Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sit Down, Grab a Cup of Coffee, Put Your Feet Up, and Let Me Begin...

I am going to sit down and explain (for my three readers!) where I am now and what happened.  I need to do this to be able to explain where my heart is right now and what I am struggling with.  It is complicated, and I have to go back over some things to explain, but I will try.

We've been here for several years.  Working outside our target country while living here a distance from there.  It worked.  We enjoyed being overseas while we were there, but it was also a difficult time.  Life was harder than we expected it to be due to some political events.  Then we moved here suddenly.

We moved here two hours from our mission's headquarters in this country.  They didn't meet us until a few months after we arrived.  We didn't notice this as abnormal at the time.  Then we met.  They seemed nice.  We transferred to this office, did paperwork, and went home.

In retrospect, we see what was missing.  Perhaps an intake discussion - a post field debreif.  Especially considering all the events that had happened between us beginning to head out to the field and our move from there to here.  By that time, we already had been through several critical incidents and several deaths of friends.  A debrief would have been beneficial.

But we were ignorant of what would have been "normal", and we went on.  We began to struggle.  Each of us differently, and our own personal struggles caused more struggles for each other.  Early on, I made the trip back to headquarters and sat down with "Harry" there and asked for some help.  I said that we were struggling and we needed some help.  He thanked me for sharing and said he had no clue what to do, but that he would pray for us.

In retrospect, again, we see what was missing...  Harry was the leader, and a leader of a fairly decent size mission should have some access to member care.  There should at the very least be a member care person on staff that he should have been able to refer us to, one who would have recognized the need for debreif and a listening ear.

But we were ignorant of that and tried to struggle on.  I began to wonder where God fit into my personal life... not in the sense that I didn't believe in Him, but that I wondered where He cared for me, or if He did in a real sense at all.  If I was just a "tool" for Him to use, but not someone He deeply cared about.  That was all I was, it seemed, to my mission, and to the church.  When you understand my past of childhood sexual abuse happening almost as soon as my parents joined missions, it became an aching question I had before God.  Am I valuable to You in who I am or simply someone for You to use?  My husband's own struggles during this time made him a very unsympathetic person to my insecurities and struggles and his feelings came out as frustration and anger.  He was dealing with his own fears, past, and struggles while trying to lead a team and without support of any good friend near him.  It was a rough time in our lives.

In retrospect, we see what was missing.  We're interested to hear that our new mission believes that their member care person should actually sit down with their missionaries by skype or in person a few times a year and ask how they are doing.  Even when we gave clear indication that we were struggling, our mission never reached out to us.  We made the drive to our headquarters a few times a year to go to prayer meeting.  I think someone from there came to visit our team once or twice a year - usually for a board meeting, lunch, and that was all.  We felt alone.

During these first years, we also lost more friends.  Grief became a constant companion.  My husband traveled several months out of the year leaving me alone with four young children.  Danger existed. It always did, but having grown up in it, we were not aware of its toll on our lives.  Us being unaware did not remove the toll.  It slowly drained energy from us.

In retrospect, we see what was missing.  A visit or at the least a phone call to help absorb news of deaths, debreifs after long trips, cups of coffee and checking in with us would have been expected member care.  It would have gone a long ways to helping us be able to cope in a stressful ministry.

Those first two years, we went to a large church.  We did ask to meet with the pastors and elders and introduce ourselves.  We waited two years, but they were too busy.  During two years, only two people in the church ever invited us over for coffee or dinner.  My husband is a hyper social person, so for him not to even be able to make friends was incomprehensible.  We felt entirely alone.

There were some bright spots in those first years.  We had a friend, "Seth", who had just been there over the years.  To be honest, I hadn't really thought much about him except that he was one of those people who had been around a long time - I had seen his name on e-mails and paperwork.  He came to visit, and I think he was the one person who paused long enough to know we were struggling.  He began to be a listening ear, walking alongside of us, and praying.  In contrast to all that we had experienced so far, this meant more than we could express.  Seth allowed us to be ourselves with him - no "missionary on a pedestal" situation at all.  We could completely fail and screw up, and when I got enough courage to look up and see his face, he was quietly smiling.  His quiet faith held us during the rough years and still means a lot to us today.

That was the setting.  Into this came a leader with serious blind spots, but without the wisdom to realize this, more critical incidents, and some interesting choices by the church.  But that is for another post.


Cindy said...

I'm still reading. make that four. ;)

Jamie Jo said...

... and now five. I am taking your words to heart, wondering how we can better serve those who are on the field now that we are back "home."