Trees by streams…

Psalm 1:3

They are like trees planted by streams – 
they bear their fruit in season, 
their leaves never wither, 
everything they do succeeds.”

Who are “they”? If we look at the context – the verses before this one, it is talking about “those who meditate” on God’s word.

So what does it means to “meditate”? Isn’t that a little hokey?

The dictionary definition is: “to engage in thought or contemplation; to reflect.
Synonyms are: ponder, ruminate, study, think, contemplate.

So what does it look like to meditate on God’s word?

Simply read a passage – a verse, chapter, or story – and think about it.
Turn it around in your mind; look at it from different angles;
Consider the context; ask questions about it;
Find the answers to your questions;
Think about what God is saying personally to you through it;
Ask God what He wants to tell you through it.

In other words, to meditate on the Word is to think about it and do something with it.

God’s word is living. As the inspired word from his mouth, He breathes through it. He breathes on us through it. He breathes life into us through it.

So let’s go back to Psalm 1:3…

Here is the note from my bible: “They are planted (a deliberate action) in an ideal place (by streams of water). Because of this, their seasons of productivity (fruitfulness) are consistent (they are dependable).”

Here’s the thing: even the healthiest trees do not continuously produce fruit. Fruit comes in season; at intervals. The fruitful seasons happen between periods of rest (the dormant winter) and periods of growth (in spring).

I believe we are the same. It is a lie that those of us in ministry must continuously work to exhaustion for the Kingdom. That we must “save” every person we meet. Why do I think this? Because Jesus didn’t model this. Jesus did not practice workaholism or burnout. He modeled work/life balance, rest, and soul-restoring actions – like taking a walk by the sea and going fishing with the boys.

Somehow, this seems surprising: Jesus didn’t heal everyone he met. He didn’t cast out every demon. He did have periods of ministry where he and his disciples were too busy to eat. But these were interspersed by time away, alone, and alone with God.

When you come to Villa Sollievo, it is our prayer that you are like the tree David mentioned in Psalm 1 – planted by streams of living water. We pray that you soak up Life while here – and are refreshed. Whether for a time of rest, or a time of growth, we pray that you when you re-enter your life and ministry you are better equipped for your next season of fruitfulness.

Paul and Romans 16

While stateside (wading through the endless visa process), I’ve been attending a BSF bible study. (Click the link for info) Every week, I gather with several hundred women to worship, then into smaller groups for digging deeper into the Word. What a gift this has been!

I really love digging deeper into Scripture; trying to figure out things and discovering new perspectives. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed this study is the questions – oh, the questions!

The book of Romans ends with a long list of people; some Paul is greeting and some he is thanking. I’ve always kind of jumped over this thinking, “I don’t know these people, so this isn’t important for me.” How wrong! Even the lists of names that seem so boring are there for a reason. So…what’s the reason?

The questions in this week’s study include:

“Why would Paul include this list of people?”

“What does this list reveal about Paul’s ministry?”

“What principles for Christian ministry are revealed through this list?”

“Which of all these people interests you the most? Why?”

and the kicker: “What does this teach you about the value of relationships in Christian ministry?”


I’ve always thought of Paul as being kind of a lone wolf. He went on these long missionary journeys and there were a few people here and there that traveled or worked with him, or served him for a time, or met a few needs here and there, but basically, he was an itinerant preacher.

That is NOT what Romans 16 shows!

Paul had a TEAM of supporters – even relatives and friends who were in prison with him – and he did none of his ministry “alone”. How did I not know that?

So often, we talk about the theology, the doctrine, the principles that are in Scripture – IMPORTANT STUFF! – but we fail to look at the humanity of the people writing and what their lives looked like day-to-day.PAUL. Even PAUL had a TEAM of supporters around him to help him with the work, to help him stay focused, to study with and learn more about Jesus with, to bounce ideas off, to supply food, shelter, and clothing to him, people that were arrested and imprisoned with him, and – in verse 13, even a dear woman who “has been a mother to me, too”. What did that look like? What does a mother of a grown man do? What support does she give her grown son? Cooking meals? Opening her home? Giving advice, love, emotional support? EVEN PAUL needed this!

So here’s the question: How many missionaries in today’s world serve alone?

Here’s a better question: How many FEEL alone?

THIS is why Villa Sollievo was born. No one should serve alone.

But I can’t help them alone, either. Please, help me help missionaries in Europe and around the Mediterranean not serve alone.

COME to help! SUPPORT financially! PRAY!

*in the link above, find “Italy- Project 9” in the dropdown*

Turning Piedmontese

I love travel memoirs. Love.Them.

Stories and earned wisdom from people who have gone to far-flung places testing the boundaries of comfort and cultural idiosyncrasies fascinate me. Let’s be honest; I like hearing how people have fumbled through cultural faux-paux. Funny, charming, and commiserating over crazy bureaucracy gets me turning pages.

“Turning Tuscan” by Sam Hilt gave me 14 pages of Kindle highlights. Fourteen pages. Here are some favorites:

“The fact that our village had been left behind as history marched onward was one of the things that we found so attractive about it. We enjoyed the feeling there of being outside of time. Every day, nothing happened.”

This could easily be written about vast swaths of Italy, but certainly of Bobbio – and one beautiful reason Villa Sollievo is located there.

In observing his local cathedral:

“People participate [in church] according to their inclinations and convictions. There are the pious, mostly elderly, who attend Mass daily. There are those who attend only on Sunday morning and holidays. (Most of our close friends fit in this category; despite reservations and doubts about the ultimate truth of Church dogmas, they find value in the tradition and their children all go through the rituals….) …And there are others who simply never attend Mass. Yet, even these folks participate actively in the major holidays, helping to string lights around the town for Christmas, carrying processional candles up the mountain on the eve of Good Friday, making baked goods for fund-raisers… There is no guilt-tripping, no apparent competition around who is more pious. I’m not sure how better to describe it than to call it a very relaxed and inclusive form of Christianity.”

This is the Italian culture that no one really talks about; that the majority of Italians aren’t so much “Christian” in the way that Americans think of a “Christian nation”. And also why pastors and missionaries who talk about having a relationship with Jesus are often thought of like an interesting but crazy uncle; or maybe needing to see a shrink.

And yet, there is this:

“All the Italians have to teach us is how to enjoy life on earth.”

And they DO. The whole culture is based around everything that makes life ENJOYABLE. And in our task-driven, uber-busy rat race to accumulate more things…most of us have forgotten how to LIVE.

When is that last time you took a nap after lunch, belly laughed for hours playing card games around the table with your neighbors after an exquisite meal, or riding around town on the cutest scooter? You know you WANT to. Why do we think we can’t PURSUE fun, but try to find our worth in how work-busy we are? When did we get so tired?

THIS is why Villa Sollievo is in Italy.

Come visit. You’ll see what I mean…


I think in the last post I said there would be more than one post from the book, “Expectations and Burnout” by Eenigenburg and Bliss. This analogy is worth sharing:

“During his sermon Lowell used an illustration that communicated powerfully to my battered faith. He explained correctly why 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 yo like and then climb back out. Inflate 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. “

I love this mental picture. We are very much like swimmers on the surface of this ocean – God. Many, many people stand on the shore and never enter the water. Of those who do ease a toe or two in, a few will float around. We’re content to just swim around on the surface. Some brave souls will get a snorkel and dive down a little way, but come back up to the surface to catch a breath. These swimmers will see incredible beauty – things that do not exist on land, but are only found within the ocean of God. But a few… a brave few will answer a call they hear deep in their souls…like whale song. Indescribable. Hauntingly beautiful. And they’ll swim out farther and farther from shore…Following the beauty of the ocean. If we, those brave seekers, stop trying to control the uncontrollable and flow with the rhythm of this ocean… if we find the courage to sink deeply into the ocean of God…we’ll see and experience things that will blow our minds. There is unimaginable beauty at the bottom of the ocean. And if we let ourselves sink into God…we’ll find that we’re actually fish. And LIFE is in this ocean.

*Featured Image from NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas

“Expectations and Burnout”

Having stepped directly into a patch of stinging nettles in bare feet yesterday, today is a sit-around-with-feet-up day. A day to read and be grateful for Benadryl. Abba, having his unique timing, sent me a new book just yesterday – “Expectations and Burnout” by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss. Let me tell you, these ladies are singing my story. And that’s not a bragging point.

I’m not going to tell you my story just yet. It will come in time. But I want to put some snippets here…. because the point of this book is WHY Villa Sollievo!

Background: Sue Eenigenburg is a missionary. This book was born out of her research for a grad school thesis paper. Robynn Bliss is a missionary, who lends her story to the book. Power.Full. I’m grateful they put all this into the book I now hold in my hands. I am certain there will be more than one post from this book.

“By trying to keep up the image of a good missionary (Chester, 1983), missionaries may admit to burnout too late to get the help they need to stay in their chosen profession. This late admission might not be intentional; often missionaries can be unaware of the amount of stress they are under (Chester, 1983).” (*remember, this was a thesis paper*)

“…living with a huge amount of stress had begun to feel normal.”

“Vander Pol (1994) agrees with Koteskey (n.d.) about the susceptibility of first-term workers and shares research done by Lindquist (1982), who reported that up to 50 percent of first-term missionaries return early or do not return after their first term.”

“Due to this pressure for missionaries to appear close to perfect and reluctance to be open to sharing struggles, missionaries can hide many of the symptoms of burnout until is it impossible to do so any longer due to its severity.”

She sites six sources of expectations that put pressure on pastors/missionaries that are different than in secular professions:

1. Self. (Our own expectations of what “ministry” looks like)

2. Sending church: Wondering if we let our supporters down by not having as many tangible results as we would like and they might expect

3. Mission agency: (training is often inadequate, not relevant, or easily forgotten)

4: Fellow missionaries: looking forward to having best friends on our teams and feeling disillusioned with relationships.

5. National friends and host culture: expecting that we will love everyone we meet and letting our misunderstanding of a new culture color our view of people

6. God: trying to understand our disappointment with God and talk about it when we are not supposed to feel disappointment with him, but know we should trust Him no matter what.”

Then Robynn tells her story. Twelve years on the field doing what God had called them to do and happy to be obedient to their call, but…

“We had reached the basement. We were burnt out. And it wasn’t just Lowell. It was me, too. How on earth had we gotten to this place? We had been advocates and models in taking weekly Sabbath rest, in booking two-week vacations, in getting out of the heat of summer for three to four weeks. What had gone wrong? How did we end up like this?”

The answer to that question is that for people serving in a different culture than they grew up in, the stresses accumulate faster than a “normal holiday” can cure. They need professional help from people who understand their unique needs and have tools to help them recover – and prevent – burnout. It takes someone proactively investing in them, asking about their hearts, completely invested in their health- spiritual, emotional, and physical.

This is why Villa Sollievo.

Out on a limb…

I’ve been reading “The Magnolia Story” by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Here are some tidbits:

“We have since made a life out of expecting and working toward restoration at every turn.” – Chip Gaines

“Even back when we started, we know that one home being restored makes a real difference, just as investing in one person makes a real difference,” – Chip Gaines

Have we forgotten that investing in one person makes a difference??

Let’s apply this to mission/aide work (because that’s what this site is about). We don’t have any problem thinking in terms of the pastor/missionary investing in the souls around them. HOWEVER, we often forget that servant needs US to invest in THEM. We see the need of sending people to foreign lands to serve the underserved, but then we set those pastors and missionaries out on a limb and expect them to meet their own needs. AND we add a dimension of “Jesus should meet your needs” or “as someone in ministry, you shouldn’t have any needs”.

There are a few things we forget:

  • Living on a limb is not comfortable. It not our natural habitat. Often, you have a real sense that there is nothing under you and you’re walking a fine line.
  • You’re on a different level than most folks (not better or worse, just different) and most don’t understand what it’s like unless they’ve lived on a limb, too.
  • A limb cannot sustain all your needs.You will eventually run out of food on your limb. There isn’t fruit in every season. Sometimes, there’s grey, cloudy, barren, snow and cold and you feel very alone out on that limb.
  • You don’t rest well on a limb. How can you really ever relax?
  • Jesus doesn’t meet our needs in a vacuum very often. Once in a while there’s an incredible miracle of manna, but most of the time He uses us to meet each other’s needs.
  • If God doesn’t supply miraculous limb provision, we often jump to believing the lie that somehow the missionary is wrong, ineffective, “doesn’t have favor”, or “lost his calling” and maybe they shouldn’t be on the field anymore.  But maybe, just maybe, Jesus actually called them to the limb so that WE will step up and help them,
  • When the peanut gallery starts chattering about our situation – having never lived on a limb -this adds guilt to the soul weariness.

The vision of Villa Sollievo is to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of under-funded, soul-weary, dedicated world-changers. We know what living out on a limb means. We’ve lived it. We live it now.

Our mission is bringing sustenance in a limb-to-limb rescue operation to feed, fortify, and strengthen those beautiful souls who have given up homes, friends, family, and cultures to serve the underserved; to those who invest in each ONE they encounter.

We can’t serve them without YOU.

Investing in one person can make all the difference in the world. You can do that here.  Find “Italy – Project 9” in the drop down and give generously!

God is kicking me a little…

I have a confession. Sometimes, God kicks me.

Villa Sollievo began when the Holy Spirit punched me in the face with Matthew 4:11.   God has, a few times in my life, smacked me upside the head. (yes, that’s the technical term.)

I don’t mean to be obstinate. But sometimes I get distracted and He needs to remind me of important things. A kick, nudge, smack, pinch, or bright, flashing, neon sign usually gets my attention.

A lovely lady I know recently had an online book sale to free up space in her bookcase for new arrivals. I inquired if, after her sale, she would be willing to donate to VS if anything remained.  She not only said yes, she sent a BOX! Because God is ultimately who determined the books she packed up for me (and guests…they’re for the guests), it shouldn’t be surprising what arrive. But somehow, I’m usually stunned by Abba and how He provides.

The first one I opened is “Breaking Busy” by Alli Worthington. (not just because she has my grandmother’s name) Knowing these books will go on shelves at Villa Sollievo for others to read, I really tried to just read. But somehow, I am incapable of reading without a pencil.  Confession: I’m an active learner. It means all my books are underlined and marked up.

Here are some tidbits:

“Here’s the thing about breaking busy. Sometimes it calls for tough choices, for making drastic changes even in the places where you’ve been highly successful.”

“If Jesus himself, Lord of the universe yet bound in human body, didn’t do more than God called him to do, neither should we. Jesus accepted his natural limitations (a human body born in ancient Israel), then lived a life of proactive edits, actively choosing each day to follow God’s calling for his life.”

“Slowing down and making prayerful decisions about what to edit out of our lives will allow us to live out our calling.”

Here’s a doozy: “You don’t have to be all things to all people. It’s as if we all need someone to say that out loud.”

That didn’t kick just me, right?

How ’bout this: “Isn’t it funny how much time we waste focused on a perceived weakness or flaw in ourselves that no one else even notices?”

But here are the real kickers: (stay with me here)

“Setting boundaries in our lives is the only way to ensure we stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. Jesus himself set boundaries around his time.”

“Yes, the needs of the people are urgent, and their requests (or cries) for healing must have been compelling, but Jesus knows that he needs to stop and rest.”  (In reference to Mark 4:35-40 when Jesus was sleeping during a storm. My personal take-away from this story is the detail that Jesus was “sleeping on a cushion”. Why is THAT detail there?) 

Last one: “You don’t burn out doing the right things. You burn out because of what you don’t do.”

Rest. Refill. Press Pause. Do something fun that brings you JOY. Get up from whatever task you are doing right now and take a walk outside with headphones pumping something catchy that you end up dancing down the street looking like a lunatic. Don’t be afraid. Do it! You might just be surprised at how refreshed you feel later.



In the beginning…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing made had being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it.”

Here we are at another beginning… 2018.

I’d like to go back and look at that first beginning.

“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves; and let them rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals, and over all the earth and over every crawling creature that crawls on the earth.” Gen 1:26

If I understand the narrative correctly (and who really knows for sure), God created Earth – the atmosphere, seas, lush plant-life and all the new species – ascending in complexity and glory. With the laws of thermodynamics and gravity on this earth, things grew and died in a life-cycle. (Hugh Ross makes some compelling points in this book.) Satan had been cast down from heaven to the earth, so there was a bit of chaos from that.

Then, homo sapiens-sapiens. Created in the image of God Himself. Creative, reasoning, emotional. Us.

“Adonai took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.” Gen 2:15

God had created the whole earth, but made a special place of beauty, where He could meet with the man He created. Then Adam is given his job: Take the beauty and order of the Garden – the Kingdom – take care of what’s here and make it bigger.

“God blessed them: God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” Gen 1:28

Subdue the chaos and multiply the beauty. Expand the peacefulness in the midst of chaos. The “multiply” part usually gets put into the “children” category, but it doesn’t say just that. “Multiply” carries a connotation of using everything that was there. Multiply the garden. The place where God walks and communes with man. Multiply the place where God is – in the midst of where God isn’t.

This is an interesting bit: Adam is told what to eat and not eat, THEN Eve is created – to help him do this job to “multiply”. But the narrative doesn’t say God told Eve personally about the food bit. It was Adam’s job to teach Eve about the Garden, their job, and about trusting God’s Word.

When the serpent comes to deceive, he goes to Eve and asks, “Did God really say…?” Because God hadn’t said it to her, she was easier to question. It was Adam’s responsibility to teach Eve that God is good and true to His Word.

That’s still our responsibility. And our job, our task, is still to expand the Garden. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

As we begin this new year, let’s go back to the beginning…. our task as humans to bring the beauty of Heaven to our little plot – and make it bigger. Expand the Kingdom.

How can we do that? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. And Self-control.

As we move into a new year, let’s focus on bringing the Kingdom to our circle of influence. How we can be more like Jesus…

Sprouts opening and magazines…

I love magazines.

But I RARELY actually buy one. They are expensive, and although I always read them more than once (over and over, actually), I can’t often justify the expense. But building Villa Sollievo includes teaching/learning to have a Sabbath heart – and that means research. (And my curious mind kind of likes research)

If you don’t have a Sprouts grocery near you, I am truly sorry! By far, my fav grocery choice in the US; just crunchy enough to feed my organic/natural side, yet gloriously cheap enough for even my budget! They’ve just opened a new one in the Tampa area – so crowded it is claustrophobic, but worth even the bulk-section freak out moment.

Standing ages in the checkout line in front of the magazines was my downfall. Curiosity got this cat. What is the world saying about Rest?  Judging by covers, it seems to be a hot topic just now…

I’ve long been a believer that its not the best thing to throw the baby out with the bath water; we can pull bits of truth out of twisty bits of off-course. Truth is never a lie. But lies are usually wrapped in bits of truth – it’s what makes them believable.  But we don’t have to throw out the whole thing when we throw out the lies… find the bits of truth that are there. Truth sets free.

So here are some bits of truth I found amidst the twisty bits:

“The Art of being Quiet” = When we’re too busy, we don’t hear God

“Seeking Happiness? Lend a Hand” – According to this article, psychologists found that “performing acts of kindness for others led to higher happiness levels in participants – but indulging in oneself did not”.  = Giving IS better than receiving – and DOing for others brings joy

“In any year, 18.1% of US adults suffer from anxiety intense enough to be a disorder” = What we are anxious about may be different, but anxiety is a problem in our culture. As I cast my cares on Jesus, speaking Truth in kindness goes a long way in the ‘hey, my neighbor is different, I wonder why’ category

“Let it Go – 11 ways to Forgive” = even secular psychologists are saying how detrimental holding on to hurt is to our well-being. Jesus said to forgive “77×7 times”… He wasn’t joking

“Spring to Life – meditate with your five senses” = This topic is a whole other post… Being created in the image of God, we have unique sensory perceptions; therefore, it is important to engage our senses in our soul restoration process. 

When even the secular world is starting to pay attention to our life-draining pace and the lies our culture dishes out, we should pay attention to our own self-care. 

Put your OWN oxygen mask on BEFORE assisting others.

When work overtakes you…

Isaiah 30:15

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
In quietness and trust is your strength,
But you would have none of it.”

In another version:

“This is what Adonai Elohim, the Holy One of Israel says:
Returning and resting is what will save you;
Calmness and confidence will make you strong – but you want none of this!”

An excerpt from “The Rest of God” by Mark Buchanan:

If only I could get away is our mantra. Then I would be safe. Then I could enjoy my life. …”God’s solution is surprising. He offers rest. But it’s a unique form of rest. It’s to rest in the midst of our threats and our burdens. It’s discovering, as David did in seasons of distress, that God is our rock and refuge right in the thick of our situation.”

“God, in other words, offers something better than our fantasy: he offers himself. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28 NASB)

“The argument of this book is that we uniquely take up his invitation by keeping Sabbath, both as a day and as an attitude. Those who remember the Sabbath and keep it holy don’t need an idyll.”  …

“But let me return to work. In order to keep the Sabbath well – to embrace the rest of God – we need a right view of work. Without a rich theology of labor, we’ll have an impoverished theology of rest. We’ll find that both are hectic, sporadic, chaotic. We’ll find no joy in either.”

“I talked recently with a retired pastor who had served in various churches for forty-six years. For the past three he’d been retired.”

“What are you up to these days?” I asked him.

“Not much”, he said. “I’m still recovering.”

“Oh. Did you have an accident, or surgery, or…?”
“No. I mean recovering from ministry. I guess I never learned how to let things go. I carried the church’s problems always, everywhere. I got so bottle up with it. They I’d go on vacation and fall to pieces. It was like lapsing into a coma, or trying to break a drug addiction. I got sick. I wasn’t able to sleep, or I couldn’t wake up. I got angry and depressed. I withdrew. Coming back, I was almost paralyzed. I begged God to let me go, let me do anything else but this. Only I had no motivation for anything. I’m still getting over that.”

Do you feel overwhelmed with the demands of your life? Your ministry?

When is the last time you had time away? Was it enough?

Some Stats – and why Villa Sollievo exists

Some years ago, the World Evangelical Fellowship did some research into missionary attrition. (That’s a fancy word for missionaries who call it quits and leave the field.)  Called ReMAP  – Reducing Missionary Attrition Project – they  did some extensive study on why missionaries leave the field and what are the numbers.  

(Things to note: *The study and paper were done 20 yrs ago – add the IMB pulling 1,200 last year, and the numbers seem higher today)

“Globally speaking, 1 career missionary in 20 (5.1%) leaves the mission field to return home every year. Of those who leave, 71%  leave for preventable reasons. This could represent a total figure of up to 7,650 missionary dropouts every year.” (Taylor 1997,13)

They talk about 2 types of departures:  “unpreventable attrition” caused by retirement, contract completion, medical leave, or being called to another field; and “preventable attrition” which he states “could have been avoided by better initial screening or selection, more appropriate training and/or more effective shepherding during missionary service.”   

They talk about there being “a gap between the ‘real’ reason and the ‘safe’ reason” given for why the missionary had left the field. The ‘safe’ reason is the one that is acceptable/tolerable/palatable to supporters. (The pressures that come with ‘supporter money’ is a conversation for another day)  A surprising 24%-29% of mission leaders who left were reluctant to write down the truth about why they left the field – citing reasons that MAY have been true, but certainly spun in wording. (i.e. “Lack of funds or the Lord’s leading” would ‘seem more acceptable’ than “family problems or cultural difficulties”.)

Here’s why this topic is important: “two of the top three reasons people leave mission service are spiritual in nature.”

So what are the reasons people leave ministry?

  • Lack of home support (not only financial)
  • Financial difficulties/burdens
  • Lack of true calling and/or spiritual gifts required for the job at hand
  • Inadequate training
  • Inadequate commitment or improper understanding of their commitment
  • Disagreement with agency
  • Personal problems with peers
  • Health problems
  • Children
  • Family issues (including marriage breakdown)
  • Culture shock and/or poor cultural adaptation
  • Unfulfilled expectations
  • Language difficulties
  • Moral issues

 Other agencies have conducted their own studies; Evangelical Alliance Mission (Pocock 122), Conservative Baptist Foreign MIssion Society (Camburn 127), World Gospel Mission (Bushong 129), and others. So what are the main concerns of all these studies?

 “Emotional havoc, broken families, derailed careers, and illness are the price of neglecting personal well-being on the global circuit”. Family issues, emotional issues, and illness are the kickers.

Missionaries, pastors, and mission workers are under high amounts of stress for extended periods of time. There is little vacation and/or down time. Money is tight. Counseling is often seen as shameful – or somehow not ‘spiritual’.  All this exacts a very high toll – emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 

Villa Sollievo is the fulfillment of a vision to change the attrition rates of pastors, missionaries, and cross-cultural workers across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. 

I leave this long post with a quote from William Taylor, “Too Valuable to Lose”:

“This is a glorious day to be alive, serving the supernatural, Triune God in global missions. And while we must not avoid the price to be paid, we can do a much better stewardship job with our missionary force.”


Referenced in this post: “Too Valuable to Lose”, William Taylor; “Missionary Attrition: Its Relationship to the Spiritual Dynamics of the Late Twentieth Centry”, Desiree Whittle; “The Problem of Missionary Drop-outs”,  J. Paul Dowdy