A year and a half ago our family lived through another war. For over a month there were missile attacks launched against most of the country, with violence and terrorism in the city where we live. Practically speaking, this meant trips to the bomb shelter with our kids, avoiding certain parts of the city, and one scary time on the highway with my family when a rocket exploded in the air overhead.
We lived in an elevated state of anxiety, with sharp spikes of fear and adrenaline that flared up during each new serious incident. Many times we could not immediately process these events because we had to keep it together emotionally for the sake of our children.
When people realize where we live, inevitably the comment will come up: “I don’t know how you did it.” Others ask, “How did you live through the war?” Now, looking back, we see that several things helped us through this time even though we didn’t plan them beforehand or consciously think about them at the time.
I share them with you today because even if you are not going through a physical war, we are all still fighting in a battle that is not against flesh and blood.
- Continue with “normal” life and ministry as much as possible. We recognize that there may come a time in any location that you must leave. If that is what your family and agency decide, then that is okay and nothing to be ashamed of. Each country and every conflict brings its own set of challenges and circumstances. For our family, we decided that if we were going to stay, we should continue to minister. That meant traveling to our congregation from a city with a couple of rocket attacks a week to a city with several per day. It helped to continue in our ministries as much as possible, and we were continually reminded of the bigger picture and why God had called us to this place. We also grew very close to our national friends and partners during this time.
- Set boundaries for yourself. For my mental health, I had to set boundaries. It was too distressing to go on websites and read the news, so I relied on my husband to tell me things that were pertinent. I chose to focus on things that were in my sphere of influence like my house, children, spouse, and different ministry opportunities.
- Take a Sabbath and give yourself some extra margin. Not long before the war began, my husband and I decided to start taking a Sabbath day off. During the conflict, we took more down time than normal. We guarded our one day off per week and took extra time to play with the kids, get wet in the kiddie pool on our terrace, watch more movies, and be silly. We were very intentional that summer about our margin time and gave each other permission to take some extra time to do fun things.
- With point #3 in mind: Do a project as a family. We planted a garden. It was really a family undertaking from buying the seeds in the store to digging up the soil to plant. It gave us such joy to teach our kids about gardening and how things grow. Every day we would water and watch things begin to sprout. It was a small thing, but it went a long way. It was fun for the kids to compare the sizes of the watermelons every day.
- Also with point #3 in mind: Teach yourself a new skill. My husband is an avid outdoorsman and has always wanted to learn to fly fish. He ordered a fly rod, watched videos online, and went to the neighborhood park to practice his casting. I am a musician and have always wanted to learn guitar. We took advantage of a ceasefire to travel to a mall, where I bought a cheap instrument so I could teach myself how to play.
- Recognize that even though you are healthy and political situations can improve, there are still effects on your mental, emotional, and spiritual state. Although my family and I are physically in good shape, we are not completely unscathed from all we have been through. When there is a siren drill, I hate that my small children run and hide under a desk. Our adrenaline still surges for a split second when a motorcycle revs its engine, because it sounds just like a siren starting. I don’t like that by age four my son knew what missiles were and that terrorists were launching them to try to kill people. I have to watch my own cynicism towards certain people groups that I have never struggled with before. It is important to recognize these effects in ourselves and in our children and to counter negative attitudes with appropriate Scriptural responses. I continually take a personal audit of where I am, spiritually and mentally. What this looks like for me is a weekly meeting with just myself. I look over my calendar for the coming week, plan out what is required of me, ask myself questions, schedule intentional down time, and then give myself and my family lots of grace.
- Most importantly, trust God for the peace that passes understanding and rely on Him. There were times of crisis when the only thing I could do was recite scripture. When sirens went off and we had to make decisions, I always had a sense of peace that could only have come from God. We leaned on God and truly came to understand that Jesus is our daily bread. He is enough. We serve an amazing God, and sometimes life is really hard. But when life is hard, he is still good. Always.
Our city and country are once again going through some very turbulent times, and I am constantly reminded of the goodness of God. I take it one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time, and rely on His grace and sustainment for me and my family. Despite the hardships, we acknowledge that there is One who is bigger than all of this. And His faithfulness is great indeed.
Angela lives in the Middle East with her husband and two children. They have served overseas in ministry for three and a half years. Angela teaches music at two different schools and leads worship at their congregation. She enjoys reading, writing, making music, and spending time with friends.