March in Mombasa is the month that will put you on your knees, begging God for forgiveness for sins not realized. In some places, the flowers are blooming and forest-creatures are twitterpating. In coastal East Africa, March is stinking HOT. And humid. It’s a season where the chips go stale and the hair never dries and the sweat never stops. It’s the season where you reconsider your life’s calling to missions and question if God didn’t actually mean to send you somewhere that had a tolerable climate, where people actually can function during all hours of daylight, and you can stand to wear your hair down.
If you can survive March, you can survive. For me, the month represents my body being put to the test of perseverance. Not only does my body resist productivity, but it’s the season where we are short-tempered in relationships, unmotivated to work and reach out, and ultimately, a little more selfish- more about me and less about Him, the one who brought me here. Obviously longevity in missions is about more than survival- it’s about being healthy in mind, body and spirit. But from having survived 10 Marches in Mombasa, I’ve compiled my top 10 ways to survive your March, whenever it may happen.
- It’s not about you– it’s not about your plan, your long-term goals, your agenda or your abilities to be the best missionary you can be. The sooner you realize God’s ways are FAR different than our own and surrender to Him, the less stress you will have in making things work for you.
- God’s plan may have a different timeline than yours. While this whole post is about longevity, that doesn’t mean His plan is for you to be in a place for a long time. It’s about being available to be somewhere for the length of time that He desires. He moves people around and sometimes we can’t see the purpose in it for years, but His purposes are always best.
- Make your home your sanctuary.Let’s face it- we all need a place where we can relax, be in our own level of comfort, and yes, even walk around in our underwear if that’s how we roll. When we can’t let down our guard in our own home for at least some portion of the day, we are sacrificing an essential element to survival.
- If your home can’t be a sanctuary, find one.Sometime our home simply can’t be a peaceful, private place, depending on where and to what God has called us. We have found that getaways are a must. We like to go where we don’t know anyone, and let our kids be free to make noise, and get away from the perceived judgment we often feel in our home, simply because it’s a bit of a fishbowl and VERY close to our ministries.
- Wherever you are, you need sleep. This may sound obvious, but we’ve learned that if you get a good night’s sleep, you can surprisingly take on whatever comes up during the day. If you aren’t sleeping, because it’s too hot and sweaty, or because the mosquitos were biting all night, or because the noise from the neighbors was too loud, then solve those problems. Invest in air conditioning, screens and earplugs if that’s what it takes. That important rest will give you a good return on the investment.
- Stay healthy.I’m a firm believer on healing from the inside out. When your body is functioning well, you can handle the events of the day, the demands on your time and energy and crazy schedules that we often endure. Also, when your body is healthy, you can fight off the variety of disease and parasites that inevitably are around. Eat right, drink well, and stay active enough so that this body you’ve been given is up to the task.
- Don’t lose yourself.When God made you, he created you to love certain things, some of which are purely recreational (although those can be a surprising way to develop ministry relationships!) Do what you love, whether it’s baking, boating or bat-cave spelunking. In the ministry I’ve been involved in alone, we’ve incorporated donut-making, zumba, painting, and crafts. While your hobbies can be a great way to connect, they can also be a great way to getaway and re-energize.
- Pace yourself.I say longevity is like running a marathon (disclaimer- I’m not a runner- 3 miles at the most and that was so I could fit into my wedding dress.) From what I hear, you can’t burn up all the good energy in the first 5 miles or you’ll never make it to the end. You have to go a little slower, and nourish your body with stuff along the way. If someone has a 6-month commitment, they can put in WAY more energy and live in a harder place and take less breaks. I used to compare myself to the short-termers but I’ve learned their role is different. I personally couldn’t keep up that pace for very long and I certainly don’t want to fizzle out here until God moves us somewhere else.
- Connect and Unify– we weren’t meant to go at this alone. Eph. 4 talks about the body of Christ and the need for the different members to work together and encourage each other. Even for those serving in isolated places, finding creative ways to connect with other believers, other foreigners or others who share similar hobbies can be life-giving. When I know I’m not alone, I can handle the tough situations. I would never have survived the season of babies and toddlers if I hadn’t found other moms to relate to. Same thing in ministry. And this goes for men as well as women. There was a point when my husband told me we needed to pray for friends or we weren’t going to make it out here. We prayed, God provided. He knows we need this.
- God calls the family.The call to ministry or missions is not one-sided. God doesn’t ask one person to do the work and for the rest to deal with it. It’s a husband-wife-and every single kid package deal. When one member of the family is struggling with that calling, then prioritize dealing with that. While my kids haven’t chosen to sacrifice certain things and I shouldn’t expect them to stand for church presentations and preach the gospel, I also know that this life journey we are on has lots and lots of grace for them, when we have grace for them. We are in this together and make decisions that consider each one of us. The “work” of ministry will never, ever come before family.
Here’s to another decade, wherever God has us. 🙂