A little breathing room

One of the harder aspects of relocating from a missionary field to our hometown has been the loss of collegiality.

We miss the friends we’d made, the whole-life ministry we’d developed, and the daily contact with others working on the Great Commission.  Tracy enjoys her medical colleagues at the emergency room, but she still misses the other aspect. I work from home, separated from my colleagues by computer screens, 8,000 miles and six time zones; when the clocks fall back next week, it’ll become seven hours.

So it has been very good and gratifying this week to be included in so many events at Browncroft Community Church’s annual missions celebration.  To meet with other missionaries and those who support such work through prayer, gifts, encouragement, or interest.  To hear their stories, share our own, and explore questions.  To reconnect with old friends and get to know new ones.

There are still a number of events that I want to write on (so many that I’ve been too busy to write that “brief flurry of posts” I’d anticipated for this week), but in some ways, my favorite one was a private retreat the church arranged for all of us missionaries.  Talking about our work is an important and good part of our ministries, but it can also get overwhelming—sharing largely the same information and stories repeatedly for different audiences, hurrying from one presentation to another, trying to be real and give thorough answers while knowing that some things are hard to convey without causing misunderstandings, and so forth.

Even worse, that’s when we’re in “friendly territory.” Serving in other cultures and countries also means avoiding saying or doing anything that will reflect badly, damage one’s ability to build relationships or speak about our faith, or even endanger visas and ministries.  For people involved with proclaiming the word of God, we often wind up holding an awful lot in.  There are enough “things missionaries wish they could tell you” articles online to illustrate that this is a common stressor.

“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” — Mark 6:31 (ESV)

So the church’s decision to arrange an event for the visiting missionaries to gather privately was a tremendous blessing.  A local woman—selected because she’s not otherwise involved in their missions programs or committees and because she has experience living in a foreign country—opened her home, prepared us a meal, and facilitated a group discussion.  Each person was given time to share whatever they wanted with no fear of being misunderstood, judged, or penalized.  We listened, shared, affirmed, and prayed together.

It was a time to let ourselves breathe freely and easily, together with others who understand and empathize, and it was one of the greatest gifts those organizing this week’s events could have given us.

Thanks be to God and to those He used to set this up.

Please pray:

  • for the missionaries facing transitions to discern God’s leading wisely and faithfully.
  • for those needing visas to receive them soon.
  • for the work performed by these missionaries to continue well in their absence, giving local workers and leaders opportunities to grow into larger roles.
  • for their marriages and families and other relationships to remain strong and healthy, a blessing to them and to others.
  • for young and old to share ideas and energy and experience to the benefit of all.
  • for the missions committee members and helpers of Browncroft Community Church to receive well-earned rest and satisfaction in the days following this week-long celebration, and for the church to be strengthened in all its work.
  • for each of the ministries and organizations represented this week, and for all the people and areas being served by them.
  • for more people to explore God’s will for their own involvement in His work, whatever and wherever that might be.
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