One of the most important lessons I learned in the first year of ministry is “how to mourn properly.” Missions is filled with direct attacks from Satan which can lead to feelings like frustration, discouragement, anger, and depression. When dealing with these emotions it’s only natural for a person to mourn (display or share their feelings) the important thing is making sure it’s done in a healthy way.
A few months after arriving on the field I was excited about teaching a class on the book of Daniel at a local Bible College since it would be my first opportunity to become actively involved there. So when a coworker came to tell me the class wouldn’t begin due to lack of interest, it felt like a punch in the stomach.
In moments like this there is a definite need to deal with and face those emotions through healthy mourning instead of covering them up and acting like nothing happened. That will only result in creating an emotional volcano that tends to erupt when least expected. Unfortunately my form of mourning consisted of eating a huge bag of french fries while lying on the coach and watch three and a half hours of Lost on DVD. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn this form of mourning left me feeling lazy, overweight, and worse off than before!
In my mind I knew there must be a better way to deal with painful emotions than medicating them with comfort food. Eventually this was found in the Australian custom (and my favorite pastime) of having a “cuppa.” Cuppa is short for “cup of coffee or tea” and involves talking with good friends for at least an hour at one of the local coffee shops (preferably with a nice cappuccino). One of the things I love about cuppa’s is they give the opportunity for real conversation or sharing the drama that’s going on in life with a close friend. This is what was missing from my french fries and DVD response, sharing the struggles with others so that they could help.
My first cuppa happened unexpectedly because one of the other Missionaries was in my area visiting with friends and texted me from a McDonalds ten minutes away one Saturday morning. We spent some time talking life and before long I found myself sharing every frustration in my heart with him; frustration over not feeling like God was using me on the mission field, the college class not working out, how hard it was being on my own sometimes. By the end of our conversation I felt a lot better; it was as if the hour had been spent in therapy (and was a lot cheaper)!
Being able to deal with our drama in a healthy way is incredibly important because there will come a time when things like comfort food will not get the job done.
One day in late 2010 a combination of things resulted in my becoming incredibly discouraged, and though part of me wanted to eat my body weight in french fries, I sent a message to another missionary instead that read “I am having a bad day.” A half hour later we were at a Coffee Shop called BB’s (were most of my cuppa’s took place) drinking the largest cappuccino’s you could imagine.
Stress and bad days are always going to be a part of life no matter how hard we try to remain positive, which is why there needs to be a place where we can be real about our struggles. That’s what cuppa’s are for me; an opportunity to share my drama with close friends who can help me see the Lord’s hand it and give Godly advice. There are times I miss a proper Australian cappuccino (you can’t find a real one in America) but what I truly miss is the conversation people have over those cappuccinos.