Avoiding Chronic Fatigue

Source: www,sxc.hu

Source: www,sxc.hu

As we observed in a previous blog about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), many mission workers are prime candidates for suffering from this particularly pernicious illness.  Having said that, while we want to take this opportunity to warn people against it, we must be clear that this is an illness which can strike anyone.  It is a genuine medical condition and it is not a psychosomatic condition or a state of mind.

Nevertheless, it is also clear that while it can attack anybody, many of the people who suffer from it are overworked or highly stressed, and it appears that something about being under stress may weaken the victim’s ability to resist CFS, which typically follows a viral infection when the body’s immune reserves are already low.  So here are some of the steps that we can take to minimise the risk of succumbing to CFS.

Avoid getting ill!  Field health awareness training often forms part of the initial training for mission workers, but after our initial training we all tend to assume we know it all.  That’s when we fall into bad habits.  So it does no harm to review the basics.  Avoiding dehydration and exposure to the sun, maintaining a healthy diet, regular handwashing, taking appropriate prophylactics (particularly for malaria), ensuring our inoculations are up to date, and taking vitamin pills if necessary are all ways of ensuring that we remain generally healthy and avoid infection.

Look after number 1!  Taking care of yourself is not a popular concept among mission workers, who often think in terms of ‘laying down our lives’, but if we have a calling on our lives, surely our primary responsibility is to ensure that we stay well enough to fulfil that calling.  It is futile to work hard at it for a couple of years and then find ourselves invalided out of the field.  Way back in the seventeenth century Vincent de Paul, who himself was a noted charity worker, wrote:

It is a trick of the Devil, which he employs to deceive good souls,

to incite them to do more than they are able,

in order that they may no longer be able to do anything.

 

Souce: (www.sxc.hu)

Souce: (www.sxc.hu)

Recognise our motivation.  While I’m sure we would all primarily claim to be serving God, what lies behind that motivation?  Despite our common belief that we are unconditionally loved by God, and are assured of our salvation, I find plenty of evidence that many of us are still trying to earn God’s love and pay for our place in heaven.  Or perhaps we are trying to prove to a long-dead grandparent, teacher or pastor that we can actually achieve something with our lives despite what they told us.  Others may be trying to gain significance, or to meet their own personal need to be needed.

Make appropriate lifestyle changes.  Armed with the self-awareness we have gained from above, how can we live more sustainably?  Key factors include learning to say no, recognising that just because something needs to be done it doesn’t mean we have to do it ourselves, cultivating ways of relaxing such as taking up a hobby, making time for regularly times of reflection, prioritising quality time with family or friends, and ensuring that we take our full holiday entitlement.

Hopefully, making such adjustments to our lifestyles will help us to stay healthier, and avoid exposing ourselves to unwanted illnesses like CFS.

For those people in the field, Syzygy delivers a day seminar called Why do we Choose to be Stressed? which deals with why we get stressed in the first place, and how we can manage our lifestyles more sustainably.  Please get in touch with us on info@syzygy.org.uk for further information.

Mission report – Mozambique

Typical scenery in Mozambique

Typical scenery in Mozambique

Recently Syzygy was back on the road again, as Tim went travelling in Mozambique for two weeks.  Visiting old friends Aaron & Sarah Beecher, Tim was also able to visit and encourage a number of other mission workers in the area.

The first event was Staying Healthy for the Long Haul.  It was attended by 23 people from several ministries working in Mozambique, along with Christian expats in business locally.  We spent time considering the principal internal pressures we place on ourselves which reduce our capacity to manage stress.  Then we identified some of the most significant external demands on us, and thought about strategies to manage and reduce them.  Given that stress is a key factor in mission attrition, it is important to address such issues.  Our discussions focussed on helping mission workers develop the emotional intelligence to understand their inner drivers, recognise how this influences their choices and become empowered so that the are no longer dominated by them.  Much conversation followed over the next two weeks.  One of the participants said:

There was so much good quality material we could have spent the whole weekend reflecting on it!

Others who were unable to be there were disappointed when they found out how helpful it was.  Syzygy is now able to bring this day-long workshop to other locations to help mission workers.

Quality metalworking at Tariro

Quality metalworking at Tariro

For the first time in nine years, Tim was able to visit Tariro, a technical school teaching high quality carpentry, metalwork and motor mechanics to Mozambican students.  It was encouraging to see so much development in this significant ministry and find it having such a powerful impact on the neighbourhood in terms not only of training, but of the spread of the gospel and a consistent Christian witness.  Tim spent two mornings providing Bible teaching to all the students which generated significant discussion among them about how Christians should live, particularly bearing in mind their witness to the local community.  It was also encouraging to see the long term training and discipling of key workers in the community leading to their ability to take responsibility and hold key roles in Tariro.  One man who was raised in a local orphanage and joined Tariro as a teenager is now the Vice-Principal and is studying for a technical degree.

Mural at Africa 180

Mural at Africa 180

Tim also spent plenty of time visiting the mission workers at Africa 180, a local ministry of I Reach Africa, a most impressive agency with great compassion and a ‘can do’ mentality.  Dedicated staff there run a number of ministries including prison outreach, a clinic with a nutritional programme for babies, a pre-school and a developing secondary school.  This too is a powerfully compassionate witness in the local community.

There were also plenty of opportunities to preach, teach, and provide one-to-one support for mission workers.  Tim caught up with a number of old friends, and engaged in a variety of ministry with them.

We are very grateful for your prayers for the effectiveness of this mission, which helped bring results in a number of challenging situations.  Please continue to pray for the work of the missions mentioned above, and the people who work with them.  Life in Mozambique is far from easy for mission workers, with many challenges varying from a tough spiritual climate to large quantities of poorly-driven lorries on the congested roads.  Their spiritual, emotional and physical well-being is always at stake.

Report from the Vocation Zone

68547_10151597577244603_1250709866_nDuring the week following Easter, Syzygy was represented at Spring Harvest by Tim, who was helping out in the Vocation Zone.  This is a project run by Christian Vocations in partnership with Spring Harvest, which aims to help people recognise their God-given abilities and understand where they can exercise them appropriately, whether in the workplace, church or overseas mission.

A steady flow of visitors to Spring Harvest came through the Vocation Zone, many of them looking at vacancies in Christian organisations which were displayed on the jobs wall, taking home resources such as the Short Term Service Directory, or using the computers to do some of the reflective exercises.  All these activities can lead to a discussion with an advisor (Paul, Tim and Rachel) who were available to help people think through issues and gain some focus for finding a way forward.

Many of the visitors to the Vocation Zone came because they were aware of dissatisfaction with their current role.  A lot of them were teachers, frustrated with bureaucracy; others were people in dead-end jobs looking for more fulfilment, and many were facing redundancy.

One such visitor was a man who had been in the same job for 20 years and he didn’t like it.  He wanted a change but didn’t know where to start.  We started him off with some of our diagnostic tools.  Having done a ‘career check up’ he had realised that his job wasn’t as bad as he had thought it was, and following a long conversation he discovered that he actually quite liked his job, but felt unsupported in it.  Added to that, the general level of change and uncertainty in his life had left him emotionally unable to deal with the challenges he faced.  Empowered by this understanding, he was able to develop a plan to engage better with his employers and develop his workplace skills.

527123_10151597525594603_2133469060_nSome of the visitors were people approaching retirement who were looking for ways to use their availability to serve God abroad, and a large number of the visitors were young people looking to do mission during their gap year.  Using the Christian Vocations resources such as the magazine Mission Matters and the mission vacancies listings we were able to point many of them to the mission field, including several who’d never considered going abroad or had thought their circumstances made it impossible.

Vocation Zone is an important part of events like Spring Harvest as it gives a mission-focussed edge in the context of many thousands of Christians coming together.  It is also at New Word Alive and Keswick, so make sure you drop by if you are ever at any of these events.  Our friends at Oscar run a similar Missions Advice Area at New Wine.  If you can’t get to any of these events, most of the resources are available online at www.christianvocations.org, and so are all the job vacancies, both in the UK and overseas.  Please pray for the hundreds of people impacted by Vocation Zone each year.

 

The need for debriefing

After three years of doing regular blogs about missions, often with a particular emphasis on stress, I am amazed to realise that I have not yet specifically blogged about that most vital of tools – debriefing.  I’ve mentioned it a couple of times in passing but that is in no way sufficient considering the significance of this powerful resource to help combat stress and culture shock in the life of the overseas mission worker.

Debriefing is the act of sitting down with a facilitator to reflect on past experiences and how we feel about them.  During the course of a mission trip, whether short or long-term, each mission worker undergoes new experiences (many of which are challenging or even dangerous) and comes into contact with new sensations, many of which may not be at all pleasant.  These challenges may well be repeated differently at the various stages of our experience: leaving home, arriving in a foreign country, changing assignment, moving to another part of the country and returning ‘home’ all require repeated adjustments to change.  While we stoically cope with all these challenges, each one contributes to the general level of stress we feel, and can create an inability to cope with more change and deal with relationship challenges responsibly.

To have the opportunity to reflect on what we found different, how we felt about it, and how that continues to impact our ideas and feelings helps us process our thoughts and emotions so that we are more aware of what’s going on inside us.  It helps us to recognise that the occasional tearful or angry outburst, or an inner deadness can be perfectly normal in some circumstances.  In the process of doing a debrief, which can take a few hours or several days depending on the complexity of the issues involved, we have the opportunity to restore a sense of balance and inner peace.

Debriefing is rather like dealing with a drawer which is so full of stuffed-in jumpers that it won’t close neatly any more.  Often we just shove our emotional responses down inside us, but there comes a time when we can’t deal with any more, and that can lead to emotional breakdown.  To tidy out the drawer, we take out every jumper, decide whether we want to keep it or not, and if we do, we fold it up neatly and put it back.  Then the drawer will shut properly.  The debriefer asks questions of the mission worker, which helps him or her identify and evaluate their feelings and decide what to do with them.

Proper debriefing can be vital to the long-term inner health of the mission worker.  Debriefing has been linked to improved resilience and decreased mission attrition (Kelly O’Donnell, Global Member Care).  Regular and appropriate debriefing can keep mission workers in peak condition, but it is also possible that failure to provide proper debriefing, particularly after a traumatic incident like a serious car accident or a hostage situation, can lead to long-term emotional damage and even loss of faith.

Syzygy recommends that all overseas mission workers make sure they have debriefs on every home assignment.  Ideally, it should be about 6-8 weeks after getting back.  This is the time when the initial joy of being reunited with friends and family is beginning to wear off and the challenge of reverse culture shock is beginning to bite.  It should take place in familiar surroundings if possible, and involve everyone who has been part of the mission experience – including the children, who sadly often get overlooked.

If your sending agency or church does not provide this for you, we are very happy to provide you with a debrief, with their agreement.  We specialise in providing this service for independent mission workers who do not have an agency and perhaps have not yet realised how much they need debriefing.  We conduct our debriefings at a time and place that is convenient to you in order to minimise the impact or travel and strange surroundings on your experience.  Please contact info@syzygy.org.uk for further information.

Mentoring for mission

Mentoring is effective in focussing on God’s activity in the life of the mission worker

Many mission workers do not go to the field expecting to become leaders within their own organisations.  They go because they want to plant churches, do student work, or fulfil any of a number of other frontline roles.  Yet after a couple of terms they find themselves among the longest-serving people in their team, and are given a team leadership role.  Yet they may not have the management skills and leadership gifting to help them in their role as junior management.  Their previous life may not have involved any management training, and they might not have had much opportunity to develop any leadership skills they have.

This has negative consequences for them and for their team.  Uncomfortable in their role, and somewhat guilty that they’re no longer doing the job they felt they were called to, they can either resort to an authoritarian leadership style, or abdicate their responsibility which leaves their team without direction.  The whole team suffers and leaders burn out quickly.

Rick Lewis

Syzygy’s response to this situation is to start developing a suite of management and leadership training packages for people in just these situations: to help them feel comfortable with their role in leadership, have the necessary management skills to do it well, and to develop the leadership gifting to inspire and lead their team effectively.  The first package to be release involves mentoring for leadership and we are happy to introduce you to the services of experienced leadership mentor Rick Lewis.  Rick is an extremely experienced church leader and mentor who has successfully mentored leaders all over the world.  He is also the author of the highly-praised book Mentoring Matters.  He divides his time primarily between Australia and England, but also travels to other parts of the world.  His mentoring is done by both face-to-face discussion and remote conversation by internet.  Rick writes:

Leaders in Christian organisations face a particular set of challenges that arise from factors such as high ideals, limited resources, diverse and often irreconcilable demands and relational volatility in teams and personal isolation.  Spiritual mentoring brings the focus back to God’s agenda, reminding the leader of God’s wisdom and power and encouraging a faithful response to His grace.  Space is created for spiritual discernment out of which the leader plans positive action and agrees to be held accountable by the mentor.  Each mentoring relationship is tailor-made to respond to the unique circumstances of the leader and is designed to help the leader be sharper, stronger and more resilient.

Mentoring is becoming an increasingly popular activity among missions leadership as a development tool, but the challenge to agencies who are recommending it is that it cannot effectively be done by a colleague or manager.  The availability of high-quality, independent mentors is severely limited.  Syzygy’s involvement in this field provides a significant development.  While Rick’s services are not free, we believe they are good value for money as an investment in your future management ability.  For further information contact Rick via his website anamcaraconsulting.

Working with Generation Y

 

While many of us are still coming to terms with Generation X, Generation Y sneaks up on us unawares!  Leaders in missions will be starting to encounter this generation, and they’ll be starting to realise that Ys aren’t quite what they expected.  People working in short-term have been dealing with Ys for quite a while now, so will be coming to terms with the fact that they do things differently to previous generations, but these people are now coming through into doing long-term where their differences will be rubbing their leaders up the wrong way.

Generation Y is the unimaginative name given to the generation following on from Generation X, and consists of those born (roughly) from 1980 to 2000.  They’re also called Generation Next or Millennials, but I’ll stick to Y as it’s easier to spell.  These people grew up connected, having mobile phones and computers from their youngest days.  Their families may have been broken, leading to a highly important need to belong, but their parents will have invested heavily in them so they are used to getting feedback and encouragement.  They also grew up after the end of the cold war, so they were promised peace, but now find that their lives overshadowed by the war on terror.  This can lead them to distrust authority and value honesty, authenticity and integrity.

What are these people going to be like as your co-workers? Their workplace expectations are not that different from those of previous generations, but they are far more reluctant to toe the line in the way their parents or grandparents might have done.  Older people might think of them as lazy, uncommitted, overconfident, disrespectful and impatient, but those are the flip side of great strengths:

Lazy?  These people are digital natives.  Because they grew up in a multi-media world they are able to surf Facebook, send text messages, listen to music and get on with their work at the same time.  But they don’t live to work.  They’re flexible and will be more concerned about getting the overall task done than by being at their desk at the right time.  They might be working at home at 10pm, not because they’re workaholics, but just because it works better for them.

 

Uncommitted?  Well, they’re not committed to things just because you think they ought to be.  Duty is not a word that features frequently in their vocabulary.  But they will be highly committed to things they believe in, even though it may not look like it to older generations.  Their desire for authenticity leads them to reject much that is latently hypocritical, but when they find something genuine, they will embrace it.

Overconfident?  Because they’ve had a lot of positive parenting, Ys believe in themselves, and because they’ve seen through authority structures, they won’t tolerate spending ten years doing the filing before they’re allowed to have an opinion.  They believe they have a contribution and they don’t understand why they can’t make it now.

Disrespectful?  They respect people, not positions, so if you aren’t confident as a leader and hide behind your position, they’ll see through you.  They respect people who show that they care, make wise decisions, and don’t try to give them corporate flannel.  If they speak out of turn, it’s only because they can see a problem and haven’t had a good answer for it.

Impatient?   Ys were born connected.  They get the answers they want off the internet in seconds.  They instant message their friends.  They just want to get on with things without being held up.

So as Ys become your partners in mission, how do you need to treat them?

Teamwork.  Their whole life is made up of connections, so the idea of working alone doesn’t exist.  They’ll share problems, bring in specialists, and network with anyone they need to.  So create a flexible team structure in which they can thrive and don’t tell them they can’t talk to someone in another office just because you have a territory dispute with another manager.

Managing.  Top-down hierarchies don’t work.  These people have had positive parenting.  Create for them an environment in which they can learn and develop skills.  Feedback to them regularly.  Don’t impose rules, explain reasons.  Don’t manage the process, mentor the person.

Communication.  Give them all the facts and explain why you’ve made a decision.  They need to know the reasons before they can believe.  Your answer doesn’t have to be 100% logical; you can bring in emotions as well.  Let them ask challenging questions.  When they see you communicate openly and honestly, and allow them to be part of the solution, they will trust you and become committed.

Fulfilment.  In the secular workplace, Generation Y is more concerned to find a job they can believe in than one that pays well (although they expect to be fairly remunerated!).  This is true in the Christian world as well.  You need to ensure that they believe in what they’re doing in order to get the best out of them, and try to make sure they feel they’ve been treated fairly.

Obviously, these are huge generalisations, and individual personalities differ greatly, but this information may help to explain to you why people under 30 seem to think and act strangely at times.  These generational characteristics may not be so pronounced in Christians, since they have also been subject to the unique influences of Christian discipleship and training in church, community and possibly Bible College.  However, they grew up in the same conditions as non-Christians, were educated together with them, and used the same media, so will demonstrate similar generational characteristics.  Get to know them better, and you’ll all end up working better together.

Generations divided by different approaches to church


Is this church?

When you hear the word ‘church’ what image comes to mind?  A building?  A community?  A service?  A family?  Perhaps all of these do, or perhaps only some of them.  What do you think is essential for church?  Your answers to these questions may vary significantly from those of people of a different generation to you.  They might also acquire additional significance if you’re working in a missions community where the local church may have lengthy services in uncomfortable conditions, with repetitive singing in a language you don’t fully comprehend, and loud sermons that are not aimed at your needs.  And that’s just if you’re lucky enough not to be preaching or leading the worship.

For most older mission workers, church may not be an enjoyable experience, or even a relevant one, but it’s part of the job.  You go to church, because you should.  It’s expected of Christians, particularly of mission workers who should set a good example to the local believers.  And what happens there is pretty standard: Acts 2:42 sets out the four pillars of church: teaching, fellowship (whatever that is), communion and prayer.  Though we always leave out the embarrassing bit about having all things in common and nobody being poor – that was just culturally appropriate to the Jerusalem church.

Is this church?????

Somebody I spoke to recently was completely unable to understand why young people did not want be part of an experience like that.  They’re just not committed, she complained.  I was able to explain that young people (postmoderns, Gen X) are able to be highly committed, but only to things they believe in, and not merely to things somebody else thinks they ought to be committed to.  So younger mission workers are increasingly spurning traditional ways of doing church, just like young people in Europe.  They are finding new ways of doing things, and making them work, but this doesn’t always look like church to an older generation.

Why is it not church when a group of people meet regularly together in someone’s house for prayer, or worship, or Bible study?  Because they don’t do them all at the same time?  Because it’s not Sunday?  Because there’s no leadership?  Is that really what defines church?

This conflict has its roots in a transitional phase that the western world is going through at the moment: the much-talked-about but little-understood transition from modern to postmodern.  It’s not merely an intergenerational conflict where the old don’t understand the young and vice versa; it’s a change of epoch on a scale of the fall of the Roman Empire or the rise of the Enlightenment out of the middle ages.  It involves fundamentally different worldviews and ways of doing things.  Including church.

 

Is this church?

Here in the west there are already many different ways of doing church which do not fit the traditional model.  House church led to cell church, and 50 years later there are simple church, messy church, cyber church, deconstructed church, and an awful lot of people who love God together but don’t do church at all.  While this development may not have touched the cultures of the two thirds world in the same way yet, it has had an impact on a large number of young people who have grown up among a postmodern generation who are passionate about church in a different way.  When these young people enter the mission field, they want to keep doing things in a different way, but often the older generation not only sees this as a threat to the work they’ve spent their lives establishing, but doubts the very genuineness of the young people’s relationship with God.

I write this brief introduction to a highly complex issue in the hope that older mission workers will be able to be tolerant of younger ones who want to do things differently, and that younger ones may understand why the previous generation just can’t see what they see.  This of course relates only to the church needs of the mission worker; how it impacts on the church needs of the local believers is an entirely different matter!

 

England – land of bitter sweets

This week adult TCK (Third Culture Kid) Gill Gouthwaite reflects on what it meant to come ‘home’ to England as a missionary kid.

To me, England was a land of aniseed balls and liquorice, sticks of rock and gobstoppers, dolly mixtures and wine gums.  It was a land of daisies and dandelions, cowslip and hawthorn, where the most dangerous nature got was the occasional bramble or rose-thorn, or on a particularly bad day, a nettle sting.   Food was sausage rolls and quiche, scalding hot tea or instant coffee in church cups (never with sugar, which rots your teeth in England, though presumably not in Brazil), smoky barbeques in spring showers, aspartame-flavoured orange squash and overdone lamb.  Hillwalking in cagoules, wet feet, the excitement of clambering over a stile, of reaching the summit and being lifted to stand proudly atop the trig point, eating soggy sandwiches, and sipping a well-deserved taste of mint liqueur at the local pub after a long day’s walking.  The Beano and the Dandy, stamps printed with pretty pictures, the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  This was England.

Naturally I knew when we returned that I didn’t know what the English were like.  Logically I knew this, but in my heart they were a simple, sweet people who saw my parents – and me by association – as heroes, willing to leave Everything to do the Will of God.

But to people at school this was not who I was.  I was the Brazilian girl who, disappointingly, turned out not have luxurious Latin locks or olive skin…  I was the American who had never lived north of Mexico.  I was the English girl who wasn’t even born here.  I had the right to whichever countries they chose, when they chose.  England, it seemed, was a land of Eurovision politics and sarcasm, of ‘health and safety’, of the infernal ‘Spice Girls’ and of  ‘Steps’, where one could dislike any and all of these things, but one must absolutely know who they were and why one disliked them.  England was also a place of profound ignorance and apathy about international suffering, which, when it impinged on one’s consciousness, could be assuaged by putting £2 in Oxfam’s collection bucket.

This was how I felt for years.  Things have changed now, both in me and in this, one of my countries.  But the changes did not come easily, or quickly.  I wish now that someone had taken me under their wing and taught me why it is that we don’t like Eurovision, but still we watch it; who ‘Posh Spice’ was, and to pity her; and to laugh aloud at the absurdity of a ‘wet floor’ sign in a shower room.  I could not laugh then, but now I do, by the grace of God.

 

Gill still likes to stand proudly atop trig points, but no longer needs to be lifted. . .

Missions report: Zambia

My host for my week-long trip to Ndola was my good friend Lene Pedersen, who many will know following her speaking tour in Britain last year, and it was great to spend time with her, get to know her fiancé Dale, and help them prepare for their wedding next month.  Lene continues to be one of the three directors at Lifeline in Zambia – a ministry which we featured last August which provides home-based care and support for people suffering from AIDS/HIV.  LiZ continues to develop and it was an encouragement to visit premises which I had not been to before and see how well suited they are to managing the work and training the volunteers.  There is also a commitment to take on more highly qualified staff which is already having benefits for the work.

I returned for the first time in seven years to Kaniki Bible College, which trains church leaders for the Apostolic Church in Zambia.  There has been a lot of staff turnover since then, and only the Zambian workers whom I knew remain there.  All the overseas staff have changed, and the college is led by a new Zambian Principal supported by two other African faculty members.  There are currently 55 students and there is also a new BA course.  There are plans to build a new classroom block to meet the increased number of students.

Also on the Kaniki campus is African Quest, a missions training and discipleship programme for young people with which I have been involved since its beginning 15 years ago.  Many fine young people have been through this programme and gone on to be involved in missions in a variety of ways, and AQ is currently led by two of its former students, Tim & Gemma Mills.  This six month gap course is currently recruiting for next year and I will feature it in more detail later this summer.

I also spent some time with the new leaders of School Mission for Christ International This fantastic ministry employs Zambian pastors to go into schools and preach the gospel.  Thousands of students have met Jesus in this way, and teachers testify to the return of stolen property, decline in the use of drugs, and falling pregnancy rates as a result.  This powerful witness leads many teachers also to give their lives to Christ.  SMFCI is looking to expand both within Zambia and to neighbouring countries.

Near to Kaniki is Jabulani Children’s Village, where Tom & Ruth Dufke took over an abandoned farm 13 years ago with a view to developing a home for needy children.  There are currently 18 children living at the site, in small, ‘family’-type cottages.  With a view to maintaining financial independence, the village is partly funded by a huge sawmill operation, which now employs 65 local people, thereby keeping them out of poverty and providing food and education for their children.  There are also training facilities for the community on site, such as a sewing college, and there is a clinic to meet the needs of the local community.

While visiting these various ministries and catching up with old friends, I was able to spend a lot of time encouraging mission workers, helping them understand the causes of stress in their lives, and planning how Syzygy can help to support them.  Like many overseas mission workers, they have a number of challenges to face, and it was a joy to be able to help them find ways of dealing with them.

Can postmoderns do long-term?

I was talking recently to a young woman who’s been serving the Lord in France for a few years.  In the course of conversation I enquired whether she’s thinking of doing missions long-term.

“Long-term!” she exclaimed, aghast.  “I’m postmodern; I don’t do long-term.”

Which raises an interesting question: how do people who don’t do long-term engage with missions that do?  Which one changes?  And how? Or can the two approaches be brought together?

The traditional missions model thinks of ‘terms’ of 3-5 years with a break in the home country in between.  I’ve heard it said that in your first term you start learning the language, in the second you start to appreciate the culture, and in the third you’re just about ready to start doing some useful work.  Add in the time you spent preparing to go, at Bible college, raising support and getting other training, and it could be nearly 15 years before you’re actually getting bedded in.  That’s the equivalent of nearly two careers for a postmodern!

It seems likely that in future, more people will do missions as a phase of their life rather than make it a long-term career choice.  This has huge implications for those organisations which stress language acquisition and cultural familiarisation.  But maybe postmoderns with their global perspective will actually integrate much more effectively than their predecessors, who may speak the language fluently but may also have a tendency to isolate themselves in homogeneous micro-communities.

We need to accept that increased turnover is a fact of life.  People come and go.  We can loathe that or we can embrace it.  It might mean that young people don’t stay with us for life, but it also means that older people can join in at a later stage in life than they might previously have done, bringing life skills with them.  The important thing is that we greet people well, and say goodbye well too.  Moving on is neither a lack of commitment or a failure.