To Our Friends Here: An Announcement About Changing Leadership

road to the mountains

The A Life Overseas community began over two years ago; it was an idea birthed from two moms who had found their voices via their own blogs, written from the Bolivian countryside and the Asian jungle. We wanted to launch an online community where authentic conversations, honest experiences, and spiritual encouragement could be shared around a common table. The unique thing about this virtual dinner party? Most of those gathered would be hacking it out overseas– this brave, varied, transitional tribe that uniquely understands transitioning in airports and reaching across cultures and raising kids on foreign soils.

Essentially, this blog collaborative was founded on the notion that there needed to be a space for things to be said, that were not being said. We foresaw a global change shaking the ex-patriot and missionary communities and we felt a need to create a place to come together and talk about what was happening. We are so very grateful that so many others heard the rumblings and decided to jump in for the ride. Writers, readers, and commenters came together. We talked. We reasoned. We disagreed. We prayed. We were challenged to think. We were challenged to ask the hard questions.

Over 7,000 comments, 375 posts and nearly one million views later, the conversations around this global table are still growing strong. We’ve been deeply encouraged by the posts and comments and real community that has taken place in this space — both here at the blog and in the Facebook community, as well. We’ve been honored to rub shoulders with so many phenomenal writers who have lent their leadership and experience here, and we’ve been both inspired and challenged by the stories, questions and authentic struggles shared by our readers.

But, like with all things, new seasons bring new paths. This, those of us here understand all too well. And after much prayer and time, we (Angie and Laura) are stepping away from official leadership of the A Life Overseas community. We simply don’t have the time it needs, and feel the Spirit tugging us both to create more margin in our personal lives. Of course, we’ll still pop in on Facebook and with occasional posts (we won’t disappear, promise!), but moving forward a brilliant leadership team will continue to foster the community here. Most of the writers we’ve all grown to love will remain, and the new leadership team will consist of Marilyn Gardner as Chief Editor, Elizabeth Trotter as Content/Guest Post Editor, Andy Bruner as our IT Specialist, and Jonathan Trotter as Community Consultant.  We are both thankful and excited for their leadership and service to this community here — both in the past and moving forward. We want you to know that we are not at odds with anyone on the team (not at all!); it’s just time for both of us to move in other directions.

Our hands might be passing the baton, but they’re also applauding already what is to come.

Thanks, friends from all corners of the world, for gathering at this table and letting us share a bit of your journey in courageous, out-of-the-box Christ-following. We’ve been honored.


Angie Washington and Laura Parker

A Blessing To Our Friends, Engaging in A Life Overseas

For all the people who live suspended between cultural tensions, grace be to you.

Grace for the good days when you can check even just one thing off that to do list, and that’s a colossal “enough”. Grace for the hard days when the overwhelming reality of hardships all around you and inside of you would like to crush your every last hope. Grace for the boring days when nothing is happening, nothing is expected to happen any time soon, and you have to just get through another long day of nothing. Grace, too, for those rare yet spectacular days full of the miraculous wonder of dreams come true, fun adventures, and the deep connection with the people around you so you don’t feel so very foreign anymore.

For all you who Get It. Thank you.

Thank you for not settling. Thank you for going out to see the answer to what if?

Thank you for daring to open yourself up to the unknown. Thank you for laying your hero’s cape at the feet of the least of these.

You have not gone unnoticed.

We see you. We see you questioning the way it’s always been done. We see you stepping beyond the gender box. We see you carrying bone crushing weighty matters with humility and a quiet plod. Continue on in your “long obedience in the same direction,” friends. Keep abiding in the only vine that will ever cause you to really bear fruit, and please know that you are not, ever, alone.


Keep reading. Keep commenting. Keep sharing about the cutting edge relevant matters that make this life overseas, somehow, work. As you were.


Read Angie’s Posts at A Life Overseas   |   Read Laura’s Posts at A Life Overseas

When There’s Nowhere to Go But Home

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.  

What Living Cross Culturally Taught Me About Being a Christian


By Cindy Brandt

I have lived cross culturally almost my entire life. Born in Taiwan, I knew one language, one culture, and one worldview, until I was introduced to the strange habits of the West at age 10. As my tongue adjusted to swirling out two diverse languages, I began to know life only by straddling both the worlds of the East and the West. I was raised cross culturally, married cross culturally, worked cross culturally, and am raising my kids cross culturally. Some days I feel fractured and fragmented, but mostly I am grateful to be privileged with a unique vantage point. Like I have been given two sets of spectacles in a world where most people wear one.

It has been complicated, to say the least, navigating my faith with my two spectacles. When I was introduced to the Christian faith, many of the habits of being Christian felt awkward: standing up and walking down the aisle to pledge my allegiance, praying out loud, singing lots of songs about loving God, which felt totally irreverent coming from a culture where the word “love” was reserved only for romance.

I thought all these habits felt strange, like clothes that didn’t fit quite right, because I was a new believer, new to the ways of Jesus. But that was only part of the reason. As a child, I hadn’t yet perfected the skill of switching my spectacles. My teachers who taught me how to be Christian wore one set of lenses, and I imitated them wearing a different set. By the time I learned how to wear the western lenses, the habits of being Christian no longer felt weird; they were natural.

We all wear a set of spectacles. Everyone does. Those lenses dictate the way we view life. They determine the habits we make, what we eat, when we sleep, when we marry, and how we work. They assign value to our lives, determining what is meaningful: family, faith, honor, love. If you are like me, you wear two spectacles; some people in the world wear three or more.

What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that you can see Jesus wearing different spectacles. You do not have to abandon your spectacles, or switch them out for a new pair, in order to find Jesus. You do not have to forsake the cultural values you were assigned at birth, taught by your parents, passed down by your ancestors, in order to know Jesus. No, you find Jesus by looking through them.

What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that some people have mistaken the Good News to be changing out the spectacles for new ones. We have reduced the Gospel to be an exchange of values and habits. What I have seen in both cultures I reside in, is that there are good values and bad values in both; we are differently good and differently bad. We are quite equally flawed, not one culture can claim superiority to teach the other much. As long as we believe we are the Bearer of Right Values, we will be pronouncing ill-informed judgment on other cultures because we have not yet learned to see God through their spectacles.

What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is there is more than one right way to be Christian. When you see Jesus differently, your walk with Jesus is going to look differently. When people with different spectacles worship Jesus in the same way, it is likely because the dominant cultural narrative has subsumed the minority, often in the name of unity.

They say that God is the same here, there, and everywhere; therefore if you follow God, you will look like me. Uniformity is a passive form of aggression. Homogeneity is coercing everyone to wear one pair of cultural lenses. It is leaving some people stripped of their core values, robbing them of dignity, leaving them without sight to see their way forward. It is perpetuating violence in the name of a nonviolent Jesus. No, the Good News is not that there are new spectacles we get to force upon other people’s faces. Jesus came wearing old spectacles, practicing Jewish laws, performing Jewish rituals.

What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that so much strife, across races, cultures, and nations, happens as a result of people being unaware of their spectacles, believing their worldview is the only right way to live. They begin to see others who live differently as evil or secular. That their way of living is uncivilized, less enlightened, sub-human. They refuse to believe that others also see God, that their lenses are just as clear, their view just as bright. That God reveals Jesus to everyone regardless of what culture they were raised in, no matter what color their skin.

What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that the Good News is the possibility for every tribe and nation to participate in the life-giving, humanity affirming way of Jesus. When he taught us to love our enemies, He was showing us how to honor a different way of doing life, assuring us all that every person is made in God’s image but situated to see God differently.

What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that the Gospel makes room for everyone, those who wear this set of lenses or that, and even, that there is place for me, someone who wears both.

It is Good News, indeed, that not any of us possess the singular image of God, that we only see a partial view, so that we spend our lives inviting more people to our table, to sit, eat, and tell us what they see.


MG_9851_2aMy name is Cindy Brandt. Like a true Third Culture Kid, I feel sure I belong someplace, yet live each day in search of it. Along the way, I write about faith, culture, and beauty in the margins at I live in Kaohsiung, Taiwan with my husband and two TCKs with very well-stamped passports.

Missionary or Indiana Jones?

When we talk about missions, how do we frame the conversation? Is it about adventure for God? About putting your life at risk for the gospel along with a helping of pride? Today our guest poster, Tera, talks about this. Once you read it, will you join the conversation at the end of the piece? We’d love to hear from you — what do you think? bedouin-173383_1920

The other day I was perusing my Facebook feed and noticed several inspiring stories and updates from “The Mission Field.” Instead of being excited by the various accounts, I found myself feeling frustrated. It felt like two-dimensional portrayals of these individuals’ lives, both the missionary and the person being ministered to. It bothered me to think that people would read these stories and believe that this was what Missions is like. That it’s a simple 1 + 1 = inspirational and complete success! When in reality it mostly means 1 + 1 = only the beginning.

Initially I thought this was caused by a consumer-type mentality, an unrealistic expectation towards missionaries. But as I thought more about it I realized that the fault begins with us missionaries. I think we often do a disservice to Missions when we focus on the final product, the crest of a wave rather than its roiling, gritty, pitching crash.

We get disheartened when it comes time to write our newsletter and we have to wrack our brain for the correct kind of information, the right anecdote. We’re discouraged by the feeling that if we don’t have something sensational to share then we haven’t earned our keep and won’t inspire those who have commissioned us. Yet we contribute to this cycle by prioritizing the interesting over the reality. We exchange true support and encouragement for portrayed adventure and even heroism. We ask our supporters back home to partner with us in ministry but deprive them of the opportunity when we don’t clue them in. We rob ourselves of the chance to receive true prayer-support for the uphill climb of discipleship. We miss out on the depth of revelation, relationship, and wisdom that comes from sharing a mistake, a frustration, or a discouraging experience. We forget that we are only a member of a team and we cheat our teammates when we don’t invite them in to pray, support, encourage, exhort, and advise.

I think we need to stop selling Missions as an adventure. Missions doesn’t need to be advertised.

Missions isn’t conquering Everest. It isn’t a gripping, best-selling novel or big, blockbuster hit. I’m not Indiana Jones. At no point when I became a missionary did I escape myself. I still live side by side with my selfishness, my pride, my insecurities, my propensity for sin, my inadequacies, and my own limitations in understanding God and His teachings.

So what is Missions?

Missions is plowing a field; It’s the privilege of watching a butterfly emerge from a caterpillar’s cocoon and knowing that the miracle isn’t a result of your own doing; It’s embracing and sometimes offending a different culture; It’s sinking instead of swimming; making dinner; paying bills; fortifying your marriage; teaching; preaching; investing in friendship…

Perhaps Missions is an adventure after all.

It’s the adventure of being used by God in spite of yourself.

It’s the adventure of everyday life.

 What do you think? Has Missions been sold as an adventure? How would you reframe it? 

TaraTera, along with her husband, serves with YWAM as part of a Bible training team with the goal of “equipping the local church in Cape Town South Africa with Biblical teaching, training, and discipleship”. To read more about them and their ministry head over to

When You Have to be Carried


By Erin Duplechin

I’m in the middle of the Papua New Guinean jungle.  And I’m freezing.  Thin top sheets are piled on top of me and my daughter’s small, square blanket, but it’s not enough.  There wasn’t a reason to bring thick blankets.  Though skin is like fire, I shiver and teeth chatter.  Body hurts; joints, muscles, I ache all over.  My stomach does flips over and over again and it’s all I can do to pry myself out of bed to walk outside to the pit toilet.

I lie there, eyes closed tight, hoping just to sleep through the worst of it.  When my husband joins me later, he wraps arms around me, legs around me, trying to spread warmth.

The nurse had spoken it that night: malaria.  The sickness that scares those who aren’t familiar with it.

It’s our last day in the village.  Tomorrow we leave.  This isn’t how I wanted to say goodbye.  How can I say all the things I wanted to say?

Morning comes, I can still barely move.  Our village house is packed up about me, my children in the arms of their brown-skinned sisters.  The world around me has blurred.

The news comes that the truck has arrived to pick us up.  It’s a fifteen minute walk away that starts with a large, steep hill.  I pray for the strength to make it to the truck.  I get out of bed, my village mama helping me.

They give me a staff to lean on, but after only a minute or two the staff isn’t enough and I must lie down on the dirt and grass.

Every ounce of strength has left me.

Hands pick me up, guiding to the path.  The dark-skinned man comes toward me.  He isn’t much taller than me, a Highlands man.  On his head, the grey hair far outnumbers the black.  He is the papa of brown and white skins- my papa.  He bends down in front of me, the women help me sit in to him.  I wrap weak arms around his neck.  He lifts up his white daughter.

We climb the hill in front of us.  His breathing heavies, but he doesn’t stop.

We make it to the top of the hill, he gently sets me down.  Mama is there to pick up the slack.  The two of them come on either side me, each pulling an arm over their necks, putting their arms around my waist.  We move slow, easy.  They keep pace with me, letting me rest when I need to, holding up my frail body.

Finally we see the truck and soon I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat, eyes closed again.  I can’t say goodbye like I want to.  Mama finds my hand again.  Tears brim and spill, and I pray they speak while my voice remains silent.  Papa too, his hand grabs mine and squeezes.  Brown and white, embraced and melded.

There are other times I’ve felt this way, weak and immobile.  Times when the body’s strong, but the heart feels feeble.  Times when uncertainty comes quick: I don’t know if I can do this.  But always, always, Papa comes.  I lean in to him, and he carries me.  Arms of strength, arms of love. 

I think of the Shepherd.  He lets me rest in green meadows; He renews my strength.  He brings me to His banqueting table, laden with the finest and richest of fare, His love banner flying high.  And I think of how he carries his sheep in his arms.

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd.

He will carry the lambs in his arms,

Holding them close to his heart.”

Isaiah 40:11

And when He left the ninety-nine and the one was found, did he not, with great delight, carry him on his shoulders?

“And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”Luke 15:5

I am learning, for really the first time in my life, that my strength is not enough.  And it never will be.  That weakness is a gift.  That I must give way to the journey; that I must give thanks for the process.  Surrender in its purest form: giving thanks in all circumstances.  I am learning. 

I’m learning to give thanks for spilled milk, and messes, and yes, even malaria.  For what a joy to be carried in sickness.  What a joy to feel physical healing.  What a joy to know when skin shivers and body aches that the Son Himself shared in sufferings greater and more painful.  So, right now I say thank you, Jesus; You are wonderful in all your ways.

Give me the Good Shepherd, the Papa of the flock, my Care-giver and Keeper on High.  For He is familiar with my ways and knows me deep and wide.  And when I suffer or stray, his arms find me.

I wrap puny arms tight.  His breathing  isn’t heavy, it’s slow, patient.  I lean in now, giving way to the weakness, finding His warmth.

When have you had to be carried? 


Erin is a missionary wife and mama of two living in Papua New Guinea. Before moving overseas, she served as a worship leader and continues singing and writing songs abroad. She writes regularly about God and jungle life at

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

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 more about Carole at the end of the post.

Greece (67a)

Help—I’ve fallen off my pedestal and now it’s crushing me! 

On leaving the field

We moved overseas to follow that noblest of callings.  Everyone thought we were great, amazing, uber-Christians.  Even those outside of our religious circles thought we were super-awesome to move halfway around the world with our young children on this grand adventure.  Our training did nothing to quash those ideas.  I remember phrases like “called-out ones” and “specially chosen.”  They said, “If God called you, He will equip you to learn the language.” and “God is already at work there.  You are just joining Him.”  And even though our mouths said, “Hey, we’re just normal people, taking the next step in God’s will,” our hearts just knew there was something special about us.  Otherwise, why would God have called us?

But I started building my pedestal a long time before we bought extra-large suitcases.  As a child, missionaries were my heroes.  They were mysterious—speaking a language I couldn’t understand and proficiently using chopsticks.  They were glamorous—taking the attention of the entire church, where everyone listened with rapt attention.  They were noble—sacrificing all ‘for the sake of the call.’  Oh, if only I could be one of them . . . if only I could stand in front of a church and everyone listen to ME!!

We arrived on the field full of vision and idealism.  What others had started, we would finish!  If it took two years or twenty, we were in it for the long haul, ready to plant our lives among our people group, to follow Christ’s pattern of incarnationality and Paul’s “all things to all men” philosophy.  Our exit strategy said, “When workers are no longer needed in this place, we will leave.”

We learned language . . . mostly in our own strength, supplemented by God’s response to the prayers of those who loved us and remembered us.  We learned a little about how to share Truth and a lot about how NOT to share Truth.  Somewhere along the way, we came to realize that we really weren’t anything special.  If anything, we were the weak ones, called out so that God could get even more glory.  But the people back home still thought we were a couple of levels above the norm.

Just before we returned to the US for a six-month stateside assignment, God blessed us with some encouraging stories.  So we ‘poured out our passion’ to as many groups as we could fit into our time in the US, sharing those stories and challenging people to pray—even to come and join us in the work.  We thought we were thriving.  Without a doubt, we were good at the promotional aspects of mission work.  People laughed; people cried.  They told us that we were the most interesting missionaries they had ever heard.  They gave us money.  It was everything I had dreamed of as a child.

Within two weeks of returning to our assignment, however, things began to fall apart.  A trusted friend had warned us about second-term culture shock, but it just never went away.  And we had not rested (spiritually or physically) while we were stateside.  Obstacle after obstacle pelted our family:  many small things and a few big things.  After less than a year, we fled for counseling, where we patched our spirits up, established stronger boundaries, and cried.  At least I cried . . . a lot.  But when we jumped back into culture and service, we felt restless, unsettled.  We searched our hearts for some sin to confess but found none that renewed our contentment.  We hung on, waiting out the trials because a change was coming.  That change passed.  New workers were coming.  They came.  The sense of discontent just got stronger.  Still, we held on.  We were committed to this people and this work.  Plus, people depended on us to be ‘their’ missionaries.  They prayed for us.  They gave to support us.  How could we abandon all that?

I had quietly but most assuredly fallen from my pedestal.  I was not the mysterious, glamorous, noble missionary that I had dreamed of being.  I was a broken, middle-aged woman with fragile children and few ‘success stories’ to share.  I lay there under my pedestal as it crushed my lungs and prevented me from voicing my disillusionment . . . my failure.

There are many reasons that we came ‘home’ (I use quotation marks because it still doesn’t feel like home.  People say it never will be ‘home’ again.  I’ve been ruined for ‘home’ until we get to Heaven.)  Ultimately, God either called us to come back or released us to come back.  Or both.

I share this story to let you know that the pedestal is punishing.  It holds you to standards that are not God’s, and it isolates you from those who love you.  Kick it out from under you.  Kick it far, far away.  Missionaries are no more ‘called’ than anyone else who obeys God’s direction for his or her life:  teachers, doctors, steel workers, pastors, truck drivers, baristas, lawyers.  There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom.  There are simply those who obey and those who don’t.

I have no doubt that God called us overseas and that He used us for the full six-and-a-half years we lived there, my personal motives notwithstanding.  Whatever God gives us to do next and wherever He takes us, we will be operating in our giftedness (which comes from Him), not in our sense of noble sacrifice or our desire for attention.  It’s time for us to back out of that ‘professional Christian’ status, to simply live out the Christ-life as people who love Him, each other, and those around us.  It’s time for us to focus more on His glory than ours.  Francis Chan said it well in Crazy Love (44-45):

It doesn’t really matter what place you find yourself in right now.  Your part is to bring Him glory—whether eating a sandwich on a lunch break, drinking coffee at 12:04 a.m. so you     can stay awake to study, or watching your four-month-old take a nap.

The point of your life is to point to Him.  Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His.

Have has the pedestal held you to standards that are not God’s? How has it isolated you from those who love you? 

Carole and her husband have twice found themselves “walking Jesus” in coastal African cities—the second time with two small children.  Now, in something resembling a Christian mid-life crisis, they are beginning again (hopefully with a little more wisdom) and watching God work even as they re-prepare.  Carole can be found blogging about whatever God puts into her mind at

A Life Alone

After writing the post on single missionaries about a month ago a number of people who are working overseas and are single contacted A Life Overseas. And it was so good. Because we realized we had been neglecting this critical part of our community. Today our guest poster Geren St. Claire talks about what he has heard from some single missionaries through his work at CalledTogether. You can read more about Geren at the end of the post. 


A Life Alone

Everyone who has ever experienced the joyful shock of uprooting their entire life and re-implanting it in a new culture knows how surprisingly lonely such a move can be. But what many of us do not fully understand is the double burden carried by those who move overseas without the comfort and support of a spouse. Singleness intensifies isolation. Consider the following illustration:

A life alone



The intensity of isolation grows when a person does not have the support of a family. One single worker put it this way:

“Cross cultural loneliness is its own kind of loneliness. No matter what you do or how hard you try, you will never be able to integrate 100% into your adopted culture. Yet once you integrate even a little, that culture has become a part of you. You will never see or fit into your home culture the same way again. This whole process can be surprisingly wonderful, but at the same time terrifyingly isolating. It is no wonder that many of us do not want to walk this path alone. We want someone there with us who can honestly tell us, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Singles on the field often tell me about their difficulty coming to a sense of true belonging, even among their team. Perhaps that is why singles are about 40%-50% less likely to go overseas long-term. Add those numbers up: With a global total of around 500,000 cross-cultural workers, the international Church may be losing as many as 80,000 potential harvesters due to the isolation of singleness.

As we pray for the Lord to send more workers into the harvest field, we ought to consider new ways to recruit, sustain, encourage, and empower singles for the work ahead. I oversee a network of globally-called singles, and I invited some of them to share their hearts with you—both the good and bad. Here’s a summary of what they said:

4 ways to Empower Singles (As Told by Singles)

  1. Honor them. “Give… honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). Singleness on the field is difficult and scary, and those who follow Christ in the face of these difficulties are worthy of honor. 71% of the singles who responded to our internal poll said that isolation is a major issue for singles who serve Christ overseas. How can you recognize and honor that sacrifice?
  1. Invite them to belong. We are designed for more than just marriage. We’ve been grafted and intimately woven together in Christ. We are one Body. One Bride. Brothers and Sisters. Adopted Children. When I read the book of Acts, I am always overwhelmed by the familial intimacy shared by the early Christians—to such a degree that the Romans mistook them as incestuous. The early Christians adopted one another into their families, and shared life with one another. We ought to do the same today. But this doesn’t just happen by itself. Melanie recounts her experience on the field,

“it seems like 99 meals out of 100, I eat alone. For about a year, I had a standing weekly ‘date’ to eat dinner with a worker family on my team. Words can’t say what this simple thing meant to me. It’s generally not enough for a worker family to say, ‘Oh, you’re welcome here any time.’ But specifically inviting me to share meals and life and events with them was a great blessing.”

Are there singles in your city? What would it look like for you to adopt them into your family? Did a single recommend this article to you? Maybe take that as a friendly hint.

  1. Don’t Look Down on Singles

There are a whole slew of emotions that can stem from being single on a team of married couples, and singles are not often in a position to express their frustrations. Staci offered some helpful examples of team dynamics that had hurt her:

 [last year,] our team leader didn’t think it was worth it to keep doing our monthly team meetings because the other married couple was out of town. Now, from my perspective, it felt as if somehow we (the singles) weren’t important enough to keep our team-meetings going…

 …Another thing I often experience is being treated like I’m a teenager. Our team leader is only a few years older than I am, but often calls my team-mate and I “the girls” and talks about how young we are and how we need looking after… it often feels belittling whether they mean it or not.

Lest we drift into pride, lets reflect on a few simple truths and ask God to expose any error in our thinking. Here are some truths about singleness and marriage that may serve as correctives:

– Singleness is not something to be pitied. Certainly, there are side effects of singleness that may warrant compassion—loneliness, insecurity, dreams lost or delayed, etc. But singleness itself is not a bad thing, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7. Making this distinction can help you immensely as you try to empathize with singles.

– Marital status isn’t something earned or deserved. There shouldn’t be pride or shame in either case, because marriage is always a gift from God.

– Marriage is a blessing. God loves good marriages, so seeking a good marriage is one way to honor God. There is no shame in desiring or pursuing marriage, because God calls it good.

– Marriage cannot be used to enhance or prove someone’s value or worth—to attempt to do so is idolatry.

– Likewise, marriage cannot complete a person.

– Marriage doesn’t make a person more holy. God sanctifies through marriage, but He also sanctifies through singleness. Given that Jesus and Paul were both single, it is dangerous to say that marriage opens a person up to ‘higher levels’ of sanctification. That may be the experience of some, but marriage has stifled the sanctification of others. What sanctifies is living in the light of community, and this can come through, or apart from, marriage.

– Singleness has some advantages that should be recognized. For example, as Melanie writes, “Many singles integrate into a host culture in a way that married folks and families don’t. When they return to their apartment each night, they don’t have a home-culture family to retreat to. Value this skill.” Likewise, the apostle Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 7 about how singles are able to focus more intently on the work of the Lord, because their time and attention is not divided.

How have you hurt the singles around you by harboring false attitudes towards singleness? Where might repentance be necessary? What about confession?

  1. Hook a brotha up!

Once our attitudes are correctly calibrated (and usually not until then), we can begin to help our single friends search for a godly spouse. Most (but not all) singles have a strong desire to be married, and you might be surprised just how willing they would be to receive your help. But you need to offer help with the right kind of attitude, or it can come across as condescending.

You can network with other team leaders within your organization, or with friends back in your sending churches. Singles on the field have very few opportunities to connect with potential marriage material, and they may gain a lot of hope just knowing that the doors are still open, whether or not you actually find the right person for them.

Finally, you might consider telling your single teammates about, which is an inter-agency network of globally-called singles. The website has grown quickly since its May ‘14 launch to include more than 1000 singles, further highlighting their felt need for community.

Are the singles on your team open to your help in their search a spouse? Is your attitude toward singleness getting in the way? How can you help them in their search?


There are great gains to be made, both for the Church and for our teams, if only we can learn to love singles more effectively. And truthfully, love should not need a justification. It is its own reason. So I challenge you to connect with, belong to, and love the single God has placed around you, for the sake of Jesus’ name.

— Author Bio —

Gerin St. Claire (@gerinteed) is the cofounder and director of operations for CalledTogether. He recently completed seminary and now lives with his wife in Dallas, TX.

What to Write

Productivity and results. These are hallmarks of the west, demonstrations of success that prove our worth. And when you are accountable to others, even if you live a world away, the pressure can build to show results, to document success. Our guest poster, Laura, takes us into this topic with gracious honesty. You can read more about Laura at the end of the piece. For now I know this will resonate with you so we invite you to read through and join the conversation at the end of the piece.



Once a month there’s the pressure to produce results. To write a letter that proves to people who are praying and giving that I am doing my job. And since I blog, there’s weekly pressure as well.

But what about when life is culture stress and paperwork. When it’s forcing myself to attend a church service in a language I don’t understand yet. When it’s tears and homesickness and a craving for foods I can’t find at any store in town.

And what about when ministry is sitting alone in a coffee shop because I’m trying to begin building relationships with people. Or picking someone up from work because there’s a strike and the buses aren’t running. Or taking someone shopping after church because she doesn’t have a car. Or going to a monthly girls’ Bible study that I don’t lead. Or standing on a football (soccer) field staring at the kids kicking the ball because I know virtually nothing about football.

What do I write then?

When there are no dramatic stories of people accepting Christ and being baptized. No young adutls growing through a Bible study I am teaching. No amazing testimonies of teens choosing to live for Christ because of what I shared at camp.

There’s simply everyday life in a foreign country. Learning where items are in the grocery store. Learning how to drive on the other side of the road. Collecting paperwork for needed immigration documents. Finding my way to new places. Figuring out how to best communicate with new teammates. Skyping with family and friends. Learning how to use public transportation. Learning, listening to and speaking a different language.

And it can all be extremely overwhelming and exhausting. Teammates tell me to take my time adjusting to my new culture, yet each month it seems as though I need to have something amazing and ministry-related to write.

Now that I am beginning life in my third new country and culture, I am learning that all of these everyday tasks that consume the first few months of life in a new country are tasks I need to learn in order to effectively serve in that country. If I can’t find my way to someone’s house, I can’t meet her for a Bible study. If I can’t find items in a grocery store, I can’t invite people over for a meal. If I can’t communicate well with teammates, I will become frustrated.

These months of transition make for some rather uneventful, maybe even dull, prayer letters. However, I know that the relationships, the activities, the events, the leading will come. So for now I attempt to drive the curvy, country roads without becoming lost and without driving on the right-hand side of the road. I attend the Bible studies and look for ways to contribute without taking over. I invite people into my home. I listen; I watch; I learn. And I share these small victories in my blog posts and letters because these accomplishments are answers to prayer too.

How do you share with prayer supporters about the transition months in a new country? Do you feel “guilty” for not having enough ministry-related items to share?


Bio: Laura has served in Portugal and South Africa and is currently adjusting to life and ministry in Ireland. God has given her a heart for teen and young adult girls, as well as a love for living overseas and drinking coffee. She writes regularly about living cross-culturally at

*Picture Credit:

When People Hate My Home

If there is anything that convicts a third culture kid it is a post like this! Because it’s not easy to love our passport countries and sometimes we fall into the category of the biggest criticizers. And that’s why I love this post by Lindsey Lautsbaugh – because she walks us through what it means to both appropriately love our passport countries as well as how to respond to those who don’t.  You will recognize the name as Lindsey’s husband Chris is a regular contributor to A Life Overseas. But Lindsey is new to this space and  the wisdom and grace she shares  in this piece are welcome additions.  You can read more about Lindsey at the end of the piece. 

down with usa

I was 19 and just beginning to explore a future in missions. An internationally diverse group of us traveled all around Namibia doing presentations in local high schools. To begin our presentation, each team member would introduce themselves.

“My name is Lindsey and I am from the United States of America.”

As the only American in the group I secretly revelled in the loud cheers and applause that I got each and every time. No other person got that sort of response for their nation.

Fast forward 10 years… how times have changed.

My husband and I, on a Sunday morning, were listening to our local church pastor. He was preaching out of 1 Peter on how to live in an anti-God society. I remember the moment so clearly. Our pastor was really finding his groove.

“What do Christians do when their nation is so corrupt or so violent… completely opposed to the Kingdom of God? God has strength for those who live under rulers of nations like Iraq, Zimbabwe and the United States!”

We stared straight ahead but could read each others minds instantly. “Did he just compare our President to Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe?”. Yes, he did.

We were not blind to the changing perception of our home country. If we did have any doubts that times and perceptions had changed, this church service erased them.

A few months later we had a prayer time with all our staff and students at our Bible School. For some reason, those leading the time felt to pray for America… not something we had done before. The prayer topic was not well received to put it lightly. As everyone broke into groups to pray, a strange silence enveloped the room (not normal for a prayer time in Africa!).

After 10-15 minutes the leaders spoke up, “What is going on? Why is no one praying?” Finally someone broke the silence, “In order to pray for a nation you have to have something good to say about them, I can think of nothing good to say about America.” Person after person admitted this was true for them too. This awkward-ness was compounded by the fact that their were several Americans in the room.

The reality is, people from many nations other than America have these similar stories and worse. No matter where we go in the world, there is a high likelihood that one nation or culture is despised or looked down upon by another nation or culture.

What do you do when you are a “missionary” trying to serve, connect and engage with those who do not accept your nation?

I can tell story after story of people who have talked down to, insulted, or otherwise disliked my “home nation”. Here are 3 things I’ve learned in this process:

Humble yourself and listen well

Hearing people demean my nation is not comfortable on many levels. I can feel defensive of my nation as a whole. I can also feel personally wounded. I can easily think, “If they believe all Americans are arrogant and stupid… what does that mean about me?” Honestly, it doesn’t help when people try to re-assure me that I am the exception to this rule.

Every time I am in these situations I instantly remind myself to “stay humble and listen well“. Don’t get defensive, antagonistic or rude in any way. Don’t just ignore it either. This is an opportunity to learn deeply and be formed more into the image of Christ who humbled himself to the point of death on the cross. Clearly, this is not death on the cross.

Even if people truly do hate my nation, God loves those people. Let God humble us enough to love and listen to them well. As we listen, perhaps there is a chance to apologise for a true wrong that was done to them in the name of our country. These chances are missed when we don’t humbly listen.

Lastly, in this humbling we get a small taste of those who endure xenophobia, racism and sexism on a daily basis. It is only a small taste, but it is an opportunity for deeper empathy and compassion.

See the opportunity for true relationship

These opportunities have often been gateways to true and deep friendship.

A few weeks ago a person said to me, “Well, I’m sure your nation is going to bomb Russia for this Ukraine situation. You have a bomb for every problem”. The cynicism was heavy in his voice.

I carefully listened and then felt to ask, “Do you see me in this same way? Arrogant and walking all over people?”.

Instead of ignoring the comment or even silently agreeing in my mind I felt to reach out in true relationship. He stopped in his tracks, surprised I had said that. Instantly he softened and we had a good chat, both of us affirming each other.

To another friend I once admitted, “I sometimes am intimidated to meet new people in South Africa. I feel that once they hear my accent I will instantly be judged. I actually feel embarrassed to talk to new people.”  My friend was shocked and our friendship went to a whole new level with my admission.

These moments of division can actually be a turning point towards true relationship if we pursue it lovingly and sincerely.

Let it soften you, not harden you

 I have found there are two ways to become hard hearted.

First, we can harden our heart towards others. “All people from __________ culture make fun of me because of my nationality!” We began to make generalisations and blanket statements… just like was being done to us. Hurtful comments towards our home nation can harden our hearts towards others. We carry resentment. We don’t feel accepted.

Constantly work towards keeping a soft disposition instead of becoming hard and bitter.

Sometimes, though, we join with haters and say, “Yes! My nation is so terrible… they are so materialistic, I can’t stand it.” This is an error.

It is appropriate and Christ-like to love our nation of birth, to bless them and want to see the best for them. Don’t let your heart become hard towards your nation of birth.

I’ve seen so many missionaries who seem to be in missions because they can’t stand their own nation… not because they love their nation and the nation God has called them to.

 Fight with everything you’ve got to stay soft in heart.

 What about you? Have you ever faced this in missions? What lessons have you learned along the way?

headshot-lindseyLindsey lives in Cape Town, South Africa as a missionary with Youth With a Mission. She grew up as a pastor’s kid and dreamed of being a missionary as long as she can remember. At the age of 19 she packed her bags and headed to Africa. She’s been living the missions life ever since. Lindsey is married to Chris Lautsbaugh and together they have 2 sons, Garett and Thabo. Her passion is teaching on relationships including marriage, parenting, dating, sexuality, and friendship. In South Africa she works at a University of the Nations campus, training young people to have a passion for Jesus and people. Lindsey writes at and is on Titter (@mrslautsbaugh).


Photo Credit: The photo was taken by Cliff Gardner (Marilyn’s  husband) on a recent trip to Iran. It is not intended to offend anyone, rather to bring out the point of the post. On a side note when walking through the bazaar an Iranian woman grabbed the arm of one of the delegation and said “Where are you from?” When she responded “Amreeka” the woman shook her head and said ” “Welcome, where have you been? We have been waiting for you for 32 years.” It was a genuine expression that was to be repeated over and over during their time in Tehran and Qom.

A word on guest posts: We have had a number of submissions and I apologize if you have not received a response. Please continue submitting to with a copy to If you have not received a response and you sent some time ago – feel free to send again! We will catch up and we love your engagement with A Life Overseas!

Living Well Where You Don’t Belong


Today’s post is by Joann Pittman. Joann is a childhood friend from Pakistan who I reconnected with a few years ago. As a woman who has lived her entire life cross-culturally, Joanne is gifted at helping others learn to live effectively across cultures. You can read her full bio at the end, but for now enjoy this post on “Living Well Where You Don’t Belong”.


I have spent most of my life overseas, that is, not in my “passport country.” I am an American, but I spent the first 14 years of my life in Pakistan, where my father was a professor and pastor, and have spent the past 28 years living and working in China. This means that I have lots of practice in living where I don’t belong.

“Belonging” has multiple layers of meanings. One is purely internal, referring to how I feel about my place in whatever space I find myself in. Do or can I FEEL like I belong somewhere, regardless of the circumstances or living conditions?

Another aspect of ‘belonging,’ however, is external – how do the local residents view me? Do or can they view me as belonging, or will they always consider me an outsider who doesn’t really belong here.

Below are eight tips for living well where you don’t belong.

  1. Cultivate a tolerance of ambiguity. According to, ambiguity is defined as “doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention,” which is just another way of saying you don’t know what the heck is going on. As those of you who live (or have lived) cross-culturally know, this is permanent state of affairs, as you grapple with a language that is different, customs that seem strange, and social systems that are often opaque. Those with a low level of ambiguity tolerance may experience more culture stress than those who can say (honestly) “I don’t have a clue what’s going on around me, and that’s fine.”
  2. Remember that the burden of change is on you, not on the locals. The locals have done things their way for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, and they aren’t going to change just because you showed up, not matter how noble your reasons for being there.
  3. View everything as a privilege, not an entitlement. The American sense of entitlement is strong, and often not helpful when living cross-culturally. It is true that we have many rights for which we should be thankful, but we need to keep in mind that they are not automatically transportable. In China, for example, I am not entitled to speak freely on any topic anywhere or form an assembly or social organization. But in many ways, those are the easier things to deal with. What is harder is to remember that I am not entitled to the level of convenience and efficiency that I am used to ‘back home.’ If we can leave behind our sense of entitlement, we are then free to view everything (whether they bring joy or annoyance) as a privilege.
  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Maintain your sense of humor. Look for the humor in everyday life, remembering that YOU are often the main source.  You will find yourself in many funny and perhaps embarrassing situations. Go ahead and laugh about it. Laughing beats fretting every time. One of my former colleagues in China used to say that he was convinced that the main role of a foreigner in this society was to provide entertainment to the locals. I think he was right.
  5. View cultural mistakes as learning opportunities.  It’s important to remember that if you are living cross-culturally, you WILL make cultural mistakes. Fortunately cultural mistakes are not fatal, unless of course the cultural mistake you make is not crossing the street properly. In most cases, locals are very gracious towards foreign sojourners in their midst who are making obvious attempts at learning the language and culture.
  6. Limit yourself to one “why” question per day.  One of my favorite quirky Hong Kong movies is a mad-cap adventure called “Peking Opera Blues.” The movie itself is entertaining, but the poorly translated “Chinglish” subtitles add to the humor. In one scene, the beautiful damsel enters a garage and finds it littered with dead bodies (the mafia had just paid a visit), and utters (according to the subtitles) “WHY IS IT LIKE THIS?” Those of us who live cross-culturally find this question on the tips of their tongues pretty much all the time. We look are around and see so much that is unfamiliar and confusing and want to shout WHY IS IT LIKE THIS? If the question is driven by a true desire to understand, then it is fine; however, most of the time, it simply means “it’s not like this back home, so it shouldn’t be like this here,” and excessive use of the question just opens the door for a rant. So…make a rule. Only one “why” question per day.
  7. Be prepared to adjust /modify your own behaviors. In his book “The Art of Crossing Cultures,” Craig Storti suggests that cultural adjustment is really adjusting to two things: to new behaviors of the locals that annoy, confuse, and unsettle us, and adjusting or weeding out those behaviors that we have that confuse and annoy the locals. Truth be told, that’s the harder adjustment sometimes.
  8. Strive to be an ‘acceptable outsider.’  I live in China, which is an insider/outsider culture. There are two kinds of people in the world: Chinese and foreigners, and they are as mutually exclusive as Jew and Gentile. There is nothing I can ever do to be considered an insider in Chinese culture.  The best I can become is an acceptable outsider, one who is active in learning the language and culture and taking steps to gain access to the world of the insiders. It also means that I try not to settle for not being offensive; rather I make it my goal to be polite. Sometimes I even succeed! In my case part of ‘belonging’ means coming to terms with my permanent outsider status.

What tips do you have to add? Would love to hear some in the comments section. 

*This post was originally published in Communicating Across Boundaries.

Joann Pittman is a consultant, trainer, researcher, and writer who helps people prepare for and navigate the challenges of cross-cultural living. She has lived in China since 1984, working as an English teacher, Chinese language program director, English language program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has done extensive study and research in Chinese language, history, and contemporary society, and is a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese. She is the author of Survival Chinese Lessons. You can read Joann’s blog Outside-In at You can follow her on Twitter.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, So Make Sure You’re a Part of One

Some of you are packing your bags, and with that, packing up a life overseas. There is so much that goes into this – from the practical, like tickets and packing, to the reflecting and the goodbyes. Today we hear from a blogger/writer Becca Garber who has been overseas with the military. As she packs up her bags she lets us get a glimpse into her life and raising small children overseas. You can read more about Becca at the end of the post. 


I live in a little town in Sicily, Italy, because my husband is stationed here with the U.S. military. There are about 5,000 Americans here, and most are here for about three years. You would think that a military base overseas would be a close-knit community, and for many individuals it is exactly that.

However, one of the confessions I hear most often from friends and acquaintances is that they – or someone they know – feel very isolated. The list of reasons for their isolation is as varied and complicated as they individual. They miss the community they left, they didn’t chose to move here, or they feel like they are living in a fishbowl in base housing. For those of us that live in the surrounding Sicilian towns, we face further barriers because of language and cultural barriers with our neighbors and a lack of public community spaces.

Becoming comfortable with an isolated, insulated life is not how we were meant to live. I believe strongly that we should live in community, that we should go outside frequently, that we should know our neighbors, that we should welcome them into our homes (a lot! all the time! standing invitation!), that we should cook for them, that we should accept their food, that we should be open and nonjudgmental and communicative and truthful even if we don’t like them.

Even if we can’t speak their language.

The person I’m aspiring to emulate in all of this is, of course, Jesus, who hung out with everyone (saints and sinners) everywhere (temples and wells, open fields and street corners). He came to love and live with people, and I think we are hardwired as humans to need and love and crave human interaction, support, and community.

If you feel isolated, if you want to live in community, the only person who is going to change that is you.

When my young family and I moved to Sicily three years ago, we were warmly welcomed into a wonderful community of Christians, and that helped us to turn around and return the favor to other newcomers. Here are a few things I am glad we did to build our community and avoid isolation in Sicily. (And then I’ll share some things I wish I’d done.)

Things I am glad we did

  • We invited people into our home regularly for meals, Bible study, game nights, book club, play dates, birthday parties, holidays, and anything we could think of. As a general goal, we had someone in our home at least once a week for at least one of these reasons. People love to see inside other people’s homes. People don’t mind the scattered toys and dirty floors. If they do, they are probably learning — just like I am — to get over it and to enjoy the real, honest person who was brave enough to invite them in.
  • We attended religious services (in our case, the base chapel) regularly, even though we didn’t always like it. If we were in town, we went to chapel, even with visitors. What we didn’t like — the music, the nursery — we tried to quietly contribute to and improve, at least for a season.
  • I got very involved in a women’s Bible study; that became “my thing.” Maybe because they offered free childcare? I’m not ashamed to admit it! Either way, those women became my best friends during our time overseas.
  • We vacationed with another family. The first time, they invited us to join them on a trip to northern Italy; the second time we invited them to rent a house on the beach with us. Both of these trips were messy at times, but ultimately so much more fun than going by ourselves.
  • I met up at the market each week with a friend. We had a standing agreement to buy our vegetables together at 9am on Wednesdays. This kept us both accountable to go to the market in our town, a key part of Sicilian life.
  • I invited other moms to go on adventures with me for the day, like to a nearby town, or to ride a tour train with our kids. Or to go on a hike with their dog if they don’t have kids!
  • I invited myself over. A LOT.

Things I wish we’d done 

  • I wish I had gotten my kids involved in the local culture in some way (preschool, sports, even a regular Italian babysitter). That contact is more for me than for my children, because they will be too young to remember any Italian or maybe anything about Sicily. But those contacts with Italy would have helped me so much. I would have had more Italian acquaintances, and I might even have had some real Italian friends. I would also have learned more about holidays, family structure, and food.
  • I wish I had taken Italian lessons. I got books but barely studied them. I knew I needed to just bite the bullet, spend the money, and get a tutor for a few months to launch my understanding. But I never did.
  • I wish we had sought counseling when we needed it for our marriage or our parenting. There were resources through our church, but we never took advantage of them. Sometimes you just need an outside perspective.
  • Lastly and most importantly, I wish I had invited people over sooner, not just after I got to know them pretty well. The best place to get to know someone is usually over a meal, even if the meal is peanut butter and jelly with both of your kids in a messy kitchen.

Think about the place where you live right now. What will you regret not doing after you leave? What were your expectations when you arrived? How can you make them happen?

Parenting and marriage are hard work, especially so far from home. You need people and you were designed for community.

Read more on Becca’s blog, where she writes about living in the shadow of a Sicilian medieval castle with her husband (a veterinarian in the military) and two young children. Becca loves living in Italy, reading with her children, blood oranges, bluegrass concerts, ICU nursing, knitting, and that all-too-brief period of time every night between her kids’ bedtime and her own.   One day she hopes to write a novel, live on a farm, work as a nurse in another culture, and maybe – if she’s really brave – have more kids.

This post originally appeared in Becca’s personal blog and has been adapted for ALOS. Picture credit



Rethinking Witness

Rarely does the faith of a missionary kid look exactly the same as their parents.  While the journey  begins and is rooted in the faith and calling of our parents, it grows and is sustained through our own decisions of faith. In today’s guest post we hear from a third culture kid/missionary kid and her journey of rethinking witness and growing into her own faith. Karissa Knox Sorrell gives us just a glimpse of her honest journey and with it food for both thought and discussion. Please join us today in “Rethinking Witness.” You can read more about Karissa at the end of the post.


On Easter Sunday this year I read a passage from the gospel of John in Thai at my church for a service called Agape Vespers. During Agape Vespers, bilingual volunteers read the gospel in a variety of languages. It’s the passage about Jesus appearing to the disciples after he rose again and Thomas asking to touch Jesus’ scars.

I used to read the Bible in church sometimes, back when I was an MK in Thailand. My Thai youth group friends knew that I wasn’t an adept reader of the language; they would nod and smile encouragingly whenever I read Scripture with my second-grade-level fluency.

Those people loved me. It didn’t matter to them that I spoke their language imperfectly or could barely read it: they cheered me on. My family had come into their Buddhist country holding the flag of Jesus high. We had turned many of them away from the religion of their families. Yet the church became their family, providing them with both recreation and support. Did they love us because we brought them Jesus, or because we gave them a family when they needed one?

It was a very different experience reading Thai again twenty years later in front of my Eastern Orthodox church friends in Franklin, Tennessee. I had practiced at home, but when I was standing in front of the entire church with hundreds of eyes staring at me, I faltered. Phrases that had slid easily off my tongue at home became slush in my mouth. Words that I had read easily before were now unintelligible before my eyes. Somehow, with several skipped words and incorrect tones, I finished reading the passage.

Afterwards, people came up and asked about the Thai. I told them about my past: evangelical Protestant missionary kid, Jesus lover, previously able to speak Thai, more rusty now.

Sometimes I wonder how far removed I am from my old missionary kid life and my old missionary kid faith. In Thailand, I took on my parents’ missionary status as my own. It was easy to stand up for Jesus when I was surrounded by people who didn’t know him. I had all the right answers, and I had abundant enthusiasm. Yet even though I witnessed to my friends over and over, I don’t think I ever led anyone to Jesus.

Today my faith still exists, but it is not always full of enthusiastic answers. Some of the old standby answers perplex me now. Maybe I have become more like Thomas, searching for a faith I can touch, a faith that allows me to doubt sometimes. Like the experience of reading Thai again, talking about Jesus with people feels more like floundering than fluency now.

I don’t witness to people anymore. Well, not with words, at least. I’ve stopped worrying about sharing my message and started trying to truly see people. Looking back at my high school years in Bangkok, I hope that my actions spoke over the rattle of my words. I hope that my friends saw in me a person who cared for them, who listened to their problems, and who tried to make them laugh. I hope they saw me as a friend who just wanted to share life with them, not a friend who was afraid they were going to hell.

People don’t need to be preached to about Jesus. Instead, they need to be loved with Jesus’ love. They need me to listen, bring them casseroles when they have babies, and go with them to difficult doctor appointments. They need to know that I accept them for who they are: humans created by God and worthy of love. My faith is no longer about how many people I can convert to Jesus; it’s about how many times I can find God in someone.

How have you witnessed without words to your community? When have you seen the face of God in the people around you?

KarissaKarissa Knox Sorrell is an educator and writer from Nashville, Tennessee. She writes about her upbringing as a missionary kid in Thailand, her conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, and her wrestling toward authentic faith. When not writing, Karissa works with ESL teachers and students. Read more of her writing at and follow her on Twitter at KKSorrell.

Picture Credit: