by Sue Eenigenburg and Eva Burkholder
Missions is hard. Really hard. Ministry is difficult. Cross-cultural living makes any expat question their resolve to stay. Unexpected changes, finding their niche, juggling multiple roles, and messy relationships reflect just a few of the challenges missionaries face. And don’t forget the revolving door of teammates and the endless goodbyes.
Missionaries are often under-prepared for how difficult this endeavor actually is. Some leave the field prematurely. In fact, 47% leave within the first five years. But it isn’t just hard in the first term. Mid-term and even end-of-career workers have their own set of challenges.
Gospel messengers can be tempted to lose heart, choose the easy path, run away, or give up, especially when seeing others leave their agency, location, or church. They believe lies like: I’m not cut out for this. I’m ruining my children’s lives. No one else struggles as much as me. If I were in a different organization, relationship, or country, things would be better. I am not needed. If I had different gifts, the ministry would flourish.
These challenges can cause global workers to wonder if they can persevere or if it’s time to go. But staying isn’t always good, and leaving isn’t always bad. Both require grit and grace. How do people know when it is time to go?
As someone who was tempted to leave too soon, global worker and author, Sue Eenigenburg, wanted to develop a resource that would help both men and women, newcomers and veterans, not to leave too soon or stay too long. To equip them to stay even when life and ministry feel overwhelming, but also to decide wisely when it is time to go. So she asked her colleague, Eva Burkholder, to collaborate on a new project.
The result is a story-driven, interactive, resource-filled workbook: Grit to Stay Grace to Go: Staying Well in Cross-Cultural Ministry.
Sue and Eva wrote this book because they desire to encourage global workers to develop grit to stay well even when it would seem easier to quit or when teammates leave unexpectedly. But the book also helps people discern wisely when to go — and to experience grace whatever they decide.
Grit to Stay Grace to Go has three parts:
In part one, Sue discusses the many challenges global workers face and the lies they believe that tempt them to leave too soon. Through her own stories and others’ experiences, she encourages global workers to not only stay, but to stay well by clinging to truth when circumstances are intense. She hopes readers will take away a renewed commitment to persevere by remembering truth and remaining unswayed by lies when cross-cultural ministry seems impossible.
Part two, which Eva focuses on, explores more deeply one specific challenge to staying well—the difficulty of watching teammates and friends depart. Testimony after testimony from fellow missionaries illustrate the reactions of hurt, disappointment, grief, guilt, and even judgment this revolving door brings. She hopes that stayers will turn this challenge into an opportunity to extend grace to goers—to forgive, bless, release, and live in the present, helping those who stay say goodbye well to those who go.
Sometimes workers choose to leave the field in the heat of conflict, when they are burned out, or in isolation after a stressful season. Sometimes God leads his messengers to leave the field or change roles. And going is also hard. After all, it doesn’t just take grit to stay, it also takes grit to go.
Therefore, in part three, Sue and Eva offer thoughtful questions to help readers make an intentional, rather than reactive, decision when they are undecided. Questions such as: Why do I want to transition? Whom do I need to talk to and when? What would I do if I weren’t afraid? Have I already moved on? What would I be going to? They hope that thoughtful reflection will help those considering whether to go, to do so in a healthy way with grace no matter the outcome.
The authors also encourage readers to pause after each chapter to engage with poignant reflection questions, suggested spiritual practices, and prayers. Additional resources offer more hope and encouragement to stay or go with grit and grace.
Grit to Stay Grace to Go is an effective preparation tool to help newcomers normalize their struggles and identify faulty thinking. For those with experience in ministry and in the fray, it is a resource for persevering when it seems easier to quit, especially when others leave them to carry on alone.
For those in the throes of determining whether to go or stay, it will be a valuable guide for the decision-making process. And for those who send and pray for global workers, this book will help them to empathize with the challenges of those they send and offer grace when their global partners return to them.
Grit to Stay Grace to Go is a practical guide to help cross-cultural workers and those who send them (or anyone who serves on a ministry team for that matter) develop grit and grace to stay or go. Get your copy at William Carey Publishing and other major book retailers.
Sue Eenigenburg graduated from Moody Bible Institute and Lancaster Bible College. She has served with Christar in cross-cultural ministry on four different continents for more than thirty-five years. She and her husband Don have four married children and twelve grandchildren. She is the author of Screams in the Desert and More Screams, Different Deserts. She also co-authored Expectations and Burnout and Sacred Siblings.
Eva Burkholder’s experience as a missionary kid, cross-cultural worker, and member care provider adds a global dimension to her study of scripture and storytelling. Through her blog and her book, Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, Eva invites readers to slow down, reflect, and apply God’s Word. She and her husband live in Texas and enjoy spending time with their two married sons and their wives.