Post-Incredible Stress Disorder
The Berlin air was far too freezing for my warm Florida blood and I covered my nose with my coat to avoid the smells of the street.
Women lined the dark road, pacing in small circles with a few parking spaces in between each one. They wore knee-high boots and fleeces with big fur collars to evade the cold night air.
I was prayer walking behind a team of volunteers that minister to women in prostitution on the streets of Berlin. Known to the community as “Angels with Baskets,” the volunteers bring coffee, tea and Gospel literature in many languages to the women on the streets. Many are human trafficking victims, brought illegally from foreign countries, but in reality, they are all victims: hopeless, lost, afraid, injured, and broken.
I had never seen brokenness so clearly in all my life. I never saw hurt so plain and so deep than when I saw these women. Their faces said it all; each one seemed to mirror the last as we walked down the street. Hopelessness flattened their eyes like the cold gray cement of the sidewalk. They hardly seemed alive.
[pullquote width="300" float="right"]Hopelessness flattened their eyes like the cold gray cement of the sidewalk.[/pullquote]
The ministry runs a café in the middle of one of the most highly concentrated areas of prostitution in Berlin (it is legal in Germany), offering the women food, warmth, a hot drink, and, most importantly, the love of Christ and the Gospel message. Not only do they open their doors for the women to come in, but the volunteers also journey out onto the street and meet the women right where they are.
What a beautiful picture of the heart of Christ that seeks His children in their mess in order to rescue and restore them!
I began speaking with the women in the café with the little bit of German I could muster. I was amazed at how they were able to laugh, smile, and come alive within the warm, loving, oasis of the café. I saw transformation in their eyes - they were no longer the broken women I saw on the street. They were beautiful creations of God, stamped with His image and destined to be made whole by His love.
One woman insisted on taking multiple pictures together to capture those warm moments. I tried my best in my mind’s eye to capture the moment too and never let my heart forget these hurting women or the joy and hope that comes from the Lord, even in the worst places and circumstances.
This was just one of the many incredible experiences that has stressed me out since returning to the States last May.
I studied abroad in the chilly, dreary, wonderful, whimsical land of London, England last spring. This became a “spring-board” (corny joke--I’ll try to limit myself, I promise) for my travels all over Europe. I loved the adventure of the unknown, the thrill of meeting new people, and learning new ways of doing things.
Each city, each experience, seemed to whip my heart in a new direction and send me chasing after the joy of the Lord and the contentment of His presence. I relied on Him more than ever before because I was removed from my support system back home that had so long been a crutch along my spiritual journey.
For the first time, it felt like I was running on my own two legs instead of hobbling along the Calvary road. I was carrying my own cross. And this was where I ran into trouble.
London became a symbol of all I could accomplish when it was just God and I - with no "distractions".
When I returned home, people, questions, and familiar faces bombarded and hemmed me in. The stress of the post-incredible began to creep into my stomach. Will my life ever again look like the stories I am sharing? Was this the highlight of my time on earth? Is it all downhill from here?
This stress began to haunt me throughout the summer and into the following school year as I resumed my studies. No longer was I sharing my faith with strangers and having good conversation over tea or coffee with friends. I enjoyed my summer and I loved my school, but each and every day I felt the hole in my heart widen as I searched for the high that had been mine.
The “distractions” were back: my family, friends, school, work, and everything else about American life came down hard over my head. God seemed farther and farther away as my time overseas retreated farther into the past. All I wanted to do was plan my return trip so I could get back living the life I thought I was meant to live.
Over time, God began to reveal in my heart that what I deemed as “distractions” were actually inexorable and essential parts of God’s plan for my life.
I began to invest in the lives around me like I had done with those I had met overseas. I learned to recognize that the brokenness I saw in the faces of the women in prostitution on the streets of the Berlin was the same brokenness that lurked just beneath my friend’s facades. God’s love is the only way to heal that brokenness, so that is what I offered them — not out of a duty to evangelize, but out of my own brokenness for their plight and my hope in a God who restores.
[pullquote width="300" float="left"]I learned to recognize that the brokenness I saw in the faces of the women in prostitution on the streets of the Berlin was the same brokenness that lurked just beneath my friend’s facades.[/pullquote]
God has quite convincingly called me to remain here in Florida and serve at a wonderful church called Common Ground. He is removing the stress of chasing after spiritual/emotional highs and replacing it with a steady passion to follow hard after Him wherever He has positioned me.
The Lord has shown me that I do not have to be in a different country to meet people, reach into their lives, and show them Jesus’s restoring power. He has also shown me that brokenness and injustice exist everywhere (I have had run-ins with human trafficking right here in my own backyard). His work and His presence are everywhere too.
He finds us wherever we are, and if we are willing, uses us to further His Kingdom, which can be found in every tribe, city, and nation.
Where is your mission field right now?
Images by Yelena Bosovik