Rebecca Leverington, LMFT, LPC, LMSW
Associate Director, Olive Tree Counseling Center
Living on the field has unique spiritual, emotional, physical, and safety challenges that most of us as women have not experienced previously in our home cultures. Understanding and actively building in key aspects that help us thrive, rather than just survive, these challenges also decrease the likelihood of premature departure, depression, and other effects of stress.
One way to look at this is seeing it as a “road map” that helps us navigate around potholes, detours, and handle rough terrain. Today we’ll look at some of the key determinants of success in field ministry. We will cover them using four categories: spiritual health, emotional health, physical health, and safety considerations.
A key thing to keep in mind is that we only have to change 10% of the issues/stressors to make the difference between surviving and thriving. So as we consider these various areas, think of just 1 or 2 things that you might change. You’ll be amazed at the difference these small changes make in your overall joy, effectiveness, and energy level.
Understand the way you most vibrantly worship God, take in His word, and spend time with Him.
Take responsibility for spiritual growth independently.
Cultivate the practice of daily verbal or written gratitude.
Take time to ensure/review your personal and specific call from God for this work that fits with this life stage.
Realize friendships will take more active commitment, but have deeper, long-lasting outcomes.
Build in an oasis or break from the cultural stressors that are most difficult for you.
Learn ways to exercise here.
Grow in your commitment to and ability to rest wisely.
Planfully build renewal into your budget, into your time, into your priorities.
See vacations as a priority, a part of the God designed work/rest cycle and find new ways to do them that work with this ministry.
Take active steps to ameliorate aspects of the assignment, location, climate that deplete you.
Get specific safety/security briefings and training that fit the specific assignment location.
Develop a plan that fits you and is realistic.
Learn how to make yourself a hard target.
Utilize resources that will enhance security.
Actively work through your theology of God’s sovereignty, protection, and suffering.
Plan ahead for times of security confinement to make it enjoyable.
Plan creatively for evacuation to reduce stress if/when it occurs.
Seeing this active learning curve to thrive in this location as an incredible opportunity, rather than an overwhelming burden or challenge that you’re not sure you can succeed in, changes your focus, makes you more open to God’s work in your life, and renews your energy for the task.
Cultivate the practice now if you are not already doing so to actively review the day with God at the end of the day and find three things to be thankful for, including at least one item of personal growth or personal effectiveness He helped you experience today. (Not just items checked off your to-do list).
We spend a lot of time and resources getting training in the areas of culture, language, team-building, and assignment skills. Adding these other areas of focus will pay dividends throughout our ministry. We can look with expectation and anticipation that small steps of growth in each of these areas will help us to one day be the “mighty oaks” sheltering others, both colleagues and national friends and ministry partners.
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