In which we simply acknowledge this tension

Friends, this is a short post.

It’s a cairn on our journey together. A small pile of rocks to mark our path.

It’s hit me afresh recently how many people that I love are no longer a part of my current in-person life. I am grateful for the many years I’ve had on foreign soil. At first I just thought that what I would missed would be the people, events, and places “back home.”

I remember when my teammate wasn’t able to be at one of her dearest friend’s wedding. When the VHS tape arrived in the mail, we watched together with Shelley stopping to explain who people were with joy and tears.

Ah, sweet innocent one, that is just the beginning of what you will miss.

Like me, you probably have people all over the world. You can’t be at all of the graduations, weddings, births, reunions, funerals, or just pop in for a meal.

This month I got to spend about 36 hours with a former teammate. It was so rich. It was not enough. Today I’m seeing images of another teammate who grew up and got married. It is so hard to believe I wasn’t there. I’m tearing up just writing these words, speaking this truth. How could I not be there?

So, this post is a stone of remembrance that God is faithful. It is a small pile of stones representing the people we love who we can’t be with in person.

I am grateful for the many whom I love. I am sad that I we are no longer doing life together.

Sometimes that is all we need to say.

With love, a fellow traveler.

Let’s talk about sin (It won’t be that bad, I promise!)

In November we asked for your help on a “Sin Survey.” The survey came about because an organization that provides prefield training noticed a concerning commonly held belief.

In short, “Sin won’t be a problem for me/us on the field because God has called me/us.”

In the anonymous survey Global Trellis gathered your collective wisdom and put it into two resources: one for people new to the field and one for people who have been on the field for a while.

As a brief refresher, the survey involved 4 questions:

1—How long have you been on the field? Or how long were you on the field?

2—In what ways has being on the field had no impact on the ways you sin? (In other  words, you are you wherever you are in the world?)

3—In what ways has being on the field “positively” impacted your sinning? (In other  words, how has being on the field helped you to sin less?)

4—In what ways has being on the field “negatively” impacted your sinning? (In other  words, how has being on the field contributed to you sinning more?)

Reading the responses was both encouraging and heart breaking. One of the clear results is that we are regular people in harder situations. While sexual sins were mentioned, want to know what was mentioned far more often? Pride.

The encouraging part of the survey was the reminder of how very much God loves us. How very much God loves you. Sin is real and the results can be far reaching, but God’s love is even farther reaching. As God reaches into the parts that seem too dark to share, too entrenched to hope for a change, or too common to need to take that seriously, he has life for you!

We’ve recently celebrated Easter. I love the refrain, “Christ has risen” and the response, “He has risen indeed!” The same refrain can be said of us because of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit alive in us. “That which was stuck in sin has been brought to life!” . . . “It has been brought to life indeed!”

Can I get an amen?!

So, to those of you who took the survey, thank you! You might wondered what happened and if anything was done with your input.

We’ve created two workshops—for the newbies and old hands—for you to use in training, personal development, and member care.

For the newbies:

  • Summary of the survey answers,
  • A list of practical suggestions for your first year, 
  • 3 “simple” takeaways from the survey for first term, 
  • 3 questions to ask yourself during your first term (and download home art)

For the old hands:

  • Summary and themes from the survey,
  • How to handle the “respectable sins” many of us wrestle with,
  • 3 “simple” takeaways from the survey,
  • 3 questions to ask yourself when it comes to sin (and downloadable home art! Not what you think of with sin . . . but Jesus came to bring life! We’re so excited about the art!)

Resources for you:

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (book)

Sin and Resiliency for the First Term (workshop)

Sin and Resiliency for the Long Haul (workshop)

Bundle of both workshops

Last week I was talking with a friend about these workshops and she said, “I’ll be interested to see how much actual interest people express in these resources because sin doesn’t sell. We know we’re sinners and Christ died for us, but we don’t really want to talk about it.”

I’m hoping that she’s wrong. That we do want to talk about sin because it’s when we don’t talk about it, downplay it, or have the grand plan of “hoping it’s not a problem” that sin’s roots can grow deep.

Spend time reflecting on the questions in the survey. Remember past sins that were a struggle and no longer have the grip they once did. Invest in your own soul with one of these resources.

Friend, hear this good news today: Jesus loves you. Jesus is at work in you. Your sin is serious. Jesus will help you with current sin and better yet, help you avoid future sin.

A surprise book review (but really, you need this book)

I reluctantly did her Bible studies with teammates in Beijing. They loved her, and being a team player, I held my judgmental comments to myself. Mostly.

It was the days of someone hauling DVDs and physical copies of the Bible studies in their suitcase.

The woman on the DVD was from a southern part of the U.S. Her big hair, made-up face, and strong accent all were a bit much for me. But what was clear beyond everything was her deep love for Jesus and her desire for us to love him too.

Though I internally rolled my eyes at most of the trappings, I could never quite roll my eyes at the content.

Lest you think I’m super mature in Christ, I’d rather not share this part because it shows my petty heart. A few years ago I went on a kick of exploring the public tax records of ministries in the U.S. I wanted to know what salaries leaders were being paid. Her salary, and those of some of her employees, were higher than I thought they “should be.” I even texted a friend I thought as much.

I now wish I hadn’t because there was so much I didn’t know.

All this to say, if you would have told me that I would recommend her book and tell you that you need it, I wouldn’t have believed you.

So, here I am, sheepishly looking down, not at all a “life long Beth Moore admirer,” telling you if you only read a handful of books this year, her memoir All My Knotted-Up Life must be on the list.

I listened to it through the Hoopla app, and if you can listen to Beth read this book, all the better.

You’ll find a woman who shares her life in such a way that you get the point without feeling voyeuristic.

Here are three reasons I’m recommending this book:

1. Beth is an engaging story teller who can keep the story moving. In this not-very-long book, she starts in childhood and brings you up to the current day. As the reader/listener I wasn’t left with large chunks of her story that left me confused how she went from Point A to Point B because she included enough context. Nor did I ever think, “move it along! We’ve got it!” And if you love a good turn of phrase? You’re in for a treat.

2. Beth does not shy away from, nor glorify, the hard parts of her story— but she doesn’t leave you in the muck. She has the knack of shooting straight while showing how she tried to stay near to Jesus. Those of us in ministry need these models.

3. The wide range of topics that you might relate to will surprise you. They include:

—A chaotic childhood.

—Sexual abuse at the hand of her father.

—A child dealing with a parent (her mom) with mental illness.

—Surprise! to both members of a marriage when one spouse is diagnosed with a mental illness after you married. (In the Beth’s case, Keith was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the subject is beautifully handled in the retelling.)

—A foster child you thought you would have forever being removed after many years in your family.

—The joys and challenges of a growing ministry.

—The role of gender in ministry when you want to be faithful to Jesus. In particular a denomination that believes a woman needs a “male covering.” What that means and how does it plays out?

—Parents aging and dying. Parts of your story, in this life, left unresolved.

—A freak illness that lead to the incapacitation of one spouse for several years. (Keith got some weird infection, Beth and her daughters needed to grieve that he was “gone” . . . and then slowly, slowly he miraculously came back. This was probably when I was googling and judging her salary. Lord, forgive me.)

—Finding your spiritual home no longer home. Feeling adrift spiritually while still loving Jesus deeply.

This is a different type of memoir than the biographies many of us have read about pillars of the faith. It was refreshing without elevating one person into super humanity. Beth has lived enough life to have something to say, she keeps you hanging on her story telling, and she reminds us that it is possible to stay close to Jesus when life is messy, hard, and beautiful.

If you’ve always been a “Beth Moore Fan,” you’re going to love this book.

If you’ve googled her ministry tax forms and judged her salary, you’re going to love this book.

If you’re looking for a fellow traveler who is the best story teller, you’re going to love this book.

Get All My Knotted-Up Life by Beth Moore.

3 Obscure Sorrows You’ll Recognize

I recently read The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. It contains such gems as:

“Harke: n. a painful memory that you look back upon with unexpected fondness, even though you remember having dreaded it at the time; a tough experience that has since been overridden by the pride of having endured it, the camaraderie of those you shared it with, or the satisfaction of having a good story to tell.” (from hark back, a command spoken to hunting dogs to retrace their course so they can pick up a lost scent.”

As I read I was reminded that we are capable of such depth as humans. I was also reminded that we all experience and carry so much loss.

It got me wondering about the obscure sorrows that are unique to us. Here are three for you to read and see if you recognize yourself in them.


n. the distressing feeling when you turn to share the most perfect word for a situation and remember that those around you don’t speak that language. Sure you can say the word and they may smile at you out of kindness, but they won’t really get it.

(From miss and vocbulary and ia because I like the sound of it)


n. the sad realization that life goes on without you; it can be experienced from both side of being on and off the field; on the field and your friends start getting married, buying a house, having babies, driving minivans and your life has less and less connecting points; off the field your local friends and teammates and neighborhoods and country of love continue on.

(From creeping for slowly and fill for the hole you think cannot possibly ever be filled, but you are wrong)


n. the strong desire for people you love to know what something tastes like and it is simply impossible to recreate it because the oil is different, a spice doesn’t exist, or you have to make something you normally buy at the store. This can be experienced with local friends when you try to share a part of your “home” cooking and with friends and family when you try to share part of your “other home” cooking.

(From gastro meaning stomach and longings)

It was only after I started working on this post that I realized you’ll read this during Lent, a season of sorrows. Sorrow over our sin, not of misvocabia, creeping-fill, and gastrolongings. It is right and good to be broken over our sin and it is right and good to pause and name some of our obscure sorrows as cross-cultural workers. If you’re wanting to lament in an interactive and creative way, Global Trellis’ workshop this month will guide you in 3 creative ways to lament.

Do you recognize yourself in misvocabia, creeping-fill, and gastrolongings? What would you add to our dictionary of missionary obscure sorrows?

When Reviving Doesn’t Look Like Reviving

Want to know the irony of this post?

I was sick on Sunday. Well, it started Saturday evening with purging the contents of my stomach. To be repeated at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m., and 8 a.m. At which point I got up and laid on the couch for the remainder of the day (except for the times I had to scare the squirrel off the bird feeder and throw up again. #Priorities.)

Monday I felt weak, but returning to the land of the living. Thoughts turned to work and of the week’s theme and of the post I wanted to write about reviving. About how God is in the business of reviving. Reviving bodies, stories, even history.

Just look at Hannah made fun of for infertility and how God met her in her sadness.

Just look at Moses who blew it when he killed the Egyptian and how God met him in the wilderness.

Just look at Mary and Martha who were so confused when Jesus didn’t show up and he not only could handle their anger and confusion, he could bring their brother back to life.

Just look at the woman who had bled for years and the ways God knew it wasn’t just her body that needed reviving, it was her spirit too.

Yes, our God is a God who revives. He brings back to life. He restores. He gives new life and energy.

Though I like to be instantly well from an illness, I was experiencing reviving.

I tend to see metaphors everywhere. There is always a lesson behind the ordinary. The common is laced with deeper meaning. Which is a lovely way to live until I wonder what God is doing in the living metaphor that is my life.

Tuesday I was the opposite of revived. I was weak, and foggy in the brain, and wondering what God wanted to show me about reviving . . . because I was either missing the lesson OR a bit off track on how He looks at reviving.

I sipped 7-up, the drink of the ill, no interest in food or energy to move.

{Maybe this is just for children of the 70s in America, but does anyone else associate 7-up or Sprite and illness? This is how I know I’m really sick: I sip 7-up.}

As I sipped, I wondered how much I have confused the way God looks at reviving with how America—my home culture—looks at prosperity. Revival looks like a graph with the line going up to the right. It might be a slow and steady incline, or it might go sharply up, but revival is always up. It’s the underdog winning. It’s the music crescendoing at the touching part of the movie. It’s the electricity being turned on at just the right moment.

Or is it?

What does revival look like when the visa doesn’t come through or the diagnosis is not good or the heat will not end, ever?

Or your children are not adjusting well. Or they are and you are not.

What does revival look like when the financial support is dwindling or the assignment that was perfect on paper is more like a nightmare in real life?

Or the husband you thought would be here . . . isn’t.

What then?

Maybe being revived can sometimes be straight and simple, like going on a walk and clearing our heads and souls, filling them up with Jesus. But maybe it can also be messy and complex, winding this way and that. Revived for the moment, on a level that doesn’t deny the reality we face but is not defined by it, and doesn’t remove the deep sadness or exhaustion.

I’m still waiting to feel better. To not wince at the smell of food. To not wander around trying to think a thought. But even in this state, Jesus has revival for me, and, you.

When have you experienced revival that might not have looked like revival?

This post originally appeared on Velvet Ashes. Thankfully this past Saturday I did not throw up :).

Let’s talk about birthdays

When I saw that my monthly article was assigned to this particular date, I perked up. We all have dates that set off little alarms in us, and this is one of mine.

I almost wrote to Elizabeth Trotter and asked to swap with another writer. But then I thought, “What better time to talk about birthdays than on my actual birthday!”

Maybe your family didn’t celebrate or make a big deal out of birthdays. Or perhaps they were a VERY. BIG. DEAL. and the world basically stopped for a day. I know some people who celebrate a birthday week or a birthday month; from the family culture I was raised in, that seems a bit much. Which makes my point that we are first and foremost formed by the families who raised us.

Maybe you had a picture in your mind as a young person what 25 would look like. Where’d you’d be at 30. What your life would look like at 40. How your relationship with your children or grandchildren would look when you were 60. And your life looks nothing like what you imagined or much richer than anything you could picture.

I remember conversations with my sisters when we were teens and the thought of the three of us being 40 seemed so utterly ridiculous. It seemed so OLD. So very far away. So close to death. And now? Now it seems young :). Perspective, my friends, perspective.

When I moved to China I learned that decade birthdays (30, 40, 60) are significant and if you hit 80? That was to be CELEBRATED. I also learned about “your year.” If you’ve eaten at a Chinese restaurant with a placemat that has 12 animals and dates under them tied to the year you were born, that’s what I’m talking about. So, every 12 years is “your year.” I’m curious what are key birthdays in the land that you live?

A few birthdays stand out from the field. My first year my teammate invited three of our students to go out for pizza at a quaint cafe that was such a weird hybrid it stood alone and defied classifying. (Was it western? No. Was it Chinese? No. Was it like anywhere that you might recognize? Not really. :)) We five then biked to a sort-of-illegal movie theater and watched a western movie. I knew then that though though I was surrounded by people who hadn’t known me long, they would still find ways to mark my birthday.

When I turned 30 I had a weird sensation of “I am an adult. Like a real-real-real adult. Is this my life path?”

Then there was the year another teammate and I were in the middle of building renovation and we were the only people not to be relocated. (Why?! Why?) My birthday fell in the midst of four months without hot water but with the added bonus of nonstop construction noise from eight in the morning until eight at night.

Having a birthday between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s typical I receive well wishes, but people are partied out. I understand. Honestly, many years I’m partied out too. But for my 40th birthday I insisted on a party and decided I wanted it to be a murder mystery. I had joyfully attended many a bridal and baby shower and anniversary party and decided that for one time I was going to inconvenience everyone and ask that on my birthday we gather and have fun. And friends, it was magical. They rose to the occasion and though I had to work that day and was stuck in rush hour Beijing traffic on my way home, it was all I had hoped. We laughed, we ate, we solved a mystery, and we rejoiced in the life that God has given me.

So when I say, “Let’s talk about birthdays!” what comes to mind for you? What birthdays on the field stand out to you? I will be away from my computer today, so tomorrow I look forward to reading all of your stories. You are wonderfully and fearfully made and God loves you.

Thanks for being here,

P.S. Sometimes when a year is all jumbled together inside of your head, heart, and soul, whatever is on the top of the pile is all that we can see. Sorting—aka reflecting and preparing—can help you to see gems or heartaches that you might miss because they are buried at the bottom. Get your Reflect on 2022 & Prepare for 2023 packet today and start reaping the benefits of reflecting! Available at Global Trellis.

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Resilience on the field when it comes to sin {We need your help}

Howdy friends,

A couple of weeks ago an organization that does field orientation contacted me with a request. They have a unit on “resiliency on the field” but noticed a hole when it came to the intersection of sin and resiliency. What’d they noticed is that many who participate in their training think that because they have been called by God into full-time ministry, they will get a dispensation on sinning.

Those of us who have been on the field know this isn’t true. However, as I shared about this subject over lunch with a friend who works with pastors, she recognized this kind of thinking in many North American pastors who end up in total burnout and coming to the retreat center she helps run.

We know this isn’t a new subject. Paul expressed this tension well when he asked in Romans 7 about doing what he didn’t want to do and not doing what he wanted to do. None of us go to the field thinking, “I really hope I sin … a lot!”

The pre-field training organization wondered if Global Trellis had any resources related to helping Great Commission Workers be more resilient—or at least more aware of the realities of sin on the field. We don’t specifically, but I think it’s an important and fascinating subject, I created an anonymous survey to gather information from YOU. I’ll be happy to share the results/themes with you in future months. The survey is five questions and they are:

1—How long have you been on the field? Or how long were you on the field?

2—In what ways has being on the field had no impact on the ways you sin? (In other  words, you are you wherever you are in the world?)

3—In what ways has being on the field “positively” impacted your sinning? (In other  words, how has being on the field helped you to sin less?)

4—In what ways has being on the field “negatively” impacted your sinning? (In other  words, how has being on the field contributed to you sinning more?)

5—With where you are now, what advice would you offer to someone going to the field?

You can take the anonymous survey here. Thank you in advance and my hope is that even in this survey God will meet you as He uses you to serve and help the next generation on the field.

With gratitude,


Where is your story held?

Years ago, standing in our parent’s basement one of my sisters wondered what it would be like to deal with all of our dad’s paperwork. While not a hoarder in other areas, every piece of paper the man had touched through his life, he kept.

In that moment, the Lord gave me this insight: All this paper is more than paper, it is the container of your dad’s story.

Tax records going back decades were not kept in case of being audited. No, they were kept as a record. A record that said, “I was here, I took care of my family, I held a job, I gave to my church and charities. I invested myself in what matters in this world.” I can tell you this is not what my tax records mean to me because I do not keep my story in tax records.

Oddly, though a non-car person, my story is held, in part, by the cars I have owned.

As a college graduation present, my parents got me a car. It was love at first sight! She was a  red Dodge Shadow and had an air spoiler and a strip down her side. In sixth grade I was cast as Margot Lane in a radio play about The Shadow; so, her name was Margot.

My education program was completed with a year of student teaching and graduate classes. Margot drove me out to Perry Middle School in rural Kansas. We had our first near death experience along those roads. She drove me to South Junior High where I learned to love teaching Algebra. And from South Junior High we hurried to the University of Kansas where I taught ESL to students from around the world as I completed my Master’s Degree.

During the summers we spent hours together driving home to Denver. And then hours apart as she sat in a parking lot while I taught English and fell in love with China. After several years of teaching in Kansas and summers in China, Margot watched as my dad helped load a U-Haul to take my worldly possessions back to Denver to live for two years in my sister’s basement.

Dad headed off to Denver and Margot and I hit the road for a detour through Wichita. A dear friend had donated a kidney to her brother and I wanted to visit her one last time before I moved to China.

Because I was only going to China for two years, it seemed silly to sell her. So I didn’t.

I do not know where my story would have been stored if I had sold her. I am also not sure when she became the keeper of my story. All I know is that she did. Every time I returned to the U.S. she was there to drive me around and provide me with a sense of independence.

In the blink of an eye, nine years passed.

I returned to the U.S. on a study leave. Margot and I were united again. And again she drove me to school, to visit friends, to speak at churches. She heard me sing and bore silent witness to the tears I shed in the months leading up to another goodbye.

In the blink of an eye, three years passed.

I returned to China. My beloved Margot sat once more, waiting for me.

Whenever I returned to Denver, she was there. She provided me the gift of coming and going at will. But then one summer, it was obvious that Margot was aging and the time had come to do the unthinkable.

No one would have paid her true value and I could not bear to have her underappreciated. I called the local rescue mission and explained I had a car to donate. We set up an appointment for me to turn over the title, I had only one stipulation: You cannot take her until I have left for China. I cannot bear to see her drive away.

The pain cut so deep, it went beyond reason. I might have given my left arm to be able to keep her. And that’s when I hit me.

Margot held my story.

I loved living overseas. I thrived. But every now and then as I aged the twinge would come when I thought of siblings and peers who had houses and cars and other “normal” markers of adulthood. I had a passport full of stamps, yes. But I had nothing tangible to point to that indicated “Here is an adult. Here is a ‘real person.’”

Margot had been with me through my 20s and 30s. She was the one constant in a sea of change. While I lived a more nomadic existence, packing up after each year in China (another story for another time), and I found myself at age 30 having life rhythms I had had at twenty, I would say to myself, “Don’t worry, I am a real adult, I own a car.”

This week all of this flooded back.

Four years ago I moved back to the U.S. and bought another car. Much to everyone’s shock, after insisting on only buying red computers, red this, red that. She was blue. As a Honda Fit it seemed only fitting that she be called Fiona.

Cutting to the chase, she was pummeled in a colossal hail storm in May. This week she was deemed totaled. This had not occurred to me when I casually dropped her off the end of August. On the phone with the insurance who went over the details and what I would be paid and steps I need to take, she casually asked if I needed to get an any personal items out of the car before she was reclaimed at the repair place. Of course I do you idiot. (Only part said out loud.)

I still own nothing but a car as a sign of adulthood. And now that which held my story for the last four years, is no longer mine.

My story will go on. God at work in and through me, to be sure.

But I am left wondering who will keep the story now? And why can the cost of the call sneak up? Will Fiona’s new owner know what she is capable of?

It may not be taxes, paper, or cars, but in his mercy, God uses ordinary things of this world to help hold your story. What is it for you?

This first appeared at A Life Overseas here. I was reminded recently how cars help hold my story as another car was “murdered” (aka totaled by a stranger causing an accident) and the grief that came with it for me.

What is a “fruitful” ministry?

What comes to mind when I ask you, “What does a fruitful ministry look like?” Or “What makes an outreach event or discipleship relationship fruitful?”

I’m guessing that you didn’t struggle to answer those questions. Of course, your answer may contain nuance and offer context, but my point is that we all have pictures of what fruitfulness looks like.

In my former organization we held annual meetings, which were often a highlight of the year. Getting to be with my friends in person was a highlight and I loved hearing reports of what was going on around my country of service and other countries in the region.

But I also felt tension.

Undoubtably, someone would share a report of how they fit 1,352 people in their living rooming and had robust Bible studies every week. Okay, maybe the number was closer to 13, but when my “great testimony” involved one or two who were showing spiritual interest, I didn’t feel very fruitful.

And maybe where you live, the mortality rate for young children is high. Or someone coming out of drug addiction goes back into it, does that mean we are less fruitful?

Not necessarily. However, much of the tension you and I feel can be tied back to the question “What does fruitfulness look like?”

I recently released a book, Becoming More Fruitful in Cross-Cultural Work, that explores this idea of fruitfulness.

Everyone, whether individuals or organizations, has metrics of what success looks like. But over time, those metrics can become the primary way we evaluate our fruitfulness. Much like the Galatians, cross-cultural workers can inadvertently turn our metrics into a modern version of “the law” and be enslaved by it. As I studied Galatians, it dawned on me that Paul could as easily have written his letter to the Galatians as a “Letter to the Great Commission Worker.”

The Galatians had access to freedom in Christ and yet, they kept returning to the comforts and familiarity of the law. It’s understandable because the law was familiar. It was known. It was easier to track and measure. And the law wasn’t “bad,” it was incomplete.

If Paul had written to us, he would have become exasperated with us too. Too often we have substituted our own “law” and live under the bondage of ministry metrics—or what we wish a ministry context could be.

Now, I’m not anti-metrics. We need to have goals and reasons for being on the field, doing what we’re doing. However, we—both individuals and organizations—can easily slip into a modern-day version of the law à la metrics. But if our metrics, location (where we are allowed to be), and what we are allowed to do become the primary definition of “a fruitful ministry,” like the Galatians, we stay enslaved to something that never could provide freedom and life.

I wondered, “Did God call you to the field to set others free in Christ while you stay trapped in an unintended form of ministry bondage?” What if collectively we moved our metrics down a peg and allowed walking with the Spirit to be the true measure of fruitfulness? 

Over and over as I researched and wrote this book my mind was blown. For one thing, the fruit of the Spirit is not like the gifts of the Spirit. You and I don’t get all the gifts, we get some of them. But the fruit? We can have all nine all the time. All nine all the time. I have another question for you:

How much in your life do you experience:

Faithfulness, and 

If your answer isn’t “24/7 Baby!” then this book is for you. In it you’ll find that God has upward fruit (toward him), outward fruit (toward others), and inward fruit (toward yourself) for you. When God talks about fruitfulness, He has true, holistic, all-of-your-life fruitfulness for you.

Guess where grapes, the metaphor that Paul uses, produces fruit? In rocky soil. In other words, in the messy realities of your life on the field. So, fruitfulness isn’t just for the early morning “Tea and Jesus” time. It’s also for public transportation, annoying teammates, and doors that won’t open.

Because these concepts are to be discussed and wrestled with in community, Global Trellis is hosting a four-week book club in October to discuss Becoming More Fruitful. You (and people you work with) can join here and participate or receive the recorded meetings.

Redefining fruitfulness is both simple and hard. So instead of all of us reading the book and saying, “Yes, that’s the kind of life I want to live” and then moving on without much really changing, we’ll discuss the book for four weeks, allowing new roots to take hold.

We’ll discuss:

  • The fruit of the Spirit and the idea of metrics
  • The upwardly oriented fruit: love, joy, and peace
  • The outwardly oriented fruit: patience, kindness, and goodness
  • The inwardly oriented fruit: gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control

My hope is that this book will enable you and your organization to further experience the freedom and growth that God has for each one of us, even in the midst of ebbs and flows of what we’re able to do.

Becoming More Fruitful is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. Check it out here.

A version of this post first appeared here.

When you feel torn between aging parents and your call

I remember the first time I felt the angsty feeling of anticipation coming up the escalator at Denver International Airport. My long trek across the ocean, through customs, and on one last final airport train was nearly over, and I was almost to my people!

Over the years, who greeted me changed as sisters may or may not be in town and nieces were born; but the one constant? My parents. It was all I could do not to shove people on the escalator as I craned my neck, hoping for a first glance.

And then one year, as I practically ran towards them, it happened: my parents looked shockingly older than the last time I’d seen them. They began to resemble my grandparents more than my mental picture of my parents. Though still in good health at the time, I had a stronger sense than I’d ever had that my parents would one day, Lord willing, be the old-old and not the young-old. What would be my role in helping them? How would I navigate it with my sisters? Would my parents be a factor in my leaving the field?

If you stay on the field long enough, you will probably wonder similar questions. Last fall, one of you contacted me asking for resources to help with aging parents. I wasn’t aware of many resources outside of anecdotal stories and the fact that when I mention the topic, it was a familiar scenario as cross-cultural workers entered middle age.

With this in mind, last spring Global Trellis decided to tap into the collective wisdom from those who have already walked this path and conducted a survey.

What came through loud and clear is that everyone’s story is unique and holds both beauty and pain. In addition, 12 areas that require attention and/or factoring in emerged:

1. Every journey is unique
2. Communicating with siblings
3. The role of faith (your parents’, siblings’, and yours)
4. Transitions you and your aging parents might experience
5. Legal and financial issues with aging parents
6. Property and Belongings (helping with maintenance and/or downsizing)
7. The underlying question: To return or stay?
8. Supporting from a distance
9. The Big 3: Safety, Comfort, and Dignity
10. Navigating aging parents with an agency, a board, or independently
11. Grief experienced with aging parents
12. Doctors appointments and declining abilities

As you read over that list, I don’t know how you feel or where you are in this journey. Thinking of these 12 areas may feel overwhelming, depressing, exhausting, torn, and lonely. You may also feel grateful for people who are helping and the mercies God is extending to you and your family.

All can be true.

Sometimes what we need is information. We have a situation that is solvable and what we need is help getting information to solve it. Sometimes what we have a situation that we need help managing the tensions that come with it because there is no easy or exact solution.

Often the best way to manage a tension is in community. Sharing your story, asking your questions, being with others who are also walking the path you are on. With that in mind and in response to the survey we conducted, Global Trellis has compiled a list of resources (it’s being formatted now, I can get it to you when it’s ready) and created a one year cohort to cover the 12 topics listed above.

The Aging Parents Cohort will run from September 2022 through August 2023 and registration closes at the end of August. You can read about it here and register for it here.

Since those early escalator days, my dad has gone on to be with Jesus and my mom is now considered to be more a part of the “old-old” than the “young-old.” I have to admit I hate seeing my parents age. I hate knowing that they will die. But I am so grateful that while God has ordained for each of us to walk out own paths, He has not left us stumbling alone.

Thank you for hosting my niece (again)

Dear ALOS family, I wrote the following letter five years ago (?!). At that time my nieces were ages 9 to 16, now they are, 14 to 21. Those younger sisters who were just watching the oldest? This summer all four of them participated in three different trips. I see how that first trip five years ago is still rippling out. I can’t show you exactly how your investment in teens will play out. But as an aunt watching, I can tell you God is using your investment in ways you can’t imagine. I want to write a follow-up letter to this one. But for some context, let’s start here. Again, I say, “Thank you for hosing my niece and nieces! I’m thinking of you and praying for you . . . and grateful for your investment in what you might find annoying!” With blessing, Amy

Dear Missionary who hosts summer teams,

I write this letter to you with egg on my face. Many moons ago I spent a summer in China teaching English for six weeks to English teachers from around Anhui Province. Because it was “long enough to form meaningful relationships,” I maintained an interiorly superior attitude that many one- or two-week summer trips were a waste of time.

At least for us on the field. After I quit my job, packed two suitcases, and moved to China, I was now one of you. My belief that week-long trips were meaningful and useful for those who went on them, but not us, only solidified. I wasn’t like “them,” I really got to know the culture. I didn’t just swoop in and out. I “made a real difference” (even now I roll my eyes at myself. Pride is so ugly). I’d join in the discussion about whether short trips were worth all the time, money, and effort that went into them. Was any real difference being made?

Oh knowing everything can be such a burden, can’t it?

Those questions? They are good questions. They should be asked. We should wrestle with them. But what God has shown me this summer is that the boundary lines of my understanding are significantly smaller than I believe them to be.

Put another way? I think I know more than I do.

And maybe you do too.

If you host summer teams, this is a huge thank you card to you. If I could hire a sky writer? I would. I would fly over you and write, “Thank you! You have no idea what a difference you have made.” Well, maybe all I would actually write in the sky is “Thank You!” But what I mean is, “You have no idea what a difference you have made.”

I have nieces that range in age from 9 to 16. The older ones are starting to go on summer trips. Their church begins the process with trips in town, and then the next summer trips within the US, and then international trips.

I have watched how their church takes months to prepare the participants. How they are intentional about serving instead of having “cool experiences.” How they are joining in the Great Commission.

This was our first summer as a family to have a girl go on an international trip. (Side note, if it has not happened in your family yet, it is a little weird when you are suddenly not the one going on that trip. When you are not the one sharing stories and prayer requests.)

I know, because I’ve been in your shoes, how much work it is to prepare for a team to come in. Even a team who is doing work you desperately need done. There are moments you wonder if it is worth it. There are moments you are sure it is not.

What you might not see, what I had not seen before, was all of the preparation. The preparation of supplies for parties and clubs. The preparation of their hearts. The cultural information they are learning. The ways that those who are coming to you truly want to serve. They want to help you with your calling. They want to work.

What I also had never seen before is that, especially for teen and college kids, you are not just getting one person, you are getting a herd of people. You only saw my niece, but her parents, aunts, grandma, friends, and especially her three younger sisters are now invested in your ministry.

She came home changed.

She knows your name, dear missionary. She has shared the stories you told. Our family now agonizes that children in your village have permanent brain damage because Tylenol isn’t available when they get a fever. The children that she spent a week feeding, playing with, and singing to? We know their names. A place on the globe, the place that is dear to you, is now dear to us.

I understand that this letter is still rather focused on the difference this trip made for her. It is rather “sent one” focused.

I guess what I am trying to say, is thank you. Thank you for opening your hearts to her. For sharing your story for the umpteenth time. For putting up with teens who refused to eat the food you worked so hard to provide, eating instead another granola bar (not my niece, but she shared stories of her teammates too!).

Before this summer, I only saw these trips through the lens of how much work they were for me on the field. What I didn’t grasp was how, like the loaves and fishes Jesus used to feed the masses, summer trips can feed the Great Commission. They can feed God’s heart for his people. They feed future generations of missions. That one week will ripple out through the years in ways you and I can’t imagine.

You might not remember my niece’s name because you will see several trips this summer. She’s a quiet girl. She’s the one who will hold the disabled four-year-old for hours and sing to them. She’s the one who now sees the value of learning the language because the quiet cook on your property? She wishes she could have talked to her.

She came home changed by the poverty she saw. She returned and the word she used more than another other to describe the people she served? Joy. She saw how God is not White and American and Well-educated. When the cook started to sing How Great Thou Art in your language and my niece sang it in English? She will carry that for the rest of her days.

The extra hours these trips cost you? The foolish questions the participants ask? The food they won’t eat? It is worth it. God took the diamond of summer trips and tilted it so I saw more of its beauty than I have before.

Thank you for hosting my niece.

Her loving aunt,


P.S. I still have opinions about short term trips. But they are a bit fuzzier than before. My overwhelming sense that I really knew what was the right way to “do missions” has been, um, challenged. Love will do that, won’t it? Slow me down enough to keep me really asking the questions and not just spouting off the same answers I have for years. I’m sorry if this letter is a bit all over the place. I’ve reworked it and reworked it. But I feel all over the place, so how can my words not be as well?

4 Resources for Your First Year

I had flown to China before, but that was always with a return ticket. When I moved to China, my ticket was one-way. Back in the day, smoking was allowed on the flights. I was on a Chinese based airline and I began to understand some of the changes I was in for when the flight attendants commandeered the last three rows of the middle section and build a blanket fort.

They took turns going into it for smoking and rest breaks. You can picture the waves of smoke that escaped when someone went in or out.

Do you remember the feeling as you disembarked from the plane? Though late at night and exhausted, the muggy August air smelled . . . like not my home country. I had finally arrived. To this day, if I arrive at an airport late at night and it’s muggy and the wind blows just right, a small wave of exhilaration washes over me. 

Ah, the first year on the field.

Welcome to those of you who have recently arrived on the field or are in the throws of getting ready to move to the field. We’re so glad you’re here!

Though you’ll be going through many transitions and your journey will be unique, you do not need to go it alone.

Do you wish your first year came with a handbook?

I wrote Getting Started: Making the Most of Your First Year in Cross-Cultural Service to be just that. Getting Started enables you to glean from those who have gone before you, to stay close to God, and to grow in cultural knowledge—all the while flourishing in fulfilling your call.

What’s one unexpected pitfall of the first year?

Ironically, it can be staying connected to God. In your passport country you knew how to stay spiritually fed and understood the language spoken at church. With time, you’ll make friends, learn the language, and even start worshipping in another language. But as you’re establishing yourself in your new host culture, stay Connected: Starting Your Overseas Life Spiritually Fed.

Do you have any tips for my first year?

In addition to buying the two books mentioned above, you bet I do! Here an article I wrote with 3 Tips For Your First Year.

What does role deprivation look like?

While it will look different for each person, there tends to be two universal signs you’re experiencing role deprivation in your first year … as uncomfortable as role deprivation is, it’s one of the most tender ways Jesus identifies with us! Here are a few signs of you might be experiencing role deprivation.

A couple of years ago I was going to host a year-long group for those in their first year and we would work our way through Getting Started, but then the pandemic happened and not many people were able to move around the globe. I’ve created a survey to gauge interest in a group running from September 2022 through June 2023 for people early in their missionary journey. Could you either take this survey or share it will people who have been on the field less than two years.

Take the survey here.

We truly are glad you’re here. We need you and your fresh eyes and hearts! Welcome.

And thanks for helping with the survey, Amy