Turnover of cross-cultural workers is high in our corner of the world. We’ve heard informal statistics indicating that over half the ex-pats serving in our country have been here two years or less. In ten years we’ve seen foreigners leave for many reasons: visa problems, difficulty learning the language and adjusting, job related stress, health issues, problems with children and their education, but I suspect the number one reason is discouragement. The soil is hard here and the fruit is slow in coming.
After an intense year working on a new outreach project while homeschooling, I had the opportunity to slow down this summer and invest extra time in my own personal life. Now I feel refreshed and ready to face the challenges of seed sowing again.
Taking time for personal renewal helps to avoid burnout and increases our effectiveness. Here’s my brainstorm list for spiritual renewal and avoiding burnout:
1. Quiet Time.
Spending half an hour daily reading the Bible and listening for God’s voice gives me a fresh perspective on life every morning. It’s the backbone of my spiritual life.
2. Invest in your Spiritual Growth.
Read Christian books, listen to podcasts, seek out a mentor or attend conferences when possible. One of my favorite on-line resources is the daily devotional, Word for Today.
3. Make sure your goals are realistic.
My husband and I struggled over the slow progress of our new outreach effort until we realized that part of our discouragement stemmed from unrealistic expectations. Others expect to come and master the language in just one or two years. Very difficult unless you are super human.
4. Invest in your marriage.
My husband and I have a weekly date time, which started when we watched the Alpha Marriage Course DVD’s five years ago. We went on a marriage retreat for the first time last year while on furlough, and found it to be a great investment of time and money.
5. Make time for fun with your family.
We have movie nights and play games while listening to vintage rock. (Only my family has heard me belt out “Like a Rolling Stone” along with Bob Dylan!)
6. Make sure your kids know the language and have local friends.
This is important if you are homeschooling. We insist that our kids participate in at least one community extra-curricular activity each year. Other friends put their kids in local schools for a year or two. Bottom line: Kids struggle to be happy if they don’t know the language.
7. Cultivate true friendships where you can be yourself and share your struggles, both with nationals and other foreigners.
8. Continue learning new things.
Last year I joined a Turkish folk dancing class for several months. This year I’ll be learning Latin with my kids.
9. Enjoy a hobby.
Check out Creative Contentment for a great example of someone who makes time for creative pursuits in Western Turkey.
10. Follow a secondary (or primary) pursuit that gives you an outlet or additional avenue for fulfillment when spiritual fruit is slow to develop. This could be a secular job, a hobby, or academic studies. My outlet is being a “professional” homeschooling mother.
11. Reach out to others when you are lonely.
12. Keep in contact with family and friends back home.
13. Read for pleasure.
14. Get involved in your community.
15. Make time for regular exercise.
What about you? Do you have any other suggestions or ideas for maintaining spiritual vitality and avoiding burnout?