Last furlough, while attending a sessions held for the missionary wives at our mission's home office, the subject matter presented dealt with stress and depression. Both are common symptoms of culture shock. All the women present had spent at lest 4 years overseas, so we had all experienced culture shock at some point. The often over looked problem is that culture shock and stress can lead to depression. It is almost a taboo among missionaries to admit to times of depression. We see ourselves as strong people serving the Lord and thus should never feel depressed.
That's not the way it works! We are only human and we will feel the stress and pressures we encounter in foreign lands. Often we are isolated from other Americans and surrounded by people who, quite literally, hate us and our country, as well as our God. If we are not prepared for this bombardment, we will become depressed. Then we feel guilty and that brings more depression!
The talking points I am listing below were all discussed in a session held by Dr. Mary Ray. Her husband is the President of BIMI, Dr. James Ray.
Questions Missionary Wives Often Ask
Why was I so excited to live overseas?
answer: Because you didn't know any better!
Will I ever feel normal again?
Will my kids be normal?
answer: Probably not. (but that can be a good thing!)
Will I ever understand these people?
answer: Of course, someday you will.
Why do I feel depressed?
answer: Because you ARE depressed!!!
Why am I so stressed?
answer: Why not?!
After the last question was open for discussion, she passed out a copy of one of our Missionary News letters from the summer of 2005 as an example of why a missionary might be stressed out. I will share bits and pieces with you here so that you might get a glimpse into our lives at that time.
* Due to opposition from the government towards mission groups in the jungle, we have had to go to Caracas to "lawyer up". While there, we both came down with E-coli. After our short time in Caracas, still recovering from e-coli, we returned to the jungle to begin the preparations to fly 6 Indian missionaries from Chajurana to Wasarana for a week of preaching and teaching. They were to be joined later by ourselves and an American medical team. Due to four days of bad weather, we were unable to fly out the 2 barrels of aviation fuel we would need for the flights. Then, on the one good day of weather, the airport authority denied us permission to fly any fuel. That was then followed by two "surprise" inspections of the plane by the Army.
*We were finally able to get the permit and fly the fuel to Chajurana and continue with our plans; however, the medical group was held up at the airport and charged a "special" tax in order to bring in the donated medicines.
*When we were ready to fly the medical group from the town of Ciudad Bolivar out to the jungle, the airport would not sale us av gas, although we had the required permit. This meant we had to fly to Puerto Ordaz to obtain enough gas for the flights. They group finally did make it out to the jungle.
*The following day, a 6 day old baby was brought to Chajurana by canoe from another village. The baby was dying. The father had committed suicide the week before the baby's birth. Although the visiting doctor did all that was possible, the baby's only chance for survival was the hospital two hours away by plane. We immediately prepped the plane for departure. The pilot and another missionary loaded up with the mother and baby. Thirty minutes out, the baby began experiencing respiratory failure and after Nate tried several minutes of CPR, his heart stopped. At this point, the plane began to return to Chajurana, having to fly around an electrical storm.
The plane had to land before the storm reached us and before night fall, as we have no lights for the runway.They landed with only a few minutes to spare.
*The baby was pronounced DOA. The Ye'kwana fear the dead and are afraid to touch the corpse. A Christan indian, a deacon of the church, built the tiny coffin and prepared the baby's body for burial. The next day we flew them to their village, intending to bury the baby properly. I also hoped to share the gospel with the village chief who had been asking me many questions regarding Christianity and salvation. But... the plane's battery was dead. We had to jump start it using our generator's battery. The pilot , Nate and myself (Clint) experienced a few harrowing moments working inches away from the running propeller. This meant we could only deliver the mother and coffin but could not stay, as we could not turn off the plane. We then had to fly 2 hours away to get another battery for the plane.
*We did get the team to Wasarana to join the indians from the church already there. Another village, Cumashina, had walked and canoed for 2 days to be there as well. We were able to hold a 2 day Medical Clinic and show films and preach at night. The chief from Cumashina says no one has ever gone to their village to help them at all. He invited us back to not only hold a clinic but asked us to preach as well.
So... there is a week of our life in the jungle. I find it odd that people often ask me if I ever got bored in the jungle, not having electricity, TV or internet. Actually, I find those things can become boring. A poor substitute for real life adventure.