Monday 1 January 2007

Core Challenges for Aid/Mission Workers

During the month of January we are discussing some of the core challenges of aid/mission life. By core we mean the main inner issues and the main external issues that affect us, for bettter or for worse. They are those inner struggles that we all wrestle with—the matters of the heart (e.g., discouragement, forgiveness, grief). And these struggles are often stimulated by external circumstances or problems (e.g., cultural adjustment, separation, safety).
Let's be sure to consider our own inner experiences too--the core issues for ourselves--as we converse about the challenges of aid/mission life.

Core Challenges for Aid/Mission Workers

  • Pessimism--loosing perspective on the good things in life, due largely to the ongoing exposure to human problems and misery
  • Staying centered--remaining connected with oneself in the midst of many responsibilities and the demands of living; and remaining connected with God
  • Focusing on others' interest--self-preoccupation to the exclusion of others’ needs; not checking in to see how other people around us are doing
  • Forgiveness--holding on to perceived injustices which arise from conflict with colleagues, the host culture, frustration with oneself, etc.
  • Drifting--getting off the main tasks and the reason why we work in aid/mission, via distractions, interruptions, avoiding responsibility, etc.
  • Transitional grief--the pain from saying many good-byes, multiple moves, missing loved ones, unresolved relationship issues, etc.
  • Contentment--being satisfied in knowing that one is following his/her values, in spite of minimal work results, pressures to perform, and limited sense of fulfillment in one’s work

Reflection and Conversation:

  • In what ways have these seven issues been part of your life?
  • What helps you work through these issues?
  • What other areas would you include as being core challenges?
  • How do these issues relate to the research on stress and adjustment?
Note: This material is adapted from the article “Running Well and Resting Well” in Doing Member Care Well (2002). This article and book are available to view or download for free at

1 comment:

Member Care Associates said...

Focusing on Others Interests
Living Generously!

One of my core issues, as a member care professional, is focussing so much on "my" work to the exclusion of those around me. What are their interests and needs also? How can I help them?

So what helps? I try (sometimes!)to intentionally help someone else, in a way that does not necessarily fit with me "job description" or even plans for the day. Last night I spent 30 minutes helping my daughter with an important essay, even though I wanted to "work" on a presentation I will give in Asia. I am so glad I invested in my daughter though.

Another thing I try to do is to take three deep breaths, a couple times a day. I have to stop everything that I am doing for 30-60 seconds and do brief relaxation-breathing. It really helps. I just did it now. (smile) Sometimes an important perspective or insight comes my way too. And I may be even more open to consider "the interests of others." I have found that most of the time, if I am too busy to do this breathing, then I am too busy!

So this reminds me now that Paul in Phil 2:4 says to not only look after our own interests, but also the interests of others.

A third thing that is helping me is to ask a couple simple questions each day, to my closest colleagues and family. Simple things like what are you planning to do the rest of the day. How is that book you are reading? How is the project going? What was your favourite class today at school?
I think asking such questions is also very useful for team building.

One summary thought, from Luke's Beatitudes (in The Message):

"Live generously!"

And for me this involves finances, as well as my time and attention.