Hi Rachel, thank you for sharing with us your encounters through Wellspring as well as for this opportunity to learn from you. My question relates to how you deal with the pain and suffering which you see so much around you. I have to admit that at times, the problems seem so immense and the pain so deep that a sense of helplessness together with sadness creeps in. What kind of practices do you undertake to separate the pain and suffering that you see from your own life so that you can continue to be the light of hope to those in need?
Thank you for your question and your general support of Wellspring. It is such a valid question and one that anyone who works in the humanitarian field deals with on some level.
The burn out or compassion fatigue that you are describing is very real. For this reason, at Wellspring, we have begun to put staff care into the budgets for some of the projects we support. These individuals are working faithfully on the frontlines, and we recognize that supporting them is not only crucial to the ministries they run, but also to the wellbeing of their hearts and souls.
Personally, several years ago I was working in a safehouse for women coming out of trafficking. With the daily emotional heartache of this work, I learned then how crucial it was to have things in place that would help me handle all that I was feeling. One really practical thing that has helped me since then is having a few trusted, safe people to share all that I was feeling. I needed (and still need) people that I could express the pain, frustration, joy, love, and heartbreak that were a regular part of my job. And I needed to be able to do it in a way that could be raw and uncensored, safe and vulnerable. For me, my husband and best friend are those people. My best friend has worked for years in similar types of fields and has very much become a safe place for me to be very real.
It is also so crucial for me to have regular times with the Lord. Regular prayer, worship, and journaling are therapeutic and balm for my soul when I feel overwhelmed or helpless with these kinds of situations. I have had times, while traveling for Wellspring, when I could not find the words to process all that I was seeing and feeling, but playing worship music stirred my spirit and offered the comfort I needed. I am reminded in those moments that He is with me.
Naomi Zacharias, the Director of Wellspring International, shared an article with me a few months ago that accurately describes empathy and our role in this work. The article, titled “Empathy is not Charity” is written by Patricia Snow and found here: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/10/empathy-is-not-charity
Ultimately, with pain and suffering, I have to recognize that it is not mine to fix. It never was meant to be. I firmly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give each other is truly being present with one another in the pain-to bear witness to the most raw and broken parts of ourselves, to step into the pain and sit with one another in those spaces. In that way, I believe it can be incarnational and sharing Christ with one another in the most meaningful ways. But I also think, as the article shares, that there are some things that were never ours as humans to bear. We cannot solve or remove another’s deepest pains. Instead, we lead them to the One who can. This allows me to sit and cry with someone, but also give that burden to Christ for it is He alone who sees and knows that suffering the most and He who can heal and redeem it.
I hope some of this helps. We see in Jesus’ ministry, that He made time to retreat with the Father and I think giving ourselves that freedom is important as well. I am praying for you, Helen.
Thanks, Rachel, for your wise words and prayers. I pray for God’s grace and favour to continue to be multiplied upon you as He extends His hands through yours to touch those in need of His love and help. God bless you.
Thank you, Helen!