My world has expanded greatly since becoming a counselor. Each month I spend some time with people who are providing medical care in Africa, building friendships in an Islamic mosque, pioneering new work in India and building a new community center in South America. In the course of our sessions, I hear about their work, but our focus is deeper. Most are struggling with anxiety, some depression, many with loneliness. They witness trauma regularly. This is life as a field worker in a foreign country.
Recently I was asked to meet with a family as they transition to serve in a remote area of the world. They are learning to talk about loss and adventure together as a family; to name the hard things and sit with one another without having to find solutions; to allow the tension that comes when we’re not all on the same page at exactly the same time. All are emotional skills they will need to take with them to stay connected and maintain a sense of belonging as they face the unexpected.
We began a session with casual conversation that revealed all the work that is involved in paring one’s life down to what can be carried across the world. I’d never really thought about it – how much of one’s past has to be relinquished in order to embrace the future. The children in this family are close to the ages of my own. The youngest talked about her sorrow over leaving their family pets behind. The oldest shared how he had decided to bequeath a beloved Christmas present from his youth to a close friend. The enormity of the tasks before them – both physical and emotional – struck me afresh.
How many of us feared giving our lives to God, certain that He would call us to go to Africa? Why were we so afraid? Few of us welcome the discomfort and sacrifice that missionaries willingly pursue. We idealize them – How can they struggle with anxiety? They must have so much faith? We take for granted the work they are doing and forget that, like us, their children have developmental struggles, their marriages are infected with sin patterns, their faith is tested by the injustice they witness, and darkness wants to press in on their hope.
This is where our counselors at CrossRoads long to jump into the fray. We sit with these servants, intentionally looking at each memory, each relationship that must be seen, considered, and put in its rightful place, allowing them to freedom to move forward in the path God has carefully laid out for them. It’s got me thinking – maybe I need to start on a little spring cleaning myself.