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

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

Big News!

Dear Friends,

We are continually so, so grateful for the ways this community and its conversations have spiraled out to the far reaches of the globe and down into the hard realities of working and seeking God internationally. Thank you for being here. We’re over 200 posts into this conversation about missions, and  1500 comments in, this community here in this corner of the web is a strong, honest, brave one.

As founders, Angie and I have a few small things to announce about the future of A Life Overseas. We hope you’ll find the following as exciting as we do:


We are so sorry for those who couldn’t get signed up for the RSS feed, either weekly or daily. We hadn’t realized that we had hit our limit of 2,000 subscribers through the service we were using. However, we changed some things around and everything should be working now. You should be getting our blog posts into your inboxes now. If you’re not sure if you are subscribed (or the old system wouldn’t let you), head over to the sidebar and sign up today.


We are grateful for the new leadership of Marilyn Gardner as our new Guest Post Editor. Marilyn will be handling all the correspondence with our guest posters and will be scheduling guest authors. If you are interested in pitching an idea or article (500-700 words) to Marilyn, feel free to writer her at: alifeoverseas {@} and put “GUEST POST” in the subject line.


Angie and I are excited to watch the writing team continue to grow with more qualified and varied voices. We’re especially honored to have Alece Ronzino commit to writing as a quarterly author (you’ve already read some of her words here) and the talented Kelley Johnson will begin as a monthly contributor beginning in March. Below are their bios:

Alece HeadshotAlece Ronzino. After pioneering and leading a nonprofit in South Africa for 13 years, Alece now lives in Nashville, TN. She is a Nonprofit Communications & Development Strategist, a freelance copywriter/editor, and the founder of One Word 365. She blogs occasionally but candidly about searching for God in the question marks of life and faith. Follow Alece on Twitter and visit her blog, Grit and Glory.


profile pic no markKelley Nikondeha. Kelley is a thinker, connector, advocate, avid reader, mother of two beautiful children, lover of God’s justice & jubilee.  She leads theological conversations atAmahoro Africa and is chief storyteller for Communities of Hope. Kelley lives her life in transit between Arizona and Burundi. She’s in transit between continents but also in terms of her own experience of motherhood, discipleship, theological engagement and living into God’s dream for the world. She savors handwritten letters, homemade pesto and anything written by Walter Brueggemann. She is fueled by space and snacks (and Diet Coke). She blogs at and you an find her on twitter at @knikondeha.

Join us in welcoming Alece and Kelley to our writing team. Ladies, we are honored to haver your words here.



We want to invite your pictures into this community. If you are on instagram and if you have a photo that represents your life internationally, would you tag the picture #alifeoverseas? Your photo will automatically show up on this blog in the sidebar. 10 photos will be shown at a time. We think it will add incredibly interesting content to this site. Here are some guidelines for tagging:

* To cause photos to show up on the feed, tag them #alifeoverseas in your description of the photo on instagram.

* Think of photos that depict INTERNATIONAL LIVING and MINISTRY. (Not necessarily pictures of your dog back in Minnesota or you and your spouse on a date at the mall. Think scenery, nationals, activities, food, etc.- photos that depict the  uniqueness of your life and work overseas.)

* Be careful posting pictures of children or nationals without permission. As always with social media, please use discretion when posting photos of people or minors without their consent or knowledge. Be respectful, not exploitative.

* People will be able to read the descriptions of your photos, so we’d love for you to give us some context for your photo– who you are, where you work, what’s going on, etc.


As always, thank you so much for joining us here, and thank you for your patience with us as we continue to juggle managing this space along with . . .  our normal, very full lives.

Soldier on, friends,

Laura and Angie 


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?


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.


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

A God Not Limited by Geography

Some thoughts on living in the United States and in Asia, and how God will never be limited by geography. I wrote this originally nearly a year and a half ago, when we first relocated back to the US: 

It’s hard to reconcile the two lives I’ve lived in the past two weeks. One overlooking rice fields, the other at the foot of Pike’s Peak. One with Mississippi-summer-heat by 9 am, the other too chilly even for my cutest of skirts. One with scooters flying and orchids climbing, the other with bikes on trails beside pine trees and aspens.

In many ways, it’s a bit of an out-of-body experience that leaves me still feeling like a fish-out-of-water.

Like the times when I’ll start to bow politely {or “y”} to an elderly person, like we’d always do in Asia for a greeting, and then have to make like I’m  super-interested in something related to my shoe. Or the times when I just can’t seem to read the menus on the board fast enough and the line behind me grows longer, causing the lady at the cash register to politely huff.  There are moments when I’ll start to answer in Asian and catch myself, moments when I have to really concentrate to drive on the right side of the road,

moments when the options at the grocery store make me simultaneously feel as if I’ve won the lottery and gotten buried by a landslide. 

And then there are differences that run deeper than the 27 flavors on the yogurt aisles or the position of a steering wheel. This American life has a different pace than our Asian one did. It’s faster, but in many ways, it’s easier, too. Simple tasks, like signing my kid up for soccer or getting a bookshelf for our living room, can be accomplished ohsoquickly here. With one stop. In a language and system I intrinsically understand. In fact, Matt said the other day that he felt much more efficient working in the States because so much of his energy wasn’t’ expended on basic family survival. And I get this.

But sometimes easier can translate into a false sense of spiritual-numbness, too.

I remember in Asia, I prayed literally every time I got in a car because the driving was so incredibly stressful– I prayed we wouldn’t hit a baby and mother on a scooter, I prayed the police wouldn’t stop us, I asked for angels to surround our 20-year-old car. And here? Well, honestly, I haven’t prayed once for God’s protection driving– maybe because I don’t feel like I really need it.

In SE Asia, I also remember pleading with God for the grace to be positive and thankful when I walked out with groceries from the local 7-11, and it was painfully the same five things to eat for breakfast and lunch: cereal, yogurt, peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and noodles with ketchup. But here in the States?  We sit down to feasts nightly, and I’m not sure we’ve eaten the exact same thing twice in two weeks. And while I do breathe gratitude for the abundance, I’m not forced into a place of pleading when I sit down to my grilled chicken, yeast rolls, and broccoli that you can buy pre-chopped and in little steamer bags.

Back here at home, I don’t have to beg for supernatural understanding with a language I never could quite fully get. I don’t have to grasp for Spirit-grace like a rope out of a pit. I don’t have to praylikemad that I’ll be able to survive another day on 50% oxygen.

And I do have a natural fear that all this abundance will quickly become my norm, the expected. And my nice used van will somehow become too small, and Walmart will somehow not have exactly what I want {is that really possible?}, and I’ll complain about that. Or, worse, that I’ll be in such a rush that I’ll be rude to the lady at the checkout counter. I have a fear that the things I’ve learned overseas will fade quickly, like a childhood memory or summer camp or a New Year’s resolution I only kept till Febraury.

But, then, then I remember that God is always, always in the business of transformation. And to say that transformation can only take place overseas is a lie, just like it’s a lie that says the change that happened there will disappear when you are living back in your home country.  

God has never been bound by latitude, after all.

And to claim that he works more or better in one location than the another is stuffing him in a box he’ll keep refusing to stay in.


Do you fall into the assumption that God does more or better work in and through you while living overseas? What is the danger (is there a danger?) of this subtle belief? 

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


Happy Birthday, A Life Overseas!

When Angie Washington and I dreamed of a safe place online for people in the trenches of working and ministering overseas, written by people living and ministering overseas. We wanted a community where honest conversations and gritty realities were honored, a space where challenge and encouragement could be shared with respect and intention.

And now, one year and nearly 280,000 visits later, amid 3,500 comments, this space is thriving. 

And we, as a community of writers, just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for making this place a corner of the web where we all want to be at least a little bit each week. The following is a little video message from us, from several different continents. . . .

Happy Birthday, friends. Here’s to another year of honest conversations from around the globe. 

Laura Parker


We’d love to hear from you. As we plan for next year, what would you like to see more of? What topics would you like covered?

Or, would you share the ways in which this community has challenged or encouraged you? Any specific post that touched you? 


Want to give us a birthday present? Consider sharing this post online, subscribe via the sidebar, liking us on Facebook, or (the ultimate gift) ask your friends to connect with us on facebook, as well.


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?  Are street preachers right always, wrong always, sometimes both or sometimes neither?  Experiences?

Thoughts about poor method trumping good message?


Help Us! Interview Your Local Friends


So we think one of the greatest problems which we as a community can make when we talk about international missions is to only include voices from, well, white faces. This is why several months ago we introduced a feature here at A Life Overseas called Voice of the National. It was the idea that we wanted to hear from the people we were serving, with humility that we, as expats, have much to learn from them. Richelle from Africa posted a beautiful interview with a local friend which you should totally read here, and which encapsulates the hope for this feature on the blog.

And this is where you come in.

We’d like to hear from the locals in your neck of the woods. Would you consider asking one or all of the following three questions to a local friend or coworker or church member? Record their answers– DON’T edit them!– and email them to us. We’ll be collecting them and producing a post with all of their responses together from all around the world. It should make for a fascinating read to all of us as we hear from locals who live alongside foreign aid workers in their countries. Here are the three questions– ask one or two or all.

Questions to Ask Your Local Friend

1 What do foreign missionaries do well? How have they helped your country?

2. How could foreign missionaries better serve your country and people?

3. What is your dream for your country?

That’s it! You don’t have to quote their answers per se, if that makes it awkward, just shoot us the summaries as you can best remember. Of course, if you’d like to take actual notes on their answers, that would be great, too! Send your answers with “Voice of the National” in the subject line of the email to: Be sure to include your name, where you are living, and what your relationship is with the person you interviewed. Please give first names only (and if they want to remain anonymous, that’s fine, too.) Of course, please get their permission to share their answers online with the community, as well.

Responses need to be completed and sent in by OCTOBER 22. We’ll put together a fabulous post by the end of the month!

Thanks for your participation in this project! We are hopeful about what we can all learn when we take a moment to stop and intentionally listen to the amazing people we all work alongside. 

Something, perhaps, many of us need to do more regularly.

Laura Parker, Co-Editor/Founder

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!