International (MNN) — As Christians’ physical safety is continuously threatened in parts of the world like the Middle East, there are some issues Gospel workers face that remain even after leaving the mission field.
Many pastors and missionaries are struggling with psychological trauma. The things they have witnessed and experienced in hostile nations create haunting memories that aren’t easily escaped.
“We’ve had some people who have been from ISIS territory, and if you’ve experienced that for an extended period of time, you need help processing that,” says John Dekruyter, director of Alongside Incorporated, a counseling and trauma center for pastors and missionaries. “They know people who maybe didn’t get out of that. There may be some guilt. ‘How come I did, and they didn’t?’ …. They just need someone to kind of walk [them] through that.”
That’s where Alongside comes in. Through a staff of counselors experienced in the mission field, this ministry provides resources for pastors and missionaries working through emotional hardship.
“We do intensive care for missionaries and pastors who have gone through a difficult situation, maybe personally or professionally…major trauma, maybe a marriage crisis, inter-personally with themselves, or maybe they’ve experienced something that we usually don’t see here on U.S. soil,” Dekruyter says. “We offer 3-week counseling services.”
Some of these struggles, no matter how small, can greatly hinder ministry. If gone unchecked, they can even overwhelm Gospel workers so much that they abandon the field altogether. But through Alongside’s services, many are finding victory.
“We ‘guesstimate’ 65% of the folks who come to us, if whatever their issue is doesn’t get fixed, they’re done,” Dekruyter says. “The first time a missionary goes over to a field, the first couple years may or may not be effective, fruit-bearing ministry. But five, six, seven years down the road, they learn the language, they learn the culture now, they’re embraced in that culture and now actually seeing the fruit of what they’ve been doing all those years,. That’s often when the ‘evil one’ will come and trip them up.
“Eighty-nine percent of the folks who come through our program are restored and return back to the field from which they came.”
Alongside is helping these people find healing, and Dekruyter asks that you try to do the same. You may not be able to completely help others conquer a struggle, but through a loving word, you can at least let them know you care.
“Look for ways in which you can encourage and support your own pastor, your pastoral staff, the missionaries that you personally support or your church supports,” Dekruyter says. “It makes an enormous difference for them to know that you know their name, you’re praying for them, and look for tangible ways to just simply encourage them.
“A handwritten note will go a long way for them to know there are people who care about them and are looking [out] for their well-being and their interest. Look for creative ways to care for those who are immediately within your reach.”
Dekruyter asks that if you know anyone facing emotional trauma, put them in touch with him. Click here to get connected.