New Girl

The following post is one I have been re-living as of late, as we re-enter living in SE Asia after a two year stint in the States (original post is here). The whole family is thrust constantly into those awkward situations of being the new kids on the block, and I’m reminded of how hard it is to live that reality. So, for you new-to-a-situation missionaries, I get it. It’s tough, but hang in there, time will eventually erase the new. And for you long-termers, open up a little. We all know goodbyes suck and maybe you’ll have to say them to the new ones, too, (and I know you’re tired of the millions you’ve said so far) but that doesn’t mean the relationship doesn’t have immense value.

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 8.30.50 PM

She answered my questions with the minimums –one sentence or two at the most. And, try as I might, she kept responding to my best-friendly with no leading comments of her own, checking her phone, obviously occupied with people not right in front of her. And then she delivered the ultimate subtle-shut-down; she asked no questions of me, the New Girl, at all. 

And so I busied myself with watching Ava play, and I tried not to take the social rejection too seriously.  I tried not to think about all the questions I’d like to ask her about this new place I’ve landed, and I ignored the loneliness of isolation, again, that started to creep in.  I told myself that the tears I blinked back were irrational at best, and that this woman sharing my space had probably just had a bad morning.  I reminded myself that she couldn’t have known that we Parkers had been waiting all week for this chance to interact with other expat moms and kidsShe couldn’t have understood how much hope we had put in this morning.

And I get it, I do.  She’s been here for years, not months. And her plate is full already–with activities and friendships and ministry and kids. I was there, honestly, just six months ago in a quaint mountain town in Colorado.  I was struggling to pursue the friendships I already had, and spotting new moms at the park found me a bit less eager to exchange numbers for fear that I wouldn’t, actually, have the time to call, after all.

But, this week I tasted New Girl, and I am still choking on the bitter. I tried to connect and fit in to this culture of other expat missionary moms, and I found that maybe I’m more square-peg than I thought.  I was reminded that white faces don’t automatically erase gulfs of culture and generation, personality and beliefs.

And I know that this is a season for me as New Girl.  And I know that, perhaps, eventually, I’ll be the one logging years, instead of months.  Maybe one day, I’ll be the girl with more answers than questions on this piece of foreign soil. But, I pray that when that day arrives, I’ll keep enough margin in my schedule and in my heart to speak vulnerable. To ask questions.  And to get the New Girl’s number.

And then make the time to call it.

*****

Okay, be honest. On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the epitome of friendliness), how open are you to building new friendships with those that have just landed in your area? The newbies or the younger ones or the short-termers– are you subconsciously shutting down relationships before they begin?

7 Things You “Need” Before You Move Overseas

I don’t know what it is about me (or us?), but every time I gear up to go live or travel to a different country for an extended period of time, I start scouring Amazon Prime. It doesn’t matter if the place I’m going to serve is a third world country, I somehow feel like I need to spend the price of the plane ticket on “supplies” before I ship out.

After mortgaging the house to make said expenditures, the real fun begins.  I then have to cram all those, er, essentials, into two suitcases and one carry- on per person. And then I have to lug all that crap through airports and customs, while my husband pulls his back out heaving those 49.8 (under 50 pounds! Under 50!) suitcases  off those conveyor belts my kids can’t help but almost get their fingers stuck in.

We Westerners and our stuff. 

These are the freakishly huge stuffed animals that we've paid to fly around the world and back again TWICE now.
These are the freakishly huge stuffed animals that we’ve paid to fly around the world and back again TWICE now.

Perhaps I could write about the tendency towards owning things philosophically, but I definitely won’t. I’ll leave that to smarter people, not as dangerously close to burn out as I am. Instead, I’ll indulge our culturally-driven materialism, and I’ll give you my list of must-have items for life overseas. This is fresh for me, as I’ve just relocated (again!) back to SE Asia.

And yes, yes, I did bring thirteen large suitcases and five carry-ons when we came, thankyouverymuch.

And yes, yes, my husband did throw out his back in the process. Par for the course, friends.

“Must-Have” Items for Life Overseas

1. Chacos. They are the most expensive flip flop you’ll probably every purchase, but the things never. wear. out. I have two pairs, and I wear them daily, and I love them. Like, really. I also have a pair of the double strapped sandals. I don’t wear them that much because I can’t figure out how to tighten them to be comfortable (I know, that’s a bit moronic), but I’ve heard the single strap ones are off-the-hook, as well.

2. Juice Plus Vitamins. Where we live it’s hard to get fresh vegetables that are not cooked to death in a stir fry. What am I talking about, it’s just hard to get vegetables . . . in my children. As in, they hate them. But, that’s okay, because I am sneaky, and perhaps passive aggressive. I take the juice plus vitamin capsules, open them and put them in my kids’ smoothies every day (because they gag when they try to swallow the capsules whole). I also have the juice plus plant-based protein powder, which I put in the smoothies, as well. There’s all kinds of research about the benefits of juice plus, and I’ll spare you the details, but I feel less like a loser mom when I slip them to my kids. And less like a loser-person when I eat them myself. Whether you are into juice plus or another product, definitely save room in the suitcase for quality vitamins.

3. Games. There’s something about living overseas that suddenly makes board games more appealing. We have a few family favorites: Settlers of Cattan, Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, Cards (Kemps, Spoons, etc.), Pictionary, Chess, Cranium, etc. I’ve found that quality family games are easier found on Amazon than the local market. And that’s why I buy ’em and lug ’em.  Of course, favorite toys and books fit into this category. As, would, um, the Xbox.

4. Family Pictures. I made a huge mistake in one of our moves overseas when I didn’t bring many family photos. I figured I could just get frames and print photos out when I got there. Wrong. Getting simple things like water induced a near panic attack at first, so hunting down frames and a print shop seem a mountain I just couldn’t climb. And, so, we spent two years with mostly bare walls. #MomFail. This recent move I did it differently. I went to Prinstagram and ordered about 50 instagram photos to be printed off my instagram feed. I think ordered a few hangers (think twine and clothespins) from Amazon, along with magnets for fridge, and our house was instantly homey. And the prints didn’t weigh much (compared to lots of pictures in frames). #MomWin.

5. External Battery Chargers. These prove essential as you are charging i-pads and phones and whatnot during your journey ’round the world. When you kid is melting down in China during a five hour layover and there are no charging stations in site and the iPad with the movie on it starts blinking that red low battery light . . . you’ll wish you had one. Or two. Or five.

6. Daily Burn. I love this workout app. It’s $10/month, but it has loads of different workout videos that you can watch from any device (iPad, android, iPhone, any smart device), including yoga, cardio, strength training, and an insane section of circuit training routines that I only survived 13 minutes of yesterday. You choose level, time, and type, and then it’s like a gym at home. I know for me, exercise is essential to mental sanity (and fighting depression) and this app has been a lifesaver this go-around. And, nothing says beast like a mom doing knee-pushups and kick-squats in the living room, while her kids watch from over their bowls of breakfast cereal.

7. Kindle. No explanation required.

So that’s my quick list, friends. The, ah-hem, bare necessities for a life overseas.

__________

How about you? What’s your must-have item(s), worthy of lugging across the world? Share links, if you can! 

We, the People of the Globe

asia monk

We are the people of the Globe. Not a city or a state, or even a single country, but the whole wide world–

the one He’s got in His hands.

We are a people made tender by airport goodbyes and flexible by the travel we log after those tears have dried.  We are those who open Christmas presents over Skype, who sleep in foreign beds in our home countries, who taste the pain of the missed funeral, the birth, and the regular family dinner after church.

We are a people not of roots like the Oak, deep and strong, but a people of roots like the Aspen, wide and connected, whose strength is in its breadth.  A people who taste the bitter and the sweet of yet another transition, those that wrestle with the belonging, those that understand-deep that we are all really aliens and foreigners on this mass of dirt we call earth.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.43.51 AM

We are a people whose compassion runs deep because we’ve seen with our own eyes the orphan, the starving, the slave; “those” people have become “our” people, in fact. We might be men and women of last year’s fashion, but we are also people of this year’s front line.

Our kids may not be on the cultural cutting-edge, but they have walked the cliffs of big-faith and hard-truths and they have witnessed a God who shows up.  Again and again. And again. 

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.44.02 AM

We are men and women whose hearts bleed for those with different skin, and we are people that experience the Bride in houses and underground and among mud walls. We are those that struggle, that fail, that adventure, that hope.

People of both dramatic stories and mundane survival; people that go and let go.

We are those that have tasted life outside the boundaries and walk forever marked.

And we will continue to walk all over this whole wide world–

the One He still holds, in His hands.

*****

I wrote the above as I struggle with what it means to fully embrace this idea that missions is planted-deep in my heart. I believe fully that God can and does work in all corners of the globe, from suburbia America to African hut, and I do not belittle those that stay home by any means. It is honorable work to follow Jesus and love well, wherever that journey may lead. However, I am personally finding a new confidence in accepting that for whatever reason, God has birthed a heart for the globe in our family. And there is great hope in knowing that I’m not the only one. 

Let Me Make Your Kid a Buddhist

In true A Life Overseas fashion, we are marking this our 200th post (!!!) with a difficult conversation about the ethics involved in working with children overseas. As always, thanks for making this place an open space to hash out the realities of this living-and-working-internationally-thing. We’re grateful for your insights, experience, and grace, and we’re hopeful about what the next 200 posts will bring. 

Imagine this.

Your family is devoutly Christian. Not only are you Christian in honest-to-goodness-soul-belief, but your entire culture leans that way.  The founding fathers, the churches on every street corner, the preachers on television. This is America– one nation under God and all that.

Christianity is in your blood. 

But, there’s a problem- you are really, really, really poor. For some reason (in this analogy, stay with with me here) free public education or welfare programs are not available, and you can’t afford to send your kids to school, can barely provide the next meal. You have three little ones under eight years old and your husband walked out two years ago. Your floor is dirt and your debt is high. You live in a state of clawing-desperation.

But what if, what if.

A Buddhist monastery moved into the city beside yours, a few miles from your house. What if the monks knocked on your door one day, when the baby was crying because her belly was empty for too long, and offered free schooling and housing for your older two children. They seemed kind and attentive, and the word free was dropped at least 15 times throughout the conversation. It is the opportunity of a lifetime–

Of their lifetimes.

And so you take it. You send your two Christian children to a Buddhist school, and you thank Jesus for the gift of an education and two meals a day and actual beds for your little ones to sleep in at night. 

******

But how’s a six year old girl to resist Buddhism while living in a monastery? And why should she? The monks give her and her brother sweets and the occasional toy from foreigners who visit in loud groups. The children get a steady dose of indoctrination and hot meals, temple visits and spelling tests.

And, no surprise, they come back to you for their first visit six months later, making offerings and burning incense, asking for luck and claiming reincarnation, Buddhist through-and-through.

You are disappointed, angered even. You’ve been around long enough to know that kids will believe about anything grown-ups tell them. But what other choice do you have? A free education might be worth Buddhist children.

“At least they won’t starve,” you tell yourself.

******

And we shrug a simple story like this off, but I wonder if this is the position we put parents and children in too often in pursuit sharing the gospel? And while we’ve had conversations here about offering humanitarian aid and it’s relationship to missions, we haven’t yet talked about the ethics of engaging with children in another culture– particularly without parental authority present.

And, yes, I spent a decade in church ministry, and I always heard about the “opportunity” for children to accept Christ. “Like wet clay set out to dry, the older a person gets the harder it is to change their minds,” a children’s pastor told me once. It’s a philosophy that has made me donate specifically to kids’ ministries in the past. I get the logic.

But let’s be honest here– what are the moral ethics involved in preaching, converting, discipling, proselytizing children?

Don’t we have an obligation to their home culture (which is often closely linked with a religion) to tread carefully? Don’t we have a responsibility to their humanity to avoid using gifts to gain loyalty and to their parents to respectfully engage them in the information their kids are receiving?

I mean, stick my poor kid in a free school and demand (very nicely) through lessons and social pressure and altar calls that she become Buddhist, and well, I’m going to be left feeling both angered and powerless.

But the monks may never know it– a free education is a free education, after all.

 

– Laura Parker, Co-Founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia

**********

So let’s talk.  What guidelines/principles do you have when working with children in another culture?  How have you seen it done well/done poorly? Is it fair to give a gospel presentation without parental consent? And what if the parents aren’t involved or aren’t around? Thoughts? 

 

Is the Purpose of Missions the GOSPEL or the KINGDOM?

india

We sat across the table from them and they leveled questions at us about our work. It felt a little Spanish Inquisition, honestly.

“What happens to the girls after they are rescued? Do you give them the gospel? Can you guarantee they end up in a Christian after care center?”

And we had to honestly give them answers they didn’t like.

The government has authority, we said, so we can’t guarantee where the girls end up, though we do advocate their placement in quality after care, more often than not which is run by Christian organizations.

No, we don’t give them the gospel right after the raid. The spiritual abuse involved in that practice– giving a girl the four spiritual laws in the midst of the trauma of a rescue operation–feels well, exploitative.

No, we can’t guarantee they will hear the name Jesus in the process of our work.

You see, we work to empower undercover investigations into sex trafficking in India and SE Asia. We purposefully chose to make the organization secular, in an attempt to build more bridges with government partners and in an effort to bring as many people around the table for the sake of the victim. We have investigators that are Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu. And yes, Christian, too. We are a focused coalition that sends men and women into dark places on behalf of the child. And it’s working. 250 girls and women have been pulled out of brothels because of the brave efforts of our field partners– most of whom are not of the Christian faith.

But to the men sitting across the table from us considering financial support, that wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t enough to live gospel, in their opinions, we needed to say it, too.

DSC_1865

It reminded me of other conversations we’ve had with many in the church-world who’ve said to us essentially, “Why save them from an earthly hell if you can’t save them from an eternal one?”

And I’ll be brutally honest, that type of thinking hurts. It hurts that Christians would so quickly write off justice if there’s no promise of the Romans Road. It hurts us personally, as we are bleeding out for this mission, but it mostly hurts for the girl behind the locked doors–the one who desperately needs brave, compassionate people to rise up on her behalf, regardless of her spiritual choices, past, present or future.

And I get that in missions there are church planters and evangelists and gospel-in-word-givers. And I’m not saying that missions can’t be that, but can’t it also be ushering in the Kingdom? Because the Kingdom comes when God’s will is done on earth, and I’m convinced God’s will is not sexual slavery for poor and oppressed women around the world.

And shouldn’t the Church, his name-bearers, be the ones out front leading the fight for this Kingdom-coming? Giving, with no strings or expectations attached? Protecting, without the hidden agenda to convert?

And if for some reason, a “missionary” can only love wildly but silently, does this negate the gospel, the good news, he or she is bringing to another human being? 

I can’t think of anything more gospel than going into a seedy brothel and loving by rescuing. It reminds me a lot of Jesus.

Though, admittedly, it doesn’t fit most missionary job descriptions.

Laura Parker, Co-Founder, Editor, Former Aid Worker to SE Asia

*******

I fully expect disagreement with this post. I’m okay with that. Please know that I do respect those who actively and verbally communicate the gospel to others. Having said that, I’d love to know your (honest, respectful, kind) thoughts about this topic–

Can missions be ONLY-KINGDOM or does it have to be VERBAL-GOSPEL or can it be BOTH? 

Other posts here that might be of interest: Rice Christians and Fake Conversions  |  The Purpose of Missions– Uh, What Is It, Again?   | How an Atheist is Teaching Me to Live Like Jesus   |  The Gospel of the Brothel 

*photo credit: David Bartsch

Is This Really, Ever Okay?

The following video is one we took in the downtown tourist area in Chiang Mai, SE Asia, several months ago.  There happened to be a street preacher there that night, shouting Bible verses Navy-SEAL-style, in ENGLISH, while several people handed out literature to the tourists and locals passing by.

And we walked away, trying to be open-minded about this street-preacher’s personal fleshing-out of a belief-system, but still asking,  “Is this really, Ever Okay?

Or, Effective?

Or, Loving?”

Is it possible to do more damage than good in the name of Jesus? And even with the best of intentions?

Because what we say, matters. And so does the how, the who, and the where of the speaking.

And I wonder if so often our means of communication bodyslams whatever message we’re so desperately eager for others to hear.

*************************

What do you think?  Give.it.to.me.straight.  Are street preachers right always, wrong always, sometimes both or sometimes neither?  Experiences?

Thoughts about poor method trumping good message?

 

The Purpose of Missions: Uh, What is It Again?

I’m not going to lie– my idea of missions has had an extreme makeover during the last several years. I pushed off shore thinking I knew so much about loving-well and Jesus-following in another culture, but I continue to learn that I probably know-wrong more than I know-right.

And this can be very disheartening for the hit-the-ground-running missionary. Independent or with an organization. Short-term or long-term. With kids or single. Social-justice-minded or gospel-driven or leadership-developing . When you continue to have your neat-and-tidy-boxes of the purpose of overseas missions {and effectiveness} slam-dunked with the realities on foreign soil in the 21st century, you tend to falter a bit.

Which leads me to a question I’d love to have us as a community discuss:

What, really, is the purpose of international missions? 

Is it to develop communities or to fight social injustice? Is it to disciple or evangelize or convert? Is it to be Jesus-with-skin-on or is it to save people from hell?  Should it look like developing national leaders or empowering the local church or handing out boatloads of resources?

And I know it sounds a bit wild, for me to even be asking this. But, honestly, really, I’m serious, I’ve had conversations over the past two years with lots of missionaries here and in SE Asia, and many of them have very different opinions on the answer. And this feels ineffective and . . . well, wrong-somehow.

Doctors know they are supposed to heal. Car mechanics fix vehicles. Teachers teach. What should be a missionary’s main goal? And is there a most effective way to reach it? 

All right, the gate is open, regardless of what latitude you call home:

 In one sentence, what is the chief purpose of overseas missions? And (the real conversation-starter) what is the most effective way to reach that goal? 

And, while we’re in the conversation, do you think that the main purpose of missions has shifted over the last generation?

*****

– Laura Parker, co-founder and editor, former aid worker in Thailand

 

Also, would you consider sharing this conversation via Facebook or twitter to ask your friends to join in the conversation?  I’d love to see what the general consensus is. Honest, respectful answers welcome! 

Newsflash: We’re Not Better Because We Live Overseas

I read a lot of missionary blogs.

When someone comments from Peru or Vietnam or Sudan, I click, and I read. Because the world fascinates me. It is a big, beautiful place, and God is doing amazing things on all corners of it. Absolutely.

But, as I have read missionary blogs, and as I have watched videos about world races, I am struck with the subtle arrogance of the Western missionary’s language. Things {something} like this are all over our websites and newsletters:

“I knew that there was more to life than the 9-t0-5 in America. I was just a businessman, and now I get to be so much more.”

“I felt God calling me into a bigger story. One that wasn’t so comfortable and easy.”

“I am living a good story, because I am moving overseas to Africa.”

“I’ve spent my whole life in the normal, but now I am embracing real adventure.”

“There is desperate need in India, and I finally get to become Jesus’s hands and feet.”

Okay, friends.  Put yourself in the non-missionary’s shoes. What does this kind of language communicate? Reading our overseas blogs from North Carolina or Colorado or California, what are we saying to all of those who aren’t choosing to live in a foreign country?

That their story isn’t good because they aren’t feeding African children?

That they can’t see God work in miraculous ways in the West?

That there is something selfish about simply rooting where you are planted?

That God doesn’t show up in dramatic ways in the “normal,” that there isn’t need in the States?

That their Christ-following is somehow, less?

This is wrong. All of it.

Because yes, the video of the white guy with the poor kids and the inspirational music in the background is dramatic and inspirational, but his story isn’t better by any means than the housewife who is trying to flesh out her faith in the same hometown she grew up in.

It. is. not.

Despite what our media sells us. Or our Christian circles tell us. Or the popular communicate in their highly-edited videos.

Following Jesus and loving others well can happen anywhere. Is hard anywhere. And can speak transformationanywhere.

And, so, friends who might read here and who aren’t choosing to live overseas, let me officially apologize– on behalf of myself and on behalf of all the missionary-media you’ve seen.

If the power of your story has felt devalued because you have chosen to do the hard{er?} work of staying and loving others right where you are, I ask your forgiveness.

Because a good story most definitely does not require a passport.

And, to my missionary friends, please, please, forthelove, be careful in your communication. Be careful that you are not subtly telling your followers, your supporters, your friends back home that they are less.

The choice to usher in the Kingdom deserves respect, wherever it takes place.

*Version originally appeared on LauraParkerBlog, March 2012

*****

Do you communicate, or believe, that the “more Godly” move is an international one? How does that attitude play into our communications with our support back home? Or even our sense of pride?

Laura Parker, Co-Founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia

Celebrating 100 Posts!

lanterns-crooked

Well, friends-from-all-latitudes, it’s been a pretty amazing first six months here at A Life Overseas. When Angie (from Bolivia), and I (Laura, moving from SE Asia to Colorado at the time) first talked about creating an online space to honestly talk about what it means to serve internationally, we weren’t sure if the idea would take. We saw the need for it in our own lives and experiences overseas, but we weren’t confident other people would be as excited about the idea as we were.

But, you, you, friends have proven us wrong.

You’ve visited our pages over 113,000 times in the last six months, and lately you’ve been viewing our articles over 20,000 times each month. But you just haven’t just read and moved on, you have engaged with this community here in real conversations by leaving nearly 2,000 comments, as well. Over 500 of you get our posts to your inboxes and over 800 of you participate in the Facebook community, too.

And all of this, with 100 posts. These articles were written by a team of writers and guests from all walks of life, in every corner of the globe– the missionary mom in Bolivia, the single woman in Thailand, the dad loving orphans in Africa. We’ve talked about issues that are unique to this community of expats, from raising Third Culture Kids to wondering if the mission field was messing with our faith itself. We’ve talked about the realities of sacrifice and culture shock, and we’ve honestly talked about hard things, like sexual abuse on the mission field. This community has discussed fake conversions and hiring national house helpers, short term missions and even protocol for engaging in religious practices of other faiths.  We’ve talked about fundraising and kid-raising, about saying goodbye and about saying goodbye again. We’ve hit topic after topic relevant to the unique community that we are as international aid workers and missionaries.

And all of this, in just six. short. months. Imagine what the next six might bring.

We can not thank you enough for investing here in this conversation, for sticking with us to this, our 100th post. This community of nomads here at A Life Overseas is turning out to be a powerful one. And we’re grateful you each are a part of it.

Laura Parker, Co-Founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia

*****

In an effort to celebrate, we are launching two special events today. To begin, we are hosting our first ever photo contest! And yes, there will be prizes. The theme for this contest is: “Face of My Nation.” We’d like you to look through your photos and select one you think represents the people of the country where you are currently working and living. Please include a one sentence caption, explaining the photo or what you love about it. Submit the photo and caption, along with your name, country where you are working and how long you’ve lived there,  with “Photo Contest” in the subject line to: alifeoverseas{@}gmail.com. We’ll close entries on June 5, then we will post the winning 5 photos for the community to vote on starting June 7. Prizes will be announced soon, but please go ahead and submit your favorite pictures! Only one entry per person, please.

Also, we’re hosting a link-up party today. We know that many of you are excellent bloggers yourselves, and we’d like the chance to foster community and get to know each other a bit better. So, take a minute and choose your favorite post from the past 100 you’ve written, and link it up below. {Go ahead and link us specifically to your favorite post, not just your blog homepage, if you would.}

Here’s to praying the next 100 posts, for your personally and for the team here at A Life Overseas, is as encouraging and challenging as the last 100.

{In addition to linking up your posts below, we’d love to hear from you about what you’d like to see more of in the next six months from this collective blog. Topics, features, ideas? Also, if this site has encouraged you or spoken to you in a particular way, we’d love to hear that, as well. We heart feedback.}

*******



Why “Did You Have Fun?” is the Wrong Question

Sweaty heads and dirty feet tumbled into the car after an evening last week at BHJ Girl’s Home in SE Asia.  And we waved goodbye out the window as the gate was closed behind us, and I asked my three kids in the backseat, “Well, did you have fun?”

And, immediately, my son started in– “I didn’t like the food.  And they wouldn’t play with me much.  And I didn’t get to play soccer. And those dogs were there.”  {I assumed that was a “no.”}

Deflate Mother-Dreams-of-Kids-Serving-the-World Balloon.

But, then, I asked {well, fired-back} a different question, “Well, did you love well?”

Pause.

“Wellllll, not really,” admitted one.

“I think I did. I helped with the dishes and played with Yada a lot,” said another.

“I totally did,” claimed the 4-year-old who just figured that “yes” was a better answer.

Drop Parenting-Revelation-Bomb.

Because every time my kids have gotten in the car after soccer practice or a school day, a playdate with friends or even a night spent with impoverished girls in SE Asia, my default question has always been about their own personal fun.  I’m typically asking, first, about their good time, the friends they hung out with, the general awesomeness of the event itself.

And, ultimately, though subtly, I fear I’m communicating that their pleasure should be the focus of hours spent with others.  And is that, really, what I want to be teaching my kids–

That if their _____{insert activity here}_____  wasn’t “fun,” then it was a waste, a thing to complain about on the car ride home?

Cue Mom’s New Brilliant-Master-Plan.

My kids will be getting a different question from now on when they plop their taekwondo belts or their book bags or their soccer cleats into the backseat.  I’ll be asking first, “How’d you love?” {or some non-cheezy-version of the same type of ask}.

Because shouldn’t our default be more about what we gave, than what we got?

And if we really believe that, shouldn’t the questions we ask our kids reflect it?

*originally posted September 8, 2011, Laura Parker Blog

*****************

What’s the default question you ask after an event?  How do you shift your kids from being self-focused to others-focused?  Uh, how do you shift yourself?

And do your kids jump into ministry as easily as you thought? 

– Laura Parker, Co-Editor/Founder, Former aid worker in SE Asia

 

The Upside of Missions and How We Just Need to Have More Fun

Missionaries can be a negative, cynical bunch sometimes. And I’m not pointing fingers because I get it. I’ve drunk the kool-aid and have come up woefully short of expectations (of myself, the work and others), and I’ve done this same fall-on-my-face-move on four different continents. Hacking out a life overseas can make a pessimist out of the best of us.

But it doesn’t have to. And maybe it shouldn’t.

Because yes, international living can be brutal. Yes, kids get hurt and marriages suffer. Yes, culture shock can lay us low and goodlord sometimes other missionaries can do that, too.

And this space at A Life Overseas is most definitely a safe place to air those realities. And it’s a place to be reminded that you are not alone in them.

Yet, yet.

I do fear that missionaries can become all work and no play. All sacrifice and no joy. All sprint and no marathon.

I mean, there are some pretty amazing things that take place overseas that would never happen were we to all have stayed home . . .

*****

Okay, so bring it. What do you LOVE about living overseas? Let’s fire up this comment section with the post ivies . . . it’ll make us all feel a little better.

Laura Parker, Co-editor/founder, former humanitarian aid worker in SE Asia

Is Justice Worth It?

As I scoured the internet last week for inspiration, I stumbled upon this video about justice. . .

And I immediately thought of you all.

Because you, this community at A Life Overseas, you make others– the different, the poor, the oppressed, the lost– your own. 

Don’t. Stop. Fighting. For. Them.

Is Justice Worth It? feat. Micah Bournes from World Relief on Vimeo.

Laura Parker, co-editor, is a former humanitarian aid worker in SE Asia