Culture Shock. Stress. The many stages of crazy that hits those living and working overseas.
I have learned a lot about stress since we began this process nearly four years ago. I’ve learned about the toll it takes on our bodies, our health and our minds.
The pressure is unbelievable.
Sometimes we eat ice cream. lots of ice cream.
Life overseas is like a pressure cooker that you know is only getting hotter.
and hotter. More steam. More tension.
A pressure cooker that at times seems completely inactive… until you sense the pressure has been building all along.
Oh, we have love the adventure, the fun, the joys.
We love the travel, the people, the sights, the experiences… we are truly loving this path God has us on.
We would not choose anything else. We can’t imagine doing anything different from this fun, stress-filled, exciting, God-given life!
Yet, with all the smiles we put on up on the blog and via social media, it might be hard to see the stress behind the smiles.
In fact, we don’t even realize the stress behind the smiles until we sit and have a moment of quiet.
We actually, on most days, handle the stress very well.
But those quiet moments, in the quiet we realize the pressure involved.
We think we handle it well.
Until it explodes during paperwork and reports or budget reviews or late night car rides or checking into a nasty hotel or realizing the amount of work still left to do when we are absolutely exhausted from the work we just finished. Or, when it is time to pack up again, fitting our lives into a few suitcases. The figuring of what’s needed for the upcoming events on the calendar.
When things don’t go as planned on the field. When the electrician drills a hole in your main water line. When the car breaks and no one you trust is around to fix it. When your househelper steals from you. When your co-workers misunderstand you. on and on and on.
I say explodes in a way that means an inner explosion. The crazy melding of emotions that are breathed to life from the reality of our situation.
A move overseas.
A monstrous budget to raise. and keep raising.
The selling of our belongings.
The dreaded yet anticipated day we will arrive at an airport and say goodbye to our families for a very long time.
The looming feelings of living in a foreign country.
The realities of taking our girls out in to a dangerous world, seeing them have jaw pain or sleeplessness from their own stress of transition, watching them repeatedly start new schools and say goodbye.
The mixed emotions of being so happy to go, so willing to be sent, so thrilled to journey afar and the knowledge of the cost. for everyone.
The phone calls during support raising. The awkward financial discussions with strangers and with people you’ve known for years. Having your personal finances and spending be an open book to so many other people.
The conversations with muted under-tones of rejection and possibility. Missionary jokes. Unintended hurtful moments.
The mental math, mental social skills, and mental challenges.
Conflicting days, roller coaster moments, up and down struggles.
All the highs and lows at home and abroad.
With all of that, I started doing some reading about stress and overseas life and the effects of one on the other.
Between what I found out about stress in missions, then throw in the previous years of pastoral ministry, the statistics from Focus on the Family and other researchers are staggering.
Mix in the research done about stress for those living in another culture. Learning about the culture shock that hits so hard.
You have quite the scenario. We are living quite the scenario.
Dangerous stress levels peek at 200 causing many, many vicious health conditions.
First time missionaries reach levels of 900+
Returning missionaries live at levels of 600+
As this overseas worker said, many of the daily life moments that cause stress are not even life moments listed on the stress level scale widely used in testing a person’s stress.
The staggering statistics we came from and the pressure we are currently living plus the incredible stress causing situations to come.
Knowing the odds we face, we go. Missionary families read books, keep learning, pray a lot and trust that God will help them. We go standing on a powerful foundation of God’s calling and your promise to support us in prayer daily.
We know and have experienced the terrible effects of culture shock and the high stress levels for extended periods of time.
The cost paid. The price extracted. The toll taken.
Life overseas isn’t easy. Culture shock is not easy.
We know that. We trust it. and we go.
We go with eyes wide open to the risks but with eyes wide open to the price our Savior paid on the cross.
Because of that, we excitedly go to share His story with the world.
But the stress is real. Culture shock is real. The pressure is real. And we need His help, your prayers.
And maybe a little bit more ice cream.