Mark Phippen was the Former Head of Counselling at Cambridge University and has recently joined the Tumaini team as a counsellor. He says…
People join mission work with a calling and a natural enthusiasm; the costs have been carefully weighed, as has Jesus’ command to put him above all else.
So when crises occur we can be surprised and troubled: ‘Are we in the right place or made of the “right material?”’ But missionaries often live in extreme circumstances and are affected by the same stresses as everyone else; they’re also in the ‘spiritual front-line’.
In 1991 AIM partnered with another mission organisation to open a counselling and mental health service for missionaries, staffed by professionals who are themselves missionaries. ‘Before this,’ psychiatrist and AIM Care missionary Roger Brown explains, ‘missionaries simply had to go home if they had any kind of mental health needs requiring professional help.’
Rich & Kathy served in Mombasa; Rich had taken on several additional roles, alongside his teaching. Then regular anti-Western demonstrations in their strongly Muslim city began, coupled with a deteriorating environment in their daughter’s school. ‘I could see I was spiralling down,’ Rich remembers. Previous depression, thought to be under control, surfaced again, and with intensity.
Tumaini helped them with the difficult decision to change ministry locations, hard schooling decisions for their kids, and guided Rich through his battle with depression. ‘He’s a new man,’ Kathy says of her husband today. ‘Rich and I are different people.’ And their ministry was affected, too. ‘Sometimes we offer people a shallow spirituality because we haven’t worked through our own issues,’ Kathy says, ‘In some ways, the crises are a God-send.’ God uses such difficult times, not just for our own healing and spiritual growth, but so we can bring God’s love to others who are in a broken place.