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Burdened beyond measure

By Chinedu Oranye

I just finished a long phone call with a brother who serves in a pioneering mission context. He was utterly traumatized by what his leader was doing to him. He felt rejected, abandoned, stigmatized, completely lost, and worst of all – alone. He couldn’t place why his leader treated him with such antagonism. Rather than providing comfort and guidance, his leader seemed set to make life more difficult for him. He was battered outside and inside. He needed comfort. He needed a listening ear. He needed to be understood. He needed counselling. He needed prayer.

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8).

People do not realize the weight and trauma that many pioneer missionaries face as they seek to execute the Great Commission mandate. Paul said they were “burdened beyond measure, above strength.” This great apostle reports that they “despaired even of life.” Imagine Paul, with all his anointing and grace, despairing of life! And it was not him alone, but his entire team with him. Incredible.

Pioneering is dangerous work because not only do we face territorial spirits who seek to keep us out of their domain, but we also face many personal, internal, team, and family crises that, put together, aim to cripple us from within. Trauma is that pain that crowds out God’s promises for us, swallows up our internal peace, distorts our perspective, and leaves us feeling desperate and unstable.

People do not realize the weight and trauma that many pioneer missionaries face.

As missionaries persevere through their emotional and other struggles, the Church and their sending communities of friends need to be there for them. They need persons of peace with whom they can share their hearts and struggles without fear or judgement. Unfortunately, too many pioneers do not receive this care, and they grow ineffective in their calling because of the flood of internal turmoil they carry within their bosoms. Team issues, marriage issues, self-worth issues, and failure issues – all roll up together to battle against their sanity and calling.

But they need not fight these battles alone. In God’s strategic plan, each member of the body plays a crucial role in keeping the body healthy. Within the fold, God has planted men and women who are pastoral at heart – those who know how to listen, to touch, to heal, and to comfort. In verse 4, Paul says that we are comforted so that “we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble.” The best member care practitioners are people who have survived trauma, have healed, and are now able to comfort others. God is redeeming His people by raising up a tribe of comforters who had been bruised by Satan, and having been healed, are now becoming God’s agents of consolation to others in the missions movement who suffer trauma. Let us learn to be comforters! Healing is possible!

In this edition of AfriGO, meet James Thiga, a passionate missionary who struggled emotionally on the mission field but later received help. In our perspective article, Jeremy and Anastasia explain trauma and member care and why missionaries need people to help them cope and overcome. For our training pages, we have compiled articles from member care professionals on how to offer practical help to missionaries. Finally, Mule’s* story demonstrates that traumatic experiences need not keep missionaries off the field for good; healing and restoration are possible. Enjoy this edition of AfriGO, and share with others!

Dr. Chinedu Oranye is a Nigerian Bible teacher, author, leadership mentor, and pastor. His ministry has taken him to over 30 countries, sharing and communicating Christ’s Gospel of love, redemption, and faith to the lost and the Church. He serves with Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) and Haggai International. He is married to Taiwo and they have three children. chinedu.oranye@gmail.com

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