selling books on ship

Look pretty normal don’t I? Ok, I admit I was a bit scrawny but I come from a long line of skinny people and it was 95 degrees with 90% humidity in the Solomon Islands, so it tends to curb the appetite!  My point is that you’d never know by looking at me that I was taking advantage of every opportunity to look at porn.  On the outside I was the “fearless Bible Translator bringing the Word of God to the Bibleless people” but on the inside I hated myself and was doubting that God could really love me or if He even existed.

So why write a post like this for all the world to see? Well, several friends have asked me how I feel about having my struggle with pornography out there for all the world to see now that Kay has published her memoir so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about that a bit.  There are two main reasons:

  •  Anyone can become addicted to porn, including people in ministry & leadership.

We should all know the statistics by now about how often pornography is being viewed by men and women.  But just in case you’ve forgotten, here are a few stats from Covenant Eyes that relate to the Church:

porn stats

The one that jumps out at me is that 75% of pastors don’t make themselves accountable to anyone.  I’m not really surprised though–obviously I chose not to be accountable when I was a missionary!  Even though I knew I needed help, the shame and the guilt along with the possible loss of a career were too much for me to overcome.

  • There’s too much shame about pornography in the Christian community

My desire is to see the Church become a place where we can talk about issues like pornography without freaking out.  A place where someone can share their struggles and know they are loved and supported and not viewed as some sort of sexual pervert.

“It’s a tragedy when churches shame people who are wrestling with sexual bondage. When we do that we become the priests of further condemnation instead of hope. We deepen the shame with the bony finger of a critical god, instead of revealing the open arms of a crucified Savior.”  Ted Roberts in Pure Desire

“The majority of the people I have counseled could give a long list of things they are good at. They also could state their character strengths and gifts. Most of them deeply love the Lord, but they didn’t understand that we are as sick as the secrets we hold.”  Ted Roberts

What can we do?

Make ourselves accountable.

Covenant Eyes is the software package we use.  We like it because it sends a report to the accountability partners we’ve chosen.  Our accountability partners are constantly aware of how we’re doing.  If we need help, it’s right there, already in place.

Here’s a great article that provides a step by step plan to get all of your devices set up for internet accountability.

Educate ourselves.

Be willing to read up on what’s really out there on the internet.  Covenant Eyes has a blog you can subscribe to for free, plus a ton of free downloads addressing the needs of men, women, and families.  Don’t assume it can’t happen in your house.  It can happen.  Be prepared.

Start talking about it!!!

Find people willing to share their personal struggle and recovery with your church.  And it doesn’t just have to be about pornography.  When people start honestly sharing their own struggles in any area, it helps create an atmosphere of acceptance.

Provide resources in your church bookstore or website.

Check out the Pornography Resource page on Kay’s blog for starters.

Encourage your church and mission agency toward internet accountability for all staff.

A pastor/missionary/__________ is just a normal person struggling with the same things that we all struggle with. Let’s not put them on a pedestal expecting them to attain some measure of sinless perfection that is impossible to attain.  There needs to be a safe mechanism in place for people in Christian ministry who struggle with sexual purity to get help BEFORE it gets out of control.

Special note to women readers

Since a lot of the readers here are women, I want to tell you that the point of talking about all this is not to freak you out and make your life miserable if you find out your husband is looking at porn.  The point is, to understand how common it is, to talk about it, to learn to manage it together, so that this doesn’t have to be hidden away in shame, where it can’t be healed.

Recovery is possible.  It’s a ton of work, for sure.  But it does happen.

Kay said for years that when she wrote her memoir, it would be called Pornography Saved My Marriage, because that was our experience:  after going through the pain together, after healing together, our marriage was stronger than it had ever been before.  In the end, though, she went with the title As Soon As I Fell.  It’s available now at Amazon in paperback and ebook format.  (Note: You don’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks. Amazon has free apps for smartphones and computers.)

We’re also doing a book giveaway on her blog this week which will end at midnight (CST) on Wednesday, October 22nd.  Just subscribe to her blog and you’ll be entered.

Bio: Andy Bruner and his wife Kay are both TCKs.   After meeting in college they joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and spent from 1993-2005 working with the Arosi people in the Solomon Islands.  The Arosi New Testament was dedicated in 2005.  Andy now works for SIL International in Dallas.

I’m always happy to talk to anyone who is struggling with pornography.  If you want to contact me privately feel free to contact me at brunerfamATgmailDOTcom.


the gift of a voice

by Kay Bruner on October 20, 2014

“I feel awful.  Something inside me is squeezing me so bad I can hardly breathe.”

With those first words of Letters Never Sent, Ruth Van Reken spoke straight to my TCK heart.  It was 1988, I was a senior in college, the book was brand-new, and for the first time in my life, somebody besides me was willing to say that being a TCK was not all about climbing up sunshine mountain.

By the time I read Letters, I was already married to another TCK and we were well on our way to our own overseas career in Bible translation.  My own experience, confirmed by Letters and by the quiet conversations I had with other TCK’s I met, made me absolutely determined to care for my children and their emotions carefully and attentively, to minimize the damage that previous generations of TCK’s had endured.

When that great revelation of research by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, Third Culture Kids, was published in 1999, I practically memorized chapter 13 on transition.  I could recite the RAFT model for family transition in my sleep.  Over a 15-year period, we RAFTed religiously from the Solomon Islands to Papua New Guinea to America and back again.  In one particularly hellish phase, we moved internationally 5 times in 3 years, and two of those were crisis moves, as in, “You have 15 minutes to leave the country.  Go.”

I was trying so hard to make it okay for my kids, to support Andy in the translation project, to be the teacher to four grade levels and four temperaments, to be the family doctor, therapist, Sunday school teacher and chief logistics officer for whatever happened to be happening.

Meanwhile, I was spiraling down, down, down into depression, feeling like I was the only one struggling, because everybody else looked so happy on their prayer cards.  I didn’t know that Andy was addictively looking at pornography while we all smiled for our prayer cards.

The Big Crash came in 2003, with two years of intensive recovery following.  We went back overseas for a while, then moved back to Dallas permanently in 2007.  I went off to grad school for a masters in counseling, and started a little blog to pass the time during the never ending story of my internship.

On the blog, I started to put out little bits and pieces of our story, and every single time I did, someone would write to me and say, “Thank you for saying that!  I thought I was the only one!”

I started to realize that there was not really a voice for this story:  a story about depression and despair and recovery in a mission setting.  It was, however, a story that resonated with a lot of people, even people who weren’t missionaries.


This past year, I got my story into book form and self-published.

My intention in writing this book was to pass along the gift that Ruth Van Reken gave to me:  the gift of a voice, of community, of hope on the long road Home. 

So, if depression and despair and healing and redemption sound like things you’d be up for reading about, it’s your lucky day!  As Soon As I Fell is available in Kindle format and in paperback at Amazon, and if you buy the paperback, you get the Kindle version for free.  That’s so you can share and still have a copy to keep.  (p.s Did you know that you don’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks? Amazon has free apps for smartphones and computers.)

What’s more, I’m going to do a book giveaway this week over at my blog for A Life Overseas readers.  Hop over, subscribe before this Thursday (October 23, 2014), and you’ll be entered to win.

Also, I’ve been invited to write a monthly “Ask the Counselor” series here at A Life Overseas.  So, instead of asking you questions here at the end of the post, I’m asking you to hit me with your questions in the comments below.  I can’t wait to hear what you want to hear about!


Where is the God of Deborah?

by Marilyn on October 17, 2014

Village in Pakistan

“Where was the God of Deborah? Deborah, whose words ‘March on, my soul; Be strong!’ echoed God’s affirmation of the strength and leadership of women. Where was the God of Hagar? Hagar, who was cast out in a desert as hot as the one where I stood, certain she would die only to be met by the living God and living water. Where was the God of Mary? Mary, who was greeted with the words, ‘The Lord is with you,’ words unmistakable in their promise. My soul ached with the absence of God; the woman’s eyes mirrored the vacancy I felt.” fromWhat a Woman is Worth Civitas Press 2014 “Relentless Pursuit” by Marilyn Gardner page 87.*

The story was in a well-known newspaper in Pakistan, published back in May. The title hid nothing and I didn’t want to read the article. “Woman Stoned to Death Outside Lahore High Court”.

I clutched my stomach, nauseated and feeling weak. An honor killing outside the High Court in Lahore, a city in Pakistan; a 25 year-old woman stoned to death, large bricks picked up and thrown at her until she was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her family? They were included in the group of attackers stating they had a right to do this, she had shamed the family name.

And I weep at this injustice, this gross misunderstanding of honor and shame, this tragic and polluted view of women. A distorted theology, an incorrect belief. Cultural views are not all benign. Some are plain wrong. There is no excuse for this atrocity. Neither is there an excuse for the atrocities of rape on college campuses in Ivy league schools with people who have no cultural view of honor and shame. Or the gang rapes resulting in death in India. All are wrong. All are sinful. All should be condemned. There are too many events like this in our world and the heart of evil and sin is like a killer weed that takes over and covers everything in its path, crowding out the beauty with ugly.

And I wonder – Where is the God of Deborah? Where is the God who fights, who goes before us? And I wonder – Where is the God of Hagar? Where was he with this woman? And I wonder – Where is the God of Mary, the God-bearer? The blessed Theotokos?

But he is here. He is with the women around the world who fight against this every, single day at great cost. Those who stand up for justice and fight for human rights and dignity; those who are in the business of rescue and advocacy. They are the Deborahs of our world. They are the ones who march on. They are the ones who give of their time, their talent, their love to make a difference.

Where is the God of Deborah? He is with Myra Lal Din – a Pakistani woman with a dream to change the status of education for girls in Pakistan. Myra attended the same school that I did in Pakistan. When she was 13 the school was attacked by fundamentalist terrorists and she relocated to Thailand to finish her education. She recognizes that most girls in Pakistan are not so lucky. And so she longs to make a difference. She says this: “Through my work with young children, I discovered that I felt called to use education to try to bring real, lasting change to the kinds of opportunities that are available for young women in my own country. I want to make sure that every woman in Pakistan has an opportunity to experience the kind of life-changing education I did without having to escape to another country to do it.” 

Where is the God of Deborah? He is at a women and children’s hospital in Shikarpur, Sindh where primarily Pakistani staff work daily to meet the health care needs of the community, offering living hope, living water in the desert.

Where is the God of Deborah? He’s in Haiti where midwives work to provide safe care and deliveries to those most in need.

Where is the God of Deborah? He is in Djibouti, where girls learn to love running, to find safety in community.

Where is the God of Deborah? He’s with the rescuers in Thailand, who brave a corrupt system and dangerous pimps to rescue, to love, to speak truth into the lives of women.

Where is the God of Deborah? He is in the hard places, with us as we take a stand against injustice even as we reel with nausea from the horror of these acts of violence.

Where is the God of Deborah? He is still here. He is still present. He is still at work. He is still saying ‘Who touched me’ like he did so long ago on dusty streets in Palestine. He is still restoring, relentlessly pursuing, loving, healing, freeing women from their suffering. This I must believe. This I do believe. 

“I would never stop believing that worth could be restored by a relentless pursuit, an unstoppable love, and the words “Go in peace and be free from your suffering.” from What a Woman is Worth Civitas Press 2014 “Relentless Pursuit” page 88.*

Where have you seen the God of Deborah work in your community? 

Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging is available for purchase here: 

It’s also coming to a Kindle near you in a few weeks. Proceeds for books purchased in the month of November will go toward the Syrian Refugee Crisis to be used in a refugee clinic in Istanbul. Stay tuned for more details.

Note: This article has been adapted from one previously published on Communicating Across Boundaries. 


Who am I really crying for anyway?

by Richelle Wright on October 15, 2014

One day, I opened up my Facebook feed and right there was this picture:


IF we’d stayed in Niger, our oldest daughter would be graduating from high school with this amazing group of kids representing at least seven different countries… June 2015.

But we didn’t stay. God’s path for our family led a very different direction, including two seemingly never-ending years of transition between our African home and our soon-to-be French Canadian future. I never, in a million years (and yes, that’s hyperbole) pictured this. More truthfully? In the near 15 years we delighted in our West African lives and ministry I could have only just barely imagined this happening, until it actually did.

As I first looked at that picture, my eyes filled with tears.

I thought they were all tears for my daughter. For the friends she’s left behind. For the amazing people she’ll probably never see again. Wondering when would be her next opportunity to praise God in four different languages, all in the same church service. Because she was going back into a world where teens were expected to act like irresponsible, selfish or pampered kids instead of regularly given the opportunity to rise to the occasion while serving and ministering as equals alongside adults. For the amazingness of growing up as part of an expatriate, multicultural community where so many were sacrificing so many to serve Jesus and share His offer of life with others.

And that’s about when I realized that I was actually disguising truth from myself.

A good number of those tears – perhaps even the biggest part of them – were for me, for my dreams of what I had wanted for my girl, for 15 years’ worth of my expectations of how her “childhood” would finish. Yes, our reality is very different. Not bad. Not even worse. Just not what I’d expected during all those years of growing my TCK and a bunch of expectations. I was having a hard time with that reality.


I read, appreciate and learn much from the plethora of books, articles and posts on discipling our TCKs as they go about this business of growing up between worlds. There’s still so much more for me to learn and I know that. Yet, sometimes I get this nagging feeling that if expat parents aren’t careful, they can yoke their children to a burden they don’t need to carry – that of our own expectations of what the TCK life should be, the joys and challenges, and what we’re striving to make it be… for these kids we love.

One late morning, I was walking home from preschool with my then almost five-year-old daughter and her cousin. It was a spectacular autumn morning. Their conversation that day made me laugh; I want to share it with you because I think it makes a fantastic and pertinent point.

Niece (arms flung wide as she skips and twirls in circles): “It’s SO BEAUTFIUL when all the leaves change colors and drop out of the trees.” (She’s a very dramatic child.)

My daughter (also twirling and skipping): “What’s this season called again? I keep forgetting. Is it ‘drop’ because the leaves drop out or is it ‘fall?’ because the leaves fall down?”

Niece: “It’s called fall, silly! And that’s a good thing, too!”

My daughter: “Why?”

Niece: “Calling this season drop instead of fall JUST doesn’t sound right!”

My daughter  (hesitating just a fraction): “Yeah. I guess it does sound a little bit weird.”

I laughed because I totally agreed. Thinking about calling fall “drop” instead is humorous and sounds more than awkward. But isn’t that only because I’ve only ever called it fall?

What if, in a similar way, the same is true for my TCKs?

What if some of what I consider so traumatic and so difficult and so worthy of tears I perceive that way primarily because I have preconceived ideas based off of my own childhood and growing up of how things should be and how I would have reacted had I been gifted this life…


 …and not because my children automatically have to see it that same way.


Please keep in mind that my purpose isn’t to discredit or argue that our TCKs don’t need support or don’t struggle with the peculiarities of this lifestyle. I know they do. I just want to consider that the possibility that maybe what I expect to be their struggles are just normal. And then there is the corollary: Perhaps those circumstances I believe they’ll breeze right through are the ones that will be the greatest challenges…

What do you think?


safety on the mission field

by Sarah Goodfellow October 13, 2014

A few weeks ago we were robbed. The men came while we were sleeping and stole our tv, computer, and some cash. Thankfully no one encountered them and we are all safe. We were most disappointed to lose some of the pictures on our computer because we hadn’t backed it up in 3 months, but [...]

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No, Seriously, Laugh.

by Jonathan Trotter October 9, 2014

My dad was a dentist. And I’m not sure if it was all that time around nitrous oxide or what, but he loved to laugh. In fact, I remember many times, with babies screaming (there were five in diapers at one time in my house — long story, tell you later), he’d smile and say, [...]

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Please Don’t Feed The Monks

by Lisa McKay October 6, 2014

Tonight* my husband, Mike, and I took the little dog and walked down to one of our favorite restaurants in Luang Prabang from which to watch the sun set over the Mekong. While we were eating and watching the long-boats glide downriver in golden light, two tourists at the next table struck up a conversation [...]

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“Help! I’ve Fallen off the Pedestal and Now it’s Crushing Me!”

by Editor October 3, 2014

Pedestals. They’re built high and they fall hard. In this guest post Carole Sparks takes us into the anatomy of a fall. It’s not an easy story but the redemption is there and it is sweet. May you hear these words today and know that there is “no hierarchy in the kingdom.” You can read [...]

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Funny Things Third Culture Kids Say

by Rachel Pieh Jones October 1, 2014

Kids say the darndest things. Parents make the darndest lists out of them. Writers published the darndest lists of the darndest things those kids say. Sorry. Some of these are from my own Third Culture Kids, some are from others I know. I want to say before quoting them that I love these kids. I [...]

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Run Away! Run Away! (And Other Conflict Styles)

by Elizabeth Trotter September 28, 2014

I don’t like conflict. I’m scared of it. I don’t want people to be upset with me; I don’t want people to think I’m upset with them. Conflict is stressful and instills in me a strong desire to RUN AWAY. I shut down both physically and emotionally, and I fail to deal with the issue [...]

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Parasites and Paperwork

by Angie Washington September 26, 2014

These two topics arise during the conversation at almost every gathering of foreigners: parasites and paperwork. They hold the same high level of disdain and elicit low begrudged groans. Parasites How many times have parasites, amoebas, or other unfriendly bugs assaulted you? How many of those nasty sicknesses can you tick on a list? Does [...]

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Anger Abroad

by Jonathan Trotter September 24, 2014

Two friends were planning to meet for lunch one day when one called to cancel, stating that she had a terrible headache. This wasn’t a typical headache, and it hurt badly. Her friend admitted that she too had a horrendous headache, and suggested they go to the ER together. (This is just one step beyond [...]

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