Nurturing your own resiliency skills

Resiliency is:
  • the ability to stretch or flex in response to pressures and strains of life
  • having the inner strength to stay the course in fulfilling the call God has given us, even when it is painful and difficult
  • ability to return to equilibrium and a level of functioning the same as or greater than before a crisis, tragedy or trauma
  • maintaining one's ability to live life with hope and joy
Blessed are the flexible, for they will not break.


Unique possible stressors for cross-cultural workers:
  • Geographical transitions
  • Multicultural contexts
  • Communication challenges
  • Isolation
  • Few success indicators
  • The overwhelming significance of the task
  • Rebuilding a social network
  • Financial support raising
  • Sensitivities in communication
  • Sometimes harsh physical environments
  • Security issues
  • Lack of adequate healthcare
  • Education of children needs
  • Lack of technology for dependable communication

Characteristics of resilience
  1. Ability to reframe a negative situation into a positive challenge; viewing stress as a challenge and an opportunity
  2. Commitment, sense of purpose, strong sense of call
  3. Close and secure relationships with both human and Divine
  4. Flexibility and adaptability
  5. Good ego strength and high self-esteem
  6. Coping skills — self-control, deferring gratification, remaining calm
  7. Tolerance for our own varying moods and thoughts — keeping the long view in mind
  8. Ability to live comfortably with ambiguity/uncertainty
  9. Ability to draw support from others; supportive community
  10. Having a good sense of humor
  11. Having some sense of control and accepting what can't be changed
  12. Openness to others' points of view
  13. Ability to "normalize" difficult experiences and outcomes
  14. Optimism as a mindset and a life stance
  15. Faith in God's goodness and the ability to find meaning in suffering
  16. Appropriate self-reliance and interdependency
Having a healthy work-life balance has been found in research to be closely related to resilience. Work-life balance is about ensuring work does not take up more of your life than it should or more of your life than you want it to.

Degree and number of stressors is critical. If the number of stressors exceed coping resources, you become vulnerable.


Nurturing resilience

Hebrews 11:32-40    All had faith but some were tortured and none received all that God had promised.

  1. Engage in community (Hebrews 12:1 says they were surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses); experience belonging, openness, caring, relationships, forgiveness, mutual trust, patience, cooperation, healing and growth, and using of gifts

    Which of these 10 strengths are part of your community and which are missing? 
    How could they be developed creatively for you?

  2. Address the issues that hinder resilience (Hebrews 12:1 says to strip off every weight): fear, depression, burnout, resentment, unresolved grief, unconfessed sin, unresolved conflict

  3. Know we are called or sent (Hebrews 12:1 refers to the race God has set before us); passion tends to fade in the face of opposition; call does not

  4. Know the Source of our Strength (Hebrews 12:2 talks about keeping our eyes on Jesus); the importance of solitude to hear His voice

  5. When you fall or fail, get back up (Hebrews 12:4 says then you won't become weary and give up). Isaiah 40:31 starts with soaring, then running, then walking. When there is no occasion to soar and no place to run and all you can do is trudge along, hearing of help to enable you to walk is good news.

  6. Having a working theology of suffering (Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross). Christians in affluent countries pray asking God to take the trial away; in other countries, they pray for God's strength to endure the trial.

  7. Focus on joy, gratitude and praise (Hebrews 12:2 mentions the joy awaiting Jesus). "I have learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one." – Maya Angelou

Other ways to increase your resilience
  1. Take vacation.                                                                                                     Although agencies like EMM have policy about vacations and R and R, many workers do not take them. Whatever the causes for not taking leave, the fact is that this action (or inaction) is not possible without an agreement between the person and the supervisor (RR). But deferring rest and recuperation or social support is a dangerous gamble. Chronic stress has an extreme effect on productivity. The cost of burnout is considerable and it takes a long time to recover.
  2. Monitor stressful life events.
    We face the biggest stress challenge from cumulative chronic stress factors. We need to become aware of the events/changes that are stress producing in our lives and bodies and take care of the insidious buildup that takes place. Try to balance the deficits with deposits of what gives you energy and life. Balance the risks with resources to engage with the adversity.
  3. Assess changes in physical symptoms and TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY.
    Become aware of how your body deals with tension/stress — headaches, grinding of teeth, diarrhea, etc. (If you are going to a field where health assessment isn't readily available, please take with you the book Where There is No Doctor by David Werner).
  4. Choose stress-reducing behaviors.
    Exercise — walking is one of the most effective
    Nutrition and diet – diet suppression or overeating I ay be a sign of distress
    Sleep — Sleep deprivation is connected to lowered immunity to disease, higher blood pressure, affecting hormone production, and interfering with cognitive ability
    Relaxation techniques
    Meditation — lectio divina
    Deal with the cause honestly — learn to accept what you cannot change, realize your limits, balance work and play, become better organized
  5. Find safe places to share your questions, doubts, fears, anger.
    If no one is available in the country, then find a mentor who you can write to who will expect to hear these kinds of things from you. Also, be involved in regular fellowship and worship with other Christians.
  6. Learn to laugh at yourself. 
    Find ways to keep lighthearted. Watch the temptation of taking on other people's problems as your own or taking God's responsibility rather than what He has given you.
  7. Set healthy boundaries.
    Know when it's time to float instead of swim. Workers often second guess their inner sense of setting boundaries for themselves in terms of healthy work lifestyle.
  8. Be willing to do anything, but focus on what energizes you whenever possible because you will be operating out of your gifting.

A story of resilience

An Australian runner who was preparing for the 1992 summer Olympics had an injury and knew she could no longer compete in running, She took up riding a bicycle and began winning races. She entered the 181 km road race in the Olympics. No one took her seriously and she ended up winning the gold medal, which was the first time for an Australian woman. She didn't recover; she adapted to her injury and was resilient in refocusing.

Everyone cannot be resilient all the time; the light at the end of the tunnel could be the headlight of a train. So be discerning!


Resiliency exercise

Choose a personal symbol of resiliency. In what ways has Jesus shown up for you in difficult arenas of life? This symbol can be a desire, insight, intuition, image, metaphor, song, or story.

Characteristics of your symbol:
  1. It must inspire you
  2. It must contain adversity
  3. It must be portable — able to take it with you overseas
  4. It must speak to the core of your being

General health tips

All persons traveling overseas should consider the following precautions, regardless of the destination.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of injury and death.
    • Walk and drive defensively.
    • Always wear a seat belt
    • Avoid walking or driving at night when possible.
  • Do not eat or drink dairy products unless you know they are pasteurized.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked foods and fruits or vegetables that are peeled.
    Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it.
When visiting developing countries:
  • Drink only boiled water, water filtered through a known purification filter, or water from a sealed bottle. (Some hotels and guesthouses may fill name brand water bottles with tap water. If it is not sealed when you open it, don't drink it.) Soda or canned drinks are also acceptable. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks and ice cubes.
  • Take anti-malarial medicine when visiting areas known for malaria.
  • Use insect repellent and sleep in screened areas when possible.
  • In West Africa, iron all washed articles of clothing prior to wearing them. Some insects are notorious for depositing parasitic worms on clothing that has been washed and placed in the sun to dry.
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