Friday, December 19, 2014

People's Assumptions

It takes a long time to live through them - the things people have believed.

My daughter has a bowel condition.  I won't bother to explain it as most of you don't want to know!  The thing is, her doctor gave her medicine for it with this comment:  "It will take taking this medicine for as long as you have had this condition for it to heal."  For her, that is seven years.  She has two more to go.  Finally, five years into taking the medicine, we are beginning to see signs that it is starting to get better.  Her doctor is happy, but warns that we should not stop yet, but keep on with the treatment.

I was thinking of that today as the remnants of tears are still in my eyes from yesterday.  It may take as long to live through some of this as it has lasted.  I hope not.  But I am afraid it will.

I've had years of Dick talking to people about how bad I am.  Because of Dick's position within the mission, people believe him.  People who have lived near Dick know that there is something off with him, especially when it comes to relating to women, but those who have only seen Dick at occasional meetings, or pastors who may or may not have ever seen him for more than an hour once - they don't know that.  So his word's carry weight.  Then there is Harry.  Harry's words have a lot of weight because he holds a position higher than Dick.  Harry comes across as a more normal, nicer guy than Dick.  But he has never really known us or spent time with us.  He's only seen us a day or two a year, and gets his information from Dick, and lends his weight to it.  Then there is Tom.  Tom is older, with experience, so is looked up to.  Yet Tom is a man who says in any situation what is convenient for him to say.  He is also a man who benefits from us leaving as he then inherited a position, and time has shown in a few places that Tom is a man who likes a title and power.  There is a serious question about Tom's motives in what he has done.  (Also telling that 50% of the remaining team is saying they are leaving now that Tom has taken charge.  They can not work under his top down leadership style.)

We are leaving, and both of us will be incredibly delighted to see the end of Tom, Dick, and Harry.  But the after effects linger.  What they have said about us.  We are dealing now with our home church and their view of us largely based on what Dick and Harry have said.  I'm tired of dealing with their lies regurgitated, their twisted views popping up again....  but I am beginning to think it will be similar to my daughter's bowel problems - as long as it took to be a problem, it will take that long to heal.

I got a letter recently from them scolding me for not doing the counseling that Harry required.  It absolutely floored me since we have been doing a lot towards healing - professional debriefing/counseling, working with mentors and coaches, accountability partners.  My husband had recently visited our home church and came back with the news that they were very happy with us and very supportive.  Then this letter.  Addressed only to me, asking only me why I am not getting the counseling that Harry is asking me to.  Puzzling.  To be honest, it had me in tears - right in the middle of my daughter's birthday party - and up all night.  For the next night, more nightmares of betrayals and bullies.

We left it, unsure how to answer it, and then we were plunged into more tragedy on our field.  sorting through that.....

And then another letter, this time an e-mail, asking why I am not getting counseling and stating, "I understand, Ellie, that you prefer not to do the counseling."

There are times I just stop... just stop and want to scream, want to cry, feel tempted to use some of my more creative curses I've learned from the elderly, or want to just take off running, running, never to hear from this nonsense again!  But mostly to scream... through the tears.

This is echoes of Dick and Harry.  This is people listening to them, and not to me.  It could not be farther from the truth.  For ten years, I have been fighting FOR counseling.  Asking for it, searching for it.  For five years, I have been begging for counseling after a trauma, for my husband, my self, my daughter.  I've spent countless hours searching, talking to people.  I set up most of the appointments we have been to.  The big problem is that it is killingly expensive.  We simply do not have that type of money.  I took extra work so we could afford some of it, but that exhausts me to work 5-6 days a week on top of ministry and family.

I've worked over a year with a personal coach who agreed to work for free.  My home church seems to be unhappy with that, but never communicated to me that.  They just talked to Dick and Harry and decided that I am opposed to counseling!

Seriously, when this is all over, I'm going to need counseling to recover from the spiritual abuse we've been under as well as the trauma and critical incident!

My husband says, "Just quietly live who you are, and they will see you eventually for who you are.  People who know you love you and value you and respect you.  You are sought after for your ability to work in conflict peacefully and to come alongside of people well."  I know he is right, but it is hard.  I begin to think it is like my daughter's bowels - it will take as long as it has been a problem for people to change that view they have developed.

I just don't know if I have the strength to keep on in the face of this all.

We were at a retirement party for another organization (which had asked us to join them years ago, but we stayed where we were.), and listened to the hearts of those saying good bye to a loved leader.  My husband and I almost began to cry...  this was what a healthy organization looks like.  He leaned over to me and said, "we need to find new friends - ones like these!"  We are on our way there, but it is a long journey still, and we deal with the remnants of Dick's odd legacy and his apparent desire to discredit me to my husband, my church, and my mission.

I have never understood him.  Why?  Why does a man seem to attempt to separate a man and his wife, and speak such evil about a woman to her husband for so long?  It is baffling to me, and the very fact of not understanding it leaves me nervous - what if we meet another person like this....?  If I can't pick up the why of this one, will I pick up warning signs of another person so twisted?  It leaves me nervous.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Had Seen Castles

One day, years ago, I began processing my life here because there was no one to listen and because my mission did not bother to do debriefing after a traumatic experience.  It wasn't the best, but it was better than silence which had been what was my lot before that.  I may do some more of that again, just to process thoughts, just to go over some things I have gone over once before with a friend.  Right now, I lack a friend involved enough in my life where I am to listen, and to listen without being too close to me.  The debriefing retreat we went to opened doors, and did not close them well, so I am left with thoughts and no ear to hear them.

Then we began to read a book in English class that I read last year.  "I Had Seen Castles".  It is a good book.  It is about a boy who goes to war, and can never come back.  He has changed.  He tried even to remember what it was before the day hit that was began, but he can not even remember.  He can not remember who he was.  He is no longer that person, and that person is so distant that he does not know him.

I feel like that.

Not one, but multiple traumas, some large, some minor, have been on my path.  Each has changed me.  In the same way that he can never come back, I also can never come home.  There is no going back for me.  Where I was is no more, communities that I belonged to no longer exist.  I can be here, but I am never all here.

Even my son read the book and said, "That is my favorite book.  It made my life make sense."  Now my second son is reading it, and he brought it home to me and told me I need to read this book too since it talks about our life.

We face trauma in our extended communities as missionaries so often, and yet we are surrounded with people who have no understanding of the traumas or misconceptions about how it affects us.  We've been told, "but they were with a different group, not yours", as if that means we should not be so affected when people are killed.  Unlike the States where your church is your church, and another church is another group, over there, we are a group together.  When trauma hits, it hits us all.

Hard to communicate to people who just think that if we just changed our focus and worked somewhere else that we wouldn't be affected.  That we just need to get away from it.  We can't.  Even if we moved to the South Pole to study penguins, our hearts would be forever tied up over there.  We grew up there, were born there, have deep connections with people working there, and the fabric of who we are is intertwined with theirs.

There is no getting away from it.  What we need is help to cope in it.

And we just found out that the home based group that we work with didn't even bother to phone  one of our coworkers whose brother narrowly escaped death in a situation where others were killed.  They didn't even bother to phone.  It brings back pain.  The pain of a two hour wait when this same man phoned many others before bothering to phone me that my husband was in a critical incident.  It brings anger.  This is no way to treat people.  Thankfully, we stepped in and phoned our coworker, told them the news, listened, comforted.  We got their community involved around them and coached the community on how to express care.  But the leadership did nothing.  And we know the pain that that will inflict on their hearts, and we are angry.

"I Had Seen Castles".  What we have been through ultimately changes us.  We may never fit in again where we left, but we have joined a new community... of those who have seen.  Because of what we have seen, we search for a city whose builder and maker is God.  There we will fit in, and there our hearts will heal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Changes Ahead

The good news took longer that we expected to announce, and it is not quite ready to be announced yet, but it is coming.  We've spend the last year praying about the future, talking with trusted friends, advisers, and a few debriefing counselors.  To a man, they have said the same thing.  "You need to look for a different group to work with."

We struggled with that at first.  Will people think that we are running away?  We struggled with grief.  We grew up in this organization since early teens.  How can we leave family?  But it became more and more clear that we had to leave.

We didn't know what to do.  What would we do?  It wasn't that we lacked job offers.  In fact, it was almost the opposite - we had so many groups and organizations offering us jobs that it became confusing.  We couldn't figure out what to decide.  We committed not to deciding until we got some good debriefing - obviously from someone outside our organization since our organization hadn't a clue that debriefing is even necessary.  So we waited.  At times that was hard to do since we had some good offers on the table.  But we waited.

Later in the fall, we took a few days to be away and just think.  What is our bottom line?  What is it that we see ourselves having a passion to be involved in?  What other things are we also interested in?  We narrowed it down to two main passions.  We looked at our job offers and set down those that didn't line up with our passion that God gave us.  There was a nice one in a nice area, but it was a job anyone could do; not one with my husband's specialized skills and passion.  We then settled on one idea and began to research it.

We actually thought that perhaps we could stay with our group in a different home office in a different country and do this work, so we were happy.  As time went on, two things happened simultaneously.  First, we received two offers that lined up with what we were going to do.  At the same time, we began to realize that it wouldn't be wise to continue with our group.  We needed two things - a group to work with and a good sending agency.  Both approached us.  Both asked us to join.  We shared our passion and dream with both, and they are excited.  At the same time, a church contacted us and are committed to the work that we are going to and very interested in helping and partnering with us.

Everything is falling into line, and we are excited.  I can not yet say what we are doing or where we are going, but I will be able to say soon enough.  We are excited about the new organization (even though we have not formally joined) because we have heard good about them from people we trust and because we can see from how they operate that they are very different from our current one.  They believe in member care.  It is true, my husband said, that we do not yet know how well they put it into practice, but at least they have policies and plans and people doing it.  Our current organization doesn't even have a member care person, not in the country we are being sent from - perhaps other sending countries do, but ours doesn't.  So we are excited about the future, about working with an organization who understands that missionaries are people, and we will get tired, hurt, or worn out.  Who understand that as we go through crisis and watch our friends be killed, we will be wounded and need to recover.  So we look forward to the future.

This will involve a move, but the move will be an easy one.  We are going to go to a place that is remotely familiar, and we are looking forward to it.  We do not go under pressure, but when we are happy for it, which will likely be at the end of the school year, although the possibility of staying where we are for one more year has been offered to us as well.  We will be praying about that.

We had a talk with some people in our current organization recently to break the news to them.  We have told them that we are moving on, what work we will currently be doing, but we  have not told them who we have been asked to join as our new sending organization.  It is not a done deal yet, so we will not say.  It was an interesting conversation with  "Dick" and "Harry" each separately.  Dick asked if you are alone, but must have thought my husband was alone, and not that we were alone because then he proceeded to speak badly of me and say that he doesn't want me back anyway.  This was very interesting to us because he had publicly apologized for speaking evil of me to my husband and said he would never do that again.  Yet here he was.  We thought back to all the damage he has caused doing this and we were sad.  We didn't answer him.  We decided together that at this point there was no point in it.  We have decided to move on, we move on together, and we can not change them, so we will not fight them.  We will move on with dignity.  My husband wrapped his arms around me and told me later that it doesn't matter what they think.  What he thinks of me is what matters, and he chose me.  Our meeting later with Harry went about the same.  Harry did apologize just to my husband, "if the way we did this caused you pain".  Got to love those apologies beginning with an "if"!  We thanked him, and moved on.  We did not yet tell Harry that we are moving sending agencies.  We told him only about the new job, and we will tell him later about our new organization.

So there is sadness, and more recently there is pain at the way they speak, but there is a happiness, too.  There is a certain sense of freedom to be away from a very odd situation.  It was a situation where a mission team leader seemed to be wanting to divide husband and wife.  This was even the comment of another team member watching this unfold over the years.  Then into that came trauma and a total lack of care during and after the trauma, and a slow disintegration of our ability to function.  Away from this leader, we have been healing.  Even my youngest children have been saying, "Now that Daddy is not working in that place, he is nice.  He never even gets upset anymore."  Away from the close workings with Tom, Dick, and Harry, we've seen more how that leadership was not following godly principles.  Stepping out of that enabled us to gain perspective.  We move on wiser, wounded, but healing, and we move on together.

We have some months of walking through a transition.  I have some days of working through rejection again at "Dick" and "Harry"'s words.  We will get there.  And growing in us is an excitement.  What we are going to do is what we dreamed of doing in our last organization, but were never given the freedom to do.  Who we are going to be with is people who have known us since our early teens as well.  What we are setting out to do is impossible.  We know that.  but what we have just done was impossible, and God did it, so we laugh at the impossibility of it and set out with excitement to see God do it again.  We head out wiser.  More aware of the effects of certain mistakes and more careful of how we lay the ground work.  But our hearts are free.  Whatever we face, we will do it together, we will do it with the help and support of others, and we will go on.

God is not finished with us yet.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Upcoming Good News.....

Been silent for awhile, but not dead...

Good news is coming soon.  Good news is coming soon...  I waited up half the night to hear the news, and it is good, but I am too tired to get my thoughts together.

But change is coming, and it is good, and we will survive.

We are excited.  Relieved.  And ready to sit down and cry in sheer relief.

I'll tell ya'll later. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Still Alive

I'm still here.  Alive.  Life has been so busy.  I've had in-laws visiting for thee months.  Yes, three months.  In a culture where you can not say no or ask for how long, when in-laws decide to visit, they come.  They just do, and they stay as long as they like.  Thankfully, they are leaving this week, and it seems like no more will arrive.  It's been hard on me, hard on the kids... in the middle of all this, to be in an entertaining mode.

I went back to work today, and it was a relief to get away from in-laws.

So, news.  We did end up going to a debreifing retreat.  How did it go?  Well, good, and disappointing.  I was rather disappointed to find how much time they took teaching seminars and how little doing actual debreifing.  In that way, it was a partial waste of money because we really expected more debreifing and didn't get it.  The disappointment of that actually made me cry a few times.  So would I recommend it?  Yes and no.  There was value in it, but it was not what they advertised and that was crushingly disappointing.  Yet people donated so much so we could go, so how do I answer their questions about it?  I don't know.

It is so complicated to deal with what is going on.  There are stress issues, there are trauma issues, there are marriage issues, there are cross cultural issues, and there are spiritual issues.  Being married to a first generation believer is also at times hard.  There is, in his culture, no template for forgiveness. I realized that as we sat through some sessions and I listened to him talk. There just is no template for it.  We struggle with forgiveness, and we have a template for it, a cultural support for it, and generations of people struggling  through it and trying to teach us how. Now imagine for one minute that you grew up in a culture where there was no forgiveness.  None.  In fact, forgiving someone was seen as a weakness, an act of cowardice.  How would you learn?  Every single thing that I have ever done still exists; not, I think, because he wants it to or wants to hold it against me, but simply because he has no idea how to even begin to put things down, to forgive and go on.  I am making that a point of serious prayer at this moment.

Before you might say, "well, that is focusing on his faults", I will say that I really struggled with forgiveness in my life.  No, I didn't struggle with it, I battled with it.  An all out fight.  But God stepped in one day in a very sneaky way.  I've learned that God can be sneaky - He will talk to you about a simple thing and let you think it is all about this, and then He will land that comment that cuts right through you heart and gets to the core.  I've learned to watch out for Him now!  God won that battle with me late, late one night out on a dock.  What I found that surprised my socks off was not how wonderful it felt to forgive, but how forgiven I felt when I forgave.  It was as if once I discovered the depths of God's forgiveness that extended to those who had abused me, that I learned the depths of God's forgiveness for me - for I had abused God's law, too.  It was the single most freeing moment of my life.

I want that for my husband.  To know forgiveness.  To know the freedom of a completely clean conscience based not on works or effort, but on the absolutely shameless, complete forgiveness of Christ.

I wonder as I hear him talk about lists of wrongs if he has ever experienced that.  I know, as a believer, it belongs to him, but it can be a completely different thing to actually experience it.

Beyond that, we go on.  We are in a wait mode.  We still struggle with the odd situation we are in.   I wish there was someone who could sit down with me for about three days and listen and help me process things, but there isn't right now.  It is odd to be in a temporary mode again after almost ten years.  We came here temporarily, but it turned out long term, and now we are watching to see which way the wind blows.  That is odd to be in that situation again.  Odd, but also exciting.

Keep praying.  I still have hope.  I have hope.  I have seen good happen.  I have seen more struggles.  But I rest quiet in a God who sings over me a song of delight.  I rest there.  I realized that my trust has been badly shaken after all this awful way in which we were handled by our organization.  I had no ability to trust any more, and then even felt guilty for that lack of capacity.  Then quietly God said to me, "forget about trusting right now, just rest back on Me."  That, strangely, I could do.  I am quietly resting.  Letting God carry it all right now.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

One Small Glimmer of Hope

Living under this is hard.  Awkward.  Awful.  Bewildering.  Confusing.  Depressing.   (ha, I could likely finish the alphabet with descriptions!)  It is just hard. We've got to heal from year of intense stress and several, several traumas at the same time as healing from an awful shock/betrayal of our immediate leadership.  Besides healing from all that, we have to dance the tune our leadership who barely knows us wants us to dance - getting help they think we need although they never sat down with us ever to listen to what we need.

It is just a lot to deal with.  We've found some paths through it perhaps.  We're trying.  But we have to report every two weeks to "Harry" that we have done what he wants us to do, and even that communication brings about two nights of troubled sleep.  His letters verge on threats and bullying.  We've been tense and nervous with him hanging over us.

But we had to connect with our home church.  Hard to get a read on what they were thinking... hard because we've been through a pastor switch and are dealing with someone we don't know.  Hard because Harry is telling us that they are behind the threats and if we do this or that or say this or that they will cut our support.  So we've been tense.  Hard for us to believe that people who have known us for 17 years would be that quick to dump us without ever hearing our side of the story.  But Harry said it was that way..... so we were on edge....

Finally, this last week, our old pastor, thankfully still in the church phoned.  And he didn't sound threatening and condemning.  He asked how we were, and didn't tell us, "I don't believe you!" like Harry did.  He agreed with our choice to get debriefing, something Harry reluctantly agreed to "allow", but told us it was not the help we needed, and we HAD to do the help HE thought we needed.  Our home church pastor thought it was a good thing and supported it.  We invited him to come, please, and visit us.  He's a wise man, and intuitive man, and he will see us and know how we are.  He likely will.

Please pray.  Pray that he comes, and that he meets Harry and Tom, too, and sees and hears and senses what is going on, seeing this leadership for what it is, seeing how they write to and about us, seeing us.  Pray that he comes and he supports us and defends us and gets us some breathing room from those attempting to bully us.

But after we talked to him, he sent us a letter.  He said that it seems that we are operating out of fear, and to remember even though a team has placed expectations on us, we answer only to One.  (Ah, if only he would tell Harry that... I think Harry thinks he has a direct line to God's will for our lives....).  But what a relief...  Because we are.  We are operating out of fear.  Fear of all these threats, of the constant working behind our backs, of hidden communication, and bullying, gag orders, and such like.  In between dealing with that, we are attempting to get the help we need - debriefing, rest, trauma counseling, etc.

If only we had Tom, Dick, and Harry off our backs....  I think I would sit down and cry in sheer relief!

We will.  One day.  But we are trying to take a year sabbatical, and do it without losing our support base, and that means, sadly, that we have to dance to their tune until time proves our character and their actions.

We believe both will be shown in the light soon.

Keep praying.  We're in a very difficult place, but doing better than ever before, even to be this much out of underneath that leadership.  We're looking for new missions to serve with (we have many offers!), but want to take time to rest and heal before we really begin to look.  As we look, we are most concerned with a few questions:
1. How good is their member care?
2. Do they have experience in very difficult situations and do they have an idea of how to respond after trauma?

Because we will continue, and unless there is some wonderful, surprising change, we are still going to be facing traumatic events and deaths regularly, and we need someone to have coffee with us and let us talk it out.... not ignore us and our pain and then blame us when we begin to show signs of stress.

If you feel like commenting, how does your mission do?  Would you recommend it?  Questions I have now as someone with experience are very different than the questions I had as a young "newbie".  One day I may write my questions down so if you are new and looking for a mission to serve with, you know what to be asking and warning signs to be looking for.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Job's Friends

We've been studying Job.  It's been hard for us to sit in church under our pastor.  He knew about what was going to happen for months and hid it from us.  We have no trust in him now.  So it is hard to sit under him.  Life is so confusing now about that.

But we have been studying Job.  And I trust that God is able to speak through His word, so often on a Sunday, I sit simply reading and rereading Job. Reading, trying to make sense of what each man is saying, what they believe about God. how they speak for Him.

Today, I came to the end.  Jobs friends all speak.  Job gets pretty ticked off.  I like the guy.  I mean there are just sometimes that you do know what your heart is....  and if your heart was wrong, you know God would talk to you about it since you are listening, wanting to know.  Job was a man who loved God.  He had a relationship with Him, and he knew it.  He also knew that he had done nothing wrong.  I don't think when Job says this that he states that he never sinned, but simply that he was not continuing in sin despite correction. Simply that he had not turned aside from seeking God and seeking to follow Him.  That there was nothing he was hiding and refusing to ask forgiveness for.

Yet everyone judged him based on outward appearances.  Everyone.  His wife, his friends, his servants, the town.  He had no one to stand with him.  It was only his word against the obvious, and no one was listening to him anyway.

I felt for the poor man.

Different friends told him again and again that he was a sinner.  Look, it is obvious.  You are clearly messed up, and even worse, you are refusing to admit your sin.  God should squish you like a bug.

Seems I've heard the same thing from missions leaders and pastors.

God was silent.  Funny, we seem to know what that is like, too.  He was silent.  He let the raging of men go on; He let idiots speak for Him.  He answered them all not one word.  He let poor Job wiggle and squirm in the agony of his suffering and did nothing.

Seemed like He wasn't even paying attention.

But He was.

To every word.

And in the end, He speaks.  To Job.  He tells Job who He is.  He shows him His wisdom.  He never speaks to the suffering or to the "answers" Job's friends give.  He speaks to Job and tells Job of His wisdom, His ownership, His design of the world and His absolute domination.  Job is silent.  He regrets speaking.  And God keeps on.  Finally, Job speaks again.  He marvels at God and remembers that all He does is right.  And He rests in moving from a place of hearing about God to seeing Him.  And he is silent, but a peaceful silence.

Then God speaks again.

He speaks to those who crushed Job's spirit when they should have been comforters.  To those who blamed Job when they should have been encouragers.  I was interested to see that He never once corrects them for how they treated Job.  He didn't.  Go read it yourself if you have doubts.  I had expected He would.  I wanted Him to.  Uh, uh, He just doesn't.  Instead He judges how they spoke about Him.  About His character.

It seems that how people treat God is more important that how they treat others.

Perhaps it is because all falls into place if you have a proper understanding of God.  Perhaps.  I am only guessing.

But God corrects them for their wrong speech about Him.  Then, He does something which makes my bruised heart smile.  He tells them that in order for Him to accept them, they have to take an offering and go to Job and ask him to pray for them.

I have to admit that I giggled.

God never corrects them for speaking evil of His servant Job, who even God does not speak evil of.... but He sure makes it clear to them who had a relationship with Him.  They eat humble pie, and without a word, God defends His own.

But God knew more.

As fun as it is to imagine what the three friends went through to have to ask Job to pray for them and sacrifice on their behalf, and as fun as it is to imagine the justification Job would have felt at God's words and the humbleness of his formerly judgmental friends in front of him, God was aiming at something else, as well.

He was aiming at relationships.

God knew what we all know, but at times try to ignore.  That we function best with whole relationships.  That true, deep hurt can cause deep pain, and deep pain can cause wounds.  Wounds can fester and become infected.  And that infection is deadly.  God placed Job in a position where he could chose forgiveness or refuse it.  And Job chose to forgive.

Interestingly, it was when Job chose to bless with forgiveness
 instead of holding onto a justified complaint that God blessed Job.

A lot for us to think about.  I am not sure that if Job sat on that ash heap covered in sores with a silent God and had told his friends that he forgave them their wrong words and would offer a sacrifice for them that it would have any effect.  Some people push forgiveness as a thing which has to be done at the first possible opportunity.  Yet what I see here if forgiveness at the right time.  When God speaks.  When it was time.

I know in my life, there will be a time when forgiveness is asked of me - if not by people, by God for people.  God has been clear that this time will come.  The time will come, and I have asked God to prepare me for that time.  It may be that those who exalt themselves with wisdom now will be humbled and ask for that forgiveness.  It may not be.  What they do or do not do will have little bearing on what God will ask of me. In time, there will be discussions of forgiveness.  I have committed to God that when the time comes, I will forgive.  In His strength.

So when discussions come up about forgiveness, I listen.  This is not easy, and I will need all the help I can get.  

Thankfully, God is a God who leads gently, and when it is time, He will tell me.

I hope I have the strength of Job to pray for forgiveness for my accusers.  I don't have it today.  But small steps at a time.  Today, I prayed for wisdom for our accusers.  It is a small step.

One small step at a time.

Sometimes, You Give In

I wish I could snap my fingers and be out of this situation.  It is so confusing and odd that we hardly know what is going on.  We're dealing with leaders in ministry who have been talking and planning behind our back for months, and who are now controlling our lives without ever sitting down with us and listening.  It is just so odd.

As an American, the thoughts of "no taxation without representation" come to mind and I giggle at the thought of a Boston Tea Party.  But this is serious, so no, we will not be soaking the harbor with the headquarter's tea or paperwork.  Yet the sentiment is there.  Is it right to treat adults in this fashion and to adamantly insist on your opinion without ever listening to them?

The answers may be no.  The situation may call for the emotions of the wild Boston Tea Party.

But what does God want?  That is the quiet answer we seek.

 Just because God is not IN something does not mean He is not using it in our lives.  We do not, for a moment, believe that the situation that we are in is God's will for how people should be treated.  We do, however, believe we are in God's will in the situation, and that He is using this situation in our lives for good and He will bring good out of it.  So the question is not so much is this right, but what does God want in the situation?

I told a friend today that we feel backed into a corner.  That there are only two options for us right now with a harsh, bull-nosed leadership who refuse to listen.  We can fight or we can give in.  We don't believe fighting is the right step at this moment.

(We may believe there will come a time to fight this type of control/authoritarian system, but that time is not now.  If we ever do fight, it will only be when that fight is not about defending ourselves, but when we have been justified, and it will be about how the system injures the wounded.)

That means the only step is giving in.  That is what I told my friend today. We can give in and dance to their tune.  It is not the direction of healing that those who know us and have mentored us think is the best one, but it may be what we need to do for a season to appease those who demand without listening or seeing.  I told my friend, though, that while we may give in, we only give in to a point.  We can give in and do the type of counseling that they request, but we will not give in to the point that we think what they think.  We will not give in to the point that we accept their evaluation of us as our identity.  I will not give in to the point that I accept a man who barely knows me sitting there and calling me "damaged".  There are limits.

I have been learning over the years not to take the words of the accuser, but listen to the words of the Redeemer.  To hear what He says about me.  I am His.  Redeemed. Healed. Made New.  Loved.  And even if the words of the accuser come from the lips of the director of a mission, I will not listen.

I've just been given more chance to practice.

My friend also said not to let people who do not know me create my identity, but to be careful to listen to those who do know me and allow them the opportunity to talk.  I'm working on that.

But my identity is defined by Christ, and no one else.

So we go on, seeking God's wisdom in a very awkward situation.  Waiting.  It is clear we will not stay with this mission, but it is also clear that we can not leave well at this precise time, so we are in an in-between time, neither here nor here.  In the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Waiting for the Tumble Cycle to Stop

Hi.  Still here.  Still doing well, interestingly, despite the circumstances.  Busy.  Very busy.  My oldest graduated.  I'm not ready for this.  Not ready to let him leave.  He's ready.  Prepared.  Trained.  Well respected, hard worker, gets along with people.  Won all sorts of awards and recommendations of his teachers for his character.  Loved by his peers.  Ready.  We've done a good job with him.  He's ready.  I'm just not.  I love this kid.  He's the one who made me a mom.  Love him to bits.  He's my friend besides being my son.  We talk.  We think things over.  We observe the world together and learn from it.  We laugh.  We just like each other.  Now he is leaving.  And my heart will break.  I'm not ready for this.

My next son has graduated from that stage where I think all children should be given away.  :)  That awful age from 14-15.  Now he's turning into an enjoyable person again.  We talk.  We laugh.  We enjoy each other.  I plan to thoroughly enjoy his next two years!  The third one - well, he's entering those awful years.  I plan on holding my breath, sticking to my guns, and reminding myself that this too will end.  We will survive.

We're doing well.  Except when our mission fusses.  They are not happy that we want to go to debriefing.  They say, "well, that might be nice, but it is not what we want for you and will not give you the help we think you need."  We feel like sticking out tongues out at them and blowing a raspberry.  They don't know us.  They don't even live near us.  They are so ignorant on what people need that they let people go through some awful crisises and never even asked afterwards if they are doing ok or if they would like to talk.  I will not let such people tell me what they think we need.

They want me to get help, psych help, to learn how to talk to people without offending them.  Because they say, "your words produce an emotional response in people."  Ok.  So?  Are emotions inherently bad?  I wrote many things that the mission used precisely because they were emotional and caught people's attention.  But if I produce an emotion they don't like.... then I need psychiatric help?  Or how about they talk to people I work with, people I have worked with now for almost ten years.  People who would tell them that one reason they like me is that I have the ability to get along with anyone, with any team, to coperate well.  People who would tell them that they call me in to be with difficult patients or families because I have a way of comforting and calming down a situation and being tactful.  Or call in the parents of the boy I work with who want me full time because "when she works, he comes home with a smile on his face!"  Or another school who is trying (unsuccessfully) to recruit me for a new student they have.  Why?  "Because you are so good with dealing with people!"  I do know how to talk to people without offending them and do not need psych help.

But they control our money for now.  And they are threatening us with it.  Sigh.

So for now, we have to dance to their tune to a degree.  It is sad.  We deal with threats and bullying.  That is basically what it is.  It is the words the counselor used to describe it when he saw their letters.  He advised us that we get out and do it quickly!  But he acknowledged that it is complicated to do until the finances are settled.  He shook his head and said that this is abuse, and it deeply upset him.

However, for now, they want regular letters.  What help we are getting, what struggles we are having, what challenges there are, names of counselors and when we talked to them, etc.  So we write.  I did not live my entire life among "Christianeze" not to know what they want to hear.  For me, it is a step back.... back to the dishonestly of a "perfect" life, but we do it under temporary duress.  I don't tell them that our biggest struggle is dealing with the threats and pushing from those in authority over us.  I don't tell them that we are doing fine until he recieve one of their scolding letters again.  I don't tell them that we can not sleep for two nights from the stress of those letters.  I do not tell them what it is like to have a mission who did not care for you during or after a crisis now object to your attempts to get help to recover.  To tell you that we don't think your symptoms have anything to do with undealt with stress, but are personal sin problems.  We are reading Job recently, and it strikes me that they are much like Job's comforters.  "All this is because of your sin which you refuse to deal with."  I'm not saying that we are sinless.  I'm not saying that Satan is out to test us or that God has something to prove with us.  I'm just saying that when you don't deal with sever wounds from severe trauma, you can end up with wounded people.  And wounded people hurt people. Not because they want to.  Not because they are inherently evil. Because they are wounded.

We are called to bind wounds, not kick the wounded.

So I write them nice letters now.  Things they want to hear.  While we wait, pray, and wait some more.  God is working.  Change is coming.  But we are not going to change ahead of God's leading.  We will take our time and pray and search.  In the meantime, we have to dance their tune.

Yet Job was proved right one day, and his "comforters" silenced.  Perhaps God will one day raise our heads here on earth, be our glory and show His favor on us here in the presence of those who have spoken evil of us.  Perhaps He won't.  But He knows our hearts that are before Him.  And we will continue to believe Him.  He has not thrown us away.  He has not judged us without compassion.  He is not in the actions of some of His people.  So we hold on to Him right now and trust.

Does that mean I am close to God now?  Not sure.  I hold on to Him.  With confusion.  But even in that confusion, I know He is the only stable thing.  So I hold on.  I let Him see my questions and my pain.  I don't demand answers now.  I don't know if I could even handle them at this moment.  All of this is so confusing, so bewildering.  We've had people that were our close friends, people whose houses we could walk into without knocking for ten years turn their back on us, suddenly never phone, never say hi, nothing.  It's bewildering.  My trust, which was always fragile, is numbed.  I stand puzzled in front of God.  How and why can His people be behind such pain and such harshness with us?  How can people turn their backs when we are near as if they never saw us?  I'm numb with a bewildering confusion.  I have nothing to trust.  People I trusted with all my heart disappeared overnight and became my accusers.  Others who were solid friends just stopped being there.  With no explanation.  People I would have sworn up two sides of Sunday would always be there.  They're not. I don't even have the emotional energy to process it all.

But I know God is good.  I know His way is right. And I know the end of the story.  I know that with a certain sureness. So I wait in quietness.  I've given up trying to battle against what happens.  I rest my life into the arms of a God I know, but whose path I can not understand.  I am more silent.  I think less.  I simply am.  This too will end, and God will be there in the end.  He will one day make all things right.  Today is not that day.  Today calls for a simple quietness and a trust.  I can't stop trusting God; what would I have then?  Nothing.  So I trust, out of habit, out of quiet desperation, out of the quiet knowledge that He still is, and that He has been there through awful things before.

And, as my husband says, interesting things are happening, and as we step more and more out of the way and don't fight, more and more God will bring to light the behaviors of a few people, and they will be seen for who they really are.  Not all battles are ours to fight.  So we rest in the middle of the storm, trust God, and wait it out.

But we are here.  We are doing well.  We are just on the "tumble" setting in the dryer, and I do not know how long the cycle is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Battling the Waves

We're back.  We went away for a week for a retreat.  No agenda, no pressure, no to-do's, no nothing.  someone to listen when we wanted, and time to rest. 

It was good.  Now home to a busy time - end of school, family visits, etc.

But interesting to hear the people leading the retreat say, "Oh, yes, we know your mission.... known it for years.... they don't take care of their people... we already have seen their wounded here..."

And interesting to hear that word again.  Spiritual abuse. Used to describe what we've been through with the threats and control.

On the up side, I challenged the waves and went on a solo kayak trip for three hours out into the deep out to a point, battling a strong headwing and waves that broke over my kayak, and returned.  Blisters cover my hands where I forgot to remove my wedding ring fist and on my thumbs, but they were well-earned blisters, and I am proud of them.  I kayaked because I had read a story of six men who died there trying to rescue a ship.  Six men fought the waves and died.  One survived and had great difficulty dealing with all the emotions of it.  I understood them.  Understood the man who struggled to go on after that.  And I kayaked to where they drowned and battled the waves myself there... a tribute to those who have died, both in those waves and in other battles to save souls, and a tribute to the man who struggled to deal with the weight of grief and trauma.  I battled my own battle out there in waves too big to be out alone in.  Battling fierce winds that do not allow even a moment's slowing of pace or I would be blown against the rocks, I fought.  And the blisters on my hand are the proof that the battle was hard, yet I won.  I stood on that point physically shaking from exhaustion, but I had survived.

On the down side, today I watched a friend suffer.  It is hard to watch, and yet the circumstances mean I can not comfort as I would like to.  God can when I can't.

Another up, I have been praying for two years for an open chance to share the gospel with the kid I work with.  He lives with a fatal diagnosis, yet has no faith in God, neither do his parents.  Today, I had that chance.  A semester of Bible is required in the school, and he had dreaded it as hew as sure it would be "boring" and "awful".  Instead, he found it interesting, and today, during his exam (I scribe for him, so we work in a private room.), he stopped to ask me question after question.  Why did the OT law have these laws when no one could follow them perfectly?  Why did God not want sick people in the temple?  Why couldn't they eat come food?  Why did Jesus die?  Why, Why, why?  I patiently explained it all, starting with telling him that he was right, that no one could ever keep the law perfectly, and that that was the whole point! Over and over, he stopped to ask more questions.  I shared with him why this all makes a difference.  About my daughter's death, and how I don't think that she just disappeared into nothing, but that I know she is alive with Jesus and I will see her again, and that death has no permanent fear for us.  About how Jesus lived perfectly and chose to take our punishment and trade us and give us His life.  That all we have to do is not keep laws or work hard, but simply to say "yes".  To say yes and take the trade.  (yes, there is obedience and all, but that comes from saying yes, not as a means to it.)  Two years of prayers, and today I got to share with him... share based on a two year relationship of day to day work with this child. 

Pray for him.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Value of a Worker

I was thinking this last week as I had time at a camp with my daughter about missions and member care and the worth of a worker.  I discussed this with a friend while we watched the kids learn about leaves and tree cycles and fungus.

If you think of missions as an army (I know it is a limited view), you have different values of soldiers.  Different views, perhaps.  There are some soldiers that were trained for a few weeks, shipped to the front lines, and used to break a hole in a defense wall or storm and "weaken up" a defensive position.  Many of them died, many were injured and that was that with them.

There were other soldiers that were trained for a longer period of time.  Ones that learned the strategy of war, techniques, studied the enemy position and tactics, knew their own fire power, etc.  These soldiers were more valuable.  They would be used for specific objectives, for planning, for special forces operations, and things like that.  No one would send these soldiers by the thousands to break a hole in a defense line.

We joined a mission which formed at a period on Christianity when people thought they only had a few years left.  Jesus was coming back any day - the signs pointed to it, etc. 

(I believe Jesus is still coming back any day... but my belief in that does not mean that I have to save the world this minute and it all depends on me and my speed.  Jesus will come soon, when the time is right.  When He comes, there will be some workers on the field, some still learning the language, and some still in Bible school preparing to go.  That is just the way it works out.  As my dad would say, "Don't get tricked into thinking God is depending on you to do a job.  He's chosen to use us, but there is a vast difference between those two thoughts.  Prepare, train, and go.  Don't skip training simply because you believe He will come back too soon for you to be prepared to do what He asks you to do.")

Yet the mission we joined was one of those formed during this time period in Christian circles.  So they placed emphasis on getting people out quickly.  Go.  Jesus said, "Go into all the world, so let's get people going."  My parents worked along side these people while I was younger.  We joined them on the field, partnering with two of these types of missions.  Great people.  We loved them, loved growing up among them.  Yet sometimes my dad would shake his head and sigh.  Once or twice he took a few under his wing to disciple them out on the field.  He sighed and said, "They basically got saved in the Jesus movement and were sent out - no training, no doctrine, nothing."  Don't get me wrong, they were good people.  Very good.  Many of them stuck it out, grew, learned, and stayed with it to this day.  But they came ill-prepared and had some difficulties as a result.

As I sat at camp watching the kids study leaves, it began to make sense why our group is not that good at member care.  Their emphasis has historically been on, "get them out on the field!"  Also, being some of the first of a new trend - the short term missionary.  See, my great-grandparents served under Hudson Taylor in China.  Back then, when you signed up to be a missionary, there was no question of "How long do you want to go for?  Six weeks, three months, one year, two years?"  No statement of "After two years, then we begin to talk about long termers."  No.  It was pretty much a life commitment, although people did retire after thirty to forty years or because of ill health.

However, when you have a culture of "send these people for 1-2 years", you begin to see missionaries as disposable.  One group comes, stays for a time, leaves, another group comes, stays for a time, leaves, etc.  That affects deeply how you treat "problems".  People who struggle.  "Oh, they're not doing well here?  OK, send them home early."  Ta-da, problem solved.  Move on.

The problem was that these short-term focused mission agencies went long term.  People began to stay longer.  Become "lifers".  And the culture of how to care for them did not change (or at least change fast enough).  Perhaps it is because there are still a huge number of short-termers, and it seems to be the most efficient way to handle short termers who have problems - ship them back to their home church and let them deal with it, and go back about the Great Commission.  So when any longer term people had struggles, the culture said, "Oops, problems!  Get rid of them!"

All this worked well when their goal was to head into a country, do some evangelism, have some believers, move on.  Then you hit those "other countries".  Where you can't simply stand on the corner with some easels or a mime and hand out Bibles.  (not that I would agree that was the best technique anyway!)  Countries where you really had to work to learn the language and culture. To work effectively in those took years.  There were those workers.  But, then, it has to be taken into consideration when you have someone living in working in very difficult situations long term, they are going to begin to carry some heavy loads.  Trauma, violence, wars, terrorism, sheer poverty, kidnappings, assaults, sexual assaults, deaths, etc.

When you follow the former policy, you end up treating your trained soldiers like new "disposable" recruits.  Sending them in to difficult areas to break through a defense without a real good plan for their protection, care, or recovery. 

Valuable workers are lost this way.

Please understand me, this is an imperfect metaphor.  No one's life is more valuable than another despite length of time or anything!  But I am talking about the value of the years invested in language and culture learning, time spent getting to a place where they are able to minister.  It just is a poor use of resources to throw away all those years and start fresh with a new recruit because an agency doesn't want to invest time and money into mending the wounds of those who have served long already.  (I'm also all for having new recruits, treating them as valuable, and getting them proper member care, too!)

I don't believe our mission agency is inherently evil.  Just unprepared and stuck back in a "short term world view".  There have been some changes, and I hope and pray that good member care becomes a part of normal practice so that they are able to keep and care for long term missionaries who will be effective because they have the knowledge and the care to do their jobs well.  Those changes have not yet come to where we are.  As a result, we will be looking for a different mission agency.  Because in the end, the value of a worker is shown in how well that worker is cared for.  A good workman cleans and properly puts away his tools.  He takes care of them because he knows that they are not disposable.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oh My, Oh My!

Good things are happening!  Wow.  They just keep happening.

There is a certain freedom we feel in stepping out of this mission and their control and mishandling of difficult situations.  We feel relieved.  Sad.  But relieved.  A bubbling sense of freedom.

Initial contact with our supporters has us confirmed in the belief that they will support us and be there for us.  Most of them are none too happy with how we were treated.  Most at least have deep questions and concerns.

Our debriefing, which our mission refused to fund, has been totally funded by our churches and individuals.

Not only that, we were given some free pediatric counseling for our daughter.  Even with two sessions, the change in her is noticeable.  Her teacher said she heard her giggling.  She has hope - that she is normal to have had this reaction and that it is treatable.

Then today, we got an offer to do a matching fund for her treatment from a group who wants us to work with them, but want to fund her treatment if we work with them or not.  They were just concerned about her, about what she had suffered, and that she had not been cared for.

We cried when we saw that e-mail.

Someone cares.  This little girl who has suffered for four years because she thought her daddy was going to be killed and has been suffering because she was too scared to even ask us some of her fears, including would they find him here and get him again, is seen and loved by a group of relative strangers...  We know this group, but they have no responsibility to us... but they will care for us anyway.

I was in devotions this morning and heard about forgiveness and how when there is forgiveness, it means someone else agrees to pay the debt of a person needing forgiveness.  The debt always needs to be paid.  Jesus chose to pay it for us.  Sometimes, when we forgive, we chose to absorb the debt ourselves instead of demanding it from the wrong-er.  This struck me today when this group was willing to pay the debt of our mission.  Our mission badly neglected its responsibilities in providing any care or support or debrief after a very traumatic incident.  And this organization just stepped up today and said they will pay that.  No strings.  (ok, they offered us a job, but the offer of help was independent of the job offer with no strings.).  Forgiveness - the payment of someone else's debt.

Interestingly, I had been struggling with forgiveness, struggling and asking God how to forgive when the debt was too big for me.  Even if I decide to forgive, the wound is too big and what is required to heal it is beyond my capacity.  So this had me in tears today.

We have job offers coming out our ears.  We are not making those decisions now.  We are waiting for several months.  Taking time to heal.  But some of them are interesting - ones that may allow us to care for our family, remain healthy, be where we need to be, and do the ministry on our hearts.  So we are hopeful - a bubbling sense of hope rising up with the bubbling sense of freedom.

We met the a counselor one church made available.  He heard the story, listened, asked questions, and shook his head.  He said that this mission (the one we are with) is known in member care circles for things like this.  For reports of supposed confidential sessions.  For controlling counseling.  He sighed and said that it breaks all the rules and prevents it from being helpful.

He called some of what we have been through spiritual abuse.

Tears filled our eyes.  For years we had been humiliated, threatened, kept under "discipline", and told what we could and could not do to get help.  Now we were heard and loved on.

They met, and they prayed for us, and spoke words over us, and blessed us.  We have only been criticized for two years.  We cried.  We relaxed.  We smiled.

They said, "This is a bit of a challenge.  Because we have to build a new support system around you since almost everything you trusted is no longer supportive of you at all." 

And they fed us!  Wow, I could have had less feeding, but... :)

On the way home, we stopped to visit some friends who confirmed all what we had planned (and offered us another job.)

The future looks good.  We will heal.  We will recover.  We will go on.  We will chose a safe and stable group to join.  God has not put us down.

Another leader of a organization we are associated with said to us, "Well, it is clear that God has shut the door to being with that mission.  This is exciting.  It means God has some wonderful new things ahead.  But that door is closed.  Walk forward from there."  He also told us not to get hung up in how it was done, reminding us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.  Somehow, that really helped me.  Helped me not want to fight so much.  I have this innate desire to protect, and when I see wrong, I want to stop it or change it so that no one else gets hurt like that again.  But that battle may not be now, and may not be mine.

Oh, we also saw God's hand in that battle.  Unknown to us, at the church who invited us to come, was a person who can exert a influence on our mission, and he was very upset that we had not been cared for.  It may be that we just passed on the baton of fighting this battle to change things so others don't get hurt.  So there is some rest there, too.

Good things are happening.  We are beginning to smile.

And I am off on a fun trip with my daughter and her class.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


There are moments in these days.  I feel like my days are cut up into moments.  Not all connected yet, but moments.

Some good.  Some where people write and express their love for us.  Their support.  Their grief that we have had to walk this alone.  Some of that has come from others who are or were with our mission.  They know.  Other support has come from others who were in our country.  They know.  It's been a really rough few years, and it is hitting everyone.

Those moments, we feel cared for.  Safe.

Then there are others.  When our old team leaders write.  They can't figure out something, can you please help?  We did two small tasks, but that was it.  It doesn't work to ask us to leave, and then keep coming to us because you can't manage without us.  So we leave them.

One wrote recently sort of surprised that I was not wanting to be her friend right now.  She wanted to tell me that she would be there for me like she was.  Always.

It was rather creepy.  I don't need someone for me like she was.  At any time.  No one needs a friend who gets your confidence, and then breaks that confidence.  No one needs a friend who when you are struggling tells you "please don't share your problems with me.  They are too much for me to handle."  No one needs a friend who votes to kick you off a team rather than get you the help that you need to deal with stress you've been through.

It is one thing to suffer at the hands of unbelievers for your faith.  It is another thing altogether to suffer at the hands of believers for the emotional injuries as a result of that suffering.

We don't need friends like that.

Those moments turn my stomach and leave me jerking awake with nightmares again.  Nightmares of running for help only to find that the help I ran to was the attacker trying to get me.  Of begging for mercy while a friend laughed and killed me.

Then will come another e-mail from a friend telling us how much they love us, and how glad they are that they could listen, and how they want to be there for us.

Then tight muscles in my tummy relax a little.

Moments.  I live life right now in small moments.

Then, in my job in the school, we are reading a book.  "Speak".  About a teenage girl in high school struggling.  No one knows she was raped at the beginning of the year.  She struggles.  We read this book and discuss it. 

And I  hurt.

I recognize her feelings.  The pain.  The separation from the world and the pulling into the silence.

The problem is this.  People think I should "get over it".  As if I am sick and have not recovered.  As if I dropped my ice-cream cone and am crying.

Can't I be both healed and still feel hurt at the same time?

Or is "healed" mean that I no longer ever hurt?  I'd like you to hear a story of sexual abuse of an elementary age girl and not feel hurt.  Try.  If you can hear that and not hurt.... well, I don't know that I want to know you.  Hurt is exactly the emotion we should experience in reaction to this situation.  Hurt and perhaps anger.  Concern.  All are good emotions.

So why when I feel hurt do people assume that I have not healed?

But they do.  If I am interested in abuse because I have a heart to reach out to girls who are abused, they say, "she is obsessed with that topic."  Yes.  I am.  I am passionate about bringing healing to the hurting because I know there is hope.  If I cry because sometimes it still hurts, they say, "she is not over it.  She is still damaged."

"Harry" said that that day he met with us.  That I "obviously" was still damaged from being abused and I "should work on that".

If I was a child whose mother had died when she was eight, and it was Mother's day, and I felt sad and cried..... people would give me a hug, pass me a tissue, invite me over, be sympathetic.  But if I am a child who was sexually abused, and something makes me sad, and I cry.... people shake their heads and whisper that "she is not over it.... don't know if she will ever be the same... still damaged."

It is not fair.

I don't need anyone to do anything.  I don't need more counseling about it.  I don't need help.  I don't need to recover.  I just need permission to sometimes be hurting about what happened way back then.

That is all.

But I can't.  I am silent.  Because right now, I'm too tired to fight another battle.  I'm too tired to stand up for the right of those who have been injured and say it is not ok to hurt them again.  I just have had enough.  So I am silent about how I feel.  I keep it inside, and I want to cry, but I don't.  The book is titled "Speak", but I am silent.  

All I want is a hug, but what I will get is judgement.


Because even when I am coping with the stress of a trauma and of losing so many friends and coworkers to being killed for the name of Christ, when I struggle... it is all about that "well, you know, she was abused, and she is not over it yet."


As if, to them, it is my identity - the damaged one.

I'm not, you know.

That is not who I am.

Just how they see me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

But God...

It was awful.  Life became awful instantly.

"Harry" wrote a letter saying that he would communicate with our team, "but when you are prepared to".  We began to think about them.  Whew...  our team are people we love.  We have been "family" for ten years or more.  Only "Tom", the new interim leader is new.  How were they going to cope?  We worried about them...  worried..

You see, we had discipled this team.  We had taught them and walked with them for twelve years.  During that time, we talked about openness, honestly, transparency, and accountability.  As we began to struggle, we did not hide this from our team, but openly asked for prayer. We encouraged them that as Christians, we can be open with our weaknesses and we will honor and care for each other.

And now this...

We worried that all that work would be lost.  That they would say, "See, this is what happens when you admit your problems...."  (Sadly, that is exactly what happened, and they swore never to tell any leadership if they struggle with anything!  That broke our hearts.)

We prayed.  We waited.  Then, we mentioned something about the prayer meeting the next day... ... and "Tom" must have wiggled in embarrassment.  We got a text from him asking that we don't come to the prayer meeting as "Harry" and "Dick" would be there to tell the team.  They flew in and drove in to tell them...  so much for the "but when you are prepared to"!  Wow.  We really hadn't expected that they would go back on their word about telling them with us when we were ready.

We did not want our team family to hear it from them, so we did the rounds and visited our families.  We gently broke the news, we reassured them that we were ok, that we would go on, that we had things to do, that we would still always be friends, always be there for them.  And we sat back and took the brunt of it.  To a man, they broke down crying.  They objected.  They said that they would quit too out of protest.  They said they refused to work with "Tom" anymore, and would come with us.  We smiled at their love and support, but gently reminded them for whom they work... the work is not about us, nor about them... we work for God, and we serve these people.  They can't just leave and abandon the people they minster to.  For the sake of those people, please stay.  Don't be upset on our behalf.  We are ok.  We will be ok.  We will still be here, still your friends.  Please.  Do not take it out on the leadership.  God is still in control.

We wrapped our arms around them and comforted them.  We invited them to our house for a birthday party - to remind them that a team does not relationship make or break.  We held them while they sobbed.  And we went back home to lie exhausted in bed and stare at the ceiling.  We had been lied to, and we had been asked not to come.  The next day was an odd day.

Then we were to meet with "Dick".  "Dick" was upset with the decision saying he had no part in it and was very angry about it.  He did not agree with it and wanted to fight it.  We discouraged him from doing so.  How could we go back even if we were invited?  We would be working under leadership that did not prove trustworthy. God is in this, even if it was done wrong, and it is time to take time to heal, and then move on.

Over the next days, "Tom" began to try to talk with us.  We had little to say to him.  He wanted to reassure us that he was really our friend. We declined a on-going friendship with him, and asked him to let us quietly finish out the time, get things ready for transition, and we did not want to discuss issues.  He insisted, and got very defensive and said, "Why are you still going to dinner with Dick, then?  Dick is just as much part of this decision as I am?!"

We said nothing, but left quietly.  We did not come in the next day.  We had told him that we did not want to talk, and he walked through a door and insisted on talking.  We told him we did not want to talk about it, and he sat down and talked loudly anyway.  He would not respect boundaries, so we did not go in the next day.

Two people... two statements.  "Dick" said the he didn't know about the decision until we did.  "Tom" says Dick was part of the decision.  Both statements can not be true.  Someone is lying.  Maybe more than one someone.

We're tired of it.  We are really not ready to be part of any team with leadership like this.  We'd been taught values like transparency, trustworthiness, and care of the wounded.  Values we did not see in any of what had occurred.  So we were ok with being done with them.  We could not stay under such leadership anyway.

What to do instead of go to the prayer meeting then?  We decided to begin the phone calls, to start with a few good friends, move to the churches, and begin informing friends.  We had already written a prayer letter about moving into a time of transition and praying about God's will forward.  So we began to phone.

The first person actually phoned us when he got the letter.  His response was, "Praise God!  I was praying you'd leave that mission soon.  They have not taken care of you at all with what you have been through!"  He asked us to come visit him as soon as we can to just be heard and to have a break.

The second was a member of a mission team.  He used to be with our mission for years, but has moved on to a large church's mission care team.  His response?  A slow sign, and saying, "Pfff, yes, I know (mission name); they just do not understand member care at all... sigh.."  He listened for about an hour and referred us to a place that may be able to debrief us and help.  We researched the debriefing place.  It looked good.  We also researched another one someone had told us about.  It also looked good, but neither had room for awhile.  So we planned to go to one, whichever worked, and kept phoning.

We phoned another church and they said, "We know how important member care and counseling for those who have been through tough times is.  We have a department to deal with that here, and a counselor who has a practice but does work for us.  They gave us his number.  When he phoned, he listened, and groaned.  It is hard for them to believe that we have been through all that and received no care for it, but only blamed for the symptoms.  He also listened to our daughter's symptoms, and get another person in his office involved.  We will be able to work with him, and our daughter will have a child specialist to work with.  That will be sooner than the debrief.

We phoned another place I had got off someone's blog.  It is only a rest and recuperating retreat, but we signed up for that.  We need a rest.  That is also coming up soon.

We phoned another church.  Now with the plan in place, the churches have been very supportive, very understanding, and willing to help.  Several have kicked in towards the cost of the debriefing retreat.  They are expensive, and our mission will not assist us in any way towards that.

Slowly, slowly, as we began to talk to friends, supporters, and churches, we felt loved.  We had been rejected, but now we felt accepted and cared for.  We felt hope.  There were places and people who understood what we had been through and were willing and able to deal with it.  Something held deep inside us began to relax.  We felt hope.

We still worried.  We still had that threat over us...  that if we said anything bad, they would cut our support...  But as we talked more and more to churches and supporters, we began to relax.  You see, we are NOT supported by our mission.  We raise our support.  It is sent through our mission, but it is not from them or to them.  It could be sent somewhere else.  Besides, supporters are not very excited to hear that the money that they give to us is being used as a threat against us.  So we began to relax.  We are still supported by people who care about us.  These threats have little value.

The only thing we worried about is that one of them said that all this was coming primarily from our home church.  We were surprised.  It is not characteristic of our home church at all.  Then we thought back to Tom saying Dick was involved and Dick saying he didn't even know.  And we wondered... are we being told the truth?

We wondered what to do.... If they were behind it, we have to walk carefully... but they may not have been told the truth, or even our point of view.  No one had listened to our point of view yet.  What had Tom and Harry told them to get them to agree to such a thing?!  But how to find out?

We decided that we would begin with the truth.  That we are struggling.  And why.  So we began with a detailed letter about all the trauma of the last 12 years, all the deaths, each one, one by one.  Each crisis, one by one, and our response and our emotions of it all.  To say the least, it was a long letter.  And when I was almost done, the computer glitched, and I lost it all.  I cried.  I sat and cried.  It had been so hard to write.  So I began again.  It took a week the second time, and then we both read it and edited it.  Then we sent it.  And then we tried to sleep.  Neither of us could.  We lay awake, we dozed, only to wake to terrible nightmares again.  We dragged through the next day.  We had not realized the emotional impact of even just writing it all down at once.  It took us almost a week to normalize, and we did not stop having nightmares until a friend asked us to help clean and paint a house for them.  Then only sheer exhaustion and the ability to get away from "work" and do manual labor helped us sleep.

So this is where we are.  Still communicating with churches and supporters.  Still taking time to heal.  We have not put the official word out that we will be looking for a new ministry, but some people have gotten hints of it, and job offers are dropping in.  If we said we were looking, they would pour in!  My husband is a hot commodity.  We are not in the least worried about what we are to do.  We are just wanting to make sure we look for that what at the right time, and now is not the right time.

For now, we are focused on two things - we have a ministry still, outside of the team we were working on.  We can give more time to that now.  And we are focused on healing.  That is top on the list - take time to heal.  Actively seeking out people who can help with that.

Ironically, we didn't speak up before about the fact that we had no help to deal with trauma because we didn't want to speak bad of our mission.  We didn't want to admit to the outside world out of a sense of loyalty that not only were they not even there for us during a trauma, but that they did nothing to care for us afterwards.  Things have changed.  Now we ask for help.  If that reflects badly on the mission agency because churches ask, "Haven't your mission done any of that sending you to debriefing and care?", that is not our fault.

So, while this has all (and still is) been an awful thing to go through, we are seeing that God still is.  He is still there, and He steps in.  People fall short, but God....  God is a different story.  And God is having His people step in.

So we have moments where we are encouraged.  And moments when we still feel stunned and hurt.  But we know that the stunned and hurt feelings will subside over time, and the encouragement will grow.  We look forward to the future changing some, but we hope those will be good changes.  In the middle of it all, we are doing well - I think it has been a relief to begin to talk to each other about how all the trauma and stress has affected us instead of trying to be brave for each other.  It has also helped that we no longer have to try to pacify leadership above us with (especially with their warped views).  We feel a sense of freedom.

(I stop and think back to a time my parents were with a mission for a very short time.  They served under a team leader who they thought was having an emotional breakdown of some sort.  She decided that she would make all the decisions for people under her, including what furniture they would buy for their houses.  She insisted that my parents buy single beds.  Why?  No one knows.  They only lasted one year under her and returned broken.  Control carried too far.  This mission we are with is not that mission, but there are things that are similar.  My father told us years ago that we should get out of this mission because it seemed that our immediate leadership was damaging our relationship...  he said, "I don't know why, but they seem intent on driving a wedge between you too."  We did not believe him - who would do that?!  But looking back, we wonder if we should have listened.  My father felt so passionate about it that he even told our home church pastor.  I doubt he believed him, either, but perhaps we all should have.  My parents took time out after their experience of bad leadership and went back into missions with another group and are still doing well.)

And, in the future?  Well, both of us have had an interest in member care or years - mostly because we had to do it for our small team when we realized that there was no one else to do it for them. And because we saw the value of it (even if we didn't get it ourselves).  So we have this desire in us - but we say to ourselves, not now, now take time to heal - to go into that type of a ministry, or at least a ministry that has both member care as well as other work...  but those are dreams for when we are ready to look at what next, and we refuse to do that yet.  Take the time to heal, and then move on.  But one thing we know - we will not move back to our former team, even as much as we love those we served with on our smaller team.

Friday, May 9, 2014

What Happens When Member Care is a Foreign Word

Ok, a month and a few days have gone by.  Some time to absorb what happened and to attempt to sort it out.  To think about how we will respond.  To get some balance in a world that was knocked out from under us.

It is confusing.  I will attempt to explain.  My apologies if it is still muddled.

I think our lives could be set out as an example on the need for member care... or the danger of lack of member care.

We set out twelve years ago excited.  We chose the mission we had had much to do with growing up as a MK (me) and being a convert (my husband).  We didn't worry about asking questions that perhaps we should have asked.  Member care? That was for people with something wrong with them.  We didn't need to worry about that!  That was for weak people.  We were ok.  We didn't need to waste time on long orientation classes and all that - after all, we grew up "over there".

So we didn't ask questions.  We didn't think we needed to.

Now I am not going to tell you where we served, but if you could think around the world of the possible top five more dangerous countries to work in over the last years, we were working in/for one of those.  I'm not going to tell you what exactly we faced simply because missionaries have a great underground source of information, and that might tell you more than I want to disclose.  I won't disclose who we are with.... maybe one day I will, but not today.  Why?  Because I still have this question in my mind that perhaps our mission as a whole, worldwide, is not bad.  Our local country (and we are in a third party country) leadership leaves very much to be desired.  So I will not yet name and shame our mission out of the hope that this problem is more localized.

We counted how many people we knew have been killed in the last years - missionary and local believers.  The number would astound you.  It is more deaths than many people will see in a lifetime.  Beyond that, there have been traumatic incidents regularly.  As leaders of a local team, we have been responsible for caring for/protecting people during these events and helping them process them afterwards.  We also went through a critical incident of our own four years ago - one neither of us expected my husband would live through.

It's been a lot.

I wish I could have told that "just signed up new" me what we were heading into.  What we headed into was not what we had grown up with "over there". Political events led to a very different experience than we had grown up with.  We did not know what would happen, and when it happened, we were not prepared for the effect it had on us.

Stress became normal.  News of deaths, grief, and tension during travel became normal.  We began to make sure things were ready when my husband traveled.  We bought more life insurance.  We talked plans for the unthinkable, so that the kids and I would be ok.  We didn't make these plans in the light-hearted way that one buys life insurance from a door-to-door salesman.  We made them fully aware that we could likely need these.  This became our normal.  Grief, tension, stress.

We thought we dealt with it ok.  Because it began slowly.  And got worse.  And the symptoms began slowly, too.  Less patience.  Less sleep.  Eating changes.  My husband ate more.  I ate less.  I slept more; he slept less.  Dreams, nightmares.  Irritation, anger, outbursts.  Just not being ok.  We struggled.  We had good times; we had bad times.

In the middle of all this, we had Dick.  He was our immediate supervisor.  His reaction to the symptoms we were having was based, we think, simply out of the fact that he wanted a job done, and only my husband could do that job.

So he blamed me.  For eight years, he "counseled" my husband that the problem was me.  He heard that I had been sexually abused as a child, so he latched on to that and called me damaged.  He sympathized with my husband for "having to live with such a difficult woman as I was".  He excused my husband's anger because "anyone would be angry if they had to live with her."  He did all this despite not even  knowing me.  Not ever living in the same place as us.

This had a huge detrimental effect on our marriage.  My husband was younger, and he respected this man.  It began to influence his thinking and behaviors.  Dick also talked to all those in the mission above us and told them what an awful person I was.  "Poor woman, damaged... will never be the same."  It influenced all their thinking.  So when I went to them and told them we needed help, and I thought the stress was causing problems in our lives, they shook their heads and believed that I was psychologically unbalanced.  Years of this almost broke me, but I had a few good friends, and it is amazing the power of a few good friends praying, and God being with me.

Then came the events I talk about in That Cold Spring Day.  Sudden trauma.  A crisis.  By that time, we were doing very well in our relationship.  We had talked through a lot of what had happened, and were closer than ever before.  (It helped that Dick had not been around much!)  We handled the crisis well, but began to fall apart in the weeks and months that followed.  We were not able to take time and heal because immediately after our crisis came several other ones - ones that we were responsible for helping others with.  Ones that made our crisis look small.

One thing stand out to us during and after the crisis.  How alone we were.  No one came.  We are only two hours from our mission's country headquarters.... yet no one came.  They did not come, not during, not after the crisis.  They did not phone when we were home safely.  They did not come and drink a cup of coffee with us and ask if we were ok.  They did not hear our story.  They did not arrange any after care, no critical incident debrief, no meeting with a member care person.  In fact, what they did was make a joke of it.  The first time we were with them again, one of them said, "Oh, your little incident!  giggle, giggle, So and So had that happen for (number of weeks) in (country)."  He laughed, and slapped us on the back, and went on.  We stood there still, stunned.  We were still not able to sleep more than an hour without nightmares waking us... and it was referred to as "your little incident"!  We cringed... and did not ask for help.  Why ask?  They didn't care and thought it was funny.

By the next year, and the mission retreat weekend, we were suffering.  It had been an extremely rough year caring for people through multiple crisis.  That weekend, we carefully suggested to "Harry" that we might need some help to recover.  We were told, "your insurance might cover some help if you want to find some."  Thanks.  We shrugged and walked on.  Where would we even begin to look?  We were still feeling overwhelmed and sort of blank.... looking for help took more energy than we had... and besides, what if the insurance didn't cover it? Our support had gone down because we were not communicating well with our churches.  It was so hard to communicate.  Churches want good news, and we were so emotionally flat... we just didn't have it to give.

So we struggled on.  Things got rougher at home because two people unable to cope with all life has thrown at them will not have much patience for each other.  Then we still had "Dick" telling my husband that all the problems are because of his awful wife.  As he believed some of that, he began to blame me for his problems and mine, too.  So it got worse.

The next year, again we talked to "Harry" about problems lingering from un-dealt with critical incident.  This year, "Harry" apologized for not doing anything for us after those events.... but still did nothing.  We struggled on.  Our daughter was suffering nightmares, headaches, and a persistent feeling that "something bad was going to happen".  We found it hard to help her since we had no emotions to pull on.  We survived, but only survived.

The next year was the year I spoke to "Harry" about "Dick's" influence and what he was saying.  "Harry" did promise to deal with "Dick", and to his credit, he did.  After the initial kerfluffle over how he dealt with it, things improved.  Without "Dick's" influence on our marriage, our marriage grew stronger and healthier.

During this time, "Tom" had noticed anger, communication issues, and stress in our relationship and reported them to "Harry" and "Dick".  "Tom", "Dick", and "Harry" decided that they would get us counseling.  They sent us to a few different people for evaluations.  One counselor that they sent us away to latched on to the fact that a older man was mentoring both of us.  He got it in his head that people should only have a relationship with people of their own sex unless they were blood related and accused me of having "an emotional affair" with this person.  (Not to mention that my whole family is friends with his whole family, and to me he is like a second father.... missionary kids grow up with "adopted uncles and aunties", and he and his wife were one of these for us.)  One evaluator questioned our salvation because of the persistent problem of irritation and anger.  (Continuing in sin is a reason to doubt salvation - see 1 John, right?)  He never stopped to question our stress load and coping skills.  To say that hurt was an understatement.  Others were convinced that we needed to work on "communication skills".  We tried to tell them that poor communication was a symptom, not the root problem, but they did not listen.  They had already been "briefed" on the problem by Tom, Dick, and Harry, and reports from all sessions went back to Tom, Dick, and Harry.

There was no confidentiality, and our trust was being broken right and left.  It was a very uncomfortable place to be in, but we were told we had no choice in these sessions, and had to participate in them.  We tried to speak up and say what we saw as the problem in a meeting with Tom, Dick, and Harry when they met to explain to us what type of "help" we would be required to go to.  We tried to tell them that we thought we needed help with dealing with a pack load of traumatic stress... but we were silenced.  "Tom" actually told us, "This is like going to the doctor.  When you go to the doctor, you do what he tells you.  You do not ask questions because the doctor knows what he is doing, so you just do what he says."  One of them even told us, "If you don't like this process, you can leave the mission."  What to do?  We wanted to stay, so we did what they asked.  But it only made things worse, not better.  We lived under constant discipline and judgement.  It was an awful year.  The stress only grew.  We didn't know what to do.  We were publicly shamed when they made our problems public.  We were shamed more when they took sessions that were promised to us to be confidential and forwarded those notes to several on the team "helping" us.  We were at a breaking point... but had no one to ask for help.  We had asked for help, and this is what it got us!

At that point, we had a summer off. We took that summer and left, but instead of doing the circuit of churches to speak in, we chose to spend the whole summer with my husband's family.  They are not believers, and were aging, and we felt we owed them some time, too.

A strange thing happened that summer.  We relaxed.  Sadly, our work phones did not work in this country, and the internet connection was sketchy at best, so we really didn't work.  (All other holidays, we were only a phone call away to solve problems, so the phone rang constantly.)  Here it did not.  And we began to see each other as people again - not just pawns in a big game of people pitting he-said, she-said against each other in counseling sessions.  We played.  We walked.  We talked.  We swam.  We toured.  And we relaxed.  We came back happy, working together better, happy in our relationship.

We came back, and were put back in counseling.  They tried a new guy this time.  The first meeting, he provoked a fight.  (I know he did, because in his notes, he actually stated that he provoked a fight "to see how they relate while fighting".)  Thankfully, we only had to see him twice!That was not helpful, and sent us back a step - more stress again, back to being judged, back to confusion, and being told what to do with no voice.  But we bounced back slowly.  By end of year, we were again doing well with each other.  It helped, too that we had no more meetings with any "help" set up because they were waiting to decide what to do.  So we thrived in the peace.  Went back to work, enjoyed it, worked together well.  I traveled on a service trip with my son with my mind at ease.  My husband was doing well, and would be ok with the kids.

In the middle of January, we got a letter from "Harry" with news that looked for the first time promising.  It asked that we write him together about what we think we need for going forward.  We felt hope for the first time.  Perhaps they were finally going to listen to us!  So we did research, talked to people we trusted, and thought about what we needed.  We both felt that we were dealing with the effects of stress, possibly PTSD, or if not the official disorder, at least post-traumatic stress symptoms.  We gathered the information since Harry really did not know the full extent of the stress in the field we worked in.  He was an office worker for a safe country, and heard occasional reports of violence, but did not understand that these were our friends and brothers and sisters.  We carefully prepared the letter, had it checked by two good friends, and sent it off.  Hope began.  We had asked to be sent to a place that specialized in debriefing missionaries.  We hadn't even known such care existed, and we had been told about it and were hopeful.  This looked right. This looked like these people would understand and be able to help us.  We researched the effects of trauma and stress and found ourselves nodding - yes, we know that, yes, it is so.

We sent the letter.  Then, in April, our "here pastor" called us for a meeting with him alone first.  He suggested that working in our team with the new interm leader they put in when they demoted us was likely difficult, and we should think about leaving to a new ministry.  We thanked him and considered it.  We had been praying about it anyway since two options were on the horizon that would fit my husband's gifts.  Where we were, the job had changed from starting to maintaining, and my husband's gifts were in starting. We discussed it and thought that we were very loyal to our team, and would serve one more year to make sure the transition was smooth.  We all left his office peacefully and happy.  We were pleased to have shared our hearts with him and to have his support as we thought about transitioning to a new start-up ministry in about a year while still maintaining close ties with our current team.

A week later, we were called again for a meeting with Harry and our "here pastor".  We went... a little dread in our tummies... after so many meetings of being told and not listened to, we were uneasy, but we remembered  the letter they had asked for and had hope. No one, reading all that had happened in the way of crisis and grief in these last 12 years, would have any doubt that it had deeply affected us and we needed someone to help us process it all.  So we were hopeful, too.

The meeting began with chitchat.  "Harry" asked for coffee, so we ran and got him some nearby since our machines were down.  We asked about his family.  He asked about ours.  Then, bam.  He began to talk, and said that the team of Tom, Dick, and Harry along with our pastor had decided that we were to be put on an immediate leave of absence and do no more work.  That we were to hand in our keys and our e-mail would be shut down.  That although we had told him about improvements in our relationship, he did not believe them, and was asking us to take a year and half off to work on the personal issues and sin in our lives. He said that our support would continue, but he stated that if we were to say anything publicly bad about our mission or church, he would cut off our support.  That they had made this decision back in January and it was unanimous.

We sat stunned.  Silenced by shock.  Questions ran through our mind.... if so, why the meeting last week, then?  What was all that about if he already had made this decision?  Why had they asked for a letter asking what we thought we needed.... when they had already made the decision.... what?

After a few moments of stunned shock, we asked, "What about the letter?  About you asking for our thoughts? About the request to be sent to debriefing?"

He said he had read it and thought it might b a good idea, but that they were not going to be of any assistance to us in getting that help.  As far as they were concerned, they were done with us.  In a year and a half, they would talk to us and see if they would accept us again.

We blinked.  We excused ourselves for a few moments to gain composure.  We walked back in.  Heard more words about how they cared about us, but we have problems and we need to deal with them, and they can not be of assistance.  We asked again, "Did you read our letter?"  Did you see?  Did you realize that we have dealt with trauma and stress?  Do you remember that you did not help us in any way to deal with that summer of trauma?  We suffer still because of that.  Our daughter suffers.  We do need help with that.  Harry told us that he can understand that it would have been hard to deal with, but stated that they did not help us because we were not available for a few days immediately afterwards and they did not know where we were.  (That was a lie.  They not only knew where we were, but had encouraged us to go there, and had talked to us while we were there.)  We stared blankly and confusedly at them.  Finally, we nodded, and began to leave.  Then we said, "All of what we have gone through in suffering by not getting any help of support after trauma, all of it will be worth something if we can think you learned something and will treat the next person differently and provide care after a traumatic event (especially one that brings you face to face with almost certain death.)"  He smiled and said, "Oh yes, because of what we learned, we are treating so-andso differently now."  We only hope it is true.... but if they realized that post traumatic incident care is needed for him now.... why not us?  So it hurt more.  We also did not trust him because he had no comprehension about how trauma had affected us, so how would he have it for so and so?

We went home.  Stared blankly at the walls.  Slowly the truth began to seep in.  It was April.  They had made this decision in January.... but had been too busy to tell us for three months.  Now we had only three weeks left...

It was beyond comprehension.

And they had said that this whole team - our here church, our home church, Tom, Harry, and another friend here locally were all in on this... (only Dick was out since he had been asked to step down six months ago from this team.)  With one clean blow, trust was broken.  Everything we had counted as "home" or "stable" was gone.  All of these, our mission, our team, our churches, and our friends had voted against us and had known about this for three months and left it, not telling us, but acting normal and supportive....  Then to make matters worse, they chose my husband's birthday as his "please leave the office and the team you started" day.  That hurt like an extra little dig.

So that is what happened.  Thankfully, God was still there.  And thankfully, our relationship was sound and stable.  We clung to each other.  And thankfully, that was not the only voices speaking in our world.  But this is a long enough post, so I will write what next in the next.

We spent the next few weeks back awake with nightmares.  It felt very similar to how we felt after going through the trauma.  Sleep punctuated with awful dreams so you stay awake simply not to dream.  Stress hormones affecting the ability to process food, to fall asleep, and to sit.  Bewildering pain, questions, silence.  No one there with us to help us absorb it again.  Shame.  Pain.  We simply clung to each other and determined to hang on to each other and God, and to make it through.