'Online Counselling: Wherever you are in the World' by Claudia Smith
Life on the mission field is a great privilege. Not many people have the opportunity to experience life in another culture. It’s a life changing experience to live, breathe, work and serve God on foreign soils. It stretches you as a person, pushes you out of your comfort zone and teaches you to rely on God in ways you may not have needed to before.
Along with the diversity of experiences that being engaged with world mission brings, the mission partner faces the same challenges life throws as any other human. They’re certainly not immune to stress, loneliness or even spiritual crisis. In some ways it can be harder to cope with these issues because the people they would usually chat with over coffee or a drink after work simply aren’t there anymore.
Even if mission partners have integrated into the local community, have work colleagues and an expat fellowship, it doesn’t always mean there is someone to talk to. It can be difficult to open up about personal struggles. Or if a mission partner is part of a team, they may be afraid of making themselves vulnerable or presenting themselves in a way that might suggest they’re not coping adequately with life, for fear of being sent home. Equally it can be hard to be honest about issues with supporters back home, whilst trying to write positive upbeat prayer letters. It can leave mission partners with the dilemma of who to turn to.
I’ve been a mission partner serving in Uganda for the past three years. Although I’ve come with my family and God has been good in providing friends, sometimes I still feel isolated. It’s like they say, you can still be lonely in a crowd. I guess that’s why I love logging into Facebook and www.oscaractive.net (in-between power cuts). It helps me feel connected to people back home or in similar situations to me.
As a counsellor, I’ve also been logging in once a month with my supervisor in the UK. She supports me with my counselling work here in Uganda, which I’ve found an invaluable resource. It was my online supervision that began the process of thinking how great it would be if there was online counselling service for mission partners. Counselling that could be accessed wherever mission partners were in the world and at whatever stage they were in their missionary journey.
God wants us all to live our lives to the full, not just spiritually but emotionally and mentally too. I believe that online counselling can play a part in caring for mission partners, by providing personal counselling when and where it’s needed. This can assist in keeping mission partners mentally and emotionally healthy and assist in the prevention of burn out, stress and other mental health issues that can be suffered in silence.
t’s vital that mission partners are able to access support from where they are and not have to wait for home leave or even the end of service to get help if they’re struggling with some of life’s issues. It was with these thoughts in mind that I set up www.missionfieldcounselling.co.uk, an online counselling service specialising in counselling for Christians engaged in world mission. I’ve been excited to see the development of online counselling over the last ten years and I believe it can play a significant role in the provision of tangible emotional and psychological support for mission partners, wherever they are in the world.
Claudia Smith has served as a mission partner in Uganda for past 3 years and is a member of BACP. She is involved in co-ordinating the counselling service at the local teacher training college; teaching guidance, counselling and running Peer Counselling training. She is also involved with HIV/Aids counselling at the local mission hospital. She is married with two young children.
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