I know its long since I have written about how we are doing and how life is rolling on here on this side of the earth. So it’s about time to share a bit of my heart again, I know many of you appreciated the fact
that we are showing our hearts and being honest about who we really are. Missionaries often present a false picture of who they are due to having to try and maintain a certain status with their supporters. But I am thankful that we could have had the freedom to take that all off with you guys and just be Lourens and Marie, a fellow brother and sister in Gods family. Thanks for that!
Most of you know that we are staying a bit longer in our home country in order to prepare ourselves better for the next term in Papua New Guinea. There are many different reasons for that and one of them is to actually help out my parents but another one of them has to do with STRESS. I am already hearing some critiques grumbling out there, saying, “Christians do not stress and especially pastors or missionaries, because they all just cast their anxieties on Christ”. If this is the case then rather not read on, because the matter of the fact is that Christians and missionaries also get nervous, stressed out and anxious and they also cry and have burdens that they like to share etc. etc.
I never thought I would have any problems with this until I moved into our hot and humid jungle environment. And without doubt those first years was by far the most stressful years of our entire lives. We really try to hide it because of our image of being “super heroes”. But we knew ourselves well enough and knew that we are struggling. This quickly became evident due to the way we acted towards each other, within our family but also between us co-workers. Then after about 9 years in the field we thought we learned to handle these kind of situations but then furlough came up again. As you know from one of my previous writings it is not a paid holiday but actually can turn out to be a very stressful time for missionaries. And we find ourselves struggling with some of the same issues all over again.
So I did some research about stress and learned about the Holmes-Rahe scale. It shows that when stress levels reach above a 200 doctors will advise patients to make life changes in order to lower their stress levels. The goal is to keep stress levels below 200, since anything over that can result in some incredibly negative effects, especially over the long term. In fact, 50% of the people scoring a 200 were hospitalized in the two years following the scoring. Apparently, the cumulative effect of stress on the body and mind can be an extremely damaging one. Then, they used the same standards and scale to assess missionary stress levels. They found that the average missionary’s stress levels for the first years are typically around 800-900.
So, its clear that there is evidence for missionaries having to stay longer in their home countries in order to recuperate. There is something behind the fact that we “accomplish” less and are tired more each day. Apparently, missionaries can be a stressed-out bunch. Maybe this just gives you a bit of a better idea of how to pray for your missionaries.
BUT, from our side, we are glad we can be aware of some of these issues, but we should not be using some stress scale as an excuse. I have learned in these last months that our real problem is actually a heart issue. And I am not speaking about high blood pressure but rather a sinful heart issue. We are thus thankful that we can humble ourselves under Gods mighty hand and cast our anxieties on Him, with the emphasis on the humble part, so that we can seek Him to see us restored into His image.
Listen friends, I am sooooo thankful for you guys who are praying for us, supporting us financially and building into our lives at this time that we are back home. We feel we are doing much better. and the reason is that we are learning to deal with our hearts! I think if I should use the Holmes-Rahe scale, then we will register much closer to 200.
Lastly as I look around at other people here in our home country, I can see that you guys also have GREAT challenges, more than we can imagine, and we are humbled by your faith.I see it as a great privilege to pray with you guys and help carry those burdens!
If you would like to read more on stressed out missionaries and how to handle them then check out this blog:
My honest opinion is that in the end, this great commission is worth the stress. This rescue-mission that we’re on is more important than personal comfort.