Did you know…?
“In Holmes and Rahe’s original study on stress, they found that when people scored 200 points or more in a given year the cumulative stress had an impact well beyond that year. They found that 50% of those scoring 200 points were hospitalized within the subsequent two years for heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, or severe illness. The average cross cultural worker scores around 600 points. With around 800-900 points the first year of ministry.” (Heartstream ministries).
I was curious what our score for that same test would be from this past year. Sure enough, we are just like most cross culture workers scoring more than 600 points in a given year. And I thought this year was going better than the previous two years we have spent in Chad…
The truth is, this past year we had a lot of stress building up ready to explode like a time bomb. After having our amazing beautiful baby boy, just two weeks later we were on the road covering 25 states mostly by car going for 5 months doing presentations and attending General Conference and Adventist Layman-Services and Industries along the way. The whole time we didn’t have a home or bed to call our own for more than two weeks at a time.
We were so ready to go back to our simple life in Africa but then things got complicated. There was a mass missionary evacuation in Chad and we weren’t sure whether to go back or to stay in the states longer. So we had to change our tickets at the last minute and drive from Denver to New York one last time. Once in New York, David left for Chad without Joel and I for two weeks. We finally met up with him there and we were ready to get back into our “normal” daily routine here if that really exists. But the first night I spent in Chad I got very sick and found out that David also got really sick as soon as he got back onto Chadian soil. We laughed it away as a nice welcome home, but in reality, was it our bodies just telling us they were done with all the traveling and stress we had put them through?
We re-adjusted back into speaking French, no electricity, constant misunderstandings, corruption, and so many other things that resemble normal to us. As I write this Joel is playing in a termite mound. You get the point; things are different here and it takes time to cross cultures.
Although, stress builds up here too. From goat strikes, to non-operating fuel selectors, to needing a long list of airplane parts, the plane has been down for roughly 7 months. It has been one roadblock to the next. Volunteers also came one after the other and I was cooking for all of them without a refrigerator. Then we finally had a “break” going to the game park, but David was sick the whole time and was working 6-7 hours a day. Then we finally moved into our new house with electricity and clean water! After the move we both got very sick for several months and we now realize that must have been our bodies telling us again that enough is enough! Soon after, David’s grandpa’s health declined and he then passed away, so David went back to the states for two weeks to be with family during the difficult time. While he was gone, I got sick again from the stress of being alone here, and then Joel got malaria. After that David finally came back home and got tonsillitis. And now my uncle just got diagnosed with cancer and is struggling for his life.
There’s our year in a nutshell. Not to mention, people coming to us during this time with requests of loans to feed their families, and mothers needing money to pay for their severely malnourished child’s medical bill, and church members coming to ask for help with their child’s school bill, and a constant bombardment of requests for us to help them.
This is just this past year. All along our journey of 2 ½ years of mission work we have dealt with a lot of change and a lot of stress that has just been building up over time. Our breaks have been for language school and always trying to increase awareness of our projects, which really isn’t a break at all.
But we realize something we never saw before: we are burned out. No wonder we feel so compassionless, so dissatisfied with our work, so discouraged, and broken. Because when you live like this, your re-charge time is eaten up by knocks at the door, and the time you have with your spouse is always at a cost of that or more sleep, and the time you take with God can be missed or shortened because of a crying baby or running out of gas for the stove while trying to make breakfast. There is always something demanding our attention it seems.
So, what is it that I wish I knew before going into foreign missions? I wish I knew that it is a common thing for missionaries to burn out. One blog I have been reading said that, “The statistics are scary: 80% of missionaries burn out and don’t finish their term. 46% of missionaries have been diagnosed with a psychological issues, and of those 87% are diagnosed with depression.” I wish I knew this so we could have been building in real breaks and boundaries all this time. I wish we could have realized, the front lines that mission work is, that it’s common to have casualties and wounds and side effects of the war, so to speak.
So now you know… we are burned out, spent, and adrenaline fatigued. We need a break. A real break without presentations or meetings to go to or prepare. A time to restore back to health and recover from being on the front lines of working for God. I know you never would have known if we never told you so we wanted to make our needs clear. We don’t have the funds to do this and we feel selfish for asking for a vacation, but if we don’t we know we won’t last much longer in overseas service.
During this time we ask for your prayers and your support whether it be monetary or emotional. We love all of you and know we are safe to say these things because you care for us and you want to see the work move forward just like we do. Thank you for always being there for us.