Friday, May 20, 2016

The Cost of No Member Care

Our mission repeatedly told me that they just didn't have the resources to have a member care person.  Well, officially, they had one, but it was more of an intake person.  They had someone to help people through the process of joining.  Questions about taxes, passports, visas, etc.

They had no one to care for people once they were on the field.  That, apparently, was to be cared for by an on the field person, the team leader.  Sadly, that didn't work for us for two reasons:  1.  We were the local team leaders and 2. We were not on our field.  We lived elsewhere in a relatively safe location and traveled to a very unsafe location because of the nature of our specific work.  So we had no one immediately caring for us as team leaders and we fell under the jurisdiction of a office in a fairly safe country who had no idea of how to care for people in unsafe locations.

Those are just explanations that might give mild insight into the situation, but not solid excuses.  The people who should have stepped in had years of experience and were leaders for years and years.  They were not newbies and should have at least had the experience to know that help was needed, what was needed, and to ask for help from wiser people to assist.  They didn't. 

What happens when there is no member care after trauma?  I guess it could be described as a slow spiral downwards.  We had the immediate of no sleep for a week or so.  Horrific nightmares woke us the minute we slipped into REM sleep.  Our bodies ached and our minds were on hyper alert.  We were exhausted, but everything hurt and the slightest noise set us on edge.  We had a hard time processing logical thoughts because we were so exhausted.  After a few weeks of this, we hit a wall where we could sleep.  The hyper alertness settled, but nightmares still woke us several times a week. The lack of sleep dulled our emotions and we became "flat".  It was hard to muster a feeling besides a vague deadness.  Our eyes looked out of our heads stunned and confused.

As more trauma hit our field, we had a hard time.  Not only did we feel grief for our friends, we felt a deep sense of guilt or pain.  Why did we get the miracle and they didn't?  How do you explain to yourself that you lived and your friends were killed?  How do you process grief that is mixed with guilt?  How do you ask for resources and help when you already got the miracle?  When others maybe need those resources?  Were we whining to keep saying we weren't doing well?  We were alive... others weren't.

As the trauma settled in, we grew more exhausted.  We lost patience with each other.  We still didn't sleep.  I couldn't eat without pain.  Our children suffered, and we could not leave them even to run to the store without them worrying about us.  We stopped asking for help because no one was listening.  We didn't know how to write a prayer letter.  We didn't know what to say.  We felt dead and defeated.  Our church began to have questions about our "fitness" as missionaries because we weren't showing the joy of the Lord.  We weren't living victoriously.  We knew they were judging us, and we were unable to explain how we were feeling.  It was months in now, and most people in the church assumed it was "in the past", and they had no clue that we still dealt with fears, nightmares, and difficulty regulating our emotions.  Then we felt ignored and not valued on top of it.

A year went by, and we say our mission headquarters people again at the next conference.  We asked again for some debriefing and that some sort of member care protocol be put into place in case this ever happens to anyone else.  They nodded, but nothing was ever done.  Nothing has been done to this day.

We never healed.  We tried to do life by sheer force of will and habit.  It didn't work.  We just piled up stress on stress.  Our marriage began to suffer, our family life began to suffer, and of course our director stepped back into my husband's life to tell him that this was all his wife's fault because she was weak.  We literally began to fall apart.  And as we did, the church and mission was quick to step in and judge us for "moral failures".  It was a nightmare of a time, and we longed for someone to listen and help us process, but there was no one.

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