“Make spiritual and emotional refreshment a priority.”
First off, I would not recommend that missionaries go into areas alone. Without a team structure it is very hard to have times of fellowship.
We are in a remote area. Our closest missionary friends are four hours away. We have worked in our area of ministry for eight years now. When we first went to the village we both felt the lack of fellowship greatly. Not being able to share heart to heart with anyone on the field except each other has been very lonely.
We have realized that in order to stay strong emotionally and spiritually we have to go into the capital more frequently (a nine-hour drive). We used to only go into the city for a week at a time. Every trip was to rush around and do errands before heading back out to the village. We have found that these quick trips don’t allow the times of fellowship that we need.
Packing up to go to the city seems like a headache. Finding a place to stay (not wanting to tax people with your family for a couple of weeks at a time) isn’t always easy. However, when people realize your need they are [glad] to provide you with a refuge that enables you to stay strong and healthy for ministry.
It helps to break up the loneliness if your mission organization has planned times of fellowship and prayer. It also helps if you have a supervisor that comes out to see you at least once a year.
If these aren’t options, you need to create your own fellowship, times of prayer with strong believers, and mentor relationships where someone challenges you with God’s Word to keep you growing. It is also important to give your kids opportunities to play with other missionary kids or with nationals from strong Christian homes.
Living in remote areas is a sacrifice, the needs are great, and not many are willing to do it. But if you look for ways to find creative fellowship and make spiritual and emotional refreshment a priority, you can do it. Don’t let a year of depression bring you to the point where you realize you need fellowship. Build it into your ministry.
Don’t feel guilty being gone for two or three weeks at a time every two or three months. It’s much easier to know your needs and plan for them than to have to get counseling and be off the field for a large chunk of time.
We are all human. It is God’s ministry. He can do it with or without us. He chooses to use us. Don’t try to be a superhuman. God is the vine, we are the branches. He is our source for strength so that we can soar like eagles.
Answer from Cathy in Guatemala.
“Tap into resources for member care.”
Any Christian workers, but especially those in isolated situations, might find help from Member Care Media. They produce a web-based radio program designed for cross-cultural workers whose obedience to the Great Commission has taken them to difficult regions.
The program content not only reminds them of God’s promise that he is with them to the very end of the earth, but also addresses changing needs from recruitment to retirement.
“Stay close to God and family.”
In my experience as a career missionary for the past nine years (seven on the field), a key to dealing with loneliness is to maintain closeness in your personal walk with God and, if married, your spouse. Simply making these two vital relationships your top priority will keep you from a host of other problems.
If you have children, keeping a strong, close-knit relationship with them also brings invaluable strength.
Answer from N. in China, who has served with Independent Baptist Church in China for seven years.
OMF has a great article as well on loneliness on the mission field.
Recommended by the AskaMissionary staff.