Being a long-term missionary has, time and again, been a lesson in humility. Having been exposed to missions throughout my life, I had a good handle of the pressures and pitfalls of missionary life. Since childhood I observed my parents and other missionaries struggle to make decisions that they hoped were for the best of their families. Where to attend church, where in the community to live, whether to homeschool their children or not...all of these considerations have real-life long-term implications.
One such decision that missionaries make is concerning vacation and rest. When people live off of the generosity of others' financial support, the idea of taking a vacation is terrifying. There's an unspoken understanding that to serve overseas full-time is to forego vacation indefinitely. After all, isn't missionary life glamourous? Doesn't serving the Lord fill you with unending joy and vigor? I can't tell you how many times people have asked if living in Belize feels like I'm on vacation all the time. The short and resounding answer is "No, not even a little."
Living in a foreign culture, dealing with governmental red-tape, often within a lower standard of living than you had "back home" wears on you. Being watched and observed as a white person wears on you. Continually putting yourself out there to make friends and build relationships is wearing. Not having family around is lonely. The constant worry of being under-funded only adds to the stress. Stressful enough to wonder if, four years in, it's time to throw in the towel.
When your soul is done, but the Spirit hasn't released you to leave, what do you do? You keep trying. You look for resources that might help. You reach out to friends and ask for prayer. You pray and ask for breakthrough and you keep doing what you came to do. Over a year ago I started back on depression medication. Recently Eddie and I reached out for pastoral support from a nonprofit organization. And still we are worn out and feeling "done."
When I was a young 22 year-old serving in Belize for a year, I didn't understand the mental and emotional toll that more seasoned missionaries withstand. I was naïve, thinking I could integrate so thoroughly that I wouldn't feel the loss of "home" so acutely. Actually, during that year I did integrate and wasn't ready to leave when the year was up. Living here long-term is another thing entirely. It's something you don't understand until you live it.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
The Bible promises that hope in the Lord will sustain us. If we aren't soaring, maybe we can run. If running is too much, He can help us not to faint. Lately, my hope in the Lord sustains me enough to get through one day at a time; hanging on to His promises. With His help, I will walk and not faint.
An important part of this walk is not to walk it alone. Connecting face-to-face with close friends is crucial. I've decided to take the time and resources to meet-up with a soul sister next month for a few days. We'll travel to a city where neither of us has attachments and connect with each other. We'll laugh and cry and pray and encourage each other to keep walking. There may be some who will see my social media posts and won't understand the importance of this trip and I'm ok with that. I will gladly invest in relationship and well-being if it will help me hold on.
Please pray for our family as we continue to seek ways to walk and not faint.