I was always a “good kid.” My dad was a youth pastor, so I was at the church almost every time the doors were open. When I was 11 years old, I went from being a pastor’s kid to being a missionary’s kid because my family moved overseas to serve with the International Mission Board (IMB).
Whether they did so intentionally or not, people in the United States assumed that because I was a missionary kid (MK), I was better than other children. As I grew up, I felt a lot of pressure from those around me to live up to that expectation, even if I didn’t always show it.
I understood God had a special call upon my family that included living in another country, but sometimes that call was more painful than exciting. I saw some amazing places, but I also said some tearful goodbyes. I was thankful for the experiences, but occasionally the challenges became too much for my teenage heart and hormones to handle.
A Place to Speak Freely
IMB cares about MKs. I have never doubted that for a second. Since the 1980s, IMB has hosted retreats just for MKs to bond with one another and share our common experiences. These retreats allowed us to speak freely with one another about our struggles and make friends who were experiencing the same challenges. To this day, some of my dearest friends are fellow former MKs I met at those retreats.
Yet these retreats were not merely about friendship. IMB ensured that professional counselors, through its member care team, were available so we could voice our struggles to qualified adults in a confidential space.
I took advantage of opportunities to visit the counselors multiple times, and I always walked away from our conversations feeling comforted. They didn’t belittle or erase my problems. Instead, they listened, acknowledged my feelings, and provided biblical counsel to point me back to the Lord. These counselors recognized that even the “good kids” — the ones everyone thinks are perfect — struggle with all the change, goodbyes, and cultural challenges that come with MK life.
These counselors helped me see the positive side of missionary life when all I could often see were challenges and frustrations. My time at the retreats was short, often just a few days out of the year, but it made a difference in my life and in the lives of many of my MK friends. Because these counselors saw that even the “good kids” needed help and did their best to offer that help, I recommend counseling for people in my ministry today.
No Shame in Seeking Help
Currently, I am a pastor’s wife, a ministry that brings many of its own challenges. I have the privilege of hearing the stories and testimonies of women who have grown up in the church as well as women who have never known that Jesus loves them.
Every Wednesday night, I chaperone our youth group, which is mostly made up of girls. Each girl faces challenges I could never imagine. All of the women and girls I spend time with are special, and I am so thankful the Lord gives me the opportunity to minister to them, even if my role is simply listening to their stories like the counselors at IMB retreats did for me.
Because those counselors helped me so much in my time as an MK, I try to always reassure the women and girls at my church that there is no shame in seeking help through professional counseling. Sometimes we need someone who is trained in mental health care to support and guide us, and God uses professional Christian counselors to help people in many ways.
One of those counselors is my friend Catherine Johnson, who works at Restoration Counseling in New Orleans, Louisiana. Concerning the benefit of counseling, Catherine says, “Counseling is important because it offers an objective, intentional place for you to slow down, reflect, grow, and heal. We cannot holistically pour into the lives of others from empty, chaotic, or overwhelmed places. That is how you end up burned out, isolated, or angry. Counseling is a helpful tool for wisdom and support, allowing you to look more like Jesus as you serve others.”
Counseling provides us with an objective, outside perspective when we are overwhelmed with circumstances around us. When I struggled to understand why God would ask my family to leave places, counselors offered insight I could not see. When the women and girls at my church are drowning in their anxiety, I point them to Christian counselors who will guide them toward Jesus. People may think the church has it all together, that believers are the “good ones,” but if I have learned anything in my mental health journey, it’s that the “good kids” struggle too.
Disclaimer: The information shared on wmu.com is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.