Women living and working overseas are some of the most resilient in the world. Think about it (or maybe you already do): we leave the familiarity and comfort of our passport countries, often in exchange for less comfort, always for less familiarity. We put a lot of energy into communicating in a second, or third, language; we raise our children far away from any family support; we often live in places of unrest, of poverty, of tension, of insecurity. On top of that, we have our normal responsibilities of working, parenting, ministering.
It is no surprise to any of us that overseas workers experience extremely high stress rates. Women working overseas regularly face anxiety, trauma, depression, spiritual crises, loneliness, discouragement, and burn out, to name a few.
A few years ago, just days before my 32nd birthday, I sat on my kitchen floor, tears streaming, in a deep pit of despair. There had been warning signs of the postpartum depression I was facing, but rather than admit to them, I had been too busy, too distracted, too proud. I can fight this on my own, me and Jesus. Until I couldn’t.
Gratefully, our organization has a strong member care department, and I reached out to a lovely lady I had met during our orientation days, years earlier. Within a few days, we began meeting regularly, and she has been a strong support ever since.
Why is it that we tend to wait until we are deep in despair to admit our need for help? Why do we face desperate loneliness before seeking support? Why do we minimize our transitions, our trauma, our difficulties, our stress? The reality is that women living and working overseas generally need more support, as we face more challenges. What is your support system like? Are you truly receiving the support and care you need in order to live and work faithfully in your context?
I cannot make promises on behalf of member care everywhere, but I would like to share what member care has done for me over the past few years, and prayerfully encourage you towards building your support system as well.
Good member care pointed me to Christ in the midst of trouble. When I was in the throes of postpartum depression, the cloudiness of my mind and heart made it difficult to discern truth, to seek Christ, to understand his heart for me. Member care reminded me that my Father is loving, that he is with me in the darkness, and that I can cast my burdens upon Jesus, who is gentle and lowly in heart.
Good member care enabled me to better understand my capacity and learn about myself. In the midst of transition or deep culture stress, it can be complicated to understand why we are not as capable as we thought, or why everyday life can feel overwhelming. Member care affirmed the challenges and stress that living overseas added to my life, and helped me to reframe my own expectations of myself in order to better thrive in my context.
Good member care helped me respond to trauma and difficulties in my life. Walking in seasons of heavy grief and trauma, member care was present to witness my suffering, to listen and cry with me, and to ask good questions, all of which have helped my heart to slowly heal.
Maybe today you need permission to seek care: I want to be the one to encourage you: do it! In our Resources tab, there are an abundance of suggestions, if your organization does not offer member care or you would like additional options.
Maybe today you have been on the receiving end of good member care, and are in a place of thriving, of understanding, of health. A dear friend of mine, having lived through all kinds of trauma and grief, sought care and counseling for years, and still does as needed. And she has also been an immense gift to our field, as she now serves in a member care role, reciprocating the care she received back onto those in her ministry area.
So today, I ask you: are you supported in your life and work overseas, or is your next step to seek extra support right now? Are you in a place where you can offer meaningful support to others? Because we are in this together, to the glory of God.