When There’s Nowhere to Go But Home

by Editor on April 28, 2015

n1When my husband and I decided to leave Cambodia, we had a hard time articulating why. Life was fine – very good actually. We had a decent groove with work, amazing childcare for our two children, and the most incredible faith community.

And yet. We knew.

It would have been easier in some ways if there was some sort of “reason,” like a family or health-related issue, or something to do with the kids’ schooling. But for us it wasn’t any of those. There was no crystal clear moment, no flashing light, no obvious sign, and no audible voice from God. There was just a visceral knowledge that it was time.

When we moved to Cambodia in the first place, we were young and typically idealistic. We wanted to “make a difference” with the gifts and talents God gave us and invest meaningfully in work and relationships. We loved Cambodia deeply (and still do), but after nearly six years of committing ourselves to the country, its people and to our work, we felt like we received an inaudible release. The call to Cambodia had come and gone. And that was okay. It wasn’t failure or lack of commitment, or even cutting things short. We had permission to go.

Even more, there was an instinctual, gut-knowledge that if we stayed, we were actually taking the easy route. To leave? Well…that was terrifying. It meant trusting that God would provide a new way, a new vision for the future and a new path to see it through.

That’s where we sit right now. Nine months ago we left Cambodia. We took the long way home to Canada, stopping in 14 countries to visit friends and family along the way. Each step in our journey, including the five months we’ve been back, have been important in piecing together the next phase of our lives.

It is a phase that is decidedly Canadian. It’s relearning how to live and work and operate in our country of origin. It’s about finding deep and abundant rest – in the form of closeness to family, play parks for our kids, a safe car to drive, lots of walking and biking in Canada’s beautiful outdoors, and public services like health care and libraries at our disposal. It’s celebrating our first cold, white Christmas in six years. And, it’s wrestling with all sorts of new challenges, like living simply when surrounded by overabundance and learning to make new friends and find our place in a new church community. Sometimes I feel like I’m the new girl back in high school.

It hasn’t been easy, and there are days when I desperately miss Cambodia and question our sanity in leaving.

But I still know deep in my gut that leaving was the right decision.

I am reminded of the countless times throughout Scripture where God calls people outside themselves and outside of the familiar. Whether it’s Abram and Sarai heading towards Canaan, the Israelites leaving Egypt, or Paul’s missionary journeys, God calls us out of our comfort zone and out of the familiar.

Strangely enough, for us right now, that’s Canada.

In his work, ‘The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church’, Alan Hirsch says:

“When we survey scripture with liminality and communitas [[1]] in mind, we must conclude that the theologically most fertile sections were in those times of extremity, when people were well out of their comfort zones.”[2]

And so we find that the driving motivation to go to Cambodia in the first place – one of adventure and challenge and wanting to be changed – has now driven us back to Canada.

All of this doesn’t mean that a life overseas is over for us. Not at all. It means that before we can go and minister again, we need to refresh and re-energize after coming dangerously close to burning out. And, perhaps we need enough time in Canada to remember why we left in the first place.

For now, we plod through day to day life praying for peace, the capacity to live well in our new context, and for a renewed vision for the future.

 

[1] In ‘The Forgotten Ways’, Hirsch defines liminality as “the transition process accompanying a fundamental change of state or social position.” Communitas is “what happens when “individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition, and marginalization.” Page 221

[2] Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI. 2006. Page 221.

 

Profile EditAfter spending her entire childhood (except the odd missions trip here and there) on Canadian soil, Amie Gosselin graduated from university with a BA in Journalism and a passion to travel and engage in social justice issues. Since then, she has lived in Thailand, Suriname and Cambodia working for non-profit organizations and loves that writing and stewarding people’s stories is part of her vocation. Amie is married to Steve and mom to two spunky little girls. After six years of living Cambodia, she and her family moved back to Canada where they are trying to relearn how to live in North America. Amie continues to work part time for an international NGO and is expecting her third daughter in May.  

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  • I so get it! We’ve been “back home” for almost 4 months and I’m still trying to sort through all the varying emotions. Just wanted you to know you’re not alone 🙂

  • I loved this post because it articulates well what I have been experiencing in the nine months since I returned to Louisiana after 8 years in Honduras. Most people assume I left because of the high levels of violence and instability in Honduras. Not true. I didn’t have problems with my work. My former ministry is thriving in capable hands of others. I just “knew” I needed to move on.

  • Sal Bowen

    I just happened to stumble across your post today on Facebook and I’m sitting here sobbing, knowing that this is exactly what I need to read right now. I am in the process of transitioning out of China where I have been for 4 years for the exact reason you said – I just know that it is time for it to be over. I’m not ok with it. Home scares me. Thank you for sharing this and I thank God for using you and your words to show me He is always near.

  • Marla Taviano

    Hi, Amie. I’m also a mama of 3 girls (14, 12, & 9) and we moved to Cambodia from the U.S. four months ago. We’re here for as long as God wants us to be (2 years? 6 years? 20? Forever?), trusting him one day at a time (trying to!). Praying these next few days, weeks, months (years?) in Canada are restorative and refreshing (parks! grass! libraries!) for you and your family. Hugs!!

  • Ilene

    When I returned to the States after eight years as a missionary, I found the culture shock to be much greater being “back home” than it had been when I went to Indonesia. Also, it was very hurtful to me that people accused me of stepping out of God’s will by returning to the States. They could not accept that my call to be an overseas missionary was not for my entire lifetime.

  • Sue

    From one who is still here, I know my day will come. I Love the raw honesty of your writing and the Biblical examples that really add depth to what you are saying. Thanks for encouraging me today.

  • Julia Smith-Brake

    Thank you, friend! As ever, your eloquence and honesty speak deeply to me. You are missed in Cambodia, but I know you will seek to live intentionally wherever you are!

  • Marie Ens

    The only thing that matters is obedience. Any yes, we “just know” when are obeying. God bless you much and be assured that He will guide you continually.

  • Kristin

    Thank you for this. I’m living in NOrth Africa and came for the same reasons: adventure, to be changed and to be a part of something bigger. (I’m also a journalism background :-)) Now, I’m processing leaving after 5 years and it’s not easy. While I know I need a break from the culture, rest refreshment, the idea to start over again and this time back in the US is terrifying. In some ways it seems I’m just getting started, only to go back. Thanks for your words of encouragement. Have to trust in the blind faith that took me overseas to take me back home.
    Best on your transition.
    Kristin

  • Marilyn Gardner

    Excellent piece Amie! And thanks for your patience in waiting for the right time to post this!

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