An overlooked prayer need for new missionaries
September 2021

Now that some parts of the world are opening back up, we’re poised to send out quite a few new missionaries in the coming months. As these folks leave their home cultures and begin to adjust, they will need our prayers. We probably all know to pray for culture shock—but long-term, they’ll also experience the less-well-known culture stress. This snapshot that SEND missionary Alex Logan wrote about six months after arriving in Japan explains how culture stress feels.  

Through our training before leaving for Japan, we learned that cultural transition usually follows a somewhat-predictable pattern: 

  • Honeymoon phase: Initially, you love everything. Your new culture is amazing and perfect in every regard.
  • Culture shock: Eventually, the differences between one's home culture and the new culture pile up and cause an overwhelming shock.
  • Culture stress: Some level of adjustment has taken place, but you're still not 100% comfortable in your new culture. Little tasks come with more stress than usual.

For us, culture stress has been the most difficult stage. Practically all the tasks we do outside of our home (and some inside our home) are different enough from what we were used to (and good at) that they cause us daily to feel stressed. 

For example, trying to complete a simple errand like buying stamps is so much more complicated in a different culture. Are there international stamps at the post office I'm going to or just local stamps? Will my letters be overweight for Japan? What do I do if they are? What questions might they ask that I can't understand or answer? Are the addresses filled out correctly? What if it's much more expensive than I expected? Do I have enough cash? (Japanese is a cash-based society—a huge part of our cultural stress!) 

You can see how one simple task causes many thoughts, questions and insecurities. There are no extreme consequences for getting any of this wrong, but the stress is there. These small, daily moments create a background hum of stress that follows us most of the time.

This cultural stress manifests as fatigue. We get tired much more easily than we used to in the States. A simple day of going to language school, running an errand or two, and studying at a coffee shop can leave us very exhausted. 

However, we slowly have grown comfortable here. An errand that used to be terrifying, like checking out at the store, has become a welcome opportunity to talk with a cashier. We praise the Lord for that progress, and for every time that he works through us, even when we are stressed, tired, and/or having a hard time communicating. 

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