“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.
“Online coaching can help.”
Online coaching from an organization like Expat Everyday Support Center can be a lifesaver. Coaching is given in an online format through modules on various topics related to expat life, and Skype calls are also scheduled.
Norman and Carol, the coaches, have more than fifty years of expat life, marriage, raising kids, and repatriation under their belts in order to help expats.
Technology can serve us expats so well in these kinds of areas.
Answer from Carol, who has served with TWR in Caribbean, Sri Lanka, and South Africa for more than twenty years.
“Let Jesus be your number one.”
The Lord sent me to Guatemala with a team of two other who left after a month. It is just me now. I will admit it has been extremely hard to be so far away from my family and not have anyone to really talk to as I am still learning Spanish. It has been hard but I knew/know the Lord called me here.
The biggest thing I have learned is letting Jesus be my number one. We know he is to be our number one but in a situation like this it actually manifests. I don’t want to be dependent on others but Jesus Christ himself. It’s a struggle but one of the greatest thing to learn. Letting everything go, including yourself, for the love of God and his children.
If God is calling go, he will meet you. You are never alone.
Answer from Megan in Guatemala.