It appears that I (Al) am overdue making a contribution to our blog, and so I sit and type! In all honesty I have withheld slightly in recent months as it is undoubtedly harder to enthusiastically promote our current roles than it used to be. In medical missions there was a very clear and immediate cause/effect, and with a few photos it wasn’t difficult to convey our purpose. With our current roles being focused on the long-term, and with landmarks hard to identify and describe, I suspect that my attempts to do justice to our work will seem underwhelming.
On a practical level, I have been involved in the amalgamation of the 3 previous RescueNet regional websites into one international site. We have also developed an Australia regional member website which has been built to keep our members better advised and provide useful services, such as ordering equipment and serving up essential information for deploying to disasters. I am also part of the Logistics Working Group, which is tasked with producing practical and efficient solutions to the demanding task of arriving fully-equipped in a foreign country within 48 hours and, upon completion of the deployment, leaving no footprint on departure. And then there are the countless little jobs that regularly need done which don’t fall neatly into a job description…
But if I am honest these tasks are not remotely close to being the most demanding aspect of my life these days. When we were considering the move from medical outreach ministry in Fiji to our current roles in RescueNet, one of our concerns was that our work would lean heavily towards the practical and there would be a lack of spiritual challenges. In hindsight that was wishful thinking! There were certainly testing moments in Fiji but they usually occurred within regular times of heartfelt worship and seeking God. Despite periods of uncertainty there was always a belief that the staff was present for God first and foremost, and we all demonstrated the willingness to grow and learn.
In contrast, we now find ourselves asking how we maintain hope in circumstances where there is no obvious progress and the same problems seem to replay themselves over and over. We want to be investing ourselves wholly into the ministry and community we were called to, but what happens when that environment is harmful to us?
We started out in missions not long after we were married and so, on arriving in Fiji, we decided to put our newly-acquired quiet evenings to good use (quite a contrast to the night and weekend shifts that Dani would have worked in the UK). In researching books that we could read together we came across one that focused on healthy boundaries, and those principles have stayed with me ever since. Put simply, as Christians we have a responsibility to draw boundaries in the various areas of our lives. On one hand, we have a duty not to overstep those boundaries and involve ourselves in matters that God has not called us to. On the other hand, we need to be prepared to enforce those boundaries to prevent other people from taking liberties in areas of our lives to which they are not entitled.
Applying those principles is exceptionally difficult when you are involved in a ministry that functions as both your community and your workplace. Unlike our previous jobs in the UK, we cannot walk out of the door at the end of the day and leave our colleagues behind, to return to our chosen family and friends in a social setting. In a healthy environment this kind of living can be hugely beneficial as you can expect the same degree of support at all times, and it can truly be a joy working alongside people that you know walk the same path towards God. However, when that community is broken it is the hardest thing to stop it invading every aspect of your life and taking you to the same place.
Where lines of responsibility and authority are not clearly determined it can be difficult to relax in your own home, knowing that your time and space can be interrupted at any time. For your own wellbeing it is essential to not let this happen, yet even that decision comes with a sense of guilt as you feel obliged to open yourself up to the people you live near.
If you were hoping to find a solution to these issues I’m afraid you may be disappointed. This is something we are still working through and hopefully a future blog post might offer positive suggestions. I have no doubt that there are many people in various different walks of life who have experienced the same difficulties, and this is by no means limited to missions. So if you want to share or offer insight, drop us a message…