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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Dealing with Stress

Another way to deal with culture shock is to reduce stress whenever possible. When we move into new situations, we experience a great deal of tension, so we need to monitor our feelings to see if we or other members of our family are growing tense, irritable, inflexible, and ready to explode at any minute. But what can we do to reduce the stress before it becomes destructive?

Set realistic goals. One important way to reduce stress is to set realistic goals. As Myron Loss points out (1983:67), Western Christians have come to equate spirituality with intense activity, and leisure is often seen as a waste of time. We need to recognize that we ourselves are God's first work. Only as we are physically and spiritually healthy can God use us in his work. We need to measure our progress more by who we are becoming than by what we are doing. We need to remember that we are human. We must take time for ourselves and our families-for leisure, exercise, and recreation; for reading and personal growth; and for our devotional life. We must avoid burnout in the short run and live in such a way that we have a lifelong ministry.

There is a second reason why we must set realistic goals during the first years of our ministry, namely, the fact that we simply cannot produce at the same level in foreign situations. We need more energy and time to perform even the simplest task, such as finding shops where supplies are available, papers can be duplicated, and checks cashed. Added to this is our frustration at not being able to "get to work" at what we have come to do. Most of our energy and time is spent simply on survival, and what little we have left must be given to learning the new culture. Paul Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries

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