Hey Jack, I feel like God is calling me to the mission field. In fact I'm almost certain of it. The problem is that sexual impurity is a stronghold in my life. I've been through a lot of counseling and worked through a lot of stuff but the issue is not contained. At what point should I feel comfortable going out on the mission field and do you have any resources for missionaries who are struggling in this area of sin.Joe (not his real name)
Joe, I sent your question to a personal friend who is in charge of Member Care in a reputable mission agency. She has a PhD in psychology with much experience, in addition to being a spiritually mature woman. I appreciate her full answer which I quote below.
I am not in a position to say any more. I trust that her answer, as sobering as it is, will not discourage you. The Lord is able to redeem, restore, and equip any of us for ministry. However, her answer reveals the seriousness of any kind of addiction.
I think it is important to note the unique stresses of missionary life that arise from its unique physical, environmental, and spiritual aspects and it bearing on this matter.
May the Lord continue to guide you. He isn’t finished with you yet!
In His Fellowship of Grace,
P.S. Because this matter is so personal, I am changing your name when I post it.
This is a serious problem, Jack. Over my 8+ years in Member Care in the mission I have had to learn more than I’ve wanted to about sexual addictions, and particularly, the addiction of men (only rarely, women) to pornography. It is a sad situation for any man (and his wife) who gets ensnared in this problem. Usually the roots of it start out in childhood, or early adolescence.
As I got “into” my work in the mission I gradually discovered that several of our missionaries were struggling with this issue. Theoretically, they were “in recovery,” when accepted as missionaries (although I think in one case the couple did not admit the problem until later), but addictions tend to raise their heads during times of stress, and all marriages have stress….and missionary life in particular is FULL of stress.
Of the missionaries in [our mission] that I have known to have this problem, one left the mission for other reasons, one couple left, ostensibly for other reasons, but had been struggling with the issue and related “fall-out” for years, and I was strongly considering recommending they leave the field because their marital issues sapped so much strength from them that they were not really doing much ministry. And one other man left with his marriage in shambles. There are other cases that are sort of “ongoing,” but I have learned to be concerned and wary.
In fact, I thoroughly understand why a highly reputable therapist for Link Care in California (they do “residential care” for psychologically/spiritually wounded missionaries), who is an expert in sexual addictions, and a recovering addict himself… I understand why, when he spoke to an audience of member care and personnel managers at a conference I attended, that he, in answer to a question, recommended that missions NOT ACCEPT people with sexual addictions, even if they are supposedly in recovery, because such people, according to him, require a huge amount of “maintenance.” By that he meant that they require multiple forms of accountability—e.g. two or three good accountability partners, plus a group such as AA, but for sex addictions, plus scrupulous monitoring of their internet use, and therapy…. He said to member care people like myself: “If you cannot provide that kind of maintenance and care, then don’t accept them as missionaries.”
I don’t think I need to tell you that I/we cannot provide that level of care. I tried to put “in place” as much as I could for the missionaries we already had, and have tried to NOT ACCEPT any more such situations.
People with such sexual addictions will find staying “clean” and spiritually focused a challenge even in the U.S. with access to an excellent church, help groups and accountability partners. It would be, I feel, morally unethical for me to allow them to put themselves in a place of increased stress and spiritual vulnerability on the mission field. It is “asking for trouble” for them, their spouse if they have one….their fellow missionaries and ministry recipients.