Here are some quick thoughts on crisis for cross-cultural workers (written hot from the middle of one):
• Crisis is part of the cross-cultural experience. Routine is a luxury not a right. “Sortedness” is not a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus often seemed to lead the disciples towards crisis, not away from it.
• Sacrifice is not failure. You are in a crisis not because you have messed up, but because you are on the front lines for Jesus. Being wounded is not shameful, it is honourable!
• Crisislessness is a fiction. Commentators often approach 1 Cor 7.26 trying to work out what the “current crisis” was at the time. Take your pick! The ancient world (and much of the modern world) was in a constant state of crisis. Just because I grew up in the one generation in the one country that has never seen war, or earthquake, or famine, or coup, doesn’t make that normal!
• Take the decisions offered to you. There is a pragmatism to handling crisis; instead of wishing for the ideal solution, you have to take the most practicable options and go forward. Idealism is a luxury you cannot afford which can freeze you into inaction. “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecc 11:4).
• Choose submission to relevant professionals. Christians submit. Submit to your doctor, your embassy, your team leader. This takes some of the pressure off you. Grasp with faith that God has appointed them over you for such a time as this. Second-guessing every decision will tire you unnecessarily, they are there to take some of the emotional load of decision-making off you.
• Keep talking. Whoever it is that you off-load to, keep off-loading. Keep dredging the silt out of the river-bed of your heart. “Pour out your heart” is a Biblical command; in my country when we have been away for a while and come home, we turn on the taps and the water runs brown for a while before it runs clear. So with pouring out your heart to the Lord or to a trusted friend, let all the anger and frustration get expressed without shame. The psalmists were great at this!
• Don’t blindly assume options in your “home country” are better. They may be, and evacuation maybe the best, or the only, option. People back home will generally assume that is the case, and because they care, will try to persuade you to get on a plane. That may be the right thing. Equally, the professionals where you are excellent at what they do. Don’t arrogantly write off in-country solutions purely because they are in-country.
• Support should be affirmation; needing to have extra emotional elasticity to handle criticism is not helpful. People holding the home end of your rope really need to choose support of whatever decisions you are making, encouragement is powerful. You probably do not have extra capacity at the moment to keep defending or explaining all your decisions, what you really need is to hear “well done.”
• Sadly, in a crisis, cash is king. Sending churches, organisations, families need to be able to get cash to you quickly with very few questions asked.
• Crisis decision-making is about limited options; the people back home will be thinking in terms of a broader spectrum of options, but you have to go with what is in front of you. I often think of the story of Tamar in Genesis 38. We condemn her by our standards, but the scripture honours her for doing what she could with her limited resources. Don’t allow others to judge you by the standard of their privilege. You do what you can with what you have. “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Rom 14.22).
• Designate someone to communicate for you, as communication takes its toll emotionally. If there is someone to whom you can direct all calls, correspondence, worry and need for information, then all you have to do is keep one person up to speed. They can handle all the worriers and the pray-ers.
• Know that it will pass;
that “sorrow may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning,”
that you will need to re-design and re-evaluate and replenish and re-plant and restart but not yet,
that life is made of storms and calms, of night and day, of winter and summer, of famine and plenty,
that “watchmen wait for the morning” not wondering if it will come but certain that it will,
that in the Gospels crisis is for discipleship, in the Epistles it is for character, in the Acts it is for mission, and in the Apocalypse it is the birth pains of a New World.
And in the New World there will no longer be crisis.