by James P. Satterwhite M.D.
The primary missionary health problem in Japan is tension.
The primary missionary health problem in Japan is tension. We are all strong willed, or we wouldn’t have gotten here. We have a mission – we want to win Japan to the Lord. (Even if we’ve told ourselves that this isn’t our primary mission, it’s still basic in our motivation.) And so we are in a situation where 96,000,000 people need Christ and don’t know it. Further, even with some of them who know it we don’t click, and this causes us still more stress.
Second, we work in a language not our own, and the most fluent person in this room would probably not be beyond high school level. Most of us won’t get beyond middle school language except in our particular fields. Yet we are college and seminary or graduate school graduates, trying to express intellectual thoughts in that kind of language. We’re trying to express spiritual truths as well, and it’s understandable a nervous stress.
Third, we are in a culture that is so deep rooted and intricate that we are outsiders most of the time. We are among some of the world’s most cultured and reserved people. To us they seem cool and indifferent, even the friendliest of them, compared with our buddies in the States. To them we’re the nicest people they’ve known. We seem so close to them, closer than other Japanese as a rule, because we are products of a more open culture. And this cultural difference causes stress. The Japanese are not indifferent, but they’ve been taught not to become involved in other people’s business. Hence, they won’t go to your church readily. If you go by and get them, or if you invite them and say, "I’ll meet you there," then they may come. Or they will hear you graciously, maybe for months or years, but they’ve been taught not to stick out. For them to profess Christ or even to show interest or outward affection is so foreign to their nature that it takes the touch of God to break through it.
But we need to realize that we are under these three special stresses. Wherever we go we’re in a place where there is more than any ten people could possibly do, and we’re the only one there to do it. Now in that case, what will you do? Are you like most of us in our first few years-you don’t take e en a day off a week, you don’t take a vacation, and gradually you get tired, discouraged, and think you’ve lost your call to Japan? It is so easy to do. I did it, once. I was trying to do two jobs, that’s all, but now I’m trying to do one job. I’m not doing it very well, but I’ve found more of a balance and I’ve quit "fighting my mission."
EVERY STRESS A THREAT
We’ve been talking about tension, stress, and all these things, and it helps to realize that our bodies are simply animals. Every stress: letters unanswered, a deadline to meet, tonight at 7:30 I’ve got to speak to the WMU; what in the world am I going to say?-every one of these little stresses constitutes a threat to us. And to handle that danger our body gets read to fight or run. Now if we were back yonder among the cave c people, we would actually fight or run. And we would use up that preparation to fight or run, and afterward have a big meal on whatever we killed. It would be over and we’d be back to normal and ready for the next stress. We can stand any stress if we come back to normal. But now, look at us. We have e bodies built for eight to ten hours of running through the woods or climbing trees or building or plowing, and all of us are sedentaries. The fact is that we’re under stress every minute of the day, and we seldom clear our systems out by using the big muscles that our body has gotten ready to use to protect us.
So we are under stress ourselves, yet every one of us is getting involved with other people every day all day long intentionally. This is our calling. And beyond our own problems, we take on theirs. We make new ones. And so we must learn to cope with stress byhaving good vigorous exercise two or three times a day. Choose something like skipping rope or runuing or doing free exercise for five minutes, two, three or more times a day. Your tensions just won’t give up otherwise.
The Royal Canadian Air Force developed a system of exercises to keep the whole body in ideal condition, a different set of exercises for men and women, and they are strenuous. You can start off slowly and build into all these things and after two weeks you will begin to feel better, if you don’t start in too fast. But you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before. And then a few months later you’ll wonder why you didn’t keep it up. We can get this into our subconscious, but if our subconscious doesn’t yet have the habit of exercise we’ve got to take four months or so to train it. That means that every time you think of exercise you deliberately do something, and gradually you’ll train your subconscious so that it will remind you to walk instead of taking the car. It will remind you to get off at the stop before your own and walk from there. If you take walks you’ll find you sleep at night.
A professional person who gets too fatigued will either become immoral or depressed. We missionaries are not immune. Immorality can come in many different ways, and one way it hits missionaries is in sex. Another more common way is a persecution complex, actual paranoia: feeling that you are being persecuted, that somebody is out to get you. If we don’t find a balance in our work, play, rest schedule, things gradually snowball even before furlough can relieve us. (And sometimes furlough just adds to it. If we don’t have sense enough to schedule time between appointments to allow for travel and rest, we are liable then as well to the same awful break in our fellowship with God. Please keep this in mind.)
If we are going to serve God, we can’t forget the Sabbath day which was made for rest. But it isn’t a rest day at all for is who are intensely active and involved in other people’s problems on Sundays. So if you want God to be with you and use you, keep one day a week without any schedule, without any programs planned, and if you suddenly are trapped with something, then right that very moment reschedule another day in the future and keep it free as much as possible. This is so simple.
A summer break is necessary, too, getting away from your immediate responsibility. Not just a week. If it’s a week at a two or three, and have come back to Japan-but what a pity for them and to the national Christians when they leave simply because they didn’t find the balance. Two or three years ago I was pestering our board secretary about going back to the fourteen-month furlough, twelve months in the States and a month for travel at each end. The% cut it down-twelve months, period. "Why?" he said. And I said, "For rest. I was tired." And he said, "Jim, we’ve found that the people who can’t find the balance in twelve months can’t in fourteen either. " So I pass on that advice to you: find the balance.
QUESTION: Can you say a little more about one day off a week?
ANSWER: You know, when we are on furlough somebody does the work. Or if it isn’t done, somehow the Lord gets along all right. But to those of us who have come close to losing our ability to stay on the field, it just makes sense. I had to go home three months early last furlough. My doctor told me to, because I was fighting everybody and I was so depressed I knew I’d never come back to Japan if I had to make the decision then. But I also knew, because I was telling other tired missionaries the same thing, that I should stick it out. So you need at least a day a week off, or else you’ve got to watch so closely that you can be largely relaxed at all times.
QUESTION: I can’t understand something about fatigue and professional people. Why did you specify professional? Doesn’t this apply to anybody?
ANSWER: No. People who are out doing physical labor all the time aren’t so likely to be fatigued. It’s mental fatiguethat is, emotional. We go beyond what would allow us to come back by the next morning. So in the morning we start off with this level of tension and we go tip further that day, and before long we’re always up there. When something happens we are already in trouble, or the back of our neck is stiff, and that gradually leads to more and more tension. We have symptoms of all kinds and we go to doctors who don’t have time to outline a program for us to show us what to do, and so they treat us and sure enough when they treat us as sick, we are sick and that gets into our subconscious. And we don’t correct the basic thing.
We take a sleeping pill for lack of sleep when what we need is something that will let us sleep, that is, exercise to clear out that part of our system and commit it to the Lord. It’s not so easy to do as to say. But we must train ourselves to be disciplined or we won’t be here. And so I ask you to discipline this part of yourself, as I am trying to do now, because it is my job as a Christian doctor to keep missionaries in Japan as long as the Lord wants them here.
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