Missionaries Ought to Know About ...
What Missionaries Ought to Know about Ministry
Ronald L. Koteskey
this as a pdf file
Whenever people in ministry are
separated, disagreements are likely to occur. The most famous case
is probably when Thomas refused to believe what the other disciples told
him about Jesus’ resurrection (John 20). Of course, the same was
true of other disciples as well (Mark 16, Luke 24).
This has especially been true
relative to missions. Even after Peter became convinced about the
Gospel being for the Gentiles and witnessed them receiving the Holy Spirit
(Acts 10), the other early Christians not there at the time were critical
of his actions (Acts 11). A major crisis arose in the early church
after Paul and Barnabas returned from their first term of missionary
service and had not required the Gentile Christians to be circumcised
These disagreements and
misunderstandings still occur today among missionaries in general but may
be especially difficult for husbands and wives experiencing separations
related to their missionary ministry. In these days of air travel,
absences of a few days or a few weeks are very common, as are even longer
absences. This is true not only on the field but perhaps even more
so when on home assignment. One spouse or the other may be gone
nearly every weekend or several weeks at a time raising support.
Although these absences may be more frequent today, the reactions of
individuals to them have not changed. What are some of the
difficulties that may occur? What can be done to minimize these
It always happens when you are
For the spouse left at home, it
seems like that is the time crises are most likely to occur. A pipe
breaks. The car will not start. The computer locks up and will not
reboot. The kids get sick. The teacher wants to talk to a
parent about a problem at school. The list goes on and on.
Whether such things happen more frequently when a spouse is gone or not,
they at least seem to. Here are a few steps one can take to cope
with this situation.
“practical” support group. Make a list of people you can
call on to help with the car, the computer, illness, and other
means of communication you have available to contact your spouse.
E-mail can usually bring a response in a few hours. A cell phone
can often get an immediate response.
missionaries who have lived in the same area for suggestions on how
they coped with such situations.
expectations. Rather than trying to fix everything, let
brochure on anxiety.
I need your stability.
Marriage is about sharing life,
and today that is more possible than ever before. When one spouse
feels the need to discuss a situation with the other, the sooner they can
do that, the better. When both spouses share in the decision, both
have responsibility for the outcome. With our varied means of
communication one can contact a spouse virtually anywhere within a few
hours, and the traveling spouse should make that possible. Do not
hesitate to spend whatever money is necessary to communicate. Here
are a few ways that can be done.
Do not turn them off unless absolutely necessary for an agreed on
length of time. When you do, return the call as soon as
Check your e-mail on an agreed-on schedule and reply immediately.
Leave word with whoever receives your fax messages to get them to you
as soon as possible and reply immediately.
Even if there
is no “emergency,” communicate on an agreed schedule.
What about the children?
Children, like spouses, have various reactions to a parent being gone.
They may become angry, lonely, moody, disobedient, withdrawn, and so
forth. Here are some ways you can cope with these.
The traveling parent can talk by phone personally, e-mail a message to
each child, or add a special message to a fax.
The parent at home can encourage communication with the children by
asking, sharing, and being vulnerable.
be administered immediately, not when the absent parent returns.
If possible, spouses should communicate before it is given.
brochure on adolescence.
I get so angry.
The spouse left at home may become angry at the traveling spouse or angry
at God. One may feel abandoned, that the absent spouse is gone
because she or he really wants to be. Even if agreed to beforehand,
one may feel anger at God for calling the spouse away. Such feelings
must be faced, and so must thoughts about the absent spouse. Talk
with others about them, beginning with the object of your anger. If
necessary, with permission, talk with selected others.
We seem to have less and less
Of course, you do. People
involved in different activities become concerned about different issues
and develop different interests. A strong marriage requires common
interests, and that will require intentionally maintaining these.
with each other what is happening and what interests you want to
interests that you value in your marriage.
that you each value, people with whom you are both comfortable and
have similar interests.
I get so lonely.
Of course you do. You are alone. Both of you are alone, so
both of you are likely to be lonely. To combat this, you need to
intentionally plan how you will combat the loneliness.
Tell each other
about your loneliness.
that help decrease the loneliness. For some it may be watching a
video, for others having friends in, and for still others, reading a
about your feelings of loneliness while apart, and then share your
journals with each other when together.
frequently via e-mail and telephone.
brochure on loneliness.
I can’t believe I’m
attracted to ____.
Although being attracted to someone other than your spouse takes many
people by surprise the first time it happens, it is very common.
This attraction may be either sexual or emotional. As one song put
it, “When I’m not near the girl (guy) I love, I love the girl (guy)
I’m near.” Typically we come to like the people we interact with
most, which is usually our spouse. If you feel vulnerable in this
area, you are. If you do not feel vulnerable, you may be even more
vulnerable than those who do feel it. Such attraction must not be
tolerated in any way.
Be honest with
yourself about it.
Be honest with
God about it.
accountability partner (or group) of the same gender to call you
regularly to ask for a report.
brochure on sexual stress.
It’s so good to have you
home, so why are we arguing now?
You have been looking forward to being together for several days or weeks,
and now you find yourselves in an argument. What is the problem?
Remember that both of you are probably physically and emotionally
exhausted from all the things we have discussed. The spouse who
stayed at home has been carrying the load usually carried by two people.
The spouse who traveled is tired from work, travel, and perhaps jet lag
and intestinal disturbances from getting some of the flora and/or fauna
from the local water.
Both of you need to realize what the situation is.
Both of you need to be especially patient with each other.
If disagreements begin, it is best to shelve discussion until you both
have time to get rested, perhaps taking turns covering for each other
while the other rests.
Celebrate your reunion (when you are rested) in some special way.
See the brochure on conflict.
We need to talk.
Missionaries, of all people,
should know the importance of debriefing. You consider it routine
when you reenter your passport country, and it is the same for any
transition. Coming home from a few days or weeks is also a reentry,
and you both need the chance to debrief this minor transition.
Again, communication is of greatest importance, so debrief each other.
Look at your
journals, and tell each other everything about your separation.
this fits in to your life story together.
changes this may imply for your lives together in the future
plans for how you will cope with separation next time.
brochure on reentry.
Ronald Koteskey is
Member Care Consultant