A short trip through the New Testament tells us we are all running a race (Heb. 12). So, we run and run and run… But a little examination shows us there are two goals to our running: 1) run in such a way that we receive the prize (1 Cor. 9), and 2) run to FINISH our course (Acts 20:24). As ministers, we often forget that while we are Spirit fueled, we are also Soul fired, and Body fed. As 3 part beings, when one part finishes running, the other two parts are done as well. So how do we keep all three parts in tune and running to the finish? Here are a few “trade secrets” to staying healthy in spirit, soul and body as missionaries:
1) Establish your SPACE. Not long after we arrived in Manila we began to meet “lifers” that were Baptist and Assembly of God missionaries, 30 and 40 year missionaries! By divine appointment we met a couple that gave us advice that probably saved our family and extended our missionary service by years. They said, “Even if you have to stretch the budget, get a PLACE that feels like home.” As missionaries, we are challenged all day long, and we need a place to retreat, refuel, and go again. Over the years we watched a lot of missionaries “sleep cheap”, but they didn’t last. Our house was not expensive or elaborate, but it felt like home for 15 years (the longest we had ever lived in one place). And “air condition at least one bedroom so you can get a good night’s sleep.” That really saved us!
Not only do we need to establish our living space, we need to establish our family space, and our worship space. Over the years we observed that families that traveled and ministered together did well. When the children were left out they did not do so well. So we included our children in as much as we could. We didn’t force them to preach or do what we did, but we made room for them and they found places where they fit. We did family things we all enjoyed regularly, even after they started college.
And WORSHIP is a must! Missionaries give and give so we must receive as well. We traveled continually, but when we were in Manila we had a good home church in which to worship and be challenged spiritually. If that is not possible where you are, there are podcasts, internet radio programs and incredible worship available with very little effort. KEEPING YOUR Living Space, Family Space and Worship Space lays the foundation for all the rest.
2) Find YOUR RACE! Hebrews 12 tells us to “run the race marked out for US.” It is so important to do what God sent you there to do. We all serve and take on added responsibilities, but it is important to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing! Knowing YOUR race then helps you to:
3) Determine Your PACE. As a pioneering ministry, we have had families that completely relocated every two years. While there were some powerful dynamics in the short haul, there were many long term challenges especially for the family. Knowing that you are a pioneer lets you keep your eyes lifted so that when the ministry becomes more management than ground breaking, it might be time to move on and turn the work over, but we don’t rush from one thing to another. We Set the Pace.
Many of our Bible Schools have a 3 to 5 year life span. By then we have done our job in a specific locale. So you set your pace accordingly. Children’s work and orphanages are life time ministries. So our Pace is set by the Calling on our lives and the Race we are called to and not need or OPPORTUNITY alone.
Setting your pace includes family time, time off, vacations and hobbies as well. Please find things that feed your soul and rest your body; a beach, the mountains, diving, riding a bike, a room with a book, board games, jigsaw puzzles. We took most of our vacation time on the field, because we could do family things at a reasonable price. We ALWAYS found that when we left the City, we slept and slept. While you may not recognize it, your spirit is at war where you live. Leaving the battlefield is VITAL to healthy Bodies and Souls so that we finish well. Soldiers in the military schedule regular R & R (rest and relaxation), so that when they return to the battlefield they are refreshed physically, mentally and emotionally.
4) Find YOUR GRACE. Grace is divine enablement to do what God has called you to do, nothing more, nothing less. If you are doing two years worth of work in one year, you may be using two years worth of grace. And life is a ‘pay as you go’ journey. Your family, your marriage, your relationships and your physical body WILL pay the price eventually for that second year. If your body is done at 50, so is your ministry! Paul said “I worked harder than you all by the grace of God.” So find your rhythm. Work when it is time to work, but maintain your SPACE and your PACE. We have found that when God is breathing on something and the grace is truly there, we can accomplish week’s worth of work in a matter of hours. Find that place.
At the same time, we are stewards of a call, and the stakes are high in the nations where we serve, so don’t let distractions, time management, or passivity rob you of productive work weeks. We don’t work by law, we DO work by GRACE as Paul said. So lean in to Grace to set and establish a schedule that will keep you effective and HEALTHY, spirit, soul and body.
Establish your Place, Run your Race, Determine your Pace, and Find your Grace.
See you at the finish line!
Vice President Ministries Division