This week I asked missionaries around the world to share their stories on social media to illustrate the importance of a little R & R in their work and their family life. I intentionally reached out to former missionaries because I knew they no longer had the fear of losing their financial support if they spoke up about the difficulties of life in ministry. Do you know how many actually shared their stories?
One person was brave enough to share their truth on social media. That should be a warning to all of us. Even now, years later, it is too hard, too painful, too risky for them to share what it was really like to live on mission without the kind of support Restored and Renewed Ministry is offering. I know this because I heard from them in my private messages, and they all said the same thing. “We don’t want to hurt anyone. We don’t want to damage any relationships. We’re still friends with churches who supported us, and we don’t want them to feel like we were ungrateful.”
For others, it was more than that. It was simply too painful to return to those moments that broke their hearts, and forced them out of the work they were called to do. The pain is still fresh, and years haven’t healed the wounds. I cried over those notes, and I prayed for the healing that can only come from the God who witnessed their pain, and saw their tears. My friend Jessica was one of those people. She wrote to apologize, ” I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to post this on Facebook.”
Reading through her story, you could see that the pain was still there in her words. She softened the truth with kindness, forgiveness evident in the way she spoke about what had happened, but you could tell it was still a wound that hadn’t healed. She ended with this…
We were so run down, hurt, and exhausted that we actually lost faith in the team aspect of the mission altogether. We needed to be able to detach from the team and focus on our own personal relationships with Jesus in order to see the situation more clearly. A time out to be ENCOURAGED, supported, and surrounded by loving believers would have greatly eased our burdens and helped to refresh our perspectives. #RandRmatters
A time out, and a little encouragement. That’s what she believes could have kept them in the field, doing the work they loved for the lost in their adopted country. Instead, they were forced to return home to the midwest where they tried to return to “normal life”, and put the pain of it all behind them. But it doesn’t really work that way. That pain stays with you. It lingers, it festers, it spreads, and it can keep us isolated from the very thing that could bring healing. When our pain has been caused by the church, our hearts broken by the actions or words of those we trusted to lead us, our enemy digs in and makes his home there in the pain. He isolates us from our family, friends, church, and even God by convincing us we’re alone in that pain. We can find ourselves sitting in the middle of church, and feeling more alone than we ever did on mission, thousands of miles from home.
The best way to heal the wound is to expose it. Be honest about the damage that has been done to your heart, and soul. Sometimes a counselor can help you to give words to the pain you’ve been carrying for too long in silence. A counselor who has been in ministry for many years is a precious resource because they not only have the tools to help you work through that grief and anger, but can empathize with your situation. That’s why we are so very grateful to have the talented counselors we have here at Restored & Renewed Ministry. They can help, and they can meet you right where you’re at thanks to the incredible power of technology.
Another powerful ally in your healing is found in other missionaries like you who have lived through the painful experiences of life in the field, or the intensity of returning home, and all the grief that carries with it. Sharing our stories with one another says You’re not alone. That’s why we will continue to encourage former missionaries and current missionaries alike to share their story, and declare to the church that #RandRmatters. Like our friend Jessica said, a little time out to be encouraged could have saved their work. It could save a family. It could save a life.