The identification of stressors and their meaning for MTW career missionaries to Mexico

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Foster, David L
missionaries; clergy; job stress; burn out; Mission to the World; Christian Denominations and Sects; Christianity; Missions and World Christianity; Practical Theology
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This project was designed to gain detailed, thick descriptions of stressors encountered by Mission to the World career missionaries to Mexico and to gain an understanding as to how the participants ascribe meaning to them. A goal of the study was to add to previous research on missionary stress which typically assessed multiple agencies, many fields of service, and large numbers of participants. This project focused on one agency, one field, and with a limited number of participants. The motivation for the research was derived from the researcher‘s previous field experience suggesting that missionary stress had a significant field-specific component.A qualitative phenomenological research design was chosen for the project. This approach aligned with the aim of uncovering the meaning of stress for the studied population. Purposeful sampling was utilized in order to gain intended agency and field-specific data. In keeping with the specified research design, a six domain interview protocol based on broad categories of missionary stress as identified in precedent research was devised. The responses to that protocol comprise the data for the study. The research was conducted in various locations throughout Mexico in face to face interviews.The data were coded and organized according to dominant themes. Identified stressors clustered under three major themes: (1) stress experienced individually, (2) stress experienced cross-culturally, and (3) stress experienced professionally. Meaning- related data also was organized under three primary themes: (1) stress is experienced under the sovereign rule of God; (2) stress is experienced for the purpose of sanctification; and (3) stress is experienced within the context of a specific calling to the mission field. Recommendations for ministry practice and future research are offered at the conclusion of the study. Particular emphasis is accorded to field-specific cultural training and safety concerns. Given that the findings are field and agency-specific, caution should be exercised in broadening their application to other settings.