How to resource new member care workers

The author gave access to the books listed below to any new member care worker joining the member care team as resources for them to consult as needed. Books that proved most helpful were those about general member care, risk, spirituality, abuse and pastoral theology. Other books recommended for them to read are those books used as resources for cross-cultural workers listed here.


  • Doing Member Care Well edited by Kelly O’Donnell
  • Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Mission Retention by Rob Hay


  • Facing Danger: a Guide through Risk by Anna Hampton


  • Spirituality in Mission by Amalraj J. et al


  • Child Sexual Abuse in the Churches by Patrick Parkinson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft

Pastoral Theology

  • Skilful Shepherds: An Introduction to Pastoral Theology by Derek J. Tidball

How to resource cross-cultural workers

The author purchased the books listed below and took them with her when visiting cross-cultural workers during ‘home’ leave. Then the cross-cultural workers could borrow those that were most appropriate for them. Books that were most often helpful were those about re-entry, burnout, resilience, marriage, intercultural marriage, singleness in mission, spiritual health, anxiety, stress, third-culture kids, forgiveness and pornography.


  • Burn-Up for Splash Down by Marion Knell
  • Returning Well: Your Guide to Thriving Back “Home” After Serving Cross-Culturally by Melissa Chaplin (a workbook – typically I suggest that they try to find someone also in re-entry to work through it with)


  • Zeal Before Burnout by Christopher Ash
  • Healthy, Resilient and Effective in Cross-cultural Ministry by Laura Mae Gardner
  • Going the Distance by Peter Brain


  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver
  • Married for God by Christopher Ash

Intercultural Marriage

  • Your Intercultural Marriage by Marla Alupoaicei
  • Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls, 3rd Edition by Dugan Romano

Singleness in Mission

  • Single Mission by Debbie Hawker and Tim Herbert

Spiritual Health

  • A Praying Life by Paul Miller
  • Listening to God by Joyce Huggett


  • 10 Best Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wherenberg
  • The Anxiety Cure:  You Can Find Emotional Tranquillity and Wholeness by Archibald Hart 
  • The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress by Archibald Hart
  • The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Russ Harris 
  • Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Third Culture Kids

  • Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds: The Original Class Book on TCKs by David Pollock, Ruth Van Reken and Michael Pollock
  • Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century by Tania Crossman
  • Raising Resilient MK’s: Resources for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers edited by Joyce Bowers
  • Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Storytelling Tips That Will Strengthen the Global Family by Julia Simens


  • Forgive & Forget by Lewis Smedes


  • IP: DIY – Internet Pornography: Do-it-yourself treatment guide for men by Phil Watts
  • Captured by a Better Vision: Living Porn Free by Tim Chester

How to resource TCK’s (and their parents)

The author purchased the children’s books listed below (pre-school, primary school and teens) and took them with her when visiting families during ‘home’ leave. Then children and parents could borrow those that were most appropriate. Books that were most often helpful were stories about children moving, living in two worlds, friendship, difference, feelings, anxiety, change, identity, sexuality and porn-proofing children.

Preschool books (some suitable for lower primary school)

Leaving home

  • We’ll Still be a Family by Linsey Painter
  • Harold and Stanley Say Goodbye by Jill Dyer (OMF)
  • Alice and the King’s Quest by David and Emily Grace
  • Sammy’s Next Move by Helen Maffini
  • Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst
  • Gila monsters meet you at the airport by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
  • The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
  • God is with You: That is All You Need by Larry Libby
  • Off We Go Workbook (OMF)

Living in two worlds

  • Lewis’s Interesting Life by Anna Brotherson and Sara Ang


  • How to Be a Friend by Laurie Kransy Brown and Marc Brown
  • God is With You: That is All You Need by Larry Libby


  • We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates


  • How are you Peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freyman and Joost Elffers
  • God Gave Me Feelings by Catherine MacKenzie


  • Let’s Talk About Feeling Angry by Joy Berry


  • Not for Kids! by Liz Walker
  • Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson and Gail Poyner

Primary school books


  • What to Do When You WORRY Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner (Ages 6-12)
  • Hey Warrior: A Book for Kids About Anxiety by Karen Young


  • Who Moved My Cheese? For Kids by Spencer Johnson, M.D. and Christian Johnson


  • Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger

Teen books


  • Who Moved My Cheese? For Teens by Spencer Johnson, M.D. and Christian Johnson
  • Home Keeps Moving by Heidi Sand-Hart

Leaving well – RAFT

  • Burn Up or Splash Down: Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-entry by Marion Knell (the RAFT process is explained on p105-109)


  • Hey Warrior: A Book for Kids About Anxiety by Karen Young


  • Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century by Tania Crossman
  • Rice, Noodles, Bread or Chapati: The Untold Stories of Asian MK’s edited by Polly Ho
  • Half and Half by Lensey Namloka
  • Between Two Worlds by LeAnne Hardy
  • Scamps, Scholars and Saints by Jill and Roger Dyer
  • …And Bees make Honey by Jill and Roger Dyer
  • Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds: The Original Class Book on TCKs by David Pollock, Ruth Van Reken and Michael Pollock


  • Re-Entry by Rosanne Hawke
  • Footsteps Around the World: Relocation Tips for Teens by Beverly D. Roman
  • The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition by Tina Quick
  • Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing after Loss by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKleyn
  • Burn Up or Splash Down: Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-entry by Marion Knell


  • Growing Up By the Book by Patricia Weerakoon
  • Teen Sex By the Book by Patricia Weerakoon


  • IP: DIY – Internet Pornography: Do-it-yourself treatment guide for men by Phil Watts
  • Captured by a Better Vision: Living Porn Free by Tim Chester

Online Resources 4 TCKs regarding pornography

Kids and Pornography: Using Internet Accountability to Protect and Teach Your Children (Video, parents) –

EducateEmpowerKids (Website/Blog, parents) – 

What’s the problem with pornography?  It’s bigger than lust, and more than just disobeying the Bible (Webpage, youth) –

Guilty Pleasure (Website, adult) – Focused towards directing people to course and programs that will help them recover from their addiction. –

Updated: June 9, 2023


“How do I debrief Fiona?  I have no idea where to start!” Jane* exclaims. 

Fiona, a cross-cultural worker, has just arrived back from Albania* where she had a very challenging assignment, and is due to have her personal debriefing. Jane just started working as a member care worker for Fiona’s sending organisation and is speaking to her supervisor, Heather*.  

Jane herself returned from cross-cultural work a couple of years ago and had a poor experience of being debriefed herself.  She remembers thinking her debriefer hadn’t a clue about what she had been through and didn’t know what questions to ask, so she is concerned not to repeat that experience for Fiona.

What would you say or do?



Debriefing is telling our story, complete with experiences and feelings, from our point of view. It is a verbal processing of past events… Debriefing is an opportunity to share in depth recent experiences with someone who is willing to listen and care, without judgement or criticism. 

Williams (1995: 1)

Personal debriefs are distinct from organisational and critical incident debriefings. 

A critical incident debriefing is a highly structured form of personal debriefing, which can take place after a traumatic experience (Hawker, 2012: 2). 

An organisational debriefing provides a review of an assignment from a factual perspective and gives feedback to the sending organisation (Hawker, 2012: 2). In an organisational debrief, the organisation is the client, while in a personal debrief, the cross-cultural worker is the client (Bosch 2014: 173).  

Internal and external personal debriefs

Personal debriefs can be conducted by personnel within the sending organisation (internal), or from outside (external); each has accompanying advantages and disadvantages.

While Hawker (2012: 18) suggests offering either an internal or an external personal debrief to each cross-cultural worker, the author recommends offering both since there are differing benefits for each.

The internal debriefer understands the organisations policies and procedures, can pick up trends, have influence on the future policy and practice of the organisation and follow up issues, but the challenge is to avoid being seen as part of management (Bosch 2014: 167). Donovan and Myors (2002: 304) argue that it ‘is vital that the listener be in a position to bring about change or at least to give feedback about why change cannot be made’.

On the other hand, an external debriefer provides an opportunity for a cross-cultural worker to be debriefed without any conflicts of interest, as long as no feedback will be given to the sending organisation. Thus, an external debriefer can be shared with openly, without negative consequences on the cross-cultural worker and their career (Bosch 2014: 167). An external personal debrief is best conducted by a counsellor who has been a cross-cultural worker in the past, since they are likely to have greater understanding of the cross-cultural worker’s situation. 

Purpose of a personal debriefing

Personal debriefings can help cross-cultural workers to thrive and grow and show value and care for them by their sending organisations. 

Research suggests that personal debriefings can be highly beneficial (Hawker, 2012:13). 

Hay et al (2007: 381) studied six hundred missionary organisations and found that debriefing during home assignment correlated with retention. This research also found that about 40% of aid workers develop a psychological disorder while on location or after returning to their passport country (Hay et al., 2007: 386). Personal debriefings, conducted well, may significantly reduce this figure.

Thus, personal debriefing is important for all cross-cultural workers and yet Hay et al. (2007: 386) found that it is not always happening. Worryingly, Hawker (2012: 4) writes that 48-78% of cross-cultural workers report receiving no or inadequate personal debriefing. 

Such debriefings provide an opportunity for cross-cultural workers to tell their stories. Telling stories is a powerful tool which assists cross-cultural workers to verbally process their experiences including their emotions. Since many people only want to hear positive stories, personal debriefing provides an opportunity to reflect on the dark sides of the cross-cultural worker’s experiences.

The personal debrief aims to help cross-cultural workers to ‘integrate their experience into their life as a whole, perceive the experience more meaningfully, and bring a sense of closure’ (Hawker, 2012: 2). 

Personal debriefing can also provide opportunity for normalisation; the reassurance that some difficulties of adjustment are normal (Hawker, 2012: 5). For example, the debriefer can provide information about normal stress responses for those who need it (Bosch 2014: 159).  More on normalisation at The New Normal (add link). 

Personal debriefing can identify underlying issues and make appropriate referrals for counselling or to a mental health professional as appropriate. Personal debriefing does not involve counselling or performance evaluation; these should be kept separate (O’Donnell and O’Donnell, 2002: 316).  

Done well, personal debriefings are a valuable form of pastoral care. 


Cross-cultural workers need a safe space to be able to tell their stories openly and so receive maximum benefit from the personal debrief. Member care workers need to have negotiated with the sending organisation a confidentiality agreement that provides this safe space.   

Feedback to the sending organisation is a challenging issue, attempting to balance the confidentiality promised with the leadership’s responsibility for the welfare of the cross-cultural worker. It requires skill to avoid breaking confidentiality (Bosch 2014: 167). 

In this space, member care workers can assist cross-cultural workers to clarify their thinking and encourage them to speak to leadership themselves. Member care workers can ask the cross-cultural worker to share the ‘need to know’ issues with those who, in fact, do need to know (Bosch 2014, 184). It is important for member care workers not to speak on a cross-cultural worker’s behalf (unless a third party is required for cultural reasons), especially when there are disagreements between them and leadership (Bosch, 2014: 185]. 

Code of Best Practice

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Code of Best Practice in Member Care provides a benchmark to guide organisational policies and practices for the care and development of cross-cultural Christian workers (O’Donnell, 2002: 272-276) which stipulates,

Debriefing, including physical, psychological, ministry, and pastoral concerns, is required and provided…

Confidentiality is respect and balanced with accountability to the organisation, sending church, supporters, and other members.

Confidentiality and all related issues are clearly defined and made known to all parties involved

O’Donnell (2002, 274-5)


The timing of the personal debrief has an impact on its efficacy. Often cross-cultural workers are busy in the first couple of weeks with urgent matters including medical check-ups, catching up with family and other practical matters. Between one and three weeks after arrival is often the best time for a personal debrief. 

A personal debrief routinely takes at least two hours. Hawker (2012: 6-7) points out that short debriefs may be worse than nothing at all, so it is important to allow enough time.  

Standard practice

Personal debriefs should be offered as a standard practice with an opt out option. Sometimes cross-cultural workers think they don’t need a personal debrief or that it is a sign of weakness to ask for one. Thus, only providing debriefing for those who ask for it usually means that those who need it may not get it (Hay et al., 2007: 386). 

Choice of debriefer

A person skilled in the area can pick up signs of depression, discouragement, burnout, marital disharmony, and other issues. If such things are addressed early and competently, they can salvage [cross-cultural worker’s] careers. Task-orientated, cognitive concrete thinkers are often not well suited to this ministry. It needs sensitivity to body language, the capacity to read between the lines, and the ability to reflect empathetically upon what is being said. 

Donovan and Myors, 2002: 304

Although Bosch (2014: 153) argues that ‘anyone with two ears’ can debrief, Hawker (2012: 9-10) argues, cross-cultural workers prefer an experienced debriefer, one who demonstrates understanding, ‘cultural competence’ and who has ‘credibility’. Cross-cultural workers are looking for someone who has had a similar experience and has come out the other side.  

[Debriefers need to] have adequate training in the skills of debriefing, have good listening skills, and are warm, non-judgemental, affirming and able to empathise. They must be able to maintain confidentiality. They should be comfortable with silence, as sometimes debriefees require time to reflect before speaking. They should also be able to sit with people who are showing strong emotion (e.g. crying or feeling angry). Debriefers need to recognise their own limitations, and be willing to refer people on for further help if necessary. They should receive supervision.

Hawker (2012: 17-18)

Further, Fawcett (1999: 90) argues that cross-cultural workers are looking for companionship, which is generated by being with those who have common vulnerabilities. 

Cross-cultural workers are also looking for someone who has the power, or perceived ability, to influence future events, who can answer questions and point them in the right direction (Hawker, 2012:10). The internal debriefer needs to be trusted by management (Fawcett 1999: 64).  The member care worker also needs to be able to trust the cross-cultural workers to act responsibly should the need arise.  

Dangers of debriefing

It is possible to add to a cross-cultural worker’s pre-existing trauma during a debriefing. Asking questions of cross-cultural workers may pressure them to talk about experiences that are unhelpful for them to recall.  However, if the member care worker allows the cross-cultural worker to lead the conversation, the possibility of this danger can be reduced. Group debriefings of cross-cultural workers who have had traumatic experiences are particularly problematic since one cross-cultural worker may share an aspect of the trauma not experienced by another and so add to the trauma the other has already experienced. 


Personal debriefs can be structured or unstructured.  If the cross-cultural worker has a lot to talk about, an unstructured debrief may be most appropriate, otherwise the use of questions (add link here) provides structure (Bosch, 2014: 174). 

Let’s now reflect on a similar story in the Bible.

A story to consider

That same day two of Jesus’ followers were going to a village called Emmaus. It was about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked about those things, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.

Jesus asked them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?”

They stood still, and their faces were sad. One of them was named Cleopas. He said to Jesus, “Are you the only person visiting Jerusalem who doesn’t know? Don’t you know about the things that have happened there in the last few days?”

“What things?” Jesus asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet. He was powerful in what he said and did in the sight of God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Jesus over to be sentenced to death. They nailed him to a cross. But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to set Israel free. Also, it is the third day since all this happened. Some of our women amazed us too. Early this morning they went to the tomb. But they didn’t find his body. So they came and told us what they had seen. They saw angels, who said Jesus was alive. Then some of our friends went to the tomb. They saw it was empty, just as the women had said. They didn’t see Jesus’ body there.”

Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are! How long it takes you to believe all that the prophets said! Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and then receive his glory?” Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures. He began with Moses and all the Prophets.

They approached the village where they were going. Jesus kept walking as if he were going farther. But they tried hard to keep him from leaving. They said, “Stay with us. It is nearly evening. The day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

He joined them at the table. Then he took bread and gave thanks. He broke it and began to give it to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. But then he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “He explained to us what the Scriptures meant. Weren’t we excited as he talked with us on the road?”

Luke 24: 13-32

 After appearing to the disciples, Jesus first chooses to offer them an opportunity to tell their story. Jesus listens to the disciples’ story before he offers them an alternative understanding of the events they had experienced, assisting them to put their experiences into context (Hawker 2002: 472).

What happened? How was this cross-cultural worker cared for?

Heather (Jane’s supervisor) suggested that Jane read the materials listed in ‘Recommended Reading’ below.  These materials provide in-depth and practical information about how to debrief well.

Heather suggested that Jane offer Fiona a two-three hour personal debriefing about a fortnight after Fiona arrives ‘home’, as well as ensuring that the venue provides privacy and an environment free of interruptions.

Heather suggested that prior to Fiona’s debriefing, Jane explain the purpose, benefits and expectations of the debriefing process, so that Fiona had time to prepare for it (Bosch, 2014: 179).

Heather provided Jane with a confidentiality blurb which she used to inform Fiona of the confidentiality arrangement (the flow of information) at the start of the debrief.

Heather suggested Jane read the ‘Listening Well’ blog post. 

Heather provided a list of personal debriefing questions for Jane to use as appropriate.

Heather suggested that at the end of the debrief Jane ask Fiona,

“What, if anything, do you want shared with leadership?” 

For example, Fiona might be happy to share one aspect of her situation or otherwise, a generic, ‘Fiona is going well’ or ‘Fiona’s exhausted’.

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity.


Thank you also to David Bird for his editorial assistance.

Recommended Reading

Bosch, B. (2014) Thriving in Difficult Places. Pretoria, South Africa: Author (Chapter 4)

Hawker, D. (2012) Debriefing Aid Workers and Missionaries: A Comprehensive Manual. Ninth Ed. People in Aid. Available at:


Bosch, B. (2014) Thriving in Difficult Places. Pretoria, South Africa: Author.

Donovan, K. and Myors, R. (2002) ‘Reinventing Missionary Commitment’, in K. O’Donnell (ed.) Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices From Around the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey (Globalization of Mission Series), pp. 295–307.

Fawcett, G. (1999) Ad-mission: The Briefing and Debriefing of Teams of Missionaries and Aid Workers. Harpenden, UK: Author.

Hawker, D. (2002) ‘Guidelines for Crisis and Routine Debriefing’, in Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices From Around the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library (Globalization of Mission Series), pp. 457–475.

Hawker, D. (2012) Debriefing Aid Workers and Missionaries: A Comprehensive Manual. Ninth Ed. People in Aid. Available at:

Hay, R. et al. (2007) Worth Keeping:Global Perspectives on Best Practices in Missionary Retention. Pasadena, CA: William Carey.

O’Donnell, K. (ed.) (2002) Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices From Around the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

O’Donnell, K. and O’Donnell, M.L. (2002) ‘Running Well and Resting Well: Twelve Tools for Missionary Life’, in Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices From Around the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library (Globalization of Mission Series).

Williams, K. (1995) Debriefing: Some Key Issues. Unpublished notes. Dallas, Texas: Wycliffe Bible Translators, p. 1.

Filial payments

“Will my allowance be enough for me to send my mother a cash payment each month?” George* asks Liz*, his member care worker.

Although Singapore is his passport country, George has studied, lived and worked in Australia for 15 years. George’s mother lives in Singapore* along with all his aunties, uncles and cousins.  He has been sending regular cash (filial) payments to his mother ever since he started working. George and his extended family are ethnically Chinese.  

George is in the process of applying to work as a cross-cultural worker in Indonesia* with an Australian agency. The agency staff were surprised that George, as well as his extended family, regarded sending regular payments to support his mother as his responsibility. George’s agency doesn’t have policies or procedures regarding filial payments, since this is the first time they have had a cross-cultural worker raise this issue. 

During initial discussions with agency staff, there is concern expressed about the rising cost of sending George should filial payments be added to his budget, so he wonders about offering to do some extra part-time work on location to cover them.  

George also asks, “Will my leave allowance be sufficient for caring for my mother should she become ill, as well as for regular visits?” 

What would you say or do?


Cultural issues

Historically, George’s agency has been run mostly by anglo-Australians and thus it’s policies and practices reflect this cultural perspective. In contrast, however, in George and his family’s worldview, family responsibilities are primary, assumed and non-negotiable.

George’s filial payments are an expression of his sense of filial responsibility, ‘the obligation or duty of providing support and care to one’s parents’  (Chou, 2019). Filial piety is ‘one of the bedrock values of Chinese society. Rooted in Confucianism, it is the belief that honoring one’s parents is a person’s most important responsibility’ (Filial piety: A Christian Perspective, 2014).

Confucianism has significant influence in a number of countries including Singapore, Taiwan, China, Japan and Korea (Park and Müller, 2014), as well as in immigrant populations from these countries.  George may not be consciously aware of the influence of Confucianism in his life. Tokunaga argues that for many Asian Americans, 

‘Confucianism is not a religion or even a philosophy to which they would intentionally devote themselves. Rather, it permeates the social and family structures, much in the way Americans do not recite the Declaration of Independence but certainly have the values of the Declaration woven into the fabric of their society’. 

Tokunaga, 1998: 22

 The influence of Confucius means that ‘children must honour and obey parents, putting their parents’ comfort, interest and wishes above their own’ (Tokunaga, 1998: 20-21). Many immigrant and refugee families have struggled through transition (including financially) in a new country so that their children can have access to better opportunities (Tokunaga, 1998: 23). Accordingly, ‘their children feel strong needs to “show gratitude” for those struggles: “I want to do well in school to honor my parents. I want to get a good-paying job to help my family. It is the least I can do’” (Lou, 1989). George’s family may also have made significant sacrifices to fund George’s education in Australia, creating a sense of obligation for him.

Many countries have no social security, and in others it is limited. Adult children in such countries are expected to financially support their parents.  It is common in many communities for adult children to be a parent’s sole retirement fund. In other cases, adult children are supplementing their parents’ income whether sourced from a limited social security system or elsewhere. A wide spectrum of countries, from China and Singapore in the East, to Germany and France in the West, have laws that reflect the expectation that adult children are to support their elderly parents (Ting and Woo, 2009: 72; Aboderin, 2005). Some US states also have filial responsibility laws, with filial responsibility being ‘the legal term for the duty owed by an adult child to their parents for their parents’ life necessities’ (Gerber, 2022).

Filial payments are therefore very common in many communities.  In George’s home culture, for example, ‘well over 70% of the respondents involved in Singapore’s 2011 National Survey of Senior Citizens, reported that cash transfers from children represented their greatest source of income’ (Serrano, Saltman and Yeh, 2017). One survey reported that Singaporeans give about 10% of their salary to their parents with the median amount given being $500 per month (Miao, 2021).

The responsibility to send filial payments is not limited only to countries influenced by Confucianism. Yep et al. (1998: 12) note that South-East Asian, Indian, Pakistani and Filipino communities face similar pressures.  This suggests that future applicants from a wide range of communities may have similar responsibilities.

In Australia and the United Kingdom, in contrast, social security or superannuation cover much of the costs of living for elderly parents, and therefore filial piety does not often take the form of financial assistance. The home staff from George’s agency have probably assumed, up until this time, that this is the case for all their cross-cultural workers.  

How much does George need to pay his mother each month?

Broader context

Filial payments are a key facet of filial responsibility, but there are other responsibilities George is likely to have. These include caring for his mother during illness, regular visiting and meeting her sundry other needs. Traditional Asian cultures have a collectivist orientation, rather than an individualist orientation, which means the group, ‘defines the individual’s identity and destiny’ (Jao, 1998: 44).  Thus, George’s extended family’s expectations regarding his responsibilities towards his mother are also a contributing factor.


Another issue worth considering is the impact of George’s payments on his witness. 

What kind of witness are his filial payments to his extended family?

What kind of witness are filial payments in the culture George is to serve in? 

Let’s now reflect on a story in the Bible.

A story to consider

The book of Esther records an extraordinary story of  a Jewish girl, elevated to be the queen of Persia.

Haman, the highest official in the land, becomes angry when Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, refuses to bow down to him, as the king had commanded. Haman then sends out an order in the king’s name to every territory to destroy the Jews.

After this Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, appears at the city gate in sack cloth.

Esther’s male and female attendants came to her. They told her about Mordecai. So she became very troubled. She wanted him to take off his rough clothing. So she sent him other clothes to wear. But he wouldn’t accept them. Then Esther sent for Hathak. He was one of the king’s officials. He had been appointed to take care of her. She ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai. She wanted to know why he was so upset.

So Hathak went out to see Mordecai. He was in the open area in front of the palace gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him. He told him about the exact amount of money Haman had promised to add to the royal treasures. He said Haman wanted it to be used to pay some men to destroy the Jews. Mordecai also gave Hathak a copy of the order. It commanded people to wipe out the Jews. The order had been sent from Susa. Mordecai told Hathak to show the order to Esther. He wanted Hathak to explain it to her. Mordecai told him to tell her to go and beg the king for mercy. Mordecai wanted her to make an appeal to the king for her people.

Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther directed him to give an answer to Mordecai. She told him to say, “There is a certain law that everyone knows about. All the king’s officials know about it. The people in the royal territories know about it. It applies to any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard without being sent for. It says they must be put to death. But there is a way out. Suppose the king reaches out his gold scepter toward them. Then their lives will be spared. But 30 days have gone by since the king sent for me.”

Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai. Then he sent back an answer. He said, “You live in the king’s palace. But don’t think that just because you are there you will be the only Jew who will escape. What if you don’t say anything at this time? Then help for the Jews will come from another place. But you and your family will die. Who knows? It’s possible that you became queen for a time just like this.”

Then Esther sent a reply to Mordecai. She said,“Go. Gather together all the Jews who are in Susa. And fast for my benefit. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days. Don’t do it night or day. I and my attendants will fast just as you do. Then I’ll go to the king. I’ll do it even though it’s against the law. And if I have to die, I’ll die.”

So Mordecai went away. He carried out all Esther’s directions.

Esther 4:4-17

After this, Esther takes her life into her hands when she approaches the king without being summoned.  However, in so doing, she saves her family and people from mass extermination. The king kills Haman instead of the Jews!

It was costly for Esther to approach the king, on behalf of her people, just as it costs George to care for his mother.

Prior to going before the king, Esther asks Mordecai and her people to fast for her. Perhaps George and his agency staff can also fast and pray, as they consider the way forward.

In this story, Mordecai shows great faith in God’s sovereignty. Similarly, George and his agency staff can remember that God will bring his purposes about, come what may.  Maybe George is the one to break new ground for other cross-cultural workers from similar communities.

What happened? How was this cross-cultural worker cared for?

Liz encourages George to enquire from the agency about what his allowance will be on location. Once this occurs, George realises that his allowance will be insufficient to cover his filial payments. 

Liz then advocates for George with the agency staff in working out a solution. The agency staff prayerfully consider make changes to George’s budget to add a filial payment as a budget item. Then the agency staff discuss the possibility of changing their policies and procedures, so that they can add filial payments as a budget item for cross-cultural workers from similar cultural backgrounds in the future.

Liz also enquired about the provision of leave for George to care for his mother should she become ill. She discovered that the agency could give some paid compassionate leave for George to care for his mother should the need arise. However, if it was an extended period, George would be able to take unpaid leave for quite some time.

George has broken new ground for his agency providing a smoother way forward for other applicants from similar contexts.  

A few years later George reports to Liz

“Once I had settled into Indonesia, I started to experience a lot of pressure from my extended family to buy an apartment for my mother.”

George owned a flat in Perth* but had planned to keep that to live in after he finished working in Indonesia.  

George’s aunts and uncles became increasingly frosty in their communication with him, asking,

“When are you going to do something for your mother?”

“Do you want to put her in a nursing home?”  (Shameful in their family context)

They also say,

 “No landlords want to have someone die in their apartment” (George’s mother is currently renting in Singapore).

And lastly, and most powerfully,

“Your mother has no son.”

In response to this pressure, George decides to sell his flat in Perth to finance the purchase of an apartment for his mother in Singapore.  George consults her about the selection of the apartment as well as the size of the mortgage to take on and proceeds to purchase one.

After George’s aunts and uncles hear that he had purchased an apartment for his mother, the relationships became much less icy.  

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity.


Thank you to David Bird for his editorial assistance.

Recommended Reading

Yep, J. et al. (1998) Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press.


Aboderin, I. (2005) ‘“Conditionality” and “Limits” of Filial Obligation’. Oxford Institute of Ageing. Available at:

Chou, R. (2019) ‘Filial Responsibility’, Encyclopedia of Social Work. Available at:

Filial Piety: A Christian Perspective (2014). Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2023).

Hay, R. et al. (2007) Worth Keeping:Global Perspectives on Best Practices in Missionary Retention. Pasadena, CA: William Carey.

Impey, J. (2010) DW Made for minds. Available at:

Jao, G. (1998) ‘Honor and Obey’, in Following Jesus Without Dishonouring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, pp. 43–56.

Lou, R. (November/December) ‘Model Minority? Getting Behind the Veil’, Change, 7.

Miao, X. (2021) Here’s how much monthly allowance Singaporeans give their parents, AsiaOne. Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2023).

Park, D.M. (2014) Confucian Filial Piety as a Challenge for Korean and Asian Churches. London: Lambert Academic.

Park, D.M. and Müller, J.C. (2014) ‘The challenge that Confucian filial piety poses for Korean churches’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 70(2). Available at:

Serrano, R., Saltman, R. and Yeh, M.-J. (2017) ‘Laws on filial support in four Asian countries’, Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, 95(11), pp. 788–790.

Ting, G. and Woo, J. (2009) ‘Elder care: is legislation of family responsibility the solution?’, Asian J Gerontol Geriatr, 4, pp. 72–75.

Tokunaga, P. (1998) ‘Pressure, Perfectionism & Performance’, in Following Jesus Without Dishonouring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, pp. 17–30.

Yep, J. (1998) ‘Your Parents Love You, My Parents Love Me’, in Following Jesus Without Dishonouring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, pp. 43–56.

Leaving Well

“How do we help our children leave well? How do we finish up well ourselves?”, Tom* asks Liz*, their member care worker.  Tom, Nadia* and their two children will soon be leaving Chile* to return ‘home’ to Brisbane, after 11 years serving as church planters.  

What would you say or do?

Liz, who has just started working for Tom and Nadia’s agency, wonders, “What training and resourcing does the agency provide about how to leave well?”  



Tom, Nadia and their children are about to transition from one cultural context to another, a process which provides various challenges. 

Donovan (1991:182) represents the experience of major transition as similar to a river crossing.  

The cross-cultural workers were contributing prior to leaving location. Once they have transitioned, or spent some time adjusting to a new place, they will again be contributing. However, during the transition, cross-cultural workers typically feel like they are just surviving or even drowning. This disorientation or struggle occurs to a lesser or greater extent depending on the magnitude of the transition involved.  Transitioning back ‘home’ is typically one of the most difficult and lease expected ‘drowning’ experiences.

Will Tom, Nadia and their children sink or swim during their transition back to Brisbane?  How much do they need to change? And what can be done to mitigate their experience?

Leaving well can ease the stress of transition.  The acronym ‘RAFT’ is a tool to assist workers to finish up well (Pollock et al., 2017: 240-6).


Cross-cultural workers can build a ‘RAFT’ to assist then to leave well.  

R – Reconciliation

It is important for cross-cultural workers to reconcile as much as they are able. Bitterness can be caused by ‘unfinished business’. Sometimes bridges need to be built. “It’s so easy to get on a plane and leave without ever asking for forgiveness or giving forgiveness.”  (Neigh)

My story illustrates the weight that can be carried when conflicts are unresolved:

As I was about to transition ‘home’ some years ago, a conflict arose with a friend about an electrical appliance.  My friend wanted to buy it for a business venture but I had already promised it to someone else. According to my friend’s worldview, our relationship trumped my promise to sell it to another.  However, according to my worldview, my promise trumped my friend’s claim. Due to the late occurrence of this conflict, the busyness of the last few days and the remoteness of her house, this conflict wasn’t resolved before I departed.  It was also impossible for me to achieve any conflict resolution at a distance (neither phone, mail or internet was a viable way to communicate with her at that time).  After returning to Australia, memories of our conflict came to mind from time to time, and I felt sad about it. Fortunately, during a return visit a few years later, there was opportunity for resolution of our conflict.

Author, 2022

Have Tom, Nadia and their children any bridges to build before they leave? 

A – Affirmation

Affirming people during the leaving process blesses relationships. Good closure includes acknowledging the blessings that relationships have brought, appreciating them and mourning their passing. This step can remind cross-cultural workers of what they have gained in that place and can be part of thanking God for what He has given them.  “It is not only affirming to the one who receives the note or word of thanks, but it helps to cement some of the good memories” that have been experienced by those leaving (Neigh). 

Knell (2006: 39) argues that affirmation is “saying what was good about the experience” and “prevents leaving from becoming a funeral”.  This could include a celebration of God’s faithfulness during their time of service, including how God has changed people’s lives in their community.

It is important to reconcile and affirm early, as it is easy to run out of time during the busyness of finishing up.  

Affirmation occurs differently in different cultural contexts.  In some contexts affirmation may be a written note, in others a gift or in others a verbal affirmation, either publicly or privately.

Have Tom, Nadia and their children affirmed others when leaving in the past? 

F – Farewells 

It is also important to say goodbye in culturally appropriate ways.  This not only applies to saying goodbye to people, but also to places, pets and possessions.

A story illustrates the fallout that can occur if this is neglected. Once John*, a short-term worker jumped on a bus and left a team he had been working with without saying goodbye.  A little later, some team members asked, “Where’s John?”.  They expressed grief when they discovered that he had left on the weekly bus without saying goodbye. In their eyes, John’s leaving without taking the time to farewell the team reflected poorly on his relationship with them. John’s service and witness was impacted by the manner in which he left.

For parents, this process also includes taking time to facilitate their children saying goodbye to their friends at school and in other communities. When visiting places and people for the final time, it is helpful to verbalise that it is the last visit. Taking lots of photos of favourite spots and people can be a useful tool (eg. Peanut seller, monkeys).  

Sometimes saying goodbye may involve taking time off work to visit significant people and places. Barclay (personal correspondence, 2022) reported that he undertook motorbike rides around India with each of his sons before they left for Australia.

How have Tom and Nadia farewelled when leaving in the past?

T – Think destination 

Think destination refers to looking ahead to life in the future destination reminding cross-cultural workers of the importance of planning appropriately for life in their future there.  This includes thinking about housing, schooling, work and church options.  Building a network of resources, including people and agencies, can also assist with the transition process. 

Think destination also includes reflecting on the families’ expectations about their future destination. It is easy to plan a return ‘home’ with rose-coloured glasses (Knell, 2006:42).  Realistic expectations are a key factor in mitigating the stress of transition (Ward et al., 2001:77).  Friends and colleagues can assist cross-cultural workers set realistic expectations. 

So often we go into new situations, like returning to [home], either for furlough or permanently and never once stopped to think through what we expect life, future assignment, friends, etc to be like. Those of who have been in the host country for a short period of time in particular, often falsely assume everything is going to be the same when they return. 


Unexpected departures

Those who don’t have a chance to RAFT typically have a more challenging re-entry.  

“Unfortunately those who face evacuation, or emergency medical or family leave, often find this step impossible to do. When this step is short circuited an extra amount of attention needs to be given, to make sure that we are dealing with the issues and grieve the losses that have occurred” 


Negative alternative

It is important to give attention to emotions when leaving and includes coming to terms with the reason for leaving (Knell, 2016:38). There can be disappointment, anger or bitterness at the end of service.  These can then be taken forward with the move and be an extra burden to carry.

Barclay (personal correspondence, 2022) suggests that if RAFT is not done well, a negative alternative to RAFT may result:

  • Resentment
  • Anger/angst
  • Fears
  • Trauma

Bringing good closure to a period in your life enables you to make a good beginning in the new place. It also helps you build on past experiences and learn from them. Good closure also helps you find something positive in what may have been a negative experience. 

Knell, 2016:38

Time and Lifelines

As well as leaving well, time and lifelines also mitigate the transition process. You can read more about this at Barclay’s (personal correspondence, 2022) Transition River Activity.

A story to consider

Whilst returning to Jerusalem at the end of his third journey, Paul called the elders of the Ephesus church to come down to Miletus to meet with him to farewell them.  

When they arrived, he spoke to them. “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you,” he said. “From the first day I came into Asia Minor, I served the Lord with tears and without pride. I served him when I was greatly tested. I was tested by the evil plans of the Jews who disagreed with me. You know that nothing has kept me from preaching whatever would help you. I have taught you in public and from house to house. I have told both Jews and Greeks that they must turn away from their sins to God. They must have faith in our Lord Jesus.

“Now I am going to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit compels me. I don’t know what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Spirit warns me. He tells me that I will face prison and suffering. But my life means nothing to me. My only goal is to finish the race. I want to complete the work the Lord Jesus has given me. He wants me to tell others about the good news of God’s grace.

“I have spent time with you preaching about the kingdom. I know that none of you will ever see me again. So I tell you today that I am not guilty if any of you don’t believe. I haven’t let anyone keep me from telling you everything God wants you to do. Keep watch over yourselves. Keep watch over all the believers. The Holy Spirit has made you leaders over them. Be shepherds of God’s church. He bought it with his own blood. I know that after I leave, wild wolves will come in among you. They won’t spare any of the sheep. Even men from your own people will rise up and twist the truth. They want to get the believers to follow them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning you. Night and day I warned each of you with tears.

“Now I trust God to take care of you. I commit you to the message about his grace. It can build you up. Then you will share in what God plans to give all his people. I haven’t longed for anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that I have used my own hands to meet my needs. I have also met the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that we must work hard and help the weak. We must remember the words of the Lord Jesus. He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”Paul finished speaking. Then he got down on his knees with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they hugged and kissed him. Paul had said that they would never see him again. That’s what hurt them the most. Then they went with him to the ship.

Acts 20:18-38

In this, Paul’s last in-person communication with the elders from Ephesus, he weaves a review of his ministry amongst them, as well as looking forward to his future ministry, before handing the elders over to God.  Prayer and farewelling occurred at their parting, when emotions ran high. 

It is interesting to note that the form of Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders is “a type commonly found in farewell addresses” at the time (Williams, 1990: 350). 

What happened? How were these cross-cultural workers cared for?

Liz encouraged Tom, Nadia and their family to review their ministry and to celebrate what God has done through them, just as Paul did with the Ephesian elders. 

Liz also encouraged the family to have fun doing the Transition River Activity, facilitating reflection on their experiences of transition including RAFT and their lifelines. She sent them the book ‘Burn Up or Splash Down: Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-entry’ by Marion Knell which contains more information about RAFT, as well as about the re-entry which is ahead of them.   

Liz facilitated Tom, Nadia and their children to reflect on their expectations about their future life in Brisbane by sending them the RAFT Worksheet  ( 

Liz could assess their expectations.  Are they too high, too low or realistic? For example ‘What are the children’s expectations about extended family contact?’

Liz could also ask Tom and Nadia, “Where is God in all of this?”  

If appropriate, Liz could encourage them to pray and commit their church plant and their transition to God, just as Paul did.

As Tom and Nadia hadn’t heard of RAFT before, Liz investigated the agency’s member care programme to determine what training and resources were provided systemically to cross-cultural workers leaving for and returning from location. She discovered that any resourcing and training was adhoc.  Liz decided to set up a programme to:

  • train all new cross-cultural workers about the RAFT process at least six months before their departure for location and 
  • send RAFT resources to all cross-cultural workers at least six months prior to their return from location.

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity.

Recommended Reading

Knell, M. (2006) Burn Up or Splash Down: Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-entry. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Other References

Bouncing Back – Transition and Re-entry Planning for the Parents of Foreign Service Youth (2022) U.S. Department of State. Available at:

Donovan, K. (1991) Growing Through Stress. Sydney, Australia: Aquila.

Foyle, M.F. (1987) Honorably Wounded. Europe: MARC.

Jordan, P. (1992) Re-Entry: Making the Transition from Missions to Life at Home. Seattle, WA: YWAM.

Knell, M. (2001) Families on the Move: Growing Up Overseas – and Loving it! Wheaton, Ill: Monarch.

Neigh, M. (unknown) ‘Closure – Building a “RAFT”’. Barnabas International. Available at: Accessed 2022.

Pascoe, R. (1999) Culture Shock! Successful Living Abroad: A Parent’s Guide. Portland, Oregon: Graphics Arts Center.

Pirolo, N. (2000) The Re-entry Team: Caring for Your Returning Missionaries. San Diego, CA: Emmaus Road International.

Pollock, D.C., Van Reken, R.E. and Pollock, M.V. (2017) Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Third. Boston, MA; London: Nicholas Brealey.

RAFT Rethinking the Transition Process for Missions (2022) Center for Mission Mobilization. Available at:

‘RAFT Worksheet’ (2005). Interaction International, Inc. Available at:

Ward, C., Bochner, S. and Furnham, A. (2001) The Psychology of Culture Shock. East Sussex: Routledge.

Williams, D.J. (1990) Acts. Massachusetts: Hendrickson (New International Bible Commentary, 5).

Culture shock – it’s real!

“At the beginning of our time in Dhaka, our senses were assaulted – taxi drivers vying for our custom, gangs of dogs, monkeys, dust, smog, waking to the sounds of hacking and spitting early in the morning from those living above us.  Smells, both wonderful (spicy food and woodsmoke) and the unpleasant (sewerage and rubbish in the streets).  Initially, we bounced around finding all the new experiences fun and exciting!  However, after a while the tide began to turn.

Stomach upsets and sickness were challenging…

Tiredness set in … 

Now we are feeling overwhelmed!  Some of the family don’t even want to go out.

I dislike the squat toilets.  The local dress I wear, including scarf, pants and tunic consist of great quantities of fabric which have a mind of their own and easily fall into the toilet. 

I hate the traffic.  “There are just no road rules here!” 

Leonie* is speaking to Liz, her member care worker, during a Zoom call a couple of months after she, her husband James* and their four children arrived in Dhaka.

What would you say or do?


Leonie and her family are experiencing culture shock.

Culture shock

Culture shock, or acculturative stress, as some prefer to label it, is used to describe the impact of a change of culture on an individual. Oberg (1960: 176), an anthropologist, was the first to use the term culture shock, describing it thus:

Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse.  These signs and cues include the thousand and one ways in which we orient ourselves to the situations of daily life… Now these cues, which may be words, gestures, facial expressions, customs, or norms are acquired by all of us in the course of growing up and are as much a part of our culture as the language we speak or the beliefs we accept.  All of us depend for our peace of mind and our efficiency on hundreds of these cues, most of which we do not carry on the level of conscious awareness.

Boch (1970: x) writes that ‘the person subject to extreme culture shock is often unsure whether he has gone mad, or whether all the people around him are crazy – perhaps both!’ 

Culture shock ‘applies to any new situation, job, relationship, or perspective requiring a role adjustment and a new identity… It is a normal, inevitable reaction in cross-cultural situations. It doesn’t strike suddenly, or have a single principle cause, but builds up slowly from a series of events’ (Wilson, 1996: 444)

These events arise out of the differences experienced. 


Various differences precipitate culture shock. People and places look and smell different.  The difference may be physical including a change in diet and exposure to bacteria and viruses, precipitating illness.  Consequentially, cross-cultural workers may fear for their health and safety.  Differences in toilets, climate or housing may be challenging.  There may be social differences, with language challenges, different communication patterns, customs and values.  Social norms might be different including a different attitude to time.  Cross-cultural workers may not know what is going on, what is expected of them or where to find things.  Worship at church may be different.  Cross-cultural workers may also experience theological shock, particularly if some of their theological positions or ‘truisms’ are challenged.

Cross-cultural workers may experience a sense of loss: homesickness, support networks, routine and roles. Often cross-cultural workers experience reductions in productivity and efficiency. Cross-cultural workers are starting from the beginning with everything. They ask questions such as:

  • Who am I? 
  • How can I communicate? 
  • Where can I fit in? 
  • Who will be my friends? 
  • What can I do? 
  • What can I eat? 
  • How do I clean my teeth?

Cultural incidents 

Cultural incidents also occur during social interactions due to social differences (Storti, 2001: 61-2).

One type occurs when the behaviour of people from another culture confuses, frustrates, or disgusts the expatriate and may lead to a withdrawal from the relationship. 

Adapted from Storti (2001: 61)

The second type occurs when the behaviour of expatriates confuses, frustrates, or disgusts someone from another culture which may also result in withdrawal from the relationship.

Adapted from Storti (2001: 62)


If cross-cultural workers are expecting the differences they encounter when entering another culture, the extent of their culture shock will be moderated. Further, researchers argue that realistic expectations facilitate adjustment (Ward, 2001: 77).  Embracing these differences is the start of the process of fitting in.

Hopefully culture shock did not come as a surprise, since it is normal, healthy and critical to the process of inculturation. 

What differences were James, Leonie and their children expecting to encounter?  Were their expectations realistic?

Changing identity

Elmer’s (2002: 66) diagram shows some cross-cultural workers adjust and others don’t.

Some cross-cultural workers have corners knocked off their square heads during transition!  The cross-cultural workers who retain their square heads cause more irritation to their host community.  It is easier for cross-cultural workers to retain their square head (if they have power in their context, whether from the money they bring or the positions they hold). Cultural imperialists do this. Most cross-cultural workers want to transition to an ‘octagonal’ head, so that they don’t bump the local people as much.  

Stages and symptoms of culture shock

Culture shock feels like a roller coaster ride often depicted by a ‘U curve’. 

The first stage is the honeymoon phase, after which cross-cultural workers move into the avoidance, anger and acceptance stages. 

During the honeymoon phase cross-cultural workers are often excited to try new things, explore the new environment and have plenty of energy to do so.  

Gerald Durrell’s biography describes his experience of arriving in Cameroons, mirroring Leonie’s families’ experience.

For Gerald and his friend John Yealland every minute of those first few days in Africa – every site, every sound, every face, every creature, every plant – was a source of wonder and delight. It was as if they had been born again – nothing was familiar, nothing expected. Hither and thither they went, ecstatic and bemused, [like men in a masculine trance].

Botting (2014: 116)

It is helpful if cross-cultural workers use the energy of the honeymoon phase to develop social and spiritual supports for a healthy adjustment.  

After a while, however, people run out of energy.  Culture shock can feel like wading through mud.  There is resistance all the time, in every activity, with a cloud of uncertainty about the possible dangers ahead. Tiredness is a common symptom.  So much change is required and change consumes energy.  It has been found that people typically operate at about 70% of their usual capacity at this time. 

The tiredness, withdrawal and irritability experienced during culture shock are challenging for those experiencing it, as well as for those around them.

During the avoidance phase, cross-cultural workers are often distracted, feel lonely and withdraw.  Withdrawal is commonly expressed through the use of distractions, such as the excessive use of social media or, even more problematically, through porn or alcohol. Cross-cultural workers may feel homesick, experience significant fatigue, anxiety and uncertainty.  Leonie’s reference to finding it hard to go out is a common experience of this phase of culture shock. Unfortunately, as going out becomes harder, engagement with people in their new community is limited. Typically, people then descend further down the curve and become angry or irritable.  

Criticism is a common feature of the anger phase of culture shock.  Cross-cultural workers often compare their new culture unfavourably with their home culture, sometimes whinging with other cross-cultural workers!  Other possibilities include general grumpiness.  Leonie has become irritable, expressed in negativity about various aspects of Nepali culture including the squat toilets and the seemingly chaotic road rules. 

Fortunately, as cross-cultural workers start to adjust to the new normal, they move towards the median line again.  In the last phase, acceptance, cross-cultural workers start to have a sense of belonging.  They change to become a better fit with their new environment.  They may have developed some language competence and start feeling more like their usual selves.

Jones (2015) describes the movement from anger to acceptance:

It includes wrestling with knowing, without a doubt that your way is better . . .  and then thinking that it probably is . . .  and then wondering if it might be . . . and then acknowledging there may be two good ways . . . and then (sometimes) recognizing the new way is better.

Read more about the stages of culture shock at John Fisher’s personal transition curve


Certainly, the experience of culture shock varies from person to person. It is often not a tidy ‘U curve’.

Many variables including age, health, living conditions, language, employment and personality affect the extent of the culture shock experience. It varies according to how much change we have to undertake. You can read more about variations in culture shock including those of children.

Where does sin fit in?

‘You don’t know what is in the jar until it is bumped.’

Indian proverb

Culture shock is a significant bump! Experienced cross-cultural workers report that during culture shock, cross-cultural workers’ weaknesses and dark sides bubble to the surface. Those weaknesses, or dark sides, in peoples ‘normal’ lives, tend to be expressed in greater force at this time. 

What happens after culture shock?

The confusion and helplessness that arise from the complete loss of cultural cues central to the culture shock process, is over soon. However, episodes of culture stress which come from the stress of changing to a new way of living continue to occur for some years, although they become less frequent.  More can be read about culture stress

A story to consider

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

… So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

Exodus 16:2-8

God has brought the people of Israel out of Egypt in order to take them into the promised land.  God asks them to be faithful to Him, in the midst of competing cultures and religions. We see however, that when faced with thirst and hunger they quickly begin to grumble.  While this grumbling is directed at their leaders, the Israelites are really grumbling about God and what he has asked them to do, comparing their current experience with the comfort of their old ‘home’.  Their relationship with God is damaged.

What happened? How were these cross-cultural workers cared for?

Just as the Israelite’s grumbling at God effected their relationship with God, so too could Leonie’s and her families’ grumbling impact their relationship with God. 

Liz could gently enquire about the families’s spiritual 

Liz enquires about what training about culture shock the family received before departure.  Consequently, Liz could refer the family to the Tips for Surviving Culture Shock document they mentioned which included suggestions to facilitate a positive relationship with God.

Liz can also use the document to review:

  • the family’s self-care practices 
  • their level of social support. This might encourage Leonie’s family to pursue local relationships to assist in adjustment, as well as too facilitate the family providing support for one another through setting up a poster on their wall as pictured.

Liz could also remind the family that culture shock including its various stages is normal and that while this process of change is challenging, it is necessary to learn to fit in.

What happened down the track?

After a local friend said to Leonie, “Squat toilets are more hygienic than western ones, since the shoes are the only item touching the toilet,” Leonie adjusted her attitude and found using squat toilets easier.  She wasn’t fighting the experience anymore and in time became more proficient at managing all the fabric.

Leonie also became aware that road rules did exist in Dhaka.  She observed that the largest vehicle had right of way on the roads.

Leonie and her family have experienced the discomfort of culture shock but this is a normal process of personal transformation required to adapt well. 

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity.

Recommended Reading

Saphiere, D.H. (2014) ‘The Nasty (and Noble) Truth about Culture Shock’, Cultural Detective. Available at:


Andreason, A.W. (2008) ‘Expatriate Adjustment of Spouses and Expatriate Managers: An Integrative Research Review’, National Journal of Management, 25(2), pp. 382–395.

Austin, C. (1983) ‘Re-entry Stress: The Pain of Coming Home’, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 19(4).

Boch, P. (1970) Culture Shock: A Reader in Modern Cultural Anthropology. New York: Alfred A Knopt.

Botting, D. (2014) Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography. London: Harper Collins.

Demes, K.A. and Geeraert, N. (2015) ‘The Highs and Lows of a Cultural Transition: A Longitudinal Analysis of Sojourner Stress and Adaptation Across 50 Countries’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Edited by King, 109(2), pp. 316–337.

Donovan, K. (1991) Growing Through Stress. Sydney, Australia: Aquila.

Dye, W. (1974) ‘Stress-producing Factors in Cultural Adjustment’, Missiology, 2(1), pp. 61–77.

Elmer, D. (2002) Cross Cultural Connections. Intervarsity Press.

Gertsen, M. (1990) ‘Intercultural competence and expatriates’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1(3), pp. 341–361.

Ho, P. and Bing, P.H.B. (2020) ‘Off we go’. Available at:

Jones, J. (2015) ‘The Seven Lies of Living Cross Culturally’, The Culture Blend. Available at:

Jones, R. (2021) ‘Beyond Culture Shock: Culture Pain, Culture Stripping’, A Life Overseas: a cross-cultural conversation. Available at:

Mobbs, C.H. (2013) ‘Culture shock in children’, ExpatChild. Available at:

Mumford, D.B. (1998) ‘The measurement of culture shock’, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 33, pp. 149–154.

Oberg, K. (1960) ‘Culture shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments’, Practical Anthropology, 7(4), pp. 177–182.

Pitman, J. (2012) ‘Living Well Where You Don’t Belong’, Outside-In. Available at:

Pollock, D.C., Van Reken, R. and Pollock, M. (2017) Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston, MA; London: Nicholas Brealey.

Rabe, M. (1997) Culture Shock! Living and Working Abroad. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Saphiere, D.H. (2014) ‘The Nasty (and Noble) Truth about Culture Shock’, Cultural Detective. Available at:

Storti, C. (2001) The Art of Crossing Cultures. 2nd edn. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey.

Ward, C., Bochner, S. and Furnham, A. (2001) The Psychology of Culture Shock. East Sussex: Routledge.

Wilson, L. (1996) ‘Women and Culture Shock’, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 32(4), pp. 442–9.


“How do we sit with people who are living with extended uncertainty?  Many cross-cultural workers are suffering at the moment. I’m finding it really hard”, said Rose*, a member care worker.  Her face twisted as she said this to her member care support group.

Liz*, another member care worker, asked, “What do we say to cross-cultural workers living in the stress of extended uncertainty?  How do we respond when there are no answers?  Some people don’t know if and when they can return to Australia.  Others, are stuck in Australia and don’t know if and when they can get to location.” 

How would you respond?


An analysis of the experience of the cross-cultural workers as they live with uncertainty and a lack of control, was the focus of the previous blog post, Betwixt and Between.  Here we turn our attention to the member carers’ experience and their discomfort.

What are Rose and Liz experiencing as they sit with cross-cultural workers experiencing uncertainty or suffering?

Helplessness is uncomfortable.  Many member care workers can relate to Webb (1990: 76), a pastoral carer, who writes about dreading pastoral situations when she didn’t know what to ‘do’ or when there was nothing she could ‘do’ to help.  Similarly, Rose and Liz can’t do anything about the uncertainty their cross-cultural workers are living with in this situation.  A lack of control is being experienced by both the member care workers and their cross-cultural workers. Member care encounters like these are similar to visits to the sick in hospital by chaplains, where patients are waiting to see how nature will take its course. 

What is our role?

Companionship during suffering is a significant gift.  Schaum writes about the power of companionship, or walking alongside, those who are suffering.    

Companionship is the greatest gift we can offer another who is in pain. In the presence of one who is experiencing difficulties of any severity, our primary gift is not facilitating a remedy for the problems at hand, but rather that of being a journey mate through their personal hardship as God’s purposes are explored…  What all of us long for when life is harsh is accompaniment…  There is no greater gift we can offer someone in the midst of lasting suffering than our simple, abiding, enduring presence.

Shaum, 2012: 132

Giving ‘attention’ to, or being fully present with, cross-cultural workers as they wait, is important in order to listen well and provide good member care. Kelly (2012: 25), an experienced chaplain, writes of the importance of listening with attention, providing ‘an attuned, non-judgemental presence in our waiting with others’ which conveys our concern and compassion. Webb (1990: 76) writes of her discovery of the power and significance of being fully present with people in times of trial. Waiting attentively is costly for member care workers.  

Waiting attentively is a draining experience but even more so when uncomfortable and anxiety provoking.  Kelly (2012: 32) writes that the ability to provide a non-anxious presence is vital for pastoral care.  We may end our attentiveness prematurely due to our discomfort with the cross-cultural worker’s suffering and so limit the pastoral encounter (Kelly, 2012: 33).  It is easy to respond to our anxiety by ‘doing’ things. 

It is common to want to take action when feeling helpless or uncomfortable.  Many member care workers gain comfort in unfamiliar situations by getting busy at some activity.  Rather than simply ‘being’ with the cross-cultural worker in their distress, we might offer a cup of tea, tissues, hugs, some other physical assistance or engage in anxious chatter (Kelly 2012: 34). Sometimes jumping too quickly to prayer can be another way we avoid our uneasiness and block a member care encounter.  Kelly (2012: 33-34) recounts the story of a chaplain who just didn’t know how to respond to a patient and so asked, “Can I pray for you?”; the patient replied, “If it helps you”.  While most cross-cultural workers will want to be prayed for and certainly, prayer is a vital component of member care encounters, it can invalidate their concerns if it is offered too soon. We need to wait until it is an appropriate time before we offer to pray.

Waiting attentively with another who is suffering or sad, seeking to hold them and the paradoxes and the unanswerable questions both verbalised or sensed in self or the other and allowing all that to be, is an immense challenge for any human being… As humans, we all innately want to make things better for others and ourselves, we want to get rid of pain and regain control; our first inclination is to stick a band aid on any open wound.

Kelly (2012: 32)

Waiting with cross-cultural workers in these uncertain situations is more challenging for some than others.  Anthropologists, Lingenfelter and Mayers (2003: 79), argue that some societies and personalities are more task-orientated than person-orientated. For those of us who are from more task-orientated cultures or have a more task-orientated personality, waiting is even more difficult. Our discomfort with waiting can also vary according to our status in some cultures.  

In our society there is a direct correlation between status and waiting. The more important your status, the less you have to wait. Waiting reminds us that we are not in charge, that we cannot command instantly whatever it is we have to seek, so we have to wait. 

McBride, 2003: 22

Fortunately, all member care workers can keep growing their ability to wait and provide a non-anxious presence.  

Undoubtedly, the ability to provide others with a ‘non-anxious presence’ (Newell, 2008) in their time of uncertainty or transition is central to the provision of sensitive pastoral and spiritual care. What is key here is our understanding that it is perfectly normal at times to feel helpless or useless in the face of another situation or personal predicament, and not to feel overly anxious or guilty about having these feelings. In short, it is in normalising these feelings for ourselves, as well as others, and giving ourselves permission to feel this way that we free ourselves to some degree from being overly uptight and uncomfortable.  This can enable us to stay with another when we both sense, as carer and cared for, that, ultimately, the current situation is out of our control and has to be lived through rather than fixed or overcome. 

Kelly (2012: 32)

By normalising the discomfort we feel as member care workers, we can increase our capacity to provide a non-anxious presence to our cross-cultural workers.   It is normal, or natural, for Rose and Liz to feel helpless and anxious in these types of member care encounters.  They are living with uncertainty, just as their cross-cultural workers are.  When member care workers realise that it’s normal to feel helpless and useless, then they don’t need to feel overly anxious or guilty but having those feelings (Kelly, 2012: 32).

Our helplessness as member care workers is a ‘touching place’ with the liminal space our cross-cultural workers are inhabiting (Kelly, 2012: 32).  Both member care workers and cross-cultural workers are inhabiting the common ground of waiting and experiencing a sense of being out of control that occurs when living with uncertainty. 

Can Rose and Liz sit with their own helplessness, as well as their cross-cultural workers’ suffering?

Sometimes we are conscious of our failings as member carers after pastoral encounters.  Due to our anxiety and discomfort with waiting we might limit our provision of care by offering a tissue or chattering.  We wonder, “How much did I limit the care of this cross-cultural worker?”  This reminds me of the image of a misshapen piece of pottery, created by an apprentice potter.  Despite the imperfections, there is beauty in its form, as well as potential in the apprentice potter.

It is important that we continue to let the Bible interrogate our understanding. (Read more about our use of the Bible in the Theological Reflection Cycle blog post.)

A story to consider

Elkanah and his two wives, Hannah and Penninah, had come to Shiloh to offer worship and sacrifices to the LORD.  Eli was a priest there.  Hannah was very distressed because she was a barren woman.  Barrenness was accounted a great disgrace for a Hebrew woman; a source of shame.  Hannah’s distress was increased by Penninah, who did have children, and provoked her about her barrenness.  

Hannah went and started praying to the Lord at the Temple.  

“As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled.  I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

She said, “May your servant find favour in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

1 Samuel 1:12-18

Just as Hannah was distressed by her barrenness and Penninah’s provocation, many cross-cultural workers are distressed by these times of significant uncertainty.  

Eli’s false accusation of drunkenness was a very poor start to his pastoral encounter with Hannah!  As member care workers, we can also limit our encounters by responding inappropriately to cross-cultural workers.  Fortunately this wasn’t the end in the story of Hannah and Eli, since she corrected his mistake.

Although Eli did poorly in the first instance as a pastoral carer, he went on to offer Hannah words of comfort and blessing.  Later, after God had answered Hannah’s prayer and blessed her with a son, Samuel, and she had handed him over to Eli to fulfil her promise to the Lord, Eli also helped Samuel to discern God’s voice (1 Samuel 3).  This mirrors our experience as member care workers.  While we may block a pastoral encounter at one point, God works so that the cross-cultural workers may be in a much better place in the end.  In the long-term, God wasn’t limited by Eli’s mistake, and nor is God limited by our blockages during pastoral encounters.  We can also learn from our mistakes, just as an apprentice potter does.

Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

What happened? How could these member care workers be cared for?

Rose and Liz could explore their feelings of discomfort with their support group and supervisors. Rose’s and Liz’s support group members and supervisors could provide them with validation, normalisation and reassurance about their feelings of discomfort and so reduce their anxiety. Validation is about assisting a person ‘feel that their emotions and struggles make sense and are understandable given the circumstances’ (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 8). Normalisation labels something as normal or ordinary, when a person is feeling it is weird or abnormal. Reassurance is about easing someone’s doubts or fears. More about validation, normalisation and reassurance is set out in the Betwixt and Between blog post.

Rose and Liz can be assisted to improve their member care provision.

In order to improve their capacity to wait attentively and provide a non-anxious presence, Rose and Liz could regularly explore this capacity with their supervisors or member care support group (Kelly, 2012: 34).   They could reflect about if and when they might be employing strategies to avoid discomfort, such as anxious chatter, making cups of tea or offering to do something. This will raise Rose and Liz’s awareness of their practices of avoidance.

Having built an awareness of the temptation to avoid their own discomfort and having received comfort from the validation, normalisation and reassurance Rose and Liz received, their anxiety may be reduced. This in turn may increase their capacity to wait attentively and provide a non-anxious presence, and so, to provide effective member care. With the comfort Rose and Liz have received, they can in turn may bless their cross-cultural workers.

After listening to and waiting attentively with their cross-cultural workers, Rose and Liz might offer validation, normalisation or reassurance to them, if appropriate. Examples of how validation can be achieved are sentences such as, “That sounds frustrating” or “I can understand why you’re exhausted”.  Examples of normalisation are sentences such as, “It is natural to feel discombobulated during these times of uncertainty” or “It is normal to feel quite tired during transition”. To provide reassurance, Rose or Liz might say, “I’m so sorry you had to cancel your holiday, especially when I know that you have been looking forward to seeing your grandchildren.  I hope you get to see them soon.”  Reassurance is also provided by companionship, offering to walk alongside them, if that is possible (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 9).

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Kelly, E. (2012) Personhood and Presence: Self as a resource for spiritual and pastoral care. London; New York: t&tclark.


Knapp, H. (ed.) (2015) ‘Emotional Communication’, in Therapeutic Communication: Developing Professional Skills. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 89–108. Available at:

‘Knowing What to Say: During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020). THIS WAY UP, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Limited. Available at:

Lingenfelter, S.G. and Mayers, M.K. (2003) Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. Second. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

McBride, D. (2003) Waiting on God. Hampshire: Redemptionist Publications.

Schaum, S.E. (2017) Uninvited Companion. Colorado Springs: Cresta Riposo.

Webb, K.S. (1990) ‘Pastoral Identity and the Ministry of Presence’, Journal of Pastoral Care, 44(1), pp. 76–79. doi:10.1177/002234099004400112.

Betwixt and Between

‘I can’t plan due to all the uncertainty! I don’t know if and when we can return to Peru’, exclaimed Simone*, who is talking to Liz*, her member care worker. Simone, her husband and their four children, have been back in Australia for over a year and were due for return to Peru months ago.

How would you respond?

Liz is currently meeting with many other cross-cultural workers who are also struggling with significant uncertainty. Some are overseas and don’t know if and when they can return to Australia. Others like Simone and her family, are stuck in Australia and don’t know if and when they can get to location. Some cope but others don’t cope well.


Many cross-cultural workers are living with significant uncertainty and a loss of a sense of control due to the effects of the COVID pandemic. Often cross-cultural workers’ plans have been changed multiple times due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, requiring much pivoting. This pivoting is tiring. Grief about thwarted plans is real.

Often cross-cultural workers are facing multiple challenges all at once, which can feel overwhelming.  When people feel overwhelmed it can cause inertia. At such times, coping and finding solutions feels more difficult. 

Why do some cross-cultural workers cope better than others?

Implementing healthy self-care and stress management strategies is important during times of adversity.  However, as Dyer points out, simply ramping these up isn’t enough.  What is required is resilience!

Resilience has a variety of definitions, each bringing a different perspective. Timmins (2017: 26) defines resilience as ‘the ability to make the best of any situation’.  O’Donnell and O’Donnell (2013) state that resilient people have ‘the ability to face reality: to engage with and grow through life’s challenges and adversities via inner strength, social support, coping skills, and core beliefs/values including life purpose and spiritual meaning’Carr’s description is specifically Christian.

Resilience is having strength to fulfil the call God has given us, even when it will be painful and difficult. Resilience is staying fixed on a higher purpose, motivated by love of God, our neighbour, and the world, and supported by friends while others let us down, we are carried by the one who called us. 

Carr (2012: 93)

What about cross-cultural workers who aren’t very resilient?  Can they improve their resilience?

Resilience can be learned and developed.  Evans (2016: 3) states that ‘resilience is both an innate quality and a learned skill’.  Hawker (2019: 8) argues that resilience is not static throughout our lifetime; ‘it can be depleted, but it can also be maintained, developed and enhanced’.

Is Simone living with a sense of meaning and purpose?

A sense of meaning and purpose is vital for resilience.  Dyer (2020) writes, ‘One of the primary elements of resilience is for a person to maintain a deep sense of identity and purpose when this is challenged by adversity’.  It is important that cross-cultural workers have a clear sense of purpose when many aspects of their life and work have changed.  Core values, beliefs viewed as being of central importance, bring about this sense of meaning and purpose.  

Understanding what is most important to you – your core values – keeps you from losing your way in the process of change.  Change can quickly lead you in the wrong direction if you let it pull you away from these values… Being intentionally adaptable means reinventing yourself on your own terms.

Brown (2021)

It is easy for cross-cultural workers to drift from living according to their core values when many changes have occurred to their life and work.  I am reminded of a friend’s story of his sister-in-law who was learning to windsurf during a beach holiday. She was so focused on pulling the sail out of the water, balancing, falling in the water and then getting herself on the board again, she didn’t notice that she’d drifted some distance from the shore. She had to be rescued!  Drifting from our core values causes dis-alignment with identity and can lead to a lack of clarity and fulfilment.  

What are Simone’s core values?  What gives her life meaning and purpose?

It is important that cross-cultural workers identify their core values.  As Christians, these come from our relationship with God.

True spirituality is a live, continuous, personal relationship with the creator God that fulfils my deepest human longings for inward and outward peace and gives me meaning and purpose for everyday life… True spirituality is discovered in human relationships built on the foundation of a relationship with God.

Amalraj (2018)

A sense of call, or partnership with God in service, provides a sense of meaning and purpose.  Research has demonstrated the importance of a sense of call for resilience in cross-cultural workers (Brown, 2006).  While there are different theological understandings of calling, Dallman’s (2021: 45) research among cross-cultural workers in Japan confirms that ‘knowing you are where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do’ is important for resilience.  Whatever their theology is, all Christians are called to ‘trust in God and to partner with God in serving him, his kingdom and his people… even though lots of the context for this might be in flux or under threat’ (Dyer, 2020). 

For cross-cultural workers, the call to be a servant of others with whatever gifts and skills God has given them, holds them steady (Dyer, 2020).  

Our relationship with God is foundational for resilience. Hay et al. (2007: 24-5), who surveyed thousands of cross-cultural workers worldwide, found that a good spiritual life is amongst the top three retention factors. Meek (2003: 344) found that resilient pastors spoke about the importance of a daily connection with God through spiritual practices and ‘their utter reliance on the power and presence of God to fulfil their responsibilities’. Spiritual practices, including daily thankfulness, enable cross-cultural workers to nurture their relationship with God (more practices are set out in the Dried up blog post).

As well as the dangers of drifting, the way cross-cultural workers tackle challenges is also important. 

Is Simone cultivating a positive challenge orientation?

One feature common to resilient cross-cultural workers is a positive challenge orientation. Marjorie Foyle (2001: 28, 279) writes that workers with this orientation view stressful situations as both a challenge and an opportunity, rather than as a threat. An important aspect of coping during adversity is to focus on the helpful things that can be done, or sources of assistance, rather than on how bad, unfair and disappointing the multiple problems are (This Way Up – Focusing On Solutions, 2020). Dyer (2020) writes that resilient workers believe that God can help them to overcome obstacles and blockages, as well as, that gains may be achieved through the crisis. Adversity brings opportunity for personal growth.

Innovation often emerges during adversity. A cross-cultural worker’s reinvention of themselves may produce beneficial results in the long-term, continuing after the pandemic ends. For example, Ma (2021: 17) argues that some evacuated cross-cultural workers pivoted to continue their work online, providing greater scope for serving in their previous location.

What are the unexpected opportunities emerging in the current adversity?  What can be gained in the long-term from embracing these?  

Is Simone exercising control?

A sense of control is important for resilience.  Foyle (2001: 28) writes that situations in which we lack personal control are much more stressful than those in which we have some control. Dyer (2020) writes that ‘resilience is associated with the ability to establish structure, systematically plan and execute a course of action’.  This skill can be learned and continue to be developed.  The COVID pandemic has provided much challenge to cross-cultural workers’ established structures, plans and execution of them; and adversely affected their sense of control.    

Resilient people can identify what aspects of a situation are within their control and those that are not.  Once this is achieved, they can schedule a plan which will make a positive difference in their situation.

Routines are important during adversity. Wright (This Way Up – Routines, 2020) argues that routines can help people cope when life is uncertain; they can help people feel more in control when life seems rather out of control. Dyer (2020) also writes that ‘redeveloping a routine, both daily and weekly, provides structure to life and will provide greater resilience in the midst of adversity’.

If these routines include plans to create opportunities to experience positive emotions, even for only a few minutes, more to the good (This Way Up – Tips, 2020).  Psychologists recommend planning at least one activity that is fun, pleasurable or relaxing everyday, as well as, one that gives you a sense of productivity, achievement, meaning or satisfaction (This Way Up – Tips, 2020).  

Is Simone planning fun and productive activities each day?

Does Simone have supportive relationships?  Is she tackling challenges step-by-step?

Resilient people have a supportive community.  A clearly identified aspect of resilience is that ‘people gain emotional support and valuable ideas from discussing and reflecting with others’ (Dyer, 2020).  Dallman (2021: 51) also found that community is important for resilience in cross-cultural workers in Japan.

One way to manage how we feel is to practice shifting our minds away from every problem that might need our attention (both now and in the future) and to focus on tackling one issue at a time. 

This Way Up – Tips… (2020)

Many cross-cultural workers are feeling overwhelmed.  Dyer (2020) suggests lowering expectations, and planning a couple of small achievable goals each day, during adversity.

It is important that we continue to let the Bible interrogate our understanding.  (Read more about our use of the Bible in the Theological Reflection Cycle blog post.)

A story to consider

Nehemiah, part of the exilic community, is the wine taster for King Artaxerxes.  In Jerusalem, the temple has been rebuilt, but the towns walls are broken and the gates have been burned (Nehemiah 1:3).  When Nehemiah hears the news of this threat to the community in Judah, he is greatly distressed.  He pours out his grief to God and concludes his prayer by asking God to grant him success in his request to King Artaxerxes to be part of the solution.  He asks King Artaxerxes:

Let me go to the city of Jerusalem. That’s where my people are buried. I want to rebuild it.

Nehemiah 2:5

Nehemiah demonstrates a sense of identity as one of God’s people, as well as a sense of purpose and meaning as the leader of the project to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  

Once he arrives in Jerusalem, he assesses the situation and then speaks to the community.  

“You can see the trouble we’re in. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Fire has burned up its gates. Come on. Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Then people won’t be ashamed anymore.” I also told them how my gracious God was helping me…

They replied, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began that good work.

Nehemiah 2:17-18

Gates are built one by one, and the walls are built section by section.  Little by little progress is made.  However, during the building project opposition kept coming in waves. After one such wave, Nehemiah reassesses the situation:

I looked things over. Then I stood up and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people. I said, “Don’t be afraid of your enemies. Remember the Lord. He is great and powerful…”

Our enemies heard that we knew what they were trying to do. They heard that God had blocked their evil plans. So all of us returned to the wall. Each of us did our own work.

From that day on, half of my men did the work. The other half were given spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers stationed themselves behind all the people of Judah. The people continued to build the wall. The people who carried supplies did their work with one hand. They held a weapon in the other hand. Each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who blew the trumpet stayed with me.

Then I spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people. I said, “This is a big job. It covers a lot of territory. We’re separated too far from one another along the wall. When you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us at that location. Our God will fight for us!”

So we continued the work…

Nehemiah 4:16-21

Despite repeated opposition and distractions, Nehemiah kept focus on his main purpose, building the wall. 

Nehemiah pivots, remains flexible and adapts his plans to face the new challenges.  He exercises control as able, organising a schedule to provide defence against an imminent attack. 

Nehemiah relies on God when threatened from within and without.  He prays when there is exploitation within the community (5:19) and when there are threats from outside (2:2-4; 4:4-5). Finally, the wall is completed (6:15).

What happened? How could Simone be cared for?

Significant listening is always vital in member care encounters (read more about good listening in the Listening well blog post). In addition, Liz could provide validation, normalisation and reassurance to Simone.

Validation enables people to feel heard and understood. Validation involves listening to the person and ‘acknowledging how that person’s emotions or responses make sense given what’s going on for them’ (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 8). For example, Liz could say, ‘I totally get why you’re feeling frustrated’. Validation is one of the most effective ways to support another person (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 8). Validation doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with the person or that you would feel the same in their situation; it is about ‘acknowledging that their emotions are logical, reasonable, and valid for them – that they make sense in the context in which they are felt’ (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 8). Validation is similar to normalisation which was focused on in The New Normal blog post.

Normalisation refers to ‘an activity in which something in the interaction is made normal by labelling it ‘normal’ or ‘commonplace’ (Svinhufvud et al., 2017: 196).  While the purpose of validation ‘is to honor the client’s perspective as appropriate for the client’, normalising can be ‘useful in instances when the client considers his or her condition or symptoms as unique, atypical, or perhaps distressingly abnormal’ (Knapp, 2015: 99). If Simone expressed any sense of feeling abnormal, Liz could say, “That sounds perfectly normal to me, given your situation!”

Reassurance, or helping someone ease their doubts and fears also provides effective member care.  It can involve facilitating a cross-cultural worker to view their situation from a different point of view – perhaps a more realistic or positive perspective, or reminding them of their strengths (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 9). In this case, a more realistic or positive perspective on Simone’s situation might be offered, or Simone could be reminded of her strengths.

It is important to be wary of rushing this process of validation, normalisation and ressurance. If member care workers are in a rush to help cross-cultural workers feel better, this can come across as if they aren’t being listening to (This Way Up – Knowing, 2020: 9).  Psychologists recommend that we try to avoid cheering people up too soon and instead, try to empathise with them.  It often helps to imagine what you’d like to hear, if you were in their shoes.    

After listening and any validation, normalisation and reassurance that was appropriate, Liz could ask Simone, “What are your core values?  What gives your life meaning and purpose?”

If there is a lack of clarity, Liz could suggest that Simone utilise prayer, journaling and discussion with supportive friends, to facilitate reflection on her core values.  Achieving clarity may facilitate Simone keeping focus and reinventing herself in line with those values, just as Nehemiah did.  

Other possible questions include:

  • How can you serve others in the situation you find yourself in? 
  • What benefits have emerged during this adversity?
  • What routines have you implemented? Have you included fun activities, as well as ones that provide a sense of productivity?
  • What social supports do you have?

Liz might gently ask “Where is God in all this?

If it were appropriate, she might suggest that Simone try out some new spiritual habits for spiritual refreshment and to encourage Simone to rely on God, just as Nehemiah did (further ideas are set out in the Dried up blog post). Liz could recommend the Serenity Prayer as a devotional tool (below).  Praying and meditating on this prayer can be fruitful during adversity.  Focusing on one line per month can give even greater traction.

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change; 

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 

enjoying one moment at a time; 

accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

taking, as He did, this sinful world 

as it is, not as I would have it; 

trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will; 

that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

forever in the next. 


Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Dyer, T. (2020) ‘10 components of resilience in ministry as we face COVID19’, Australian Christian Mentoring Network, 17 April. Available at:


Amalraj, K.J. (2018) ‘What Shapes Our Spirituality in Missions?’, in Spirituality in Mission: Embracing the Lifelong Journey. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library (Globalization of Mission Series).

Brown, G.S. (2021) ‘The Secret to Better Flexibility in Every Area of Your Life’, Australian Men’s Health, 11 October.

Brown, R. (2006) ‘Preparing for the Realities of Missions in a Changing World’, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 42(4).

Carr, K. (2012) ‘Personal Resilience’, in Schaefer, F. and Schaefer, C. (eds) Trauma and Resilience. Condeo.

Dallman, J. (2021) Staying Well: Highlighting Hazards, Highlighting Health for Missionaries in Japan.

Evans, R. and Evans, L. (2016) ‘Building Resilience in Mission’. All Nations Christian College.

‘Focusing on Solutions: During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020). THIS WAY UP, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Limited. Available at:

Foyle, M.F. (1987) Honorably Wounded. Europe: MARC.

Hay, R. et al. (2007) Worth Keeping:Global Perspectives on Best Practices in Missionary Retention. Pasadena, CA: William Carey.

Horshall, T. and Hawker, D. (2019) Resilience in Life and Faith: Finding Your Strength in God. Abingdon, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship.

How Routines Can Positively Affect Your Mental Health (2021) This Way Up. Available at:

‘Knowing What to Say: During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020). THIS WAY UP, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Limited. Available at:

Ma, J. (2021) ‘When Missionaries Are Locked Out of Their Fields’, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 57(3), pp. 16–18.

Meek, K.R. et al. (2003) ‘Maintaining Personal Resiliency: Lessons Learned from Evangelical Protestant Clergy’, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31(4), pp. 339–347.

O’Donnell, K. and O’Donnell, M.L. (eds) (2013) ‘Resilience, Risk and Responsibility’, in Global Member Care: Crossing Sectors for Serving Humanity. Pasadena, CA: William Carey, pp. 335–344.

Svinhufvud, K., Voutilainen, L. and Weiste, E. (2017) ‘Normalizing in student counseling: Counselors’ responses to students’ problem descriptions’, Discourse Studies, 19, pp. 196–215. doi:10.1177/1461445617691704.

Timmins, S. (2017) Developing Resilience in Young People with Autism using Social Stories. London: Jessica Kingsley.

‘Tips for Getting Through: The COVID-19 Marathon’ (2020). THIS WAY UP, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Limited. Available at:

Dried up?

Desert experience

Marion* felt all dried up!  

Has God abandoned me?  I feel like God is very far away or maybe not even there at all?  I still go to church but it’s hard and I feel guilty about my lack of faith.  When I go to mission conferences, all the other ex-cross-cultural workers seem so together.  Am I the only one in such a state?

I don’t feel like praying myself.  Sometimes my husband prays for me instead.  Prior to serving overseas, I had a strong faith.  I loved serving at church and studying at Bible College.    

Whilst living overseas, I really missed understanding the sermons and Bible studies due to my lack of language.  I started feeling dry then but expected it to get better when I got back home.  However, it got even worse after I returned.  People at church seemed so legalistic and petty.  I just couldn’t see God’s Spirit at work anywhere.

My non-Christian psychiatrist, treating me for depression and anxiety, suggested that I ditch my faith, since it seemed to be connected with my guilt.  But when I considered this option, I just couldn’t imagine myself not a Christian.

Will my relationship with God ever get better or is it lost forever?”  

Marion was talking to Liz*, her Member Care Worker (MCW).  Marion, her husband John, and their four children had just returned to Australia, after living in various rural locations in East Africa, including one situation of political unrest.    

What would you say or do?


Spiritual Desert

Experiences similar to Marion’s have been described for centuries.  Matthew the Poor, or El-Meskeen (2003), identifies two types of spiritual desert experiences: spiritual aridity and spiritual languor.  Spiritual aridity is a dry spiritual experience during which prayer continues, while spiritual languor is a greater struggle and affects the will to pray.  It is associated with extreme grief and misery because of the soul’s condition. He describes spiritual languor eloquently:

If man tries to plumb the depths of his soul, he finds himself at a loss, for its depths are beyond his reach. It is as if his spiritual footing has been lost, alienating him from the essence of his life. If he tries to examine his faith and secretly measure it in his heart, he finds that it has died, gone. If he knocks at the door of hope, if he clings to the promises of God he had once cherished and lived by, he finds in what he used to find hope has now turned to ice. Hope is stuck in the cold present and not willing to move beyond it. 

The enemy seizes this opportunity, striking with all his firepower. He launches an offensive – to convince man of his failure, of the ruin of all his struggle and effort. The enemy tries to persuade man that his whole spiritual life was not true or real, that it was nothing but fanciful illusions and emotions. He clamps down on man’s mind that he might once and for all deny the spiritual life. 

Yet, amidst all these crushing inner battles, the soul somehow has an intuition that all these doubts are untrue and that something must exist on the other side of the darkness. It also feels that, in spite of itself, it is still bound to the God who has forsaken it.

El-Meskeen, Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way (2003, p241-2)

Is Marion experiencing spiritual languor?  Does Marion have a relationship with God anymore or is God is holding onto Marion? 

Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.  

J I Packer, Knowing God (1993, p275)

As El-Meskeen writes:

…behind spiritual languor there exists a relationship with God that, though inactive, is real and still very strong, stronger than all the whispers of the devil.  Yet until the decisive moment of danger, this relationship sleeps.  This relationship remains hidden from the soul… For in this tribulation, the soul is called to stand alone. 

The soul remains within the sphere of God’s dominion. Although unaware, it is still making progress and on the right path. It is still led by an invisible hand and carried by an unfelt power.   The tangible proof for all this is the extreme, constant grief of the soul over its fall from its former activity, zeal, and prominent effort into its present state.

El-Meskeen (2003, p242)

Is there any silver lining? 

As well as the challenges, there may be benefits associated with spiritual desert experiences. El-Meskeen (2003) argues that spiritual languor is profitable for the soul, since it provides protection from spiritual pride and can strengthen our faith, such that evil is no longer feared.

Just as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can lead to post-traumatic growth (PTG), so too, can people become stronger through a spiritual desert experience.  The experience can lead to a more resilient faith (Collier, 2016). 

Not everything about trauma is negative. Indeed, it has become common to refer to the positive changes that can take place after trauma as post-traumatic growth. Changes may take place in how we see ourselves in our relationships, and how we understand God, the world, or life’s purpose and meaning. Often people who have been through trauma feel they are more understanding of others, less judgemental and more accepting, perhaps more compassionate and empathetic. 

Horshall T. and Hawker D., Resilience in Life and Faith (2019, 77)

People have 4 needs – physical, relational, emotional and spiritual 

It is important to maintain one’s spiritual health, relational health, emotional health and physical health.

Were any aspects of Marion’s relationship with God weak prior to serving cross-culturally? Would these have left her particularly vulnerable to spiritual dryness?

Typically our relationship with God has three components: intellectual, emotional and experiential.    Maybe Marion’s sending church community focused on the intellectual aspect of their relationship with God, neglecting the experiential and emotional aspects?  

A pilot study, involving ministers and ex-cross-cultural workers, suggests that six months of spiritual direction significantly increased the participant’s reported intimacy or relationship with God (Bickerton). 

The process of spiritual direction refers to help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her. The focus of these sessions was thus described to participants as “identifying, paying attention and responding to God’s personal communication with you (however that is experienced), seeking to grow in intimacy with God, and living out the consequences of that relationship. 

Bickerton, 2014

Other spiritual practices and tools which may be helpful include: 

  • Thankfulness – thanking God for ~10 gifts each day in a journal or in prayer
  • Ignatius Examen⁠1 (Calhoun, 2015) – Facilitates reflection on how God has interacted with you that day and includes the practice of thankfulness.
  • Journaling in the round⁠2 (Boyd, 2013) – a journaling reflection on the day
  • Christian mindfulness (Thompson, 2018)
  • Lectio Divina, a slow and thoughtful Scripture reading (Calhoun, 2015)
  • Reading Psalms or liturgical prayers (eg. Anglican Prayer Book – daily prayers)
  • The book ‘The Praying Life’ by Paul Miller
  • Read the Bible in a Year App (eg. BiOY)

On top of the spiritual grief Marion is experiencing, she is also returning to her home country after cross-cultural service, which is challenging in itself!

Re-entry is challenging!

After some years overseas, Marion is unfamiliar with her ‘home’ culture.  Criticism of your own culture, in this case Marion’s experience in her local church community in Australia, is typical during  re-entry⁠3.  This will be adding to the difficulty of her situation.  Marion’s re-entry may also be more challenging than usual for a variety of reasons: 

  • Has Marion got (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
  • Has she experienced compounded grief from many moves?

Those war veterans who suffer long term injuries due to their service for their country, are referred to as those with honourable wounds.  Foyle (1987) argues that some cross-cultural workers may carry honourable wounds as a result of their cross-cultural experience.  

Let’s now reflect on a similar story in the Bible.

A story to consider

Elijah had just routed the prophets of Baal on the top of Mt Carmel…

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

I Kings 19:1-18

After Elijah’s amazing experience of God’s power on Mt Carmel, things start to go pear-shaped.  Elijah’s hopes of Israel turning back to God are dashed and on top of that, he receives a death threat from Jezebel.  In response, Elijah runs away into the wilderness, which in Hebrew, means a place of devastation, describing Elijah’s physical and emotional state at the time.  Instead of feeling victorious, he felt alone, afraid and hopeless.  

Elijah, a prophet, a Biblical hero, who had demonstrated great faith, was seriously depressed!  He had to be encouraged to get up to eat and drink. 

God met and ministered to Elijah in the midst of his struggle.  We see in this story that God has provided for Elijah’s physical needs, relational needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs.  First of all, Elijah poured out his despair to God.  God provided Elijah with rest, food and water to meet his physical needs, strengthening him for the journey to Mt Horeb.   Next, God gave Elijah an experience of his presence in the still small whisper meeting his spiritual needs.  Lastly, God gave Elijah, a successor, Elisha, providing companionship, to meet Elijah’s relational and emotional needs.  God provided a succession plan and some new work to do, the anointing a couple of kings, as well as encouragement that others had been faithful.   Elijah wasn’t the only prophet left as he had thought!

How was this cross-cultural worker cared for?

Just as God provided for Elijah’s needs: physical, relational, emotional and spiritual, so too can Liz, Marion’s MCW, seek to facilitate Marion’s needs being met.

Marion needs space and time to rest and recover, just as Elijah did during the journey to Mt Horeb.  Liz, and others, can listen to Marion, providing companionship, meeting some of her relational and emotional needs.  [Liz may also pray for Marion if that is wanted.]

Normalisation⁠4 is a powerful pastoral tool, and could well reduce Marion’s sense of failure.  El-Meskeen’s (2003) descriptions of desert experiences as a normal part of the Christian life, in Chapters 14 and 15, could be shared.  Elijah’s story might also provide some normalisation.  

The possibility of benefits emerging after spiritual desert experiences (El-Meskeen, 2003), may also be an encouragement.   If opportunity presents itself, Liz could mention that desert experiences can lead to a stronger and more resilient faith, just as those who experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can exhibit Post Traumatic Growth (Collier, 2016; Horshall T. And Hawker, 2019).  

Since the experiential aspect of Marion’s relationship with God has been very weak r, spiritual direction could be recommended.  Other spiritual habits might also assist with improving Marion’s experiential relationship with God including Ignatius Examen, thankfulness and others mentioned earlier.

What happened? 

Some years after her return to Australia, Marion reported that practicing thankfulness, Ignatius Examen and serving others were particularly helpful practices for her.  Marion couldn’t source a spiritual director in her location but her emergence from the desert had begun!

Marion started to see the Holy Spirit work in the church community.  This experience of God kick started her spiritual revitalisation. Upon reflection, Marion remembered that she had been converted after seeing evidence of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives.  The experiential aspect of her relationship God seems significant for Marion.

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity. 

El-Meskeen, M. (2003) Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.


Amalraj, K.J. (2018) ‘What Shapes Our Spirituality in Missions?’, in Spirituality in Mission: Embracing the Lifelong Journey. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library (Globalization of Mission Series).

Bickerton, G. et al. (2020) ‘Well-Being in Ministry Results Overview’. University of Western Sydney. Available at:

Boyd, A. (2013) ‘Journaling in the Round’, Intervarsity: Women in the Academy and Professions, January. Available at:

Calhoun, A.A. (2015) Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Collier, L. (2016) ‘Growth after trauma: Why are some people more resilient than others—and can it be taught?’, American Psychological Association, November. Available at:

Foyle, M.F. (1987) Honorably Wounded. Europe: MARC.

Horshall, T. and Hawker, D. (2019) Resilience in Life and Faith: Finding your strength in God. Abingdon, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship.

How Can I Pray? (no date) Available at:

Miller, P.E. (2009) A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

The Prophet Elijah was Depressed (2020) International Bipolar Foundation. Available at:

Thompson, K. (2018) Christ Centered Mindfulness: Connection to self and God. Sydney, Australia: Acorn Press.




3 Read more about re-entry in the Good Grief blogpost,

4 Read more about normalisation in The New Normal blogpost,