Doing Global Work in a Healthy Way – Part 2

5. Build a community of safe people

I know sometimes it’s hard to find a church or sending organization who will believe in your vision or passion and send you. I went through that myself. And yet, I wish that I’d had the community I have now because I think I could have gone a lot farther. I cannot stress enough the importance of having safe people on the other end who are rooting for you and looking out for your soul.

They’re watching for warning signs that you’re getting tired or bitter, they’re looking out for your heart as it gets bruised.

They are cradling your disappointments and connecting you with people who can help you on your mission. These people are central to your success and you have to find them and choose them well.

They need to be people who aren’t controlling, but have the trust to call you on your stuff. They need to be full of grace and encouragement and also full of prophetic gifting and truth. They need to be people of wisdom. They need to be a person you can be your whole self around and be accepted, someone you can fully open up to authentically and share your darkest fears and frailties and know they won’t shame you.

Find a community of individuals who will commit themselves to your well being and growth. This will be probably be different than your church or sending agency who will be primarily committed to your mission.


6. Supernatural lifestyle

I honestly don’t know how anyone does global work without a supernatural lifestyle and by that I mean one that is filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. My to do list was unending and if I looked only at that, I would quickly be overwhelmed.

Once I started realizing I didn’t need to be everyone’s savior, because Jesus already died to become their savior, I was able to let go of the many demands I placed upon myself. The disciples needed to receive the Holy Spirit, comfort, and authority before they were sent out because without that they could do nothing. If you want to see transformation in people’s lives you are going to need to walk in overflowing love, prophetic gifts, miracles, words of knowledge, a presence of peace, and be led by a truly intimate relationship with Jesus and Holy Spirit. You’re going to need to trust in God’s goodness that He is bigger than you and can take care of the problems you can’t fix. If you’ve craved more of God’s presence, but don’t know how to get it, I recommend Bethel’s supernatural school of ministry.


7. Have a Self Care Plan

Medical issues are one of the top reasons global workers leave the field and it’s no wonder why. As a global worker, many face lack of proper nutrition in the developing world, diseases, exhaustion, stress, isolation, major life events, and disappointment.

Holmes and Rahe have discovered that if your stress levels reach a 300, within 2 years you are most likely to be hospitalized. Global workers on average have stress levels double that with stress levels hitting 600 for a typical global worker. All that to say, you need to have a plan for self care in place of how you will take care of yourself from exercising consistently to eating healthy, meditation and yoga, seeds for planting, vitamins and supplements, to building in time for self care and real rest every day. These should be non-negotiable no matter how many needs come your way. Remember, you cannot meet every need. Your first priority should be taking care of yourself, then others. God is good and is big enough to handle all the stuff you can’t.


8. Prepare yourself for vicarious trauma/compassion fatigue

There are so many beautiful moments of love on the field. Ones where you connect so fully with another human being, ones where you are able to offer that shoulder to cry on, or that ride to the hospital, or that food for the hungry person, or that wedding gown from your closet.

There are also days that will leave you shattered on the concrete pouring out tears. It is so beautiful, and so hard, and so worth it.

I wouldn’t change any of the years I spent in Africa, and I still long to go back. But the reality is, global work is hard and it will take more from you than you think you are able to give. Knowing the signs of compassion fatigue from outbursts of anger, to exhaustion, to constant illnesses, to insomnia, dread of going to work, to personal conflicts, and doing a self test when you see warning signs are so important to your health and survival and to those around you. Realize that compassion fatigue does not make you defective in some way and you haven’t failed. Compassion fatigue is a normal outcome of people in our profession. It’s only by carefully planning self-care that we can avoid it. Learning boundaries and how to surrender and let go will help you immensely. Even Jesus took time to get away from people when he went away to the mountains. You’re no good to anyone dead. If you see signs of compassion fatigue please seek help right away as recovery is quicker and easier the sooner you catch it. I’m available to help as well.


9. Don’t try to be superwoman

In Expectations and Burnout by Robyn Bliss, she mentions that one of the number one reasons for missionary attrition is due to unrealistic expectations women have upon themselves and unclear expectations of the sending organization.

What creates so much stress in our lives is when we don’t think we’re matching up with the “ideal missionary” paradigm we have in our heads of women who have two hour long quiet times and never raise their voice. The reality is global workers and missionaries are just people. The sooner we can accept ourselves and our identity and let go of all the pressure we’ve placed on ourselves to be “perfect” and have it all together, the better of we’ll be.

Do you accept yourself or are you trying to be someone else? Is your identity founded upon God’s goodness. Know what your passion is, what brings you joy, what people like about being around you. And know your limitations. Ultimately, who you are is amazing and unique. You are the only you, so be that person. Figure out your unique gift, the core of who you are and offer that. You don’t need to be Heidi Baker, or Amy Carmichael, or even Christine Caine. You just need to be you, willing and ready for God to use you and ready to get back up when you get knocked down.

Learn to communicate your boundaries of what you can and cannot do to your sending organization, supporters, or board. When I sensed I was getting closer to compassion fatigue, I started going into the office later and spoke to my Board about raising more money to actually take breaks and go on vacation, rather than just pushing through all the time. And you know what? No one was upset with me because I couldn’t do it all.


10. Learn practical admin skills

Learning fundraising tools and how to operate technology systems that will give you leverage, will greatly lessen your workload. Invest some time in learning how to use Quickbooks for accounting, WordPress for blogging/website, Salesforce for donor database management and tax deductible receipts, Mailchimp for newsletters, and social media for updates. Invest in some photography and videography equipment and apps that will help you communicate your message in effective ways. When you don’t have volunteers you need computers to do the work for you!

Global work will be the hardest, most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.

The world needs you. You have something to offer than no one else does. But go with wisdom, go with experience, go healed up, whole, and completely filled up.


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


©2016 Thrive.