Striking a balance in ministry
By Alana Harder, OMF NZ Communications Coordinator
When I spoke with Sandra about relationships and resilience in missions, she had some beautiful and hard-earned insights to offer on the subject. Sandra is the OMF NZ Member Care Coordinator and TCK (Third Culture Kid) Care person. She journeys alongside all of our workers and provides emotional support, prayer, a listening ear and encouragement. Her TCK role involves looking out for the well-being of kids growing up in missionary families, and coaching parents on how to best care for their kids through the often culturally confusing transitions. We are so grateful for her interpersonal skills and her compassion and dedication to caring for our OMF family.
Mission work, especially long term mission work, can be really draining. Yet God promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. How do we tap into the lightness? How do we keep desire for serving God in missions in a context that is often exhausting?
In talking about this, Sandra stressed the importance of being part of a community of like-minded people, and praying and training together. Another thing that came through as being of utmost importance, (and it seems like a given, but sometimes we forget to make it our number one) is to make space for our personal relationship with God. Sandra shared that she does this through spiritual direction, personal devotions, meditation, worship, and Christian community both at church and home group.
Sandra also pointed out that, ‘If we want to stay in ministry long term, then along with nurturing our relationship with the Lord, creating space for rest, play and healthy boundaries should be top priority in our lives.’
We so often feel guilty for doing something that God created us to do – rest. Interestingly, Sandra mentioned that she has observed that many of us in OMF are self-motivated, driven people who do struggle to strike a balance. It’s impossible to fully separate and compartmentalise ‘ministry’ from ‘normal life’ in order to know where these boundaries are, especially when you are serving in missions. But in order to serve God wholeheartedly and healthily, we need boundaries and to care for ourselves and our relationships.
‘Learning to listen to our bodies and making space for rest on a regular basis is essential. Having hobbies helps, along with booking in holidays that are a complete break from work. Remember that even Jesus took time out and didn’t try to accomplish everything.’
Sandra and I connected on the commonality of both coming from a TCK background. While we agreed that it’s amazing that OMF has someone specifically caring for the well-being of these kids, there’s always room for growth. I asked her how she thought TCK’s could be better cared for within a mission context.
‘Unfortunately a lot of TCK struggles come from the fact that they feel like their parents always put God’s work before them.’ Through her experience parenting TCK’s and coaching parents who do, Sandra has learned that, ‘children are a blessing from God and keeping our family healthy needs to be a priority. There is so much criticism for them to face in this world of social media that they need to know, without a doubt, that they have their parents’ unconditional love. As adults we need to learn to put aside our own feelings and reactions so that we can listen and communicate without retaliating in anger or fear.’
There’s a lot to balance and learn as we navigate a life surrendered to God’s mission, and doing the work he’s called us to do, while also being the beings he’s called us to be – relational beings who require a balance of work, rest and play.