How dengue fever led me towards a new path

When I reflect on my journey into working in spiritual direction for mission workers, my mind goes back to a night of tossing and turning in the humidity of the Southeast Asian city in which my family and I lived and served. Amongst the fan whirring, curtains flapping and dogs howling in the street, I sensed a whisper of the Holy Spirit – “It’s OK, I’ve got you”.

That was the moment I now see as the beginning of a new season marked by waking feverish, with extreme fatigue and an all over achiness. When I called the Christian medical clinic later that morning to let them know I would be unable to do the planned home visit of a young man with quadriplegia, I had no idea that I would never get back to the work that I loved and felt was my calling.

Together with the clinic’s local chaplains, I had been doing community health visits and offering basic physiotherapy while they gave practical support, encouragement and often prayer. This bout of dengue fever landed me in hospital and consequentially into an ongoing season of chronic fatigue and eventually diagnosed autoimmune issues. My eldest son, infected with dengue around the same time, also developed ongoing health issues, so I added parenting guilt to my anxiety and loss. This all came in a year that had been especially painful with many in our team struggling, particularly because of the tragic death of four members of one of our country team families in a road accident.

As part of the team leadership and involved in member care, I struggled to know how to respond to the weight of other people’s stress and grief when I had so little capacity myself.

In a journal entry from later that year I included a picture of dried cracked earth and reflected how empty, broken and barren I felt.

It was around this time that I started to meet regularly via Skype with a spiritual director. She would listen prayerfully to me as I expressed my grief and confusion. I questioned how I could possibly serve God when I felt so depleted. Her sensitive accompaniment and wise guidance over the next couple of years during transition helped me deepen my experience of prayer and explore new spiritual disciplines that brought fresh awareness of God’s grace and life-giving presence.

It enabled me to finish what became our final term in-country, still making fruitful contributions to my team and to discern new direction for my own ministry. This difficult season ultimately led to personal growth and ongoing participation in God’s mission through Interserve. It also instilled in me the reassurance of the words “It’s OK. I’ve got you”, knowing that the Spirit held and carried me through all the ups and downs of my journey with God. 

I had experienced the impact of spiritual direction in my own life, and I wanted to equip myself to serve others in the same way. Therefore, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction, alongside a Doctor of Ministry degree focused on emotionally healthy spirituality for cross cultural transitions.

Since 2020 I have been offering spiritual direction to mission workers, including facilitating online retreats. The retreats invite mission workers from around the world to come away from the stress and demands of their ministry, draw close to God and drink deeply from the living waters of His loving presence.

“A spiritual director understands that the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with God. Their primary purpose is to guide you as you listen and seek God’s movement in your life. For me Spiritual Direction has taught me how to discern God’s voice from the many other voices we hear around us.  It has provided a safe space to listen to God, to reflect on my life journey and to learn more about myself and God.” – Karen, Interserve Member carer

Over the last few years of COVID, travel restrictions and complexities in serving, spiritual care and direction has been increasingly vital to address trauma and challenges. I am extremely passionate about and committed to this work and I hope to continue and grow the capacity I have to serve in this way. To do this, I need to build up my team support as an Interserve worker.

Will you partner with me as I seek to provide spiritual direction to mission workers?

You can choose to give one-off or regular donations which will help Rachael provide spiritual direction and retreats for Interserve workers.

“As cross-cultural workers caught up in the daily life of living and working in another country, another language, in full-time ministry, it can be hard to stop and quiet the soul and just listen to what God has to say, to dig deep into our soul. The spiritual direction times [from Rachael] helped us do just that. I think it is an important part of missions to attend to the soul of the workers themselves, not just those we seek to serve.” – An Interserve worker

Rachael is an Interserve worker based in Australia and serves internationally in Member Care as a Spiritual Director. Find out more about supporting her work here.

*All images are representative only.