Sue Eenigenburg & Robynn Bliss introduce a new resource for Women in Cross-Cultural Ministry, their new book, Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission.
Everyone has expectations. Women in cross-cultural ministry are no exception. They usually go overseas with extremely high, if not unrealistic, expectations of themselves. Using data from surveys and research to form the basis for the book, Sue and Robynn not only explore expectations women workers might have of themselves, but also expectations they might have of their agencies, sending churches, co-workers, host culture and God.
To flesh out the research, they also share some of their experiences and Robynn’s story of burnout and restoration. Sue writes about the expectations she had of herself in chapter one:
“I could not wait to arrive overseas. I had been to Bible college and my husband had graduated from seminary. Considered spiritually mature for a young woman, I led women’s Bible studies. I had a passion for least-reached peoples and had attended our mission’s New Personnel Orientation as well as a language learning program. Books on Islam and training in evangelism and discipleship completed my training. After having my shots, and getting a passport and visa, I was ready. We packed our bags and, though it was hard, said goodbye to family.
“Following through with God’s call on my life to serve Him in another culture, I envisioned learning the language quickly, leading many nationals to the Lord, planting a church and being successful in ministry. I knew about culture shock, had read books about it and felt prepared for our move overseas. Our children would adapt well, I had heard, as long as we did, so I had no worries about that. Move over Elizabeth Elliot, I was on my way!”
Of course, it wasn’t long before she realized that missionary life wasn’t quite so easy and had to begin to adjust her expectations while still maintaining faith in God who does the impossible!
Robynn shares her story of expectations and burnout more in-depth. She writes about life, her calling and her experience with and healing from burnout. In thinking through some of the issues relevant to her burnout, which includes her expectations of God, she uses the following illustration:
“I don’t like swimming in the ocean: there are living things lurking beneath the surface; the waves are unpredictable and splash my face; it’s cold and deep; there are undertows and pulls that frighten; it’s salty and sandy and alive. I do not like swimming in the ocean. I much prefer a swimming pool, a heated pool at that. The temperature is controlled. You can enter at your pleasure, either the deep end or the shallow end. You can go in as far as you like and then climb back out. Blow up a floating device and float on the top if you choose! The bottom is level and smooth. There are no surprises. Nothing lives in a swimming pool.
“And that’s the kind of God I would prefer as well: one that is controlled and moderate; a God I can measure and understand. I can enter His depths but only as far as I am comfortable. However that’s not the kind of God we have. Our God is an ocean of a God. He is alive and dangerous. There are forces at work below His surface. He alone controls the depths, the sprays, the splashes of His personhood. He woos us to the bottom where the water may appear murky and mysterious. Our God is wild and untamable. He is expansive and unpredictable. When we say he is holy, we mean he is strange and we do well to take our shoes off. The ground is holy and the water is deep.”
Robynn’s vulnerability and honesty in sharing her story is inspirational and will help others grow in their understanding of who God is as well as give insight into the role expectations of Him and others can play in burnout.
To learn more about expectations and burnout through research and life experience, you can order a copy of Sue and Robynn’s book through visiting the William Carey Library website, www.missionbooks.org or call 1-800-Mission.