Doing Global Work in a Healthy Way – Part 1

I’m the kind of girl who likes to be prepared for everything. Before I leave for a trip, I print out a detailed spreadsheet of my packing list so nothing is forgotten. (Except for my pillow, which usually is)

On the flip side, I love adventure. But I like to plan for adventure. There’s nothing more adventurous than giving your life away to global work, but just like every big road trip or endeavor into the unknown, we have to ask ourselves, “Are we prepared?”

“How do you do global work in a healthy way?”

Honestly, it’s hard to find information out there to know if you are doing things right. You burn with a desire to serve, to help, but you’re not sure how to meet the growing list of expectations.

Nearly ten years ago when I first stepped foot on African soil with my gigantic backpack and even larger can of bug repellent, I was nowhere near prepared for what awaited me there. Even after all this time, after burning out and recovering, I still don’t have it all figured out. But here are 10 ways to be healthy as a global worker:


1. Deal with your stuff

Christine Caine who runs the A21 campaign, which I deeply respect, spoke at my church recently and one of the most important things she said is that if we want to go out into the world to help, we have to deal with the frogs in our own life first. Frogs are the things that keep us from being fully free. The things that get triggered that make us respond in anger. The ways we still hold onto rejection and resentment. The areas we’ve been traumatized that we’ve pushed down instead of dealt with.

Now, this is a message I’ve been preaching for a while now, borne out of personal experience.

I still believe the most important thing you can do today to prepare yourself for long term global work or ministry is to get healed from your pain and deal with your junk.

That might mean seeing a professional counselor, or getting inner healing like Theophostic, Sozo, or HeartSync, and asking a mentor into your life to help you grow. I also have a list of resources here. I know there are millions of things vying for your time and attention, but take stock of who you are on the inside before you burn out. I am also just starting to take on clients for missionary care coaching and pastoral counseling.

But the best way you can help others is to be healed yourself so you don’t project your problems onto anyone else.

“The degree to which you embrace the pain, is the degree to which you will recover.” -Christine Caine


2. Look at your motivations

Many people who are drawn to helping professions do so out of unresolved pain from childhood, family, or elsewhere.

Many do it out of a martyr or savior complex thinking that if they can “save the world,” then they can prove their worth and value to people, or gain control over past experiences.

What if that deep desire to help is actually a desire to escape your own inner struggles?

Is your compassion flowing from a deep seeded love for the people God has given you? Is your passion something you can see throughout your whole life, something deep God has placed in your personality or is it a phase? What if no one ever knew you were there, or gave you praise for being there, would you still stay? Better yet, ask some folks who know you well if they think you’re reasons for being on the field are pure or are you motivated by seeking affirmation?


3. Go through training

Global work is like any other job–you need training and job experience to be equipped to be good at it. I’ve listed plenty of programs here that offer training, but make sure you pick something that is going to practically equip you for the day to day arduous tasks of living overseas. Where do you begin? What do you do when a child dies? How do you have healthy relationships? How to poop in a pit latrine, etc. (that last one is a freebie)?  Are you making time/space in your daily living to continue your training?  How are you addressing gaps in your training as you encounter them?

The field ended up being my training ground, but if I’d known what I know now, I would have done it differently and tried to get some more real training experience as well as continued to put things in my toolkit that I was interested in.


4. Have a skill or partner with someone who does

As you know, modern day global work is less about touting a Bible around and more about being Jesus to people through socially just acts, and seeing the person holistically healed up and whole. I wasn’t just a global worker, I was a non profit director, which comes with it’s own set of problems. But that’s what’s happening in our ministry world. We’re starting sex trafficking shelters, and orphanages, running employment businesses, and building schools in war zones, and we’re doing it all with little other than our on-the-ground-know-how and elbow grease.

It’s amazing the things we can do when we put our minds to it.

But better yet, it’s beautiful when we don’t have to do everything alone but we find ways to partner with those who are specialized in an area where we have need.

If you have girls that need counseling find a trained trauma counselor to train your staff. If you need a business program to get women out of prostitution, find a business guy who knows economics. Be specialized and focused on what you are good at and partner with others to fill in your gaps. Or even better, go back to school and bring a specialized skill to offer.


Originally published here on September 10, 2015; adapted for Thrive.


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