fear of God never to take on more work of any sort than you can carry on calmly, quietly, without hurry or flurry, and the instant you feel yourself growing nervous, and like one out of breath, would stop and take breath, you would find this simple common-sense rule doing for you what no prayers or tears could ever accomplish (68).
During the missionary’s first term stress comes from three different sources: (73)
1. Culture stress and the needs to relearn acceptable behavior
2. Stress imposed by the idealistic missionary image and the resultant pressure to achieve
3. Stress of normal life change events taking place with the initiation of a missionary career.
Mission boards want to recruit better candidates, but there are no better. These are the best, and the vast majority of them are capable of making it victoriously.
Field leadership must not expect new candidates to be spiritually finished products who can handle any amount of stress. Missionaries are people in progress, and it is necessary to exercise patience with them while the Lord continues their development (79).

Fifteen tips for survival for new workers (Ch. 6):
1. Set reasonable goals. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labor; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep” Psalm 127:2
2. Don’t take your job description too seriously. In frustrating times, remember that your significance is not determined by your performance; the vital core of true missionary work is not task- oriented, but people-oriented.
3. Be committed to joy. You don’t need to apologize for being joyful; it is a characteristic of the Spirit-filled life, even though joyful people are rare individuals.
4. Maintain good emotional health. Have a wide range of interests and friends. Seek alternative solutions to personal crises. Recognize and accept your limitations and assets. Be active and productive, use your gifts to benefit yourselves and others. Read at least one book a month that is not professional.
5. Remember that you are human. Exercise to avoid fatigue. Seek love and companionship from others — Treat other people as persons. Have daily devotions.
6. Don’t be afraid of being a little bit eccentric. Don’t feel forced to conform in every way to the idealized image of Joe Missionary. If you do, you will squelch your creativeness and vigor of life.
7. Be flexible. Be inflexible in your purpose with Christ, but flexible in your dealings with human beings
8. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you won’t take your problems too seriously. You will not ignore them, but neither will you let them get out of perspective.
9. Reduce your stress where possible. When the Lord’s work begins to feel like a curse instead of a blessing, you had better cut down your activity.
10. Make your culture change gradual. To make a slow start in a new situation is the best way to keep from being overwhelmed by newness.
11. Forgive yourself: forgive others. Don’t be too hard on your fellow missionaries
12. Establish some close friendships with people from the host culture. View those in the new culture as fellow human beings
13. Be thankful. When thanks ceases, it is because we have wrong goals
14. Be an encourager. Look for ways to build up other people
15. Take courage: someone understands. Jesus knows all about cross-cultural adjustment, and He shares your struggles with you

Self-love and self esteem is important to function normally and maintain a healthy image of who God created you to be. Be committed to joy and being joyful. Forgive yourself and forgive others, Be thankful and be an encourager, Establish some close friendships with people of that culture, Take comfort in that you are not alone, Christ understands and knows you.
From the textbook “Stepping Out”: Remember you are not alone. Seek objectivity. Face the facts. Accept responsibility for your actions. Recognize that change comes slowly. Check your motivations. Evaluate your experiences
Invest time in building relationships with other missionaries and pray together and for each other. Be careful not to fall into a trap of guilt in dealing with bible study time. Discipline yourself. Keep a journal.

From the book Stepping Out: My First Night (p. 169) summarized by AJ
There were feelings of doubt. I couldn’t be a pioneer missionary; my calling must have been purely emotional.
I found strength from God: Then from somewhere came a surge of the pioneer within me.
I found comfort in His Word: I turned to some of the Scriptures of comfort in John’s Gospel. Gradually strength began to flood my soul.

The number one problem in missionary work today is broken, strained relationships. Today the church is often tragically diverted from the task of communicating the Gospel because of broken relationships. Biblical ways to cope with this: (Stepping Out, chapter 16). Allow God’s love to cover your interactions with others. Ask for forgiveness. When you’re aware of another believer’s sin, go and confront them compassionately.

Some practical ideas for dealing with culture stress: (Stepping 148-151).
Talk it out: Talk with a national, Talk with your spouse or housemate, Talk with other expatriates, Talk to .yourself by journaling and letter writing.

Get into a routine. Try to learn the local language. Learn all you can. Examine your expectations. Keep learning about your own culture. Use the opportunity to grow spiritually.


Self-defeating Thoughts include: There’s no point in doing anything. I don’t have the energy. I’m not in the mood. I’ll probably fail if I try. Things are too difficult. There wouldn’t be any satisfaction if I did anything anyway.

Self-defeating Emotions include: You feel tired, bored, apathetic, self=hating, discouraged, guilty, helpless, worthless, and overwhelmed.

Self-defeating Actions: You stick to bed. You avoid people, work, and all potentially satisfying activities.

These self-defeating things reinforce each other in a circular manner referred to as the Lethargy Cycle.

Some guidelines for managing feelings: Seek to learn about your feelings. Assume responsibility for your feelings. Monitor your emotional experience at all times. Practice the process of telling yourself the truth. Seek to spend some alone time regularly. Rehearse and seek to practice responses that you associate with loving and caring feelings.
In times of discouragement, anger may surface, which is not wrong in itself, but rather in how it is used. Don’t be hasty in dealing with anger. Feelings are a gift from God and we shouldn’t deny them or be controlled by them.

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