NO BURN-OUT PLEASE If you really want to stick it out on the field and be of any value in the long run, do try with all your might to avoid a burn-out. It’s one of the worst things that can happen to you because it is awfully difficult to understand, very hard to explain, and immensely hard to recover from. Missionaries tend to take themselves and their ministry very seriously. It means that they will have to be available for the furthering of the Kingdom at any time. Did I not say myself in part II of this series that a missionary ought to be willing to pour out his of her life? I stick to what I said before. BUT there is a difference between the absolute willingness to go anywhere God wants you to be and do anything God wants you to do – and going about your job with no healthy sense of paying attention to your needs.
Get a life For goodness’ sake, when on the mission field, make sure that you get a life. Take one day off a week as God wisely commanded in the Old Testament and spend that day as carefree as you can. Find things that help you to get rid of tension and stress. It can be anything – for some it is vigorous running, or reading a humorous book, watching a movie or enjoying your favorite food. When I look at the older missionaries in our organization, the ones that still look fress, all of those have found things they love doing. One veteran missionary climbs mountains and goes canoeing in the wild a few times a month; another one goes for foot massage in a fancy shopping mall. It sounds so simple, too much of an open door actually, but somehow open doors tend to get overlooked.
Savor God’s Presence Another danger a missionary faces, very paradoxically, is the lack of spending time with God. Oh yes, time with the Bible is spent, prayers are uttered – but all in preparation for ministry, not for the sake of being with God, sitting at His feet, savoring His presence. Jesus said to Martha: Mary has choses the good part, and it shall not be taken from her. Thank you Jesus for this endorsement of sitting at Your feet, soaking in Your Word, wandering in the gallery of Your goodnesses (Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants). A collegue told me of this website, www.youversion.com , where one can sign in for bible reading plans. It has helped me greatly to use time with God just for myself. Avoid the Wrong Team One shortcut to a burn-out is being part of the wrong team. If you really want to be part of a team, or you are already a team member, then make very sure that you are aware of the team’s expectations of one another, of the team’s vision and mission and strategy. Are these in line with your own expectations? Does the team have a clear focus and purpose? What do you expect from the other team members when it comes to friendship and spending time with one another? If you want a reason to leave the field prematurely then go and be part of a team and expect everyone on the team to fulfill all your expectations and needs. You will be garantueed of great frustration, hurt and anger. Apart from very clearly defining one’s own role, responsibilities and expectations, it might be helpful to find friends outside the team and having a life apart from your team members. Maybe it helps to develop your own ministry you can do together with national Christians and at the same time live in close physical proximity to other missionaries, so you can drop by for friendship and fellowship when you feel the need.
Working on avoiding a burn-out is not a luxury, but a necessity.