A Christian agency works to prevent missionary burnout.

By September 1, 2004

International (MNN)–What do missionaries do when they’ve reached a breaking point?

If they’re with the Evangelical Free Church, they go to Hank Griffith for help. EFCM uses retreats, counseling and rest to combat wear and tear on the job.

Griffith compares his job to the mechanics who work to keep a trucking firm on the road. “They need people behind the scenes that are changing the oil, and doing the maintenance. We try to take care of our people, giving them care, and helping them to know how to care for themselves, in various ways, and then we also help them when there are crises. It would be like when a truck breaks down; we’re there also for them in these times.”

Griffith says missionaries, by nature, are pioneers. “The tendency is just to push, push, push, to the point where burnout is a fairly common thing among missionaries. They’re doing it out of dedication, a love for the Lord, a passion for the lost, a love for people, but often, don’t know how to put those necessary boundaries and have balance in their lives.”

Griffith says they also encourage their teams to take care of their physical bodies through diet and exercise. For those in isolated areas, peer care is necessary, as well as rest. And, as anyone on the frontlines knows, spiritual retreat is also a ‘must’.

EFC International Mission has also has five pastor to missionary couples, veteran pastors and wives who are assigned to encourage and support teams on the field.

Griffith says above all, “prayer is really what we need. I think that our missionaries stay close to the Lord. I think that that intimate walk with God, just like for any of us Christians, is so very, very important.”

And the listening ear plays a big role, too. Griffith explains that when missionaries are back in the States, people will ask them about their work, and then, as he puts it, “they’ll maybe listen for three or four minutes, and then their eyes glaze over and they do other things.”
Missionaries want to talk to people who will be actively engaged and listen to the developments in their work. That simple act, he says, is very therapeutic for teams getting ready to head back.

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