On August 5, 2019, David and Joyce Reed celebrated 20 years as IM missionaries. This anniversary came and went quietly, but it represented two decades of ministry steeped in theological education, new church development, and spiritual formation. That same week, they officially stepped into a new mission calling with International Ministries as the Global Coordinators of Spiritual Care. IM created this role to bridge a gap in their member care services. Mission agencies often provide excellent resources to prepare missionaries for the field and to respond to crisis events on the field. However, the provision of a spiritual care paradigm that models how to walk with global servants on a daily basis so they thrive for the long-haul is often a missing piece. This is the space David and Joyce have been leaning into for the last two and a half years.
Cross-cultural stress stems from a variety of sources: cultural fatigue, burnout, trauma, historical views of mission, managing international partnerships, the constant demand of funding, and unexpected events like a global pandemic. The goal is to provide resiliency tools that allow global servants to navigate these stressors with enhanced self-awareness so that self-care, soul-care, and community-care are amplified, and life with God deepens.
THE DANGER OF LONG-TERM CHRONIC STRESS
Global servants become adept at normalizing the stressors of cross-cultural living. Why? The accumulative stress of constantly managing another climate and a new diet, assimilating a new language and cultural customs, exploring new friendships, and ministering with national partners rewires the brain to accept low-level stress as normal. Throw in an unexpected illness, an accident, any upsetting situation involving one’s spouse or child, or a natural disaster, and the stress is amplified. Research now confirms that long-term chronic stress burdens the brain and the heart to the extent that the circulatory, nervous, endocrine, digestive, and immune systems are impacted. This impacts people differently. Some become exhausted, while others have a constant adrenaline rush; some are both tired and wired.
Joyce and David’s ministry focus, therefore, is to assist global servants in maintaining healthy boundaries. They want their colleagues to become aware of how they minimize or dismiss stress, and then to gently discuss alternative ways to approach stress. They have discovered that by simply bearing witness to their colleague’s pain, grief, struggle, and exhaustion–by committing to show up for them and with them–builds trust, authentic relationship, and gives one the courage to not give up.
The Reeds’ ministry focuses on these areas:
HEALTHY LEADERS IMPACT DISCIPLESHIP
Why is this important? When global servants are self-regulated and grounded in Christ, then they can lead others with grace, humility, and joy. Ministry is not offered from a place of co-dependence, martyrdom, or from a self-inflated ego. Instead, it flows from a genuine, life-giving well that draws others to God’s love and mercy.