October 20, 2008

Cross-Cultural Stress in Marriage

My family continues to prepare serving Christ in East Africa. While we have a lot to get ready for in our ministry, we also face fundamental changes in our personal lives. How will our move across cultures impact our marriage? What will it mean for our family? How will we be discipling our children in Africa?

EMQ October 2008This month's Evangelical Missions Quarterly is devoted to helping address these crucial questions, and I have benefited greatly from its articles. One was written by Sue Eenigenburg, "Preparing Missionary Couples for Cultural Stress." She begins by confessing to getting so frustrated in her cross-cultural challenges that she considered leaving her husband in the mission field. Eenigenburg says:

Culture stress can make or break a marriage. My husband and I had a solid foundation for our marriage and went to minister overseas after eight good years of marriage and three children. I would have never imagined that I would find myself daydreaming about leaving him. With the language and cultural differences, the stress of dealing with ministry in and out of our home, keeping up with laundry, and cooking and cleaning for our family of six, I was ready for a trip to Hawaii--without him and the kids. I felt tempted to charge my trip to his account and let him take care of the bill, the kids, and the laundry. I wasn't sure if I even wanted to come back (422).
I appreciate her openness and honesty. I am also glad that she devotes the rest of her article to helping missionary couples prepare for the cross-cultural stressors that can challenge and even overwhelm the best marriages. She lists twelve: 1) lack of privacy, 2) public displays of affection, 3) time spent together, 4) competition in language [acquisition], 5) competition in ministry, 6) physical distress, 7) emotional issues, 8) feeling pressure, 9) treatment of spouse, 10) spending time together, 11) expectation of roles, and 12) environment.

Wedding RingsEenigenburg then provides missionary couples with six steps to proactively face these stressors as well as lists 25 questions and ideas to discuss before moving overseas. She has packed a great deal of helpful information into the few pages of this article. I may not be able to provide all of her suggestions in this post (if you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out her article), but she has definitely caused me to realize the need to work through these issues now, before we move to Uganda.

Please pray for my wife and I as we prepare to serve our Lord in East Africa. I ask that you not only pray for our ministry but also for our marriage and our family. We continue to trust in Christ, knowing that only He can provide the strength we need to successfully handle the cultural stress we will face. May my wife and I glorify our Savior together!