4 Resources for Your First Year

I had flown to China before, but that was always with a return ticket. When I moved to China, my ticket was one-way. Back in the day, smoking was allowed on the flights. I was on a Chinese based airline and I began to understand some of the changes I was in for when the flight attendants commandeered the last three rows of the middle section and build a blanket fort.

They took turns going into it for smoking and rest breaks. You can picture the waves of smoke that escaped when someone went in or out.

Do you remember the feeling as you disembarked from the plane? Though late at night and exhausted, the muggy August air smelled . . . like not my home country. I had finally arrived. To this day, if I arrive at an airport late at night and it’s muggy and the wind blows just right, a small wave of exhilaration washes over me. 

Ah, the first year on the field.

Welcome to those of you who have recently arrived on the field or are in the throws of getting ready to move to the field. We’re so glad you’re here!

Though you’ll be going through many transitions and your journey will be unique, you do not need to go it alone.

Do you wish your first year came with a handbook?

I wrote Getting Started: Making the Most of Your First Year in Cross-Cultural Service to be just that. Getting Started enables you to glean from those who have gone before you, to stay close to God, and to grow in cultural knowledge—all the while flourishing in fulfilling your call.

What’s one unexpected pitfall of the first year?

Ironically, it can be staying connected to God. In your passport country you knew how to stay spiritually fed and understood the language spoken at church. With time, you’ll make friends, learn the language, and even start worshipping in another language. But as you’re establishing yourself in your new host culture, stay Connected: Starting Your Overseas Life Spiritually Fed.

Do you have any tips for my first year?

In addition to buying the two books mentioned above, you bet I do! Here an article I wrote with 3 Tips For Your First Year.

What does role deprivation look like?

While it will look different for each person, there tends to be two universal signs you’re experiencing role deprivation in your first year … as uncomfortable as role deprivation is, it’s one of the most tender ways Jesus identifies with us! Here are a few signs of you might be experiencing role deprivation.


A couple of years ago I was going to host a year-long group for those in their first year and we would work our way through Getting Started, but then the pandemic happened and not many people were able to move around the globe. I’ve created a survey to gauge interest in a group running from September 2022 through June 2023 for people early in their missionary journey. Could you either take this survey or share it will people who have been on the field less than two years.

Take the survey here.

We truly are glad you’re here. We need you and your fresh eyes and hearts! Welcome.

And thanks for helping with the survey, Amy

Hiding Abuse Does Not Protect the Mission

The mission. The mission. The mission.

What could be more important to missionaries than the mission?

But talk about the supreme importance of the work of the church can be used to silence those who would expose sin in the church. Russell Moore pointed this out last month, writing in Christianity Today about Guidepost Solution’s investigation into sexual-abuse claims, and allegations of coverup, in the Southern Baptist Convention. Guidepost’s findings include an email sent by the executive vice president and general council of the SBC’s Executive Committee, in which he comments on those bringing accusations against the SBC:

This whole thing should be seen for what it is. It is a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism. It is not the gospel. It is not even a part of the gospel. It is a misdirection play.

This line of thinking has played out on the mission field, too, as can be seen in published reports on the treatment of victims of child abuse overseas. For example, in 1997, the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s Independent Commission of Inquiry reported on claims of abuse at Mamou Alliance Academy, a boarding school in Guinea run by the C&MA from 1950 to 1971. About the students at Mamou, one missionary mother told the commission,

They were never allowed the freedom of expressing their hurts, their problems, their emotions to us. Each week the obligatory letter was not only read but censored, and forced to be rewritten if it appeared at all negative. This destroyed a vital link that could have helped maintain a fragmented family bond. They were repeatedly told not to share adverse happenings either by letter or by word on vacation with parents, lest it upset the parents and interfere with the work they were doing for God. The hidden message to the child was that God was more important, work was more important to the parents that [sic] one’s own child.

The commission summarized the reasoning behind censoring letters as “Children were advised not to upset their parents, lest their ministry to Africans be compromised and Africans left to their pagan ways.”

In 2010, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) reported on its findings concerning New Tribes Mission’s Fanda Missionary School, in Senegal, which boarded children from the mid 1980s to 1997. GRACE states that the MKs living at Fanda

were not allowed to voice concerns or complaints to their parents regarding the conditions at Fanda. They were repeatedly told by those in authority at Fanda that such complaints would hinder their parents’ work and result in Africans going to hell. In some cases, their letters were censored of all bad news in the name of the Lord’s work.

And also in 2010, the Independent Abuse Review Panel of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) filed a report on past claims of offenses among Presbyterian missionaries. Aware that some would rather that those who have been abused or who are aware of abuse “keep such information to themselves,” they refute the following three statements, which they label as myths:

1. The current mission of the church will be hurt by revelations of past abuse on mission fields.
2. The reputations of former missionaries, current staff, or advocates will be damaged by the investigation of allegations against them.
3. What is in the past is best left alone.

Sadly, the reports referenced above do not represent all the investigation summaries written over the years, nor do official reports cover all the wrongs that have occurred. We cannot pretend that abuse, whatever the kind, can be relegated to a certain denomination or organization (that group), place (over there), or time period (back then).

We must be alert. Talking points for conversations with children—and adults—should include that secrets shouldn’t be kept, wrongs shouldn’t be hidden, and complaints shouldn’t be silenced in order to “protect the mission.” That needs to be said out loud over and over again to combat all the times that the opposite has been spoken or inferred.

Abuse in the church hinders the mission, not the exposing of that abuse. Silencing or shunning those who make accusations hinders the mission, not the act of hearing them out.

Again in Christianity Today, Moore returned to this topic last week. In “Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain without Swearing,” he states that claiming to speak on behalf of God to shield abusers and to accuse accusers is tantamount to breaking the third commandment:

Sexual abuse, in any context and by any institution, is a grave atrocity. It’s worse when this horror is committed—or covered up—by leveraging personal or institutional trust. But using the very name of Jesus to carry out such wickedness against those he loves and values is a special evil. When sexual abuse happens within a church, violence is added to violence—sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Predators know this power is great, which is why they weaponize even the most beautiful concepts—grace or forgiveness or Matthew 18 or the life of David.

It’s also why institutions seeking to protect themselves will take on the name of Jesus to say that victims, survivors, or whistleblowers are compromising “the mission” or creating “disunity in the body” when they point out horrors.

There’s more to the mission of the church than just going and making disciples. There’s listening to and looking out for the oppressed and the vulnerable. There’s shining the light in dark places. And there’s speaking and acknowledging what is true.

The mission. The mission. The mission. The whole mission.

(Russell More, “This is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse,” Christianity Today, May 22, 2022; Report of the Independent Investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Guidepost Solutions, May 15, 2022; Geoffrey B. Stearns, et. al, Final Report, Independent Commission of Inquiry Regarding Mamou Alliance Academy (C&MA), November 15, 1997; Amended Final Report for the Investigatory Review of Child Abuse at New Tribes and Missionary School, GRACE, August 28, 2010; James Evinger, et. al., Final Report of the Independent Abuse Review Panel Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), PCUSA, October 2010; Moore, “Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain without Swearing,” Christianity Today, June 21, 2022)

[photo: “Padlock on Red Door,” by Andy Wright, used under a Creative Commons license]

I went to a foreign country to share the gospel. My children grew up and chose not to believe.

by Anonymous

I never intended to be an overseas missionary. Then in 1997 I found myself living in Russia with my husband and four small children. We believed God had sent us to this place, and we had a glorious ten years of serving and ministering there. When we arrived, our children were two, five, and six, and eight. I homeschooled them, and they enjoyed being a part of the local church family.

I had always believed that if you raised a child in the love and nurture of the Lord, they too would follow Jesus. We believed the verse, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” You can only imagine the shock we felt when our son entered University, lost interest in spiritual things and began to date an unbeliever!

We were wholeheartedly following the Lord! How could this happen? We tried to get him to go to the campus fellowships, but there was no interest. Little did I know at the time that two of my girls would follow the same path. My next oldest daughter went to a Christian college near our home; I didn’t want her to attend a secular university like her brother! She was fine for a while, but then she, too, began to drift. Eventually she lost interest in being a Christian. My next daughter stayed closer to home, faced some difficulties at college and did not stray from her faith. My youngest daughter, after graduating from a Christian high school, followed her brother to the secular university near our home and also lost interest in the things of God.

What can I say? I never expected this. I honestly thought that since they were being raised in the Lord with a loving and involved family, our children would never depart from Him. Since that time I have blamed myself, my husband, our mission, and even our church, but in the end I realized that it may not have been any of these things. I have come to believe it was their free will. They became curious about life “outside” the Christian world they were raised in. They, like all of us, need their own salvation experience, and though we trained them in the fear of the Lord and tried to do our best, God gave them the freedom to make their own choices. 

I have wrestled with their choices and struggled not to compare our kids with others serving the Lord around me. I have been to dark places of disappointment with God where I felt betrayed by Him. I laid down my life in obedience on the mission field and gave up so much to evangelize and bring his gospel to the Russian people – how could I have lost my own children in the process? It crushed me to see so many come to faith and then watch my children lose their own. I began to read everything I could get my hands on about prodigals, trying desperately to find some answers. 

It was during this time of praying and crying out for His peace that the Lord gave me a vision. He showed me a lighthouse on a hill overlooking a harbor. Tied to the shore were four small boats. He revealed to me that those small boats were my children and that some of their boats had come undone and were starting to drift out to sea. My husband and I are the lighthouse on the hill, and our job is to abide in Him and shine His light so that it is visible to the children when they need us to guide them safely back into the harbor of His love. This picture really set me free from the temptation to nag and guilt my adult children back to Jesus. Their salvation belongs to Jesus. He is the savior. He is the one who leaves the ninety-nine to seek the one. I can “just be mom!”

As I write this, my children are in their twenties and thirties. I have learned much about prayer, faith, and total trust in the Lord through this long trial. I have learned about my need to have “unconditional love” for these children God has blessed me with. I didn’t realize that I was not loving them in this way until one year when we were on vacation. The pressure cooker seemed to explode, and our son and daughter said these words: “I feel like you will only accept and be proud of us if we do what you want, if we become the ‘Christians’ you want us to be, then you will love and accept us.” These words were incredibly hard to hear and broke my heart, but I began to examine my attitude and the words I was speaking to them. It was a revelation into their hearts.

Since that painful encounter, I have determined to simply put my whole trust in the Lord and enjoy my children, the four gifts that He has given me. I have come to realize that it’s not about me and what I have done or not done. I do not have to feel the shame of their decisions or take the credit. All glory in their salvation belongs to the Lord. This has really set me free. We are now enjoying a closer relationship with our kids, one that allows us to do the loving and the Savior to do the saving. 

These painful circumstances led me to start a prayer group for moms of prodigals. I believe it is of vital importance to have others around you who understand your pain. We often felt misunderstood and judged by people in the church (usually those with kids still at home) who would ask us questions like, “Are your children going to church?” Or “Are they dating a Christian?” And then I would feel the judgment come. Each of these questions was like another knife in my heart. Then I would meet with my ladies, and the pain would lift. It is a wonderful gift to meet weekly with these other moms who feel and experience the same challenges. We are a living testament to the truth of Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Waiting for the salvation of three of our kids has been an unexpected cross to carry, but the comfort, help, and presence of the Holy Spirit has kept us abiding and shining the light for Jesus. His word keeps me grounded, and meditating on the truth gives me great hope in what He has done and will do in the future. I know these kids belong to Him. I will pray and wait and watch for the salvation of my God.

 

“In Him we have this hope as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast and which enters the Presence behind the veil.”
Hebrews 6:19

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The author has chosen to remain anonymous to protect her family’s privacy. If you wish to reach out to her for support, you may reply to this email, and the leadership team will connect you through email.

Missionaries were sent to serve my country. God sent me somewhere else.

I was 16 when I first sensed the Lord calling me to full-time ministry — and more specifically to serve sacrificially in areas where there was a great need of the gospel. The Lord gave me faith to respond almost immediately, “Yes, Lord, I will go wherever you lead.” I am Dominican, and at the time I had a strong conviction that “wherever” meant staying in the DR and serving my own people. For 12 years that is what I did…until the Lord surprised me and called me to another place.

While I highly encourage anyone from a developing country to stay and serve their own people, there may be reasons to consider leaving your own to serve in another needy place. In my life these three considerations were key:

1. Spirit-fueled desires
2. The nature of the evangelical presence in my context
3. How the Lord led through providence

Spirit-fueled desires
“Delight in the Lord,” the psalmist says,” and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The Spirit often leads us by giving us specific desires for his kingdom. For several years, He gave me a strong desire to stay in the Dominican Republic and serve my own. I discipled young women in my church. I volunteered in outreach opportunities in poor neighborhoods, public hospitals, and underserved villages. I taught at a Christian school.

But when I was around 24 years old, I read Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper. The more I read about unreached peoples, the more my heart burned with a longing to share the gospel with those who hadn’t heard. When I read Piper’s exposition on Romans 15:20 about Paul and his not wanting to build on another’s foundation, the Spirit lit a fire in my soul. I longed for Christ to be proclaimed where he was not known. When I started praying and fasting for the nations, the Spirit just kept feeding a desire to move on from my context to a place where there was more need.

If you sense the Lord nudging you in one direction, if you have a desire to serve, is it possible that these desires are borne out of the Spirit in your life? Could it be that the Spirit is guiding you away from where he once called you? Desire is one way God leads.

The nature of the evangelical presence in your context
While desires are important, wisdom calls us to consider other variables. One such variable is the strength of the evangelical presence where you live. Consider how many healthy churches are in your community or in your city. How involved are they with people around them? Does love for God overflow in love for people? Is the word of God doing the work of God? If the answer is yes, in what ways is that happening?

It was clear that the Lord was working in my country. For years we had been recipients of cross-cultural work. Missionaries had been sent to us. The Lord convicted me that it was time for my spiritual community to participate in and initiate the kind of mercy ministry and evangelism that others came to do for us. We didn’t need others to come to us. We could minister to our own people.

Over time, I started to recognize what the Lord was doing in our country. There were many healthy churches from different theological denominations actively participating in building the kingdom of God in the Dominican. They were not just being faithful in our city but in other towns across the island. There were many Dominicans willing to serve in their own country, but there were not many with a desire or drive to go to darker places. I sensed I needed to steward both my desire and the spiritual resources the Lord had given my community.

It was exciting to think that the time had come for my spiritual community to no longer simply be recipients of cross-cultural work but also active participants in sending others out. The Lord had been filling us to overflowing, and now we could give out of the grace we had been given.

God’s providential leading
As I prayed for the Father’s leading, He started opening doors for me and closing others. He opened doors to love and care for an unreached people group right there in my city. It was a joy to see him answer prayers and longings right where I lived. I had been pursuing opportunities to move to other Hispanic countries like Cuba or Spain. But so far nothing had come of them. So when the Lord led me, through a friend, to reach out to prostitutes in Santo Domingo, it was a clear answer to prayer.

During that time, the Lord brought an old friend back into my life who also had a strong desire to serve the Lord in darker places. Eventually our friendship grew into something more, and the Lord led us to marriage. I left the Dominican for good and moved to his country. From there, several years later, after many providential events, the Lord led us to move overseas to serve him in the Middle East together. There have been a lot of twists and turns and seeming detours in our cross-cultural journey, but the Lord has not been surprised by any of them. He has been orchestrating providence to overwhelm us with his love and to use our small lives to do what he promised – fill the earth with his glory.

So if you are praying about how to steward a desire to move to a more needy place, one with less light of the gospel than where you currently live, be assured that you can trust the Spirit’s generosity to lead you there. Pay attention to the desires of your heart and to what is happening around you. Pay attention to what He is doing — those seeming coincidences, the conversations that happen at the right time, the opportunities that fall on your lap, and even to the closed doors. He may be working in surprising ways to take you where you didn’t think you’d ever go.

 

Photo by Juanca Paulino on Unsplash

Our Brokenness Is Our Beauty

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” II Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

Recently, I had the chance to hear from a missionary couple. As they shared about their truly beautiful work in a foreign land, instead of rejoicing, I felt things I didn’t want to feel about my own journey and about my own worth as a missionary. Failure. Inadequacy. Shame. Although the thoughts were not of God and His Holy Spirit, they came marching into my heart and mind. This experience gave me much to think about as I continue to heal and make sense of my overseas journey.

Although it’s been more than seven years since we had to leave our home in Budapest, Hungary, I still feel the sting of crushed dreams and the wounding of how I was viewed by others as we left. And I wonder if you, friend, have felt this in your journey overseas, whether current or past.

I love how II Corinthians 4 frames the entire journey of our calling to live this life with a treasure, the light of the risen Christ shining in our hearts. And we have this beautiful reality of Christ in us as clay vessels, which means that the light is in our very selves.

In the truth of our shared humanity, I believe on some level, no matter how ‘successful’ any of us may appear to others as a missionary, we can still feel the same things as we look truth in the face and know we are clay, know we can be broken. Therefore, I know so many of us need the words of healing and promise over our lives which God offers through His Word to us, the ones made of clay.

So, looking at this image of clay vessels, what kinds of things can we see about ourselves?

  • Simplicity: Jars of clay are used to hold valuable things but are made simply and of the earth. In the beauty of their simple creation, they can do great things, as can we through the hands of the Great Potter.
  • Fragility: Jars of clay are susceptible to breaking easily. It is part of the nature of their material. There is a specific correlation between this and our own hearts and minds, which break all too easily.
  • Ability to be put back together: While they are fragile, earthen vessels of clay can be re-bonded, although their appearance is forever changed. Our Great Potter is also the Great Mender of broken things. He especially delights in mending us, His children.
  • Cracks mean a continual pouring out: The process of putting the pieces back together creates a vessel which will be continuously poured out. Even if it’s from a leak, what is released through us into our environment reveals our vulnerability and is a type of pouring out of the truth of our brokenness. The undeniable nature of how we are redeemed to bear our unique, broken, and mended selves, is both a natural pouring out and an encouragement to all the broken ones.
  • A never-ending supply for our vessels: Because we are made by the Infinite One, even though there are cracks and leaks in our brokenness, God promises continually to fill us with all we need to be useful in His service.
  • Light comes through our brokenness: Not only do broken vessels pour out through the cracks, but that’s also where the light breaks through. As we put ourselves before that Light which shines in and overcomes the darkness, the light refracts and streams through in a beautiful design unique to our brokenness.

II Corinthians 4 goes on to say that beyond our brokenness, there is the reality of living in a fallen world and following Jesus amidst it. Though we are pressed, we are not crushed. We possess a resilience in our earthen vessels which cannot be destroyed. Even if the mending of the cracks happens a million times, it will only provide more opportunities to be vessels of pouring out, of light streaming through.

Friend, I pray this truth finds you today in the brokenness of this journey of entering other cultures and knowing great trials, of being pressed in mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take heart, our God is the mender and no matter how your journey or my journey has looked, He is putting us back together, healing our brokenness in beautiful ways that only make Him more beautiful in us.

Home Assignment Is _________?

by Kayle Hardrick

Home Assignment is winding down. We are turning our sights towards preparing to return to our host country and to our work there. We are trying to fit in all the last visits we haven’t had a chance to make yet and purchasing the things we had been wishing we had in Cambodia with us the last few years. We are slowly starting to look at weight and space for packing our suitcases. I keep thinking about what Home Assignment is like. How do I describe it?

It is like packing up your family over and over to see people you love and feeling like each visit is not long enough with those people. It feels like fun family times in a car and new experiences because of generous friends and supporters—like driving an RV. It is getting to do things you never thought you’d get to do and being reminded of all the things you would be doing if you lived in your passport country. It is missing your host country and the things happening there while you are away. It is feeling at home in many homes because the people in each home love you like family.

It is buying groceries in many different grocery stores and cooking in a dozen kitchens. It is doing laundry in all kinds of washing machines and sleeping in so many beds of various sizes. It is hauling exhausted children to nine different states and being so proud of them for making friends, enjoying time with extended family, and having relatively wonderful attitudes throughout it all. It is meeting people you have never met in person and being so thankful they have lived this life and for the grace they have with your kids. They understand when your kids just can’t have the manners they should have that evening.

It is watching your kids feel safe and secure because they see and understand the vastness of the family of God. It is your daughter making friends in Sunday School at every different church you attend and opening up her world and her new friend’s world to more. Home Assignment is visiting so many different churches because people you love have found a community they love there, and you want to see it and engage with it. It is having conversations with your kids about all the different church traditions you have gotten to experience over your time.

Home Assignment is lots of coffee, trying old and new foods, and bonding with others. Home Assignment is encouraging others in their lives here in our passport country and being encouraged by them for our work in our host country. Home Assignment is lots of extended family time that you wish would last forever. It is finding a church you can just be in, rest, and enjoy. Home Assignment is being encouraged by the home office because you see more of the big picture within your organization. Home Assignment is far too long and far too short all at the same time.

Originally shared in a newsletter.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Kayle and her husband Chris serve with Engineering Ministries International in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they have lived for nearly six years. In addition to homeschooling their three kids, Kayle helps with onboarding and language learning at the EMI office, serves on the board of a small NGO-run school in town, and facilitates continuing education courses for cross-cultural workers around the world through Grow2Serve. She loves swimming, hiking, being outside even in the Cambodian heat, and spending time with people.

Mobility is tough on kids: here’s how you can help

Moving to a new location can be exciting! New places to explore, new people to meet, new food to taste. It can also be exhausting and lonely and downright depressing. We’ve all been there. Just because one is true doesn’t mean the other isn’t!

One of the many reasons I love the movie Inside Out is the way it demonstrates that part of growing in emotional maturity is accepting that our experiences do not have to be just black OR white, yellow OR blue, happy OR sad. They can be both at the same time.

Moving as a child (an experience beautifully captured in Inside Out, and another reason I love this movie!) comes with additional layers of emotion. There can be confusion and misunderstanding — not knowing exactly when or where or why the family (or part of the family) is going. There can be lack of control, knowing these decisions are “above their paygrade” and that they will have to deal with whatever is decided on their behalf. 

I experienced several moves as a child, and I am now journeying alongside my young niece and nephew as they continue to process feelings about a big move. They miss their old house (“someone else is living in our house!”) and the landscape where they used to live (“I miss the colour red”) and the way things were done in another school, another town, another church. They miss the community they were part of: their playmates, and also the adults that were part of their stability and emotional support structure.

 

The Impact of Mobility on Children
In the survey of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Globally Mobile Third Culture Kids produced by TCK Training, we saw a strong correlation between high mobility in TCKs and high ACE scores. An ACE score of 4 or higher is associated with negative outcomes in behavioural, emotional, and physical health during adulthood. 12.5% of Americans surveyed have an ACE score of 4+, much lower than the 21% of the TCKs in our sample with an ACE score of 4+. When we looked only at TCKs who experienced high mobility, however, that rate jumped much higher. 32% of those who moved location 10 or more times had a 4+ ACE score. 33% of those who moved house 15 or more times had a 4+ ACE score. 

 

10% of Missionary Kids (MKs) moved location 10+ times; 19% of MKs moved house 15+ times. Mobility is something that affects a large number of MKs. If we know that mobility can have negative impacts on long term health and that mobility impacts many MKs, does that mean we should not send families overseas? That MKs should not move, or move only a limited number of times? Not at all. These figures should give us pause, yes, but the result should be to make us invest in preventive care and in proven protective factors to ensure all MKs thrive both as children and as adults.

Alongside research into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), we also cite research into Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs). Research demonstrates that when these PCEs are present, children are far less likely to suffer negative outcomes from ACEs in their childhood. In fact, an individual with higher PCEs present during childhood is 72% less likely to develop depression or poor mental health as an adult, and are 3.5 times more likely to have healthy social and emotional support as an adult; when all seven PCEs are present, these factors shift even more toward the positive. 

 

Positive Childhood Experiences
There are lots of ways to provide protective positive experiences in the lives of missionary kids — your own, and those in your community!

The protective factors known as Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) include categories of feeling heard and supported by parents, having supportive peers and a sense of belonging in a multigenerational group, feeling safe in the home, having two non-parent supportive adult relationships, and participating in community traditions. When the majority of the seven PCEs are present regularly throughout a child’s developmental years, the adversity they experience is more likely to develop into resiliency.

Caution and Hope: The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Globally Mobile Third Culture Kids

If you are a parent, how can you create space to ensure your child feels “heard and supported” by you? (Lauren Wells wrote about this in her recent post.)

If you are not a parent, how can you invest in the lives of children in your community, to help provide them with “a sense of belonging in a multigenerational group” or be a “non-parent supportive adult” in their life? How can children be included in group activities you run? Can you be an extra aunt, uncle, or grandparent to children who live near you — visiting, spending time, playing games, going on outings, giving treats? (I can assure you their parents will be delighted as well!) Can you maintain contact with children who have left, or children in a place you have left? What training can you invest in to make sure you understand the globally mobile children in your community, so you can be the best support and caregiver possible?

How can your community intentionally include children in “participating in community traditions?” What festivals do you celebrate, and how are children made part of the festivities? What annual traditions do you have as a community? What local traditions have become part of your family’s life, perhaps even after you leave the location where you began the tradition? The rituals we create as a family and as a community, and which we engage children in, matter a lot for their long-term thriving, especially those who move frequently, or live in communities where people transition often.

If you support mission work through your local church, what can you do to ensure that children on the mission field receive lots of preventive care? Can you support missionaries providing care to mission kids? These workers often have more difficulty raising support, despite the vital work they do to protect and invest in precious young lives. Can you send letters and care packages to children specifically, learning their names and stories and interests so they receive tailored care and support that blesses them as unique individuals? If you don’t know, ask their parents! They’ll know how to get you started. Depending on how difficult it is to receive mail in their area, parents may even have suggestions for easier/more affordable ways to send birthday presents or other thoughtful care to their kids.

These may seem simple things, perhaps even too simple in the face of statistics that feel big and scary. But research tells us these simple things MATTER. We need to be proactive, purposeful, and persistent in providing these protective positive experiences for children in our families and communities. They are the foundation of relationships and memories that will give them a sense of emotional safety and stability to cushion them from the impacts of international life. 

The 7 Stages of Home Assignment Grief

by Gail Gorfe

I hate the term home assignment. In fact, I think the term needs a complete overhaul. In recent years we’ve begun using the more modern “home assignment” as a replacement for the older idea of “furlough.” Furlough, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is defined as “a temporary leave from work that is not paid and is often for a set period of time.”

A furlough was the extended leave that missionaries were obliged take every four years to return to their home country. This goes back to a time when being a missionary was a lifetime career, a lifelong sacrifice to do God’s work. The missionaries would leave everything behind and take a boat journey across the world. The furlough was thus a one-year period during which the missionary would reacquaint themselves with their home country, spend time with family, attend meetings and trainings with their mission organization, and visit their supporting churches in order to raise enough money to return to their career calling for the next four years.

At some point in the last 20 or so years, the term home assignment has replaced the word furlough. In our modern world it is now much more common for missionaries and other cross-cultural workers to take no more than three to six months of home assignment time as opposed to the much longer furlough. The concept, however, is still the same, in that a home assignment is a period of time taken (or assigned) to reconnect in person with your prayer partners and financial partners. It is neither an extended holiday nor a time of rest and relaxation.

So why is the term home assignment so difficult to accept? In many ways it is the use of the word home in home assignment that causes many to feel uncomfortable. In this usage, “home” refers to the country where most of our financial support comes from. For many people working in missions, that country is their passport country; but this is very different from the concept of home. We can feel at home in the house of our parents or a close relative, within a neighbourhood or church community, or in a place we have never been if the people around us understand us. In the same way, we can be in a place that is part of our past and not feel at home. This is because at its core, home is anywhere you feel relaxed and comfortable, at ease, in harmony with your surroundings and on familiar ground[i]. Just the word home, in this context, inevitably brings a wide range of emotions when it is time for a home assignment.

For many in missions, this word home assignment unknowingly triggers the seven stages of grief[ii]. These seven stages of grief apply to anyone who suffers a sudden, unwanted change or major setback. In other words, a loss. We do not associate a missionary home assignment with loss, though you only need to talk to a missionary kid (MK), a third culture kid (TCK), or a person who has worked or is currently working in missions, to realize that loss exists, even if they are not fully aware of it.

So, what are these emotions in the seven stages of grief, and how do they relate to a home assignment?

The first stage is denial and isolation. This is where the word home really “hits home.” For many in the mission community, when we are told that it is time to take our home assignment, or when we realize it is inevitable (due to our financial situation), the first response is denial. It generally involves conversations like this: “We cannot leave now, there is so much work to do” or “We are just getting settled and familiar here, can’t we wait another year?” or “Our kids are in school, they cannot miss several months of their education” or “Where do we go, we don’t have a place to stay?” These difficult conversations happen between mission organizations and their members and between churches and family in the home country and their relatives across the world. But even harder are the conversations between husbands and wives, between parents and children, and among singles (who may have no one who truly understands).

As our world has become ever more multicultural, the home assignment discussions have taken on a totally new dynamic. There are families with multiple nationalities represented, and for them, the only place that feels like home is the country they are currently in. Or there are families like mine, where the place you live and serve is the home country of one spouse and where work and family obligations may mean that your spouse is not able to go along on a home assignment. This first stage is thus very isolating. There are often very few people who will understand, and that is a lonely and isolating place to be.

Stage two is anger. Even within one family, there are many ways in which the anticipated loss of home, routines, and family members brings out anger or at the very least, frustration, in spouses and children. There is anger or frustration towards the mission organization: for reminding us that we need to raise more support, for setting financial requirements that are too high or too low, for not having resources in place to assist us when we arrive. There is anger or frustration towards family on the other side of the world who do not understand how difficult it is to leave home, work, school, friends, and routines; who do not understand that a home assignment is not a holiday (even for the kids); who do not understand that living with them in their home is actually very stressful. There is frustration with the need to continually ask for more support from churches and donors, to make our work or life sound exciting and godly, to always be ready to answer questions, and to justify how we spend our money. Finally, there is inner anger or frustration for not being faithful in this journey and trusting God to provide. It is this inner frustration and anger that is the hardest to reconcile, as it often reveals a true self that we feel the need to hide. After all, how can we, as people serving God in our work, doubt Him?

Stage three is guilt. In the context of working in missions and the home assignment, guilt can linger long after the other stages of grief have been resolved. In going back to the meaning of home, it takes time to be comfortable and at peace in a new society and culture. When that culture is very different from your own, it also means a shift in values and priorities. When we come from a very individualistic and materialistic society, and we combine that with the words of the Bible, there are many aspects of the new culture that people will adopt in favour of what they have always known. This is one aspect that can bring guilt to people, including children, as it feels like a rejection of the (American, Canadian, European, etc.) citizen that we are expected to be. When this is accompanied by a desire to enjoy the Western lifestyle that is right in front of us, it can be very intense to release the guilt of those conveniences, knowing the circumstances of those we have left behind. The longer and more fully immersed you have been in the life and relationships of a different culture, the greater the guilt of leaving them behind while you move on, even temporarily.

Stage four is bargaining. At this stage we have come to terms with the need for a home assignment (whether it is a temporary or permanent return), and we are now negotiating both with ourselves and the different communities that we are a part of. It is the process of balancing the two sides to come to a personal understanding that will allow us to move forward. This includes accepting the need to leave our current home so that we can return to it in a few months with our finances in order and our relationships strengthened. For most people this includes taking gifts to the family and friends that we left behind and also bringing back with us some of the comforts of Western life — comforts which also help us pass through those moments of loneliness and isolation.

Stage five is pain. The pain of leaving this place that is home, and the pain of so many goodbyes, on both the start and end of the home assignment. The pain of decisions that we know are necessary, such as frequent travels going to different cities, living out of suitcases for far too long, and watching our children struggle without routines or friends and not understanding why.

Stage six is depression. This too affects everyone in different ways and may be short-lived for some and very ongoing for others. Frequent changes, losses, and re-adjustments to cultural norms—these all take their toll, and adults as well as children may struggle with depression after a home assignment ends. Being back home (on the other side of the world) is often the first moment of relaxation after several months away. Once again there is the need to reconcile the luxuries and conveniences of the places we have visited with the limitations of the place we call home. It is this place that is more home at that moment than the passport country that we have just returned from, where our home assignment took place. It is no wonder that there is depression and confusion, though these eventually lift and life returns to normal.

Stage seven is acceptance. There is acceptance in the early stages when we begin the planning for our home assignment, having completed the bargaining stage. And there is acceptance again when we have completed the travels and can evaluate the benefits that it has brought to our work and to our relationships. We must accept that this is the life God has placed us in, and it is the life we love, despite the ups and downs.

This is why I dread the conversations about a home assignment. I am home right here, whether that is for one more year, ten more years, or the rest of my life. God knows even when I don’t. I battle these stages of grief because I feel a loss of self, of identity, of my place in this world, when my work in missions requires me to question where I feel at home. At the same time, I know I’m dependent on the support that is needed to make a difference here. We have been blessed with the opportunity to transition between careers, cities, and even countries, yet somehow when serving in missions, we are also required to question our commitment to home as we follow God’s call on our lives.

 

Sources:
[i] Merriam Webster Dictionary
[ii] Seven stages of grief – The Wellness Corner

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gail is a first-generation immigrant from the Netherlands to Canada. She moved with her Ethiopian husband back to his home country at the age of 23 and has now lived in Ethiopia for half her life. Gail ran an American Adoption agency for 15 years and has been working at a school in Addis Ababa for the past five years. She is currently working on her MBA. Gail and her husband are parents to four children and have one grandchild. Her family will soon be spread across three continents in the countries of Australia, the Seychelles, and Canada, as they are about to become empty nesters.

Dealing With Abuse Overseas is Complicated

What struck me the most were her lifeless eyes. Without emotion, the young teenager related to me disturbing descriptions of abuse in her home. Her father would verbally assault her and yank her hair. He would beat and kick her mother, locking her out of their bedroom for hours.

My horror quickly turned to despair. As a teacher, I knew about mandatory reporting of abuse. But this was not the United States. I had no one to report to.

*******

Amid the wreckage of abuse revealed in recent years, we can rejoice that many organizations now have their eyes wide open. New protocols. New safety standards. Tough policies. If you are serving overseas, hopefully your organization has already required all staff to complete child protection training. (If not, stop what you are doing right now and implore your leadership to get on the ball with this. Right now. Don’t wait. And keep nagging until it happens.)

In developed countries, there is no longer any room for excuses. Basic child safety procedures should be routine: Screen all workers. An adult should never be alone with a child. Doors and curtains should be left open. Workers should be trained to write incident reports. All signs of abuse should immediately be reported to authorities.

Unfortunately, in many countries, this is not so simple. And that’s what we need to talk about.

Standard child safety training (as important as it is), does not take into account the complications of life in a developing country. When I say I had no one to report to in my opening story, that’s exactly what I meant. I was living in a country where Child Protective Services did not exist. Beating a child or a wife was not only socially acceptable, it was ordinary. If I had gone to the police, they would have laughed at me. So what is there to do in this kind of situation? 

Or, let’s say you are in a position to hire or train children’s workers. What should you do if you live in a country that doesn’t do background checks? Or in a place where bribes are so common that you know you can’t trust the system? 

Or, what if you are in over your head with a suicidal or self-harming teenager? You know the protocol should be to pass her on to a professional, yet you are living in a location where there are no mental health professionals available to help. Maybe an ex-pat, English-speaking, or wealthy teenager might find hope in a telehealth option, but that’s not possible for the kid you are working with. What do you do?

I’m not an expert on these kinds of agonizing situations, although I faced them many times in my work overseas as a youth leader, chaplain, teacher, and principal. I had to document the injuries inflicted on a child by his father. My husband and I were called in the middle of the night by the mom of a teen attempting suicide. Not because we were experts, but because there was no one else.

I believe we need to do some hard thinking and praying in these circumstances, preferably in advance. We need help and advice from those who have gone before us so that we are not caught off guard. 

I wish I could say that my husband and I always did the right thing. But we tried the best we could, and we learned many things along the way. Here are a few:

  • In the absence of background checks, we asked for a reference from a pastor or a community leader. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it helped.
  • We did what we could to enter into families’ lives. We discovered that oftentimes abusive parenting happened not because the parents were evil, but because they knew no other way. When given the option of counseling and parenting advice, they often were willing to receive it. 
  • We educated ourselves. We learned about self-harm, trauma, and eating disorders. And if we couldn’t refer a student to a mental health professional, we could at least get a medical doctor involved. 

If you are looking for more resources on this subject, you can start right here at A Life Overseas:

One thing we get terribly wrong in our response to abuse. And one way to get it right. 

Ask a counselor: What about child abuse? 

Sexual Abuse on the Mission Field and the follow up Telling My Story: Sexual Abuse on the Mission Field

Here are some helpful organizations that can provide support, resources, and training:

There are no easy answers here, and this article is just the beginning of the discussion. But I believe that together, we can work for positive change. So I invite you into the conversation. How have you dealt with abuse when serving overseas? What resources would you suggest? What other factors do we need to consider? 

Tending to the Garden of Expat Emotions

by Lauren Swenson

It was so strange to me, the day when someone asked our names at church as if we were total strangers. We’d played volleyball several times together, had a host of mutual friends, and attended the same service regularly. I asked him, “Do you seriously not remember meeting us before?” His response was, “Oh I’ve lived here long enough that I’ve decided not to make any friends until I know they’ll be staying in Nairobi for a while. How long have you been here?” (Two years, and we met you within the first month or two.) “What do you do?” (We’re building a CrossFit gym.) “Oh, so you own a business! Yes, maybe you’ll be here a while.” He then proceeded to give us his name – again – and he told us he’d try to remember our names this time.

Surprisingly, although this weirdly frank conversation is not the norm, there have been quite a number of people we’ve met who ask prequalifying questions like “How long have you been here?” or “How long do you intend to stay?” or “What organization are you with?” to try to gauge if there’s a possibility of a longer-term relationship or if it’s going to be a short-lived acquaintance.

And I can say truthfully now, I get it. I get why people try to hedge their expectations. It hurts. I find myself grieving over the loss of friendships regularly here. I find myself saddened by the reality that we live in a place where people very regularly move on.

Strictly from a professional standpoint, we have trained with, invested in, and brought on fourteen people who joined us and then left, and we have two more highly integrated individuals who are moving on in the immediate future. The majority of these people are driven by worthy aspirations and have made meaningful life-moves for themselves, so of course I celebrate those realized hopes with them.

But ouch.

It’s not easy being left behind, rebuilding and finding new people to fill spaces that belonged to someone else who uniquely fulfilled their role with us, with our story and aspirations and structure.

I find myself grieving, because I give, invest, pour into people, and then the gaps appear, and the process has to start all over again. It’s disappointing when I have to slow my own progress to go back and train a new teammate.

I grieve because saying goodbye so often makes me feel isolated and alone, and like my story matters little compared to others’ stories.

Maybe someone more mature than me could take the losses in stride. What I do know is that I don’t want to grow heart-calluses that keep people at arms’ length, so I choose to dive in to understand, invest, know, and trust. But is there a way to do this without it hurting?

And in a context where life is not easy and opportunities are sought after like the rare treasures they are, I hurt at the heartbreak and hardships so many face. The never-ending toil of trying to find enough work to put food on the table at the end of each day. The lack of quality public education that puts tremendous burden on families to put children through school. No money for rent, people dodging landlords praying their home won’t be padlocked, possessions seized and tossed into the street. I am not here to work with the poor and disenfranchised, but in the course of my regular life – friends, neighbors, consultants – the realities are humbling, desperate, and overwhelming.

What do I do when this unsettling grief seems to circle around me? It’s not a distant discomfort; it is very present and tangible.

In some ways, it’s a good thing to grieve like this; it is evidence that I am present and alive – feeling, empathizing, caring – in my relationships. As a matter of principle, I want to be all of those things with people, and I believe I am choosing the right priorities.

What troubles me is how I feel when I give myself to training, believing, raising up, trusting, and investing my time, ideas and often finances, and I don’t feel it reciprocated with the loyalty of longevity. Somehow I feel betrayed, like I’ve been used (or am being used) as a steppingstone.

Yet those words war against another reality: I can literally say that one of the joys of my life is being a conduit of grace and hope and being an equipper, someone who can be relied upon and who helps others see a way forward. I desire to be living part of others’ pathway to seeing God’s providence and purpose in their lives, and I feel like I’m operating in my giftings when I do so. I feel my own purpose in being a steppingstone.

It feels like more than a matter of semantics, this steppingstone question. The tension in equipping others and releasing them. The pain of relationship and community. There isn’t a lighthearted quip or pearl of wisdom to nicely qualify and take care of the discomfort that seems like a constant ache in me. I am convinced I can’t make a mental decision, alter a belief, or take a vow that will make the grief disappear.

Instead, I find myself imagining a garden: soil and flowers and crawling things with a stone pathway meandering through it. The hedges don’t guard on the inside of the garden; rather, they keep what isn’t necessary from disturbing the space within. Inside the garden there are park benches awaiting conversations, a table awaiting the opportunity of a shared meal, the bird bath welcoming song, the green grass hoping for small feet to run and tumble through it.

I don’t want to hedge against good grief. I want to be a place where the sadness I feel is because my life is that garden, and my heart has been the steppingstone that welcomed guests in and has seen them leave, better than when they arrived.

Help me, Jesus, to know how to do this well, because sometimes it hurts more than I want it to.

Originally published here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Feeling compelled to influence a part of the world just beginning to embrace fitness as a lifestyle, Lauren and Bryant Swenson and their three teenagers relocated to Nairobi, Kenya in 2016 to open a CrossFit gym. To keep family and friends connected with their journey overseas, Lauren started a blog, which has become her own soul-nurturing chronicle even as life abroad stretches her faith and understanding. Through her writing, Lauren desires to be an authentic and faithful voice, and to foster the togetherness, teachability, tenacity, and transformation that define their purpose in Africa.

What we can learn from the SBC

I’m currently reading The Soul of Desire; Discovering the Neuroscience of Longing, Beauty, and Community by Curt Thompson, MD. In April I was privileged to hear him speak in person on this topic.

While the neuroscience is fascinating, what stood out was the role of beauty. And all of the ways that we humans can contribute by putting beauty into the world. Though “beauty” may seems small, putting beauty into the world truly is one of the most powerful things we can do, according to Dr. Thompson.

I’m also in the midst of edits on a book I’m writing about the fruit of the Spirit. Last week I was working on a section that very briefly mentioned the shameful past in missions involving our own complete mishandling of abuse and boarding schools. In fairness to my editor, she hasn’t served overseas and her “world” isn’t ours of cross-cultural service, so she wasn’t familiar with this part of our history. She commented to the effect asking if it was necessary to mention the abuse (I was writing about goodness and it seemed out of context).

I’ve left it in because it seems disingenuous to me to highlight goodness without acknowledging that “badness” can exist if we aren’t walking with the Holy Spirit.

This morning I read This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse from Christianity Today … which is the polar opposite of beauty. If you haven’t read heard about it, basically the Southern Baptists in the US kept an extensive list of pastors whom they knew were sexual abusers and did not (a) address it, (b) involve the local officials, or (c) support the victims.

Why write about beauty and abuse here? With you? For us?

Because it’s all true … beauty is powerful and unaddressed abuse is powerful. At times we Christians are shameful at the lengths we’ll go to in covering up sin and not addressing it.

As God has “beauty” and “abuse” on my radar, I’ve been mulling how every now and then we need to slow down and affirm a few of the basics. Beauty is powerful. Today let’s each seek one small way to do or say or share something that is beautiful. Abuse is also powerful and not to be tolerated. Today, if you see abuse in some form seek one small way to do something or say something or address it in some way.

You can cultivate beauty. You can! I love that cultivating beauty doesn’t mean you have to become a world-renowned artist. It can be as simple as noticing a person on the outside of a conversation and inviting them in.

Sadly, abuse can also be cultivated when we turn a blind eye, excuse, or downplay it. I believe that we are getting better at addressing abuse. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve become immune to tolerating abuse … too much abuse still exists in the world.

While this is not the most beautiful piece I’ve written, it is the beauty God has nudged me to put into the world today. What is He nudging you to put into the world?

Photo by Marc Schulte on Unsplash

Shining Your Light without Burning Out

“Raise your hands in the air as high as you can,” says the motivational speaker on the stage. Then, looking over the crowd reaching skyward, he says, “Now, reach higher,” and they comply. The lesson? You can always do more, even when you think you’ve done as much as you can.

“I’ll give it 110%,” we say.

“Leave it all on the court,” they tell us.

But pushing ourselves beyond our limits can lead to burnout. When that happens, we can’t function anymore, and that’s not a good thing. And yet, for a cross-cultural worker, being burned out can feel like a respectable reason for leaving the field. I have nothing left to give. I’m spent. I worked too hard.

When my wife and I moved back to the States, I sometimes said it was because we were burned out, and that may very well have been true. But there were other times when I felt I didn’t deserve the label. It seemed that it should be reserved for the ones who’d worked a lot harder than I had.

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” we sing.

According to the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, Revision 11, “burn-out” is an “occupational phenomenon” (rather than a medical condition). It is defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” showing itself in

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion,
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and
  • reduced professional efficacy

Christina Maslach, professor emerita of psychology at UC Berkely and co-developer of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, says that while overwork is one of the factors that can lead to burnout, it’s not the only one. In fact, she identifies six mismatches between the work environment and worker that can cause job burnout. In a presentation at a DevOps Enterprise Summit three years ago, she described these as

  • demand overload,
  • lack of control,
  • insufficient reward,
  • breakdown of community,
  • absence of fairness, and
  • value conflicts

When I heard this list, I couldn’t help but think of the topics discussed in Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss’s Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission. And even though Maslach is addressing a group of tech leaders, the content of her talk applies to people in other areas, including those working cross-culturally. Across all occupations, burnout, says Maslach, is like the canary in the coal mine. When the canary can’t breath, the solution isn’t to toughen up the bird but instead to find out and fix what’s wrong with the air. To put it another way, she says, prevention is a better strategy than coping.

I would encourage you to watch Maslach’s presentation, whatever your role in cross-cultural work, as leaders or followers. Some of you have a leadership position in your organization or on your team and can influence the situations of those under your authority. Some of you are your own boss. All of you have jobs that include responding to the expectations of others (agencies, sending churches, supporters, team leaders, supervisors, coworkers, and the like). Maslach’s insights are useful to us all.

Of course, serving and living overseas adds extra layers to what we call our “workplace,” and there will be some factors of cross-cultural life that are out of anyone’s control. But when we see the effects of a toxic environment, what of the six problems above can we or others solve or mitigate, working towards turning mismatches into good fits?

What can we do, though, if we’re feeling overwhelmed while waiting for (asking for, hoping for, praying for) circumstances to change? How do we foster personal health in an unhealthy environment? Several years ago, I wrote a post titled “Surviving? Thriving? How about Striving?” in which I presented another option for those who are able to survive overseas but for whom thriving seems out of reach. To suggest that we “strive,” though, might sound to some as if I’m saying we need to “try harder,” and that isn’t my intention. If I were to write that post again, I’d insert some advice from Aundi Kolber. It’s to “try softer,” which is the name of a book she’s written. For my purposes, I’d rephrase it as “strive softer.”

Kolber, a licensed professional counselor, writes that it’s not necessary for us to “white-knuckle our way through life.” Instead, we should practice “paying compassionate attention” to ourselves. She describes this as “in a sense, learning to steward for ourselves what God already believes about us—that we’re valuable and loved.”

When we are not paying attention to our inner worlds, we are susceptible to emotional burnout, exhaustion, emotional dysregulation, and chronic pain. Because our brains are shaped around what we notice, it’s important that we become better and more effective at listening—and responding—to what our minds and bodies are telling us. This is the journey of trying softer.

In Try Softer (the book’s subtitle is A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode—and into a Life of Connection and Joy), Kolber covers a lot of ground, diving deep into such subjects as trauma response, neuroscience, attachment theory, windows of tolerance, and boundaries, helping us learn how to understand ourselves and how we came to be who we are. Then she follows that up with “new practices and rhythms,” practical suggestions to help us try softer. It’s well worth a read. Or if you’d rather just get a short overview of what Kolber has to say, you can follow this link to a 45-minute video interview she had with author and podcaster Nicole Unice.

Striving softer isn’t just for staying on the field. It’s what we should do to continue walking with and serving God, wherever we are. It’s a good way to live life.

Giving anything more than 100% can’t be done.

Leaving it all on the court means your playing days are over.

Burning out isn’t an honor you earn from maximum effort.

And as for “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” I can think of a whole lot of other songs that are more worth singing.

(“Burn-Out an ‘Occupational Phenomenon’: International Classification of Diseases,” World Health Organization, May 28, 2019; Christina Maslach, Understanding Job Burnout, presentation at DOES19 London, July 1, 2019; Aundi Kolber, Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode—and into a Life of Connection and Joy, Tyndale, 2020)

[photo: “Lights Out,” by Pulpolux !!!, used under a Creative Commons license]