PTSD on the Mission Field

PTSD on the Mission Field

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Can foreign workers experience PTSD? Most would say “Yes.” What about missionaries? Many people admire missionaries for the “sacrifices” that they make to reach people with the Gospel and to help the poor, but do we take the time to think about them as real people?

The first day that my husband and I arrived in Kenya in 2002 our thoughts were not on terrorism. It was before 9/11 and most Americans did not think of being a victim of a terrorist bomb or bullet. But on that first day, we experienced a terrifying event. Our host missionary was called to come to another missionary’s home. When we arrived at the house, things were not right. Furniture was overturned; the husband was sitting in a chair motionless, the wife had a bruise on her face with her two teenage children clinging to her. Just hours before, they had been robbed. The thieves ransacked their home, kidnapped the husband and took him to the ATM to clear out their bank account. He escaped from the ATM and made his way home by foot to find the other thieves had left his family shaken but alive at home. Now they sat and waiting for some comfort from their friends.

I remember that night looking at Bobby with tears in my eyes and thinking “What was God thinking?” “Is this what they do to missionaries here?” Throughout the years, our family was never robbed, but we have not only had friends robbed, but beaten and kidnapped. We have answered calls in the middle of the night asking for help but they were really asking for comfort and answers.

Now there is a new concern for the missionaries and foreign workers, it is terrorism. We, have for years ministered undisturbed by other religious groups even though in our area Christians are the minority. But now, we are seeing bombings of bars and Christian crusades meetings alike. We are hearing about trucks full of explosives being stopped within minutes of popular shopping centers. We are witnessing people afraid to go to church because a week before a group of men entered a church and shot the pastor and members of the congregation while they prayed. Terrorism is alive and well in Africa.

The sad reality is that this is not only the case in Africa, but all over our world. People are looking for answers and clinging to their friends and neighbors who have hope and undeniable peace. As mothers and wives, we know this fear well. Sending our kids to school each day can be a constant source of fear and dependence on God. He is our strength and He can help us live lives of peace that draw others to him. Fear not, be wise and trust our protector and Lord!

Matthew 10:16-28

“Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves…Fear them [persecutors] not therefore…And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”


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