How to Pre-Raise Support Before You Actually Raise Support

Do you see missions in your future? Then this is for you. 

Right now, you’re just planning, and dreaming, and hoping. But one day it will finally be the right time, and you’ll find yourself filling out an application with a mission organization, packing your bags, and moving overseas.

There’s just one thing you might not be thinking about very much: Raising support. Before you can get on that plane, you’ll need to find an army of people who are willing to partner prayerfully and financially with you each month to make your missionary service possible. 

Raising support to become a missionary may just be the most challenging thing you will ever do. Trust me, raising monthly support will be a whole lot harder than raising $3000 for a short-term trip. Fundraising may require more faith on your part than even moving to a new country. But it’s necessary, and important. And guess what? There are things you can be doing, right now, to make that process much more effective when the time comes. 

So here’s my advice:

Starting now, get deeply involved in a missions-focused church. 

What do I mean by “missions-focused?” I mean a church who loves missions, and it’s obvious. They support missionaries, and they’ve got their pictures plastered in the hallway. They invite their missionaries to speak. They give regular updates on those missionaries, and pray for them often. The leadership intentionally encourages their people to consider missions (and not just for short-term trips). This is the kind of church you will need behind you when it comes time for you to raise support. If you are at a point in your life where you are looking for a new church (for example, starting college or moving to a new city), then make it a priority to choose a church that loves missions.

But what if you are deeply involved in a church that isn’t missions-focused? Should you leave and find a different church?

Not necessarily. Could you be an advocate for missions at your church? Could you meet with the leadership to discuss what a missions program would look like? Could you offer to host a Perspectives course? Could you contact your denomination to see if they offer any missions training or resources? Maybe God could use you to bring a fresh vision to your church that wasn’t there before.

And if that’s not possible, or just isn’t working? Well, I would never encourage someone to leave their church without understanding their unique circumstances, because I think it’s a big deal to leave a church. But you do need to consider how much more difficult your journey to missions will be if you don’t have your church behind you. Not only will it be significantly more challenging to raise financial support, but you will need your home church to give you spiritual, emotional, and prayer support as well. If you don’t think you’ll get that, then you should be fervently praying about your options–starting now.

What do I mean by “get deeply involved?” I mean that you need to be known at your church as someone who serves widely, frequently, and whole-heartedly. You need to take advantage of social events, men’s or women’s retreats, and church camping trips as opportunities to get to know people. Volunteer to be a greeter–that person who meets everyone at the door. You should be someone who is “always there.” Of course, I’m not encouraging you to over-stretch yourself, but your reputation should be as the one who is happy to volunteer for just about anything. Serve cheerfully, in any capacity– not just the “up front” jobs. 

When the time comes for you to talk to the missions committee about your plans to go overseas, their reaction should be “Well, it’s about time!” not “So who are you?” When your support raising coach asks you to make a list of people who know you well, the list from your church should be a mile long. It’s going to take intentionality on your part–starting now, not just when you are ready to start building your support team.

There’s a fine line here, because I don’t want to encourage you to attend the women’s retreat or volunteer in the nursery just because you’re hoping people will add you to their budget someday. You don’t want your motives to be manipulative. Hopefully, these ideas will just give you an ‘Aha!’ moment, not a guilt trip. If you find yourself resisting, you need to ask yourself, “If I’m not willing to serve here, how do I know that will change overseas?” “If it’s too much effort to build relationships here, how do I know I will be motivated to build them cross-culturally?” 

When the day comes to start humbly asking for financial and prayer support, a lot of your success will be dependent on how deeply involved you have been in your missions-focused church. Most likely, there will be a connection to how well you pre-raised support before you actually raised support.

The Burden: a poem of brokenness and calling

by Erica Shelley

Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India, was broken by the reality of child temple prostitution and was moved to action.  In 1904, Amy was praying and saw a vision of Jesus kneeling amongst trees; she sensed that he was asking her to share his burden.

Reflecting in a private autobiography, Amy later wrote:

“Sometimes it was as if I saw the Lord Jesus Christ kneeling alone, as He knelt long ago under the olive trees. The trees were tamarind now, the tamarinds that I see as I look up from this writing. And the only thing that one who cared could do, was to go softly and kneel down beside Him, so that He would not be alone in His sorrow over the little children.”

This poem is inspired by Amy’s vision, and by all the times Jesus draws us in to share one of his burdens. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I found Jesus
Kneeling in a garden
A wild garden.
Not amongst olive trees,
But amongst birch,
Pine needles under his knees.
A warm spring wind blew through,
Waves rippling through the leaves.
He was off the trail,
Alone
Except for the raven
And the chickadees. 

 

I had been walking,
Praying.
I had thought I had discovered something,
Something he had long ignored.
I was broken by an injustice,
Burned by its ugliness,
Shocked by how unfair.
I was raging at him,
Demanding
“Don’t you care?”

 

I thought I had discovered something,
But around that corner
He was ahead of me,
Already there.
His shoulders were heavy,
And tears ran into his beard.
The burden was already his;
It wasn’t mine for me to share. 

 

I felt the pull to draw closer,
Felt compelled to kneel beside.
His words, unspoken,
Dropped like a stone
Into my deepest well inside.

 

“Will you let yourself be broken,
Be poured out for me?
Will you surrender yourself here,
Will you let me sift through every fear?
Will you walk with me into darkness,
Will you tolerate the pain?
Will you give up your comforts,
Will you allow yourself to be changed?
Will you open your eyes,
Will you choose to care?
Will you kneel with me before the Father,
Ready to see and hear?
Will you pray, ‘Your will be done,
Your Kingdom come?’
Your own kingdom must be released.” 

 

His questions can’t be answered;
I can only cry.
I know it is going to be a journey,
Death to self
A daily fight.
I hold the cross before me,
And the world dims behind.
Jesus, go before me,
Jesus, walk alongside.
Jesus, give me strength
To lay down my life. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Erica Shelley is a mother, writer and teacher. She spent three years living in Uganda, where she taught at a Christian school in Kampala. She has also had opportunities to do short-term literacy work in Ghana and in remote Indigenous communities in Canada. She currently lives in northern Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two sons, and continues to wrestle with what a missional life looks like in different contexts. Erica can be found on Instagram as ericamshelley.

 

Book Discussion Guide For You and “Pillars”

For the most part I am able to control myself. But every now and then I read something that I cannot stop myself from annoying those around me with.

So, you are welcome that though I wanted to write to you every seven minutes as I read Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus by Rachel Pieh Jones, I didn’t. 

People, you need to get this book stat. Okay, it doesn’t come out until April 6th, but you need to preorder it now and clear your calendar on April 6th.

Pillars is organized around the five pillars of Islam in this part memoir, part religious reflection, part cultural context book. Rachel introduces each pillar, explains how it plays out in the horn of Africa, and explores how that pillar both invited and challenged her in her own Christian faith. 

As a brief reminder, the five pillars are:

Shahadah: There is no god but God

Salat: Prayer

Zakat: Almsgiving

Ramadan: Fasting

Hajj: Pilgrimage

I loved this book for 3 reasons:

1. Rachel is an engaging story teller. I planned to read just a little bit every night before going to bed, but that plan was ruined in a good way. 

2. As a cross-cultural worker, I love to read stories that are like mine, but different. Through Rachel’s experiences, I could revisit my own. Those early days of language learning, those times when I was hurt by being left out, the situations I thought I understood . . . but didn’t fully. Hearing Rachel’s experiences invited me to reflect on my own.

3. More than anything I have read, this book has me reflecting on how the context where I lived and served influenced and formed me spiritually. Rachel’s experiences are so very different from mine. As I read about her Muslim friends and how Islam is similar but different to Christianity, I thought about my own context. I lived in a place that was not very overtly religious. Instead religion was relegated to the uneducated poor or to the foreigners. The religious practice was more superstitious—visiting a temple before an exam, for instance—“just in case” than woven into daily life. Reflecting back on how being in this environment formed me, I can see that, just as it did with Rachel, it strengthen my faith. But differently than Rachel, my faith practices and Jesus himself were not held in contrast to another structure (in her case Islam) but to something more ethereal. Of course, my local friends had beliefs about the world, what it meant to be a good person, and where large concepts like “meaning” come from. But their instead of finding the answers within religion, often the answers were outside of religion. Where I lived, people placed hope in education, jobs, being able to live in “better cities,” and knowing enough people to have connections when they were needed. 

I thought about all this and more as I read. I thought about what formed me before going to the field, what formed me on the field. I thought about what I “got right” about the local culture and friends and what I “got wrong” but grew toward greater understanding as the years unfolded. I wondered what it would be like to live and serve and hope and dream amongst a people with such overt religious beliefs that were similar but different than mine. I wondered how convictions I have now might have been challenged or strengthened even more in a different context. And I wondered how we can respect people’s beliefs while also inviting them to learn about and grow in faith in the Triune God.

This is why I wanted to write to you every seven minutes. My head was exploding with “Me too!” and “Wow, that’s really different than my experience.” and “I didn’t have to navigate that situation, but I did have to navigate this situation.” This book was a mirror that helped me see myself more clearly.

I loved this book so much I wanted to make you a gift. So, I created a downloadable discussion guide designed specifically for cross-cultural workers like you:

1. What from stood out to you Rachel’s personal experiences? How were her experiences similar and different to yours?

2. How is the context you live and serve in different than you thought it would be before you came? What has helped you grow beyond what you used to know?

3. How do the five pillars play out in your cultural context? 

  • What does there is no god but God look like? 
  • What does Prayer look like?
  • What does Almsgiving look like?
  • What does Fasting look like?
  • What does Pilgrimage look like?

4. How did Rachel interact with each pillar? How have you interacted in your host culture with each pillar?

5. What would be the pillars of belief in your context? 

6. How has God used those pillars to lead you closer to Jesus?

7. What challenges or confusion to your faith have you experienced as a Christian in your context? 

8. Where did you respect and admire how Rachel handled a situation? Were there times when you would have handled a situation differently? What do you think you might have done?

9. The subtitle of the book is “How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus.” If you substituted your own context, what is your answer to “How _______ Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus?” Share a few examples of where you are closer to Jesus because of them.

10. As you consider your own context, how has it informed you spiritually? How has it been used to form your beliefs and your interactions with the Triune God? What do you feel less sure about than you did before?

You can download it in Letter or A4.

Truth be told, I still want to discuss this book with you so much I think that one of the Town Halls (open forum talks) this summer at Global Trellis will be a chance for us to discuss this book. I look forward to discussing this book with you!

Thank you Rachel Pieh Jones for writing a book that provokes such a beautiful reaction and reflection in your readers. Happy reading all . . . you can get Pillars here!

Finding Jesus in a Slum

by Rahma

Ten years ago, I moved to Indonesia with one suitcase and a heart full of hope. I planned to live in a slum, learn the language, and seek the Kingdom of Jesus. Of course, the first year had many challenges. There was so much to learn and adjust to: the language, washing clothes by hand, riding public transportation around the mega-city, eating rice three times a day.

The first year that I lived in a slum in Jakarta, the community received eviction letters. The news of eviction of course became the “hot topic” of conversation around the neighborhood. Conversations were not only about eviction — they were also about the danger of a fire. My neighbors knew from experience that letters of eviction were often followed by fires (because it is easier to evict people if their houses have already been burned down, right?).  As my neighbors had predicted, two weeks later there was a devastating fire. 200 homes were burnt down in half an hour.

For a week or two after the fire, those who had lost their homes slept under three large blue tents on top of the mountain of trash that bordered the community. The tents were provided by an NGO, along with some free meals and bags of donated clothing. Even though my home had been spared from the fire, I decided to spend a night under the tent with some of my best friends who had lost everything in the fire. We experienced the discomfort of mosquitoes, uneven ground, and the noises of lots of people. My heart joined in mourning with my neighbors who had lost all their earthly possessions. And more than just grief, I felt anger at the unfairness of it all.

One day not long after that, as I was reading the Bible, a passage from Hebrews struck me in a new way: “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” (Hebrews 13:12-13 NIV)

As I read this passage, the image in my mind was of the mountain of trash, with the cross of Jesus on it. And I knew that Jesus was confirming for me that He indeed was present there.

Slum areas are often on the outskirts of cities. Slums by definition are on undocumented land, illegal squatter settlements — or “dark land” as we call it in Indonesian. No land titles or deeds, no government address, and therefore often no access to most government services.  But Jesus suffered outside the city gate. And because of that, “let us go to Him.”

I live and serve in a slum community not just to “help people.” I live here because I want to meet Jesus here. Our lives are too short to spend them chasing wealth, “success,” or other lies this world offers. If we have repented and had our lives transformed by Jesus, Jesus is now our King. We are invited to give our lives in service of our King and His Kingdom. We are invited to share this good news of God’s great love with all we meet. Our lives are no longer our own; they belong to Him who died for us.

We must remember that our citizenship is in this New Kingdom, not in nation-states. We are only foreigners for the time we are here.

We are invited to “go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” We have to be willing to bear disgrace (NIV), to bear the abuse (NRSV), to bear the reproach (ESV). Or, as The Message says: “So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus.”

The slum area that experienced the fire nine years ago ended up being evicted. On the ruins of the homes of thousands of evicted poor families, a large shopping mall and apartment complex was built for the rich. Even though the process of eviction was extremely sad and painful, the Lord graciously led us to a new slum area — where we have gotten to observe the birth of a slum. It is now nearly nine years that we have been in this community. There have continued to be many challenges these nine years, but we are so grateful. We are grateful for each day that we are allowed to live and serve here, to be witnesses for Christ in this place that according to the world has no value.

We believe that those the world does not value are actually extremely precious in His eyes: For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalms 72:12-14 NIV)

We long for more teammates to join us in this slum community. Not just because we want more friends to serve alongside with, but because we long to see more and more Christians experience meeting Jesus on the trash heap. Even though it is hard, even though this is a “disgraceful” place, even though there are many physical discomforts, following Jesus here is also full of joy. Full of God’s grace and mercy. Filled with amazing surprises from an amazing God.

Meeting Jesus here has changed our lives. It can change anyone’s life. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.

(Originally published at servantsasia.org.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rahma (not her real name) and her husband and two boys have lived and served in a slum in Jakarta for the past ten years. She enjoys learning piano, playing in the rain, and devouring Amy Carmichael books. You can learn more about the organization they serve with at servantsasia.org 

When in Rome . . . or Santiago or Nairobi or Chiang Mai

When in Rome, sometimes we do as the Romans do just to fit in. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. Sometimes it’s because their way is actually better. And sometimes it’s because, well—Why not give it a shot?

Has your host culture offered you ways of doing things different from what you’re used to, ways you’ve tried on for size, sometimes finding out they fit you to a T? Mine sure did.

There was the time in Taiwan when we hired a local moving company to help us relocate to another apartment. Much to my surprise, the movers, small, wiry gentlemen, carried most of our things backwards. I don’t mean that they carried them from our new place to our old one. Rather, they carried them on their backs, with their arms wrapped around behind. Big boxes. Heavy boxes. Small appliances. Where I’m from, most of us carry things in front, next to our bellies, and often need help doing so. And we ache the next day. I’ve tried carrying boxes their way, and it works. Maybe I’m the one who’s been doing it backwards. (The movers also taught me how to hold the elevator door open with a folded-up piece of cardboard, but I digress.)

And then there’s that oft-photographed tourist attraction in Asia—the squatty potty. Now using a true squatty potty still falls into the “out of necessity” category for me, but what I have bought into is the method of restful squatting that many in Asia practice—with one’s heels on the ground instead of balancing on the balls of one’s feet, as we’re more apt to do “back home.” It’s more stable and you can hold the position much longer. I kind of like it. (By the way, it seems that the benefits of the squatty potty are standing up and being noticed—pun intended—even in the West: A squatting adapter for Western toilets has turned out to be one of the biggest successes pitched on that funder of all things revolutionary, NBC’s Shark Tank. But I’m digressing again.)

Oh boy, after reading those two paragraphs, I think I’ve become preoccupied with issues of posture and orthopedics lately

I’m sure you have some things to share, too. Does anything come quickly to mind? Maybe you’ve been intrigued by or adopted a “new” way of cooking or eating or building or treating sickness or showing hospitality or passing time or . . . Before you click to another page, can you type up one or two of those discoveries for the comments below? Join in and let’s celebrate together the wisdom and ingenuity of the people of our host cultures, and celebrate, at the same time, our own curiosity and willingness to learn.

Oh, and I’m thinking of one more thing from my time in Taiwan: Many people there routinely wore surgical masks out in public when they weren’t feeling well, to protect the health of others—on the street, on the bus, at work. Hmmmm, I wonder when that would ever come in handy anywhere else.

[photo: “Chopsticks!” by lets.book, used under a Creative Commons license]

Sometimes It’s OK to Not Fit In

It was a balmy Fall day in Budapest, Hungary. Cars whizzed by my kitchen window, up and down the hill in the neighborhood known as Gazdagret. My youngest son, nearly two, napped in the early afternoon.

My phone rang. It was my oldest son’s iskola teacher, Aniko. She told me that they were getting ready to go to their, regular, jégkorcsolyázás, or ice skating, class and my son did not have his necessary winter clothes. My heart skipped a beat as I thought of the fleece-lined pants, coat, hat and gloves sitting in our entry way.

All I could think about was how brave my son had been since starting Hungarian primary school in early September. He spent long days completely immersed in Hungarian while having the courage to try new foods at lunch, play foci, or soccer, after school, learn cursive writing, and do his homework with his teachers after class.

He had been so so brave and now, so must I be brave.

I had no time to change, do make-up or hair. They were leaving. I had to get to his school at the top of the hill and I had to get there now.

I grabbed his ice skating clothes and left our flat, carefully locking the door. Thankfully, my youngest had about two more hours of his nap and couldn’t yet climb out of the crib if he did awake. At the rate I planned to truck up the hill, I’d be gone only a short amount of time.

“Truck up the hill” is a good way to describe what ensued. My husband had our car so driving wasn’t an option. There was a bus that went up the hill, but it wouldn’t come soon enough. I looked at my fluorescent t-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops and realized I just needed to go for it.

I crossed the street and found the inner walkway which went almost directly to my son’s school. I began to run on this warmish, yet still, fall day. I ran by pedestrians with dark colors, dressed as ‘normal’ people dress in Budapest on fall days, with their coats and scarves.

I ran and I ran. I ignored the looks at my bizarre attire and wild running ways. I had to get my son what he needed, and by golly, I would!

Finally, completely out of breath, I made it to the school. I ran to the entrance, spoke something in broken Hungarian to the security guard and reached the receptionist. Thankfully, his classroom was close. But when I got there, they were gone. Gone! Noooo!

I frantically asked where they were, finding out they were in the bus outside. So I hurriedly began to run again, locating the huge passenger bus leaving the parking lot. Leaving the parking lot!

Having lost all sense at this point, I started to run straight toward the moving bus, waving my arms up and down, up and down like rapid windshield wipers. Thankfully, I got the driver’s attention. I came to the door of the bus and saw my son’s teacher coming down the steps. I handed her the priceless flimsy grocery bag full of clothes and remembered to step aside as the bus continued its intended exit of the parking lot.

The ensuing sigh of relief was both real and comical and inspiring? Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. Inspired. I had just done twenty things or more I had been timid to do before, in my life in Budapest. I’d stuck out like a fluorescent chirping canary all up the streets of Gazadgret and in Csikihegy Iskola. And I’d done it without a second thought, because my son needed me.

I don’t need to tell anyone who has lived overseas, how hard it can be. I, especially, struggled to fit in, or at least appear competent, as a mother. But, on this day, fitting in was the least of my thoughts. My son needed something, and that something was me. He needed me to be brave for him, and, for once, it was the most natural thing to be.

So, I am offering you that same bravery today. You can do this life you are called to. You can be comfortable in your own skin and live the kind of way that uniquely meets the needs of another. You can be like Jesus, and not fit into the crowd, because you are infinitely loved and there is a whole, wide, broken world in need of that same love.

Kids Who Vomit on Airplanes and the Parents Who Travel With Them

(originally published in 2013)

just a little fun essay today

I am sad to say that my youngest daughter is a Kid Who Vomits on Airplanes. This means my husband and I have become the Parents Who Travel With Them. Our older two kids don’t do this, or haven’t, since 2004 when one of them vomited twice on a tiny safari airplane in the Masai Mara in Kenya. Once going up and once coming down. But our youngest seems to have trouble with long, international flights, of which she takes many. Here are some of the lessons we have learned.

What happens.

What happens when a kid barfs on airplanes is that you don’t necessarily see it coming. The kid is most likely not sick, at least not with anything contagious. The kid is airsick. Our daughter hates the smell of airplanes, she plugs her nose as she boards, so maybe the smell is a trigger for her. But she is pleasant and feeling great until suddenly she is hurling.

The sudden onset of airsickness means you won’t have time to prepare. You need to prepare ahead of time.

Here’s what you need.

A barf bag. I have rarely seen actual barf bags in the seat pocket in front of me. Bring your own or ask a flight attendant for one and make sure it doesn’t have holes. Large Ziplocks baggies work well. Even if you do discover one in that seat pocket, it can’t hurt to ask for an extra.

A target. You don’t want to be the target, you don’t want your child’s Pillow Pet to be the target, you want the barf bag to be the target. Having the barf bag in your possession but not in your actual hand renders it useless. A baggie in the carry-on roller bag over your head will do nothing for you when the kid blows chunks during takeoff. Hold the bag, make sure the opening is easily widened, remind your child that you have it, just in case.

Extra clothes. Extra clothes for your kid won’t help you if there is projectile vomiting involved or if you failed to follow the suggestion of having a target.

Baby wipes. Even families without babies can benefit from carrying baby wipes. They clean up well and smell, if not great, at least better than barf.

Paper towels or Kleenex. Baby wipes are great but not sufficient. You’ll want a little extra for wiping up your kid’s face and any spillage. You probably can’t rely on the flight attendants to help, they are busy and I’m not sure vomit clean up is in their job description. But it is definitely in the parenting job description. Though they will probably provide extra cleaning supplies.

The airplane bathroom. There is water and a sink in there. I know it is small, I have been in them with twin toddlers. But you can use it. Use the soap, use the paper towels, use the sink. Give your kid a sink bath, rinse out the clothes. Your seatmates would rather have you damp than stinking. While you and the kid will dry, the smell will only grow worse over the course of the flight.

Kindness and gratitude. You will need people to be kind to you, though that will be challenging for them. You stink. Your kid stinks. The sounds she was making made them feel sick. If someone offers a ridiculously small moist hand towelette, accept it with gratitude and not with a snarky, “That’s hardly big enough for this disaster.” Apologize for the smell if someone says something rude but you don’t have to apologize for your kid, they have done nothing wrong, it could happen to anyone.

What she needs.

Your kid needs an extra pair of clothing. Shirt and pants and socks and underwear. If you have a daughter, she needs her hair in a ponytail. She needs a toothbrush. She needs a comfort toy or stuffed animal or distraction game or movie or reminder of the exciting destination. She needs a hug. She needs to know that next time you travel together, you are still willing to sit next to her, that you aren’t angry or embarrassed. Maybe, depending on the strength of your own stomach (channeling Chunk in The Goonies here), she might need to have a barf bag on hand for you, the intrepid parent.

I’m happy to say that on my daughter’s most recent flight from Djibouti to Minneapolis, which included a five-hour delay due to the near death of a fellow passenger, she landed successfully without vomiting. Her first words upon landing, accompanied by a triumphant fist pump?

“I made it!”

To the New Expat…

A few weeks ago, someone who is moving overseas contacted me. This is her first time living overseas, she is going into the unknown, and wants to be as prepared as possible.

Here is what I said to her:

Dear Lucy (name has been changed)

Wow – I’m excited for you and not a little envious! This is an amazing opportunity, and though I know based on your email that you are scared, I think you may find this is one of those gifts that is given to you and your family for this time of your life.

That being said, you asked for practical, not philosophical advice – so here goes:

  1. Learn the numbers as quickly as possible. You will find them everywhere and it will help you to tell time, understand the prices of items, and tell people how many children you have!
  2. Learn the currency and don’t translate it into US dollars. If you do, you will either spend too much money thinking “everything is so cheap,” or too little money and thus, not get the things you need.
  3. Take things that will immediately make your new space feel like home – a few pictures, candles, a couple of books. That way, even as you’re waiting for the rest of your household goods, you can begin to create a home.
  4. Recognize that your children’s grief is real, real, real. Allow them to be sad without putting caveats on the sadness (eg “I know you’re sad, but think how much fun travel will be…”) Travel may be fun, but it will not give them back their friends and schools. Allow them to grieve, and grieve with them.
  5. You are arriving in the summer, a time when expat communities dwindle, so it will probably take some time to connect with others. Still – limit the amount of time that your kids spend on social media, just as you would limit social media in your home country. You cannot, I repeat, you cannot live in two places at once. Believe me, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. So limit the time they spend, and try to get out and explore.
  6. By the same token, don’t allow yourself to spend too much time on Skype, Facebook, or any other social media sites. It will be all you can do sometimes, to tear yourself away. But tear yourself away you must. This is not the end of your world, this is the beginning of a new world. Allow it to be just that.
  7. Don’t be afraid to initially be a tourist. If you don’t explore the area, you may come to the end of your time and find you’ve not seen the world-famous sites there are to see. Use those first weeks to create adventure and have your kids journal about it.
  8. Remember that your culture is just that – your culture. Others have different ways of doing things. They aren’t bad – they are just different. Learn cultural humility, a life skill you will never regret.
  9. News flash: Life wasn’t perfect in your home country. It will be easy to think it was when you are faced with the newness of life and culture shock in its monstrous intensity. But it wasn’t. There are relationship problems, infrastructure issues, and just plain life wherever we live.
  10. You take yourself and your family with you. You aren’t all going to change on the plane. Sure, this is a new start, but you are who you are. At the same time, you are also capable of change and being shaped by the country where you will make your home. Allow that shape to happen.
  11. Have a high tolerance of ambiguity and be capable of complexity. The country where you’re going is dismissed in the western world with a few stereotypical statements. Those are not the complete story. If you allow yourself, you will be able to understand a more complete, and thus richer version of the story.
  12. Give yourself grace. This move is huge! You won’t understand the impact until sometime later, so give yourself, your husband, and your kids grace.
  13. Laugh.Laugh.Laugh. Laughter is a holy gift that will take you through culture shock and culture conflict. It will take you through the hard days and you will be able to look back on them with much joy. So allow yourself the holy gift of laughter.
  14. Most of all, know that “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it!” God lives in other places. He is alive and well across the world, continuing his good work in the redemption story. You are a part of that Story and He is faithful.

I’ve included a picture here that I think you will enjoy! Print it out, and put it on your refrigerator so you remember these ten commandments.

Much love to you,

Marilyn

What would you add for Lucy? Please share in the comments and we will compile the comments for a new post!

Note: This was previously published in July 2015

Is There Gender Bias in Christian Non-Profits?

by Rebecca Hopkins

Women may struggle finding their voice in meetings. They may want to grow in their roles, but don’t have anyone willing to mentor them. They may not be considered for high-level management in Christian non-profits. And their work often goes unnoticed and unsupported, particularly when a couple is sharing one support-based salary. That’s what the latest studies in gender bias in faith-based organizations have shown. 

I sat down to talk with Biola University professor Leanne Dzubinski, who has a doctorate in ministry, an additional Ph. D., and 25 years’ experience in cross cultural ministry. She and other researchers recently surveyed more than 1,500 female leaders about gender bias, 300 of whom come from faith-based organizations.

The 2020 report can be accessed here: “Measuring the Invisible: Development and multi-industry validation of the Gender Bias Scale for Women Leaders.” (Fellow researchers include Amy Diehl, Amber Stephenson and David Wang.) The study is a follow-up to Dzubinski’s and Diehl’s 2016 study on both faith-based organizations and in higher education, titled, “Making the Invisible Visible: A cross-sector analysis of gender-based barriers.”

 

Can you give me a brief summary of the purpose and the results of the studies?

When Amy and I started working together, we looked around and realized that researchers tend to look at just one thing, such as unequal pay, harassment, work/life balance or lack of mentoring. We didn’t see anything that looked at the whole picture. Our first study built a comprehensive picture of the many things that women encounter as leaders in male-dominated culture. We found 27 types of bias. 

 

Is there anything particularly different with faith-based organizations?

We did cross-industry analysis and we did see some differences. (Editor’s note: The researchers also included women leaders from law, medicine, and education in the 2020 study.) 

Everything we identified was present in every sector. Everything is everywhere, but the strength of it differs by field. Part of the reason may be the nature of different industries. For instance, the medical field is highly professionalized. Law is highly competitive. 

As I’ve done this research over the years, I often hear women in mission agencies who say, “We’re 10 years behind the times.”

But we’re not the worst. We’re not the best. We’re just the mainstream. 

Specifically, hostility gender bias, like workplace harassment and queen bee syndrome, was one of the lowest types of biases in the faith-based communities. That aligns with our values. We don’t take kindly to harassing. It could also mean that we’re socialized not to critique and complain.

Interestingly, we did not score badly on salary inequality, even though, in the United States, women still earn an average of 78 percent of what men earn.  That could be because nobody goes into missions work to make a lot of money. (Editor’s note: One exception that the 2016 study identified was the two-person career model, in which one salary is raised to support the work of a couple. This model was identified as a form of gender bias.) 

 

So, what are the types of gender bias with which faith-based organizations struggle? 

There’s a lack of mentoring and lack of sponsorship. There were disproportionate constraints in self-monitoring and how we communicate, how we speak up in a meeting. Do you get your voice heard? Women report being scrutinized more closely.  

Also, women are expected to be nurturing and caring, a form of gender role socialization. It has become embedded in evangelical faith and labeled as “Christian.” This is a fundamental, gender role stereotype. But it doesn’t help our men who like to be kind and nurturing and don’t get recognized for that. And it doesn’t help our women who have a million ideas and don’t get recognized for that. 

 

Tell me more about the two-person career model and its effect on how women are treated in mission organizations. (Editor’s Note: This was a finding from the 2016 study.)

One of the reasons why the two-person career model hinders us in mission organization, the default is to make the women’s work invisible. If there’s one annual report from the family, then nobody knows what the woman actually contributed. If it’s not seen, it may not be supported. It’s hard to support it if you can’t see it.  

 

What are the biggest hurdles for Christians to believe gender bias exists?

In our first study, Amy and I identified gender bias unconsciousness, the idea that someone just does not believe or is not aware that gender matters in the workplace. Women say, “I worked my way to the top, it may not be a problem.” Men reinforce this idea that, “You’re special, you’re not like other women. You have the qualifications to come in and work on this but most women don’t.” 

With conscious unconsciousness, a woman may be aware this is going on, but chooses to distance herself, maybe for self-preservation. 

Gender bias unconsciousness did not show up in this (2020) study. Maybe now it’s virtually impossible to claim this doesn’t exist due to the #metoo and #churchtoo movements. 

On the flip side, I think we’re still dealing with an evangelical subculture that overall prizes male leadership. Women’s leadership has become more accepted at the middle level, and at functional levels like human resources. More CFOs are headed by women now, too. The middle level seems to be OK for women, because there’s still a male above her.  But we still struggle with putting women into those top positions. 

Several things contribute to this, including “sanctified sexism.” This means religiously-based gender schemas, which are used to permit, justify, or excuse treating women differently. Often it’s cast as chivalry or protection by men. But the effect is to diminish a woman’s authority and ability to make choices for her life.

So, for example, not asking a married woman if she wants a leadership role because the male leaders assume she’s too busy with her children is sanctified sexism. They made the decision for her (treating her like a child) instead of with her. 

 

What’s the impact of gender bias on organizations?

Two things that came out in our current study: increased turnover intent and lower job satisfaction. In practical terms for mission agencies, think how expensive and time intensive it is to recruit and deploy a missionary. Women who leave, who self-select to leave the organization and do something else, costs the organization.  

The benefits that research has shown us when we do have a better handle on diversity are better creativity, better decision-making, and better outcomes financially. When we have those diverse voices in the conversation in the beginning, the outcomes are better. The organizations, although they may not see it, are hurting themselves.

 

How has the year 2020 affected this topic?

COVID has been a massive wakeup call for all kinds of organizations who have been chugging along. Mission agencies may capitalize on it, saying, “We know we need to change, but now we’ve got a kick in the pants to get us moving on this.”

Here’s how we can change: including diverse voices, strategizing well and not just falling back on the things we used to be. I’d also include race and ethnicity in the discussion about our need for diversity. The broader and more diverse the pool the better. It may take longer to figure it out, but the result is better. 

 

How could women and organizations use this survey tool to better their cultures? 

An individual woman could go through the survey and score herself, and say, “Now I understand what’s happening.” It could be personally encouraging: “Oh, this isn’t just an issue that I face, but typical for other women.” 

Or organizations could have women leaders take this and analyze the results. Are there areas where they’re doing really poorly? Then find the areas that aren’t too bad and get quick early wins to improve them. This will grow confidence that this is working. And second, find areas that score poorly and come up with a plan to address those. It’s different for every organization. The downside is there’s not a cookie cutter approach. But the upside is that it could be used to identify particular areas for growth.

The questions themselves are in the article. All you need are Survey Monkey and someone who knows statistical analysis to analyze the results for you. 

Amy, Amber and I are open to consultancy to analyze this scale. There are lots of organizations that can help with organizational change.

 

How does change happen in organizations? What are the obstacles to change?

It can feel very disruptive to people who are used to doing things a certain way. For major change, the top leadership needs to be on board and be the spokesperson for continual change. For individual women who are trying to bring about change, be prepared for opposition. Be sure God is calling you to this. 

 

Do you have any stories to share about women leaders in Christian nonprofits about your research about gender bias? 

I do hear stories. There are two lessons, the takeaways that I get over and over again. The first is, women say, “Oh this wonderful.  I have a name for this experience that I went through and I can make sense of it. It’s not my failure.” It helps them not to self-blame and that’s really important. The other thing is how much hurt women have absorbed, how much comes at them. 

But with that hurt, I cannot tell you of a single story where a woman has become bitter. I’m sure there are women who have walked away from the faith. Research tells us that. But I’m not hearing those stories from missionary women or at the college. They’re staying faithful to their organizations, the church and their calling. They persevere. God has called them, and they do not give that up lightly. 

I’m really hopeful that organizations will use (the survey), that it will be helpful for women personally and helpful for organizations more broadly. I’ve been concerned about our mission industry for a long time. If we can improve health in this area it might impact race relations, our relationships with our children, our national partners. It could spread out in a way that can help us do ministry more completely.  

Also, in our present situation of hurt, I believe that women could be the ones to lead in racial reconciliation and change.

 

Editor’s note: Missio Nexus members can access Dzubinski’s recent presentation on this topic.

 

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Rebecca Hopkins wants to help people feel heard, seen and welcome. She spent the first half of her life moving around as an Army kid and the past 14 years trying to grow roots on three different Indonesian islands while her husband took to the skies as a pilot. She now works in Colorado for Paraclete Mission Group and writes about issues related to non-profit and cross-cultural work. Trained a journalist and shaped by the rich diversity of Indonesia, she loves dialogue, understanding, and truths that last longer than her latest address. You can find her online at www.rebeccahopkins.org.

Winter ripe for birth

What a winter we’ve had.
The pandemic, the politics, the panic.
Jobs lost, and family members too. Too many hopes (and people) dead.
And somehow, spring reminds us that winter is ripe for birth.
Winter is always ripe for birth.
As Lewis writes, the seed, myself, that which is deep-buried, may not die, if He is.
And He is.
And though I forget the sun, He remembers.
And though I forget the spring, He remembers.
There is beauty still.
There is hope still.
For He is, still.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Naked Seed
by CS Lewis
My heart is empty. All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up. In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free of pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me while I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
—No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
—Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.