A Tribute to My Expat Friends

You invited me to your home for the holidays without ever having met me, having only messaged once or twice on Facebook. You didn’t know if we had anything in common or would have anything to talk about, but you risked the awkwardness and went out on a limb and invited me and even hosted me and my family anyways.

You shared, rather than hoarded or hid, your special imported treats that had just arrived in someone’s suitcase and gave me a little taste of home when I was feeling desperately homesick.

You offered to bring things over in your suitcases, even when you yourself were getting loaded down with your own stuff and requests from probably 100 other people.

You gently corrected me and my false assumptions when my understanding of the culture and missions was still very new and surface level and you helped me to think about things from a different perspective without condemnation.

You were a listening ear that let me share and vent my frustrations, hurt, anger, and confusion with absolutely zero judgment even when you were dealing with all of your own stuff too. You helped validate the massive swarm of emotions and words going on in my head when you would share a simple “yeah, me too.”  You encouraged me to seek and get help when I needed it.

You made me feel loved and appreciated when you would send random messages of “how can I pray for you today?” and “thinking of you” and you watered our vibrant little community of faith out of the ashes of loss around us.

You pointed me towards Christ in the way you loved and listened to me with a genuine desire to understand my hurt rather than just serving up platitudes of toxic positivity and telling me to suck it up and “be a good Christian soldier.”

You came when we called and showed up in the dead of night or the blazing afternoon sun to pick us up from the airport when we landed hours after we had expected or to pick us up from the side of the road when our car broke down or was compounded yet again.

You showed up with random gifts out of the blue. You cooked delicious meals for me and helped me clean and organize when I felt overwhelmed to do even one more thing.

You went out of your way to see us when we had some rare moments in the capital city and were running around like crazy to get all our errands done or you let us crash on your couch or spare room when you knew we needed a little refuge away from it all.

You laughed when I laughed and cringed when I cringed as I recounted my many language-learning woes, making the whole thing of learning this new way of speaking and communicating feel just a bit less intimidating.

You went on crazy adventures with me to mountains, waterfalls, or busy markets for shopping. You told hilarious jokes and sent me goofy videos and memes or played games with me until all hours of the night and in those moments, it felt like all the weight and the worries disappeared and I could just “be me” and laugh for a little while.

You shared with me all of your struggles and opened up about your failures and doubts, which made life a whole lot easier, knowing that I wasn’t crazy and that there were Christians out there dealing with the same things.

When I told you I was leaving, you didn’t just cut me out of your life as a form of self-protection and “move on to the next one” as I had so agonizingly feared, but you kept inviting me to things and messaging me as you leaned in harder to a friendship you knew was about to change and had yet another painful teary goodbye rapidly approaching.

Our time of living in the same country may be coming to a close, but our friendships and the bonds we forged here will not soon be broken or forgotten. Who I am today has been shaped ever so tenderly by your love, care, and generosity over the years here together in this foreign land.

As our time together comes to an end, the only thing I can really think to say is, “Thank you for being my expat friend.”

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Anna Glenn

Anna Glenn served as an agricultural missionary with her husband in Liberia, West Africa from 2016-2022. She now works back in her home state of Maryland doing agriculture education and youth development while staying involved with local and international missions. Her writing now focuses on her experiences integrating back into the American culture, reflections on her time in missions, and advocacy for better missionary care and support.

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