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9 Ways to Stay Healthy on the Mission Field

By Chelsea Rollman, Jun 20, 2023

Missionary life is often exciting, adventurous, and rewarding. But any experienced missionary will tell you there are undoubtedly going to be difficult times.

Facing challenges is inevitable when serving in missions. We spoke to MTW’s Member Care Department about habits you can build into your life on the field so that you ultimately flourish as a missionary.

Below are nine ways to stay healthy on the mission field.

1. Remember your calling.

Seasons of stress and difficulty can cause you to ask questions like, “Why am I here?” and “Is my presence really making a difference?”

During these times it is important to remember your calling. Think back to the moment you felt sure God was calling you to serve in your field. Reflect on the convictions, burden, and compassion for the people in your country that brought you there in the first place.

Remembering your call can help you recover a sense of purpose and motivation and push through the difficulty.

2. Regularly participate in spiritual disciplines.

This may sound obvious but when your responsibilities as a missionary begin to pile up it is easy to neglect your spiritual life.

God cares for you and has provided ways for you to experience His sustaining care. Spend time every day feeding your soul with His Word. Stay connected to Him in both short and extended times of prayer.

Engage in regular, corporate worship. This may be a challenge if you have to lead or work during the service at your church on Sunday mornings. It is important that you find ways to take part in organized worship without it feeling like work.

Disciplining yourself to regularly spend time with God will keep you dependent on His grace instead of on your strength. Self-reliance shrivels the soul and is one of the fastest roads to ministry burnout.

3. Take care of yourself physically.

God has created, redeemed, and instructed you to care for every aspect of your being. This includes your body.

Eat a balanced diet. Exercise and drink water. Get enough sleep. Go to the doctor.
Taking care of your body benefits your whole person. If your physical health takes a dive, your mental, emotional, and even your spiritual wellbeing can go with it.

4. Live in community.

One practical way God cares for us is through other people. We were not created to live alone. It is important to take time to build healthy relationships.

Invest in a local body of believers. Become friends with your teammates, neighbors, and/or members of your church. Stay in touch with a group of believers from your church back home. Find a confidante with whom you can be honest and vulnerable.

Living in a Christian community has so many benefits. You’ll have people to support and care for you during good and bad times. You’ll have Christians to hold you accountable and encourage you to repent. It is easy for sin to gain a foothold and grow when you live isolated from other believers.

Living in a loving, Christian community also provides a strong witness to Christ and life in His kingdom.

5. Focus on what you can control and submit the rest to God.

You don’t have the ability to convert the unbelievers you are building relationships with. But you can invite your unbelieving neighbor over for a meal or to a Bible study.

It is easy to get anxious and overwhelmed by things that are out of your control. Focusing on the things you can do will make life more manageable.

Surrender your worries to God in prayer. Remind yourself that He is sovereign, and He cares more about His mission than you do. He has promised to build His Church and that the gates of hell won’t stand against it. Rest in this promise and move forward in the specific kingdom building tasks He has given you.

6. Know your capacity.

Everyone has limitations. The sooner you learn yours, the better off you will be.

Accept your limits and allow them to lead you into greater reliance on God’s grace. Learn to say “no” before you reach your breaking point.

It may seem counterintuitive but setting boundaries creates space for more meaningful work. If you are trying to take care of everything, you are probably not doing anything well. You will be more effective as a missionary if you are functioning as a whole person within the bounds of your limitations.

Remember, your capacity will fluctuate. There will be seasons when God stretches you and seasons where you have room to take on more responsibilities.

7. Recognize warning signs.

Proactive living is far better than reactive,” says MTW’s Member Care and Safeguarding Intake Manager Jennifer Zeigler.

Recognizing and addressing symptoms of burnout early is key to remaining healthy (and even just remaining) on the mission field.

Indicators such as exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, difficulty focusing, changes in appetite or weight, irritability, depression, or sadness signal that it may be time to make some changes to your lifestyle.

Stay alert to the warning signs, decide how to respond, and then take some time to replenish.

8. Ask for help early.

Part of your response plan should be asking for help before things get worse or turn into a full-blown crisis.

This can be a humbling experience. But your pastors, teammates, church, and missions agency expect that you will need help sometimes. Part of the way they support you is by caring for your needs.

Asking for help is easier if you already have a support system in place. Take some time to think about who you would call should a crisis arise. Know who you are supposed to contact at your missions organization if you need something.

Finally, if needed, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help such as counseling or therapy.

9. Take a sabbath.

Living wisely means following the weekly structure God set up at Creation. Even before sin entered the world, God set aside one day for humans to take a break from their normal routine and rest.

Take one day a week for sabbath rest. It will probably not be Sunday which is usually a day full of responsibilities for people in church ministry.

Set aside Friday or Saturday to completely step away from your normal tasks and do something that refreshes you.

Enjoy a hobby. Explore a new area of the city or country you live in. Take a nap, journal, or catch up with a friend. If possible, disengage for a little bit longer once a year by taking a vacation or staycation.

When I was in youth ministry, one pastor told me that taking a sabbath rest and using our vacation days is important because it forces you to realize that “the world keeps spinning without you.”

If you feel like you can’t stop and take a break from ministry, you (and the ministry) are probably in a dangerous place. Withdrawing will help you keep a biblical perspective and remember that God is in control.

Many of life’s normal challenges are magnified on the mission field. So it’s even more important that missionaries take the necessary steps to live a whole and healthy lifestyle. Taking the time to implement the things listed above can help you have a thriving and productive experience as a missionary.
Chelsea Rollman

Chelsea Rollman is a marketing specialist and staff writer at MTW. She formerly served as the girls’ discipleship coordinator at Village Seven in Colorado Springs, and as a marketing assistant at The White Horse Inn. Chelsea graduated from Covenant College in 2016 with her B.A. in English. She and her husband, Hudson, live in Jacksonville, Florida, and attend Christ Church Presbyterian where Hudson serves as the youth director.

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