REGULAR TIMES OF DEBRIEF ARE KEY TO PROCESSING CHANGE IN A HEALTHY WAY.
You need to have people on the field of whom you can ask questions and from whom you can get answers on a regular basis. You need to set aside times to talk through your experiences, especially the challenging ones, so that you can find out ways others have handled similar things and you can be built up by the challenges rather than letting them tear you down.
Try to find fellow missionaries who will recognize your struggles but also encourage you in them. Human beings are not perfect, so some debrief conversations might leave you feeling like others are rolling their eyes at your petty concerns, while other times the missionary will leave you feeling even more defeated by a seemingly insurmountable problem. In the time of debrief, the goal is neither of these extremes but, rather, to be built up in the Lord, receive practical advice from those more experienced than yourself, and learn from that experience.
The sooner you debrief, the better. There were several difficult events that we did not debrief extensively with other missionaries until months later. Instead of growing from them, they presented ever growing obstacles to adaptation. Times of debrief should be more frequent for the first couple of months and gradually be spaced out as you adapt to your new environment. Again, you can/should be debriefing things with your spouse but this should also be done with another missionary or missionary couple who is more experienced, who can see past some of the struggles in the initial time of adjustment. For more information on the “how” and “what” of debriefing, check out this site on debriefing mission teams.
HAVING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR SUPPORTERS AND OTHER BELIEVERS, IN
GENERAL, IS FOUNDATIONAL TO YOUR LIFE AND WORK AS A MISSIONARY.
You need to have people you can email and/or call (because sometimes you need to hear a real voice). You need to know that these people will not just tell you to give up and come home. It is best if these people have cross-cultural experience (or a sensitivity to it) and are not connected to your organization (or at least not in the same country with your organization). Get to know these people as much as you can beforehand, even months/years before you leave, so that when the time comes, they already know you. You can practice being completely honest with them, however humbling/difficult/shocking the truth might be. You can know from experience that they are willing, available, and mature in their faith. The first few years are notoriously difficult for missionaries, so there will be times you will be in need of encouragement. It is helpful to know BEFORE you need it who will be a listening ear throughout whatever challenges you might face.
We had a long list of people who could have supported us in these ways, but we waited too long to intentionally contact individuals and build up that inner circle of support. (Note: your spouse should definitely be providing this type of support, but you will need at least one other person of your same gender who is not so intimately connected to your situation). We should say that in spite of waiting too long, God brought people to us who offered listening ears and wise counsel during some of the most difficult times in Cameroon, but what a difference it might have made from the start if we would have intentionally sought out these people beforehand.