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.