Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Can foreign aid workers experience PTSD? Most would probably answer "Yes." What about missionaries? Many people look at missionaries and admire them for the "sacrifices" that they are making to reach people with the Gospel and to help the poor, but do we ever take the time to think about them as "real" people.
The first day that Lisa and I arrived in Kenya in 2002 our thoughts were not on terrorism. It was before 9/11 and most Americans did not think of being a victim of a terrorist bomb or bullet. But even on that first day, we experienced a terrifying event. Our host missionary was called in the morning and asked to come to another missionary's home. He asked us to accompany him since he didn't want to leave us alone on our first day in country. When we arrived at the other house just blocks away you could see that things were not right. Furniture was overturned; the husband was sitting in a chair motionless, the wife had a bruise on her face with her two teenage children clinging to her. Just hours before, they had been overtaken by robbers who not only ransacked their home but also kidnapped the husband/father and had taken him to the ATM to clear out their bank account. Luckily, he escaped from the ATM and made his way home by foot to find the other robbers had left his family shaken but alive at home. Now they sat and waiting for some comfort from their friends.
I remember that night looking at Lisa with tears in my eyes and thinking "Why did we come here? What was God thinking?" Throughout the years, our family was never robbed but we dealt with them. We have not only had friends robbed but beaten and kidnapped. We have answered calls in the middle of the night asking for help but they were really calls asking for comfort and answers.
Now there is a new concern for the missionaries and foreign aid workers, it is terrorism in Kenya. Kenya has always been peaceful. We, as Christians, have for years ministered undisturbed by other religious groups even though in our area Christians are the minority. But now, we are seeing bombings of bars and Christian crusades meetings alike. We are hearing about trucks full of explosives being stopped within minutes of popular shopping centers. We are witnessing people afraid to go to church because a week before a group of men entered a church and shot the pastor and members of the congregation while they prayed. Terrorism is alive and well in Africa.
This should make us STOP and pray for the peace and safety of everyone in Kenya.
But how should you pray for your friends who are serving as missionaries and foreign aid workers in unsafe, even hostile, environments. Of course, pray for their safety but also pray for their minds. After experiencing the limited things our family went through in Africa, do I have PTSD? Not quite. But I will say that since I returned from Kenya in April, I am very aware of what is going on around me. Now when I take the family to a restaurant, I look to see where the nearest exit is and I sit where I can see the main entrance. If I am sitting in church or Sunday School and I hear the door open at the back, I have to stop myself from turning around to make sure there is not a gunman there. I am different now that terrorism has become part of my "real" life.
Terrorism has an affect on people whether they are believers or not. Satan can use it to scare people from doing God's will and taking the Gospel to those that need to hear.
Jesus said, "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves...Fear them [persecutors] not therefore...And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Taken from Matthew 10: 16-28)
Please pray for your friends living overseas and remember to pray for the Bechtels and the ministries of the Hope Foundation as we continue to do what God has laid on our hearts.