Isolation Kills

By Laurel Kehl “You get your behind home NOW!” (…although it was a stronger word she used than ‘behind’!)

I’d been living in Moscow, Russia, for seven years, shepherding and caring for CRU staff in seven cities throughout the nine time zones of Russia. It’s a hostile place to live, and we were facing crisis after crisis, including multiple brushes with death, high crime rates that caused us to always be on the alert, and lots and lots of depression. Relationships on my leadership team were fairly dysfunctional. I’d buried one of my Russian friends. Now my closest American friend was returning to the U.S. for health reasons. The losses in my life were piling up, and my response to the pain was to pull into myself and try my best to continue to be “a good little soldier.” But emotionally and physically I was imploding – depression, anxiety, heart palpitations, and, worst of all, panic attacks.

That was the backstory that led my friend in the U.S. to tell me to get home! But for her, the damage to my soul and my relationships would have been much worse.

Isolation is a killer, and it’s much more common among Christian workers than you would think. When New Life Dresher sends people to the field, we can look at them as heroes of the faith! They might be…but more than that, they are normal people facing levels of cross-cultural stress most of us will never understand. Like me, they all go out wanting to make a difference and to persevere when the going gets tough. But the battle can be overwhelming and losses are a missionary’s way of life. People come and go on the mission field, and missionaries themselves are far from their closest friends.

We as “Senders” play a crucial role in the lives of those we send out from our midst. In a real sense, we are a lifeline to those on the front lines of spiritual battle. Keeping in touch with them, praying for them, and loving them when they are back in the U.S. can make all the difference in how well they do when on the field.

My story had a happy ending. The Holy Spirit used the alertness of my friend to get me back to the States, where I got the help I needed…and then went back for seven more years!

If you want to strengthen the lifeline, sign up on the NLD website at Prayformissionaries.