Depression Among International Missionaries

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Depression Among International Missionaries
Jonathan E. Sullivan
Liberty University

Missionaries have a unique calling accompanied by unique challenges over the course of their service. As these individuals and families face these challenges, depression can be an enemy that hinders and even stops the good work they perform. While most of the time a professional counselor can be seen in the United States to help with depression, a therapist may not be so readily available in remote parts of the world. This paper looks at the factors that may lead to depression for those on the mission field and some preventative measures that may be taken to avoid major depression. The well being of these individuals and families is of paramount importance because of the scope and nature of their work.

Depression Among International Missionaries
The missionary and their work have always been of great fascination to this author. The stories of these men and women taking the gospel to the jungles of Africa, communistic Russia, and other global destinations have always been at the forefront of many denomination’s teaching and focus. Missionary agencies, sending boards, and churches have dispatched countless missionaries to international soil ever since the early part of the 19th century, which was the beginning of the modern missionary movement (Kennedy & Dreger, 1974). Men, women, and families have responded to God’s call on their lives at various points in their life and have traveled the world to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard that good news. These people give up the comforts of their homeland, financial prosperity, security, culture, and leave their remaining family behind to serve the Lord in a distant land. This missionary spirit has been around since the early days of the biblical book of Genesis. In this first book of the bible, God speaks to Abraham and instructs him to leave his hometown and go a place that He will show Him (Genesis 12:1, NKJV). Abraham follows the call of God and takes his family to foreign soil where he endures hardship and various enemies as he represents Jehovah God in this land. Throughout the Old Testament God called prophets to speak for Him in a pagan land. These prophets are ridiculed, tortured, attacked, and some killed for their message and faithful witness of the Lord. The biblical character of Stephen, as recorded in the book of Acts, is considered as the first Christian martyr in the New Testament, other than Christ. He was stoned at the hands of the religious leaders for his faithful witness of Jesus Christ. Foxe (2001) records a multitude of martyrs from the Lord all the way to 2001 as the work was updated. The great missionary and evangelist, Paul of the New Testament, meets Jesus Christ and is thereby called to preach the gospel (Acts 9, NKJV). As the Lord instructs His disciples in how to carry on the same kind of work He had performed He told them that they would be persecuted (Luke 15:20, NKJV). Oftentimes Jesus spoke of the sufferings that His disciples would have to endure because of their relationship with Him. The Apostle Paul even stated that he desired to know God through suffering for the Lord (Philippians 3:10, NKJV). Many today consider it an honor to be persecuted as the Lord was persecuted in the first century. Then, there are those who enter the ministry in some fashion only to find out that it is tough work and filled with stress and pressure that they were not expecting. Many missionaries have taken their families to international soil without thinking of the consequences of their decision to move their families to serve into what can sometimes be a hostile environment. Miller (1980) writes of William Carey, who is considered to be the father of modern missions, and the difficulties he faced as he took the gospel to India. It is recorded in that biography of Carey that his...
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