Rethinking Witness

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

 bible-138977_1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/bible-holy-book-christianity-138977/

 

 

Story-telling and the Short Term Mission Trip

Claude & I celebrating 5 years of community development in Burundi!
Claude & I celebrating 5 years of community development in Burundi!

We just said good bye to a team of friends who left Burundi last night. Their send off included one last party with friends, good food and the experience of the Burundian drum corp. As they loaded their luggage into the cars and headed to the airport, I thought back over the week.

I remember, in a word, the vibrancy of the first few days up-country as our guests mingled with our Batwa communities. I remembered the moment Godece washed my muddy feet after I fell down the rain-soaked hill of Matara. I’ll never forget the leaders of Matara parading toward us with gifts – a chicken, a branch of green bananas, beans and fruits – all from their abundance. Now they bless us with their first-fruits, after 5 years they have more than enough to share. These are the snapshots from a full week – and if there were time I’d tell you so many more things that took my breath away during this week of visitation and celebration.

Even this morning, as I’m hung over with exhaustion (and an eye red and watery from some kind of scratch or infection) I can remember these few things clearly. I can articulate them even through the fog of my aching bones and coffee-craving. Because we prepared for this all along.

Let me share quickly (because I am really tired) how we practice story-telling and prepare our teams for their return home after their short term mission trip…

1. Give me a word.

At the end of day one or day two, the team is usually buzzing. There is still a sense of disorientation but now, after the first few experiences on the field, there are new sensations added to the mix. You can see that people are still fighting the jet-lag and that they are trying to get their minds around what they’ve just witnessed with the Batwa friends.

This is when, around the relaxed setting of the dinner table, I begin to prepare the team for their return. I look around the table, look at each team member and, after clicking the glass to get their attention, I say, “Give me a word.” I instruct each person to give me one word to describe what they are feeling or what they are seeing thus far.

You can give just one word without explanation. There is freedom in that request – especially for team members who don’t know all the others. One word is not a heavy burden. Also, for people still reeling with a mix of emotions and exhaustion, one word is manageable.

This week some of the words were familiar, joy, heaven, rightness, overwhelming, freedom, love, sustainable, transformation. Mine was vibrancy.

Some people felt the need to elaborate. Others didn’t. But everyone offered one word. It was the beginning of putting words to the experience, starting to frame this trip as it developed.

2. Tell me one moment.

About halfway through the trip I invite the team to share one moment that arrested their attention or provoked some emotion or new awareness. Sometimes this happens around a meal, but sometimes amid a time of devotions. No one is rushed, but no one is skipped either. Everyone tells the group a moment that stands out for them – even if it echoes someone else’s.

Now I watch people strong more words together around what they are experiencing in Matara, in Bubanza, with our various friends and projects. One is touched by the encounter with a driver, the conversation they had driving through one neighborhood in particular. Another shares the recognition that now these local friends have access to healthcare because there is a little clinic with a nurse on duty. Someone else notes that for the first time they’ve witnessed joy beyond circumstances when they saw the Batwa women dance.

For me, my moment was when Godece washed my muddy feet. She took my feet in her hands as her son poured water over them. She wiggled her fingers in between my toes to dislodge dirt and tiny stones. She rubbed the bar of soap over my feet and coaxed out the cleansing suds. It was a sacramental moment between us.

Stories being shared around the table!
Stories being shared around the table!

3. A break to rest.

Near the last days of the trip, the team starts to ware a bit. They’ve been on the go for days, they’ve been eating unfamiliar foods, their schedule is irregular and they are feeling it. Despite all the goodness, I can see they need a break. We also know that this is when many of our guests hit the saturation point. So many sights, so many faces, so many stories swimming in their brains – accompanied with all the emotions sloshing around their hearts.

So we plan a set of hours for the team to relax. When there is time, we take the team away for an entire day to a resort to rest. They can walk on the beach, take long naps or read a book by the pool. On shorter trips, we end the day at 3:00pm and allow the team to relax for the rest of the day. They can take a swim, enjoy dinner at their leisure or skip it entirely and go to bed early instead. We just ensure that there is some unscheduled time for the team to rest, to practice some Sabbath amid the trip.

What I’ve learned is that this time allows the stories to seep in deep. This time allows the thoughts criss-crossing their minds to untangle a bit. The rest allows the team members to recalibrate, but also to absorb what they’ve been experiencing. Open time allows the stories to find their place and for deeper connections to emerge.

The truth is that team members have busy lives back home, so we can’t just assume there will be reflection time once they return to their city. But knowing how critical that reflection time is to their ability to process all the local experiences, we make sure to offer space while they are with us.

I assure you, this is not wasted time in-country. Sometimes we don’t need one more story or one more visit across the city, we need time to contemplate all the other stories encounters thus far.

Often the best conversations happen in the following couple of days after the time of rest and reflection. People have put thoughts together and return to us with great observations and questions. I love when this happens before they leave us, when there is time for engagement before a continent separates us again.

4. How was your trip?

On the final night I invite the team to each share the moment that stands out for them, the one that rises to the top. Often I will have them break into teams of two to share for about 5 minutes each. When we come back to the large group, everyone shares the story again, but in about 3 minutes. Then I challenge them to find another team member and now share that same story in 2 minutes.

We are practicing.

Once the time is done I remind them that when they get off the plane, the question they will most often hear is “How was the trip?” This is your moment to honor those friends in Burundi, to say something true about the people or the place. Don’t waste it by saying “It was great” or “I loved it there.” Take the opportunity to share something true about your time among our friends.

So we practice in Burundi so that our team is ready when they land in Houston, Vancouver, Melbourne or wherever. They can share their moment in 2 minutes or so, offer a sterling memory of their time among the people of Burundi. Maybe people will want to hear more… and over coffee you can share more stories, pictures and such. But even if all you get is 2 minutes of their attention, in that time you honor your friends in Burundi and your time overseas.

I’ve had several people over the years tell me how grateful they were for the preparation time in Burundi. They reported that upon landing home, when they were jet-lagged and out of sorts, they kicked into gear when the question was asked. They pulled from the memory of the words, moments and stories they shared around our table and were ready to say something true about their trip.

This is one important way we can prepare our teams for homecoming from the moment they arrive with us in-country… practice storytelling the entire time. Yes, it will offer you a sense of where the team members are as you listen to what affects them. But almost more important, you will prepare them to tell their story well when they return home. I know they will take the goodness of Burundi home with them and spread it like good seed whenever they share a story or a moment or a word.

[This is the third post in a series on How To Host A Mission Trip based on our ten years of practice in Burundi!”

How do you facilitate story-telling for your short-term mission teams?

Have you ever returned from a short term mission trip and felt tongue-tied?

 

Kelley Nikondeha  |  community development practitioner in Burundi

Blog | www.kelleynikondeha.com    Twitter | @knikondeha

 

Living the Expat Life

It feels normal and strange all at once – but that’s to be expected.

I have been back in my home country for nearly a year… Another year to go before we head back into the expat life and scene. The routines here are finally comfortably familiar, again! I’m still loving all the things I love about living in Michigan (changing seasons is a biggie) while the flirtatious heat of summer nostalgically hints and reminds me of the overwhelming heat of Niger (and so we refuse to run the AC) while the familiar tide of homesickness floods over me. But? I’m more adept at riding that wave now than even just a few short months ago. I remember how to get to, and more importantly get through, the store – actually handling shopping at a super Walmart without feeling too overwhelmed… as long as I go late at night… with a very specific list… and have a specific time I need to be finished by – like teenage daughter waiting at home for help with her Precalc or a sick preschooler waiting for children’s Tylenol (even though I had adult pills I could have cut and crushed like I did while overseas). I’m once again proficient at swiping credit cards and there’s no longer a temptation to try and bargain down prices for clothing or material. I’m desperately missing friends and loved ones, but that is always a part of life, no matter where I’m living.

And since things are feeling relatively comfortable, this introvert finally wrangled up the courage to try something new.

I attended a meeting for a group of women presently living in this locale, but who have also spent time living abroad. Accents and languages, skin and hair colors, clothing and jewelry styles varied… almost every corner of the world was represented. Some had grown children while others were just starting out. Some freely and lavishly consumed European wine, gourmet sandwiches and fancy finger desserts catered for the occasion; others, practicing vegans, consumed only water and sliced fruit. One even wore a scarf covering her head and upper body. Everyone seemed delighted to be there – with so much different, one thing we all had in common was the experience of packing up and moving to a completely foreign place and trying to build and make a life there.

Each woman in that group has a story – although I was only able to hear a few:  foreign spouse to one working for a large business company with an international division; an immigrant family who pursued and caught their “American dream;” the American gal vacationing in Europe one summer and just happened to meet her life partner; or the student who moved to America to pursue her education, decided to stay and thus began to call this land home.

It was a stretching experience – taking myself all by myself someplace to meet a bunch of strangers cold turkey is normally the kind of thing I avoid like the plague… But the women were gracious, welcoming, kind and oh-so-international – there were even French speakers, although there wasn’t anyone else who’d also lived in Africa. I’m pretty sure I’ll pay the membership dues and plan to attend meetings when I can next year.

Something else totally astonished me.

While there, I listened to the most interesting conversation – about maids and nannies and etc. And I hope no one noticed my chin on the floor as I listened. It might be a bit embarrassing to go back for the next meeting if they did…

Every place I have lived and worked overseas – W Africa and SE Asia, it is common – expected, actually – for expats to hire local men or women to cook, clean, garden, keep the gate and/or sometimes care for their children. I mean, EVERYONE had someone, at least part-time. For two of our years and for many reasons, our family decided to forego a house helper: my fellow expats thought I was a bit batty (I think) and our local friends just didn’t believe that it was true or that we could do all the work as a family ourselves. That meant, however, that we did have house help for almost fifteen years during our West African sojourn. We’d justify it. Everything DID take longer – from bargaining for and then bleaching all of the fresh produce – to dusting and sweeping like mad, and often several times a day – to making everything from scratch all the time because the closest we got to “convenience” food was street food and baguettes wrapped in day old newspaper also covered with a fine layer of street dust. Hiring local workers invested in the local economy. It gave us opportunities to meet people we might not otherwise have the occasion to know as well as consistent, regular practice working on the local languages, not to mention someone close by with insight into all those local cultural practices that seemed so odd and foreign at first.

Behind The Scenes - Tea Ladies ... July 1946

I have never dreamed of hiring house help while living in the States. On second thought, maybe I have dreamed… but I have never seriously considered engaging someone other than bribing a child with a bit of spending money to take care of a job that falls outside of their normally scheduled chores and household responsibilities.

Yet this group, these women… at least every single one at my table… all had house help. Most of them had a nanny, too. In the States??!

medium_458302865

Even more surprising? They listed the exact same reasons/benefits… justifications… for hiring someone that I’ve heard my friends living in the developing world list, the exact same ones that I’ve used myself. You know. Those ones that I’ve just listed above.

All the while I’m listening to this conversation, I’m thinking, “Seriously?” But once I back out of a judgmental mode – which, if I’m being honest was a challenge because I KNOW living here, at least workload wise, is light-years easier than it was living in W Africa, I started asking myself some questions.

I don’t have answers ~ so I thought I’d bring them to you all…

Do people in your area hire local outside help for regular, around-the-house jobs and chores?

Is your locale considered developed or developing?

What is the reasoning for hiring local help in your region? If you have local help, why?

Would you, like me, have been surprised if you’d been listening to the above conversation?

Do you think local help is more of a genuine necessity or is it, in reality, more of a perk of living the expat lifestyle and being a stranger in a foreign land where you are expected to do things differently? Why?

photo credits (in order):

 Luke,Ma via photopin cc

 srv007 via photopin cc

 A.Davey via photopin cc

An Encounter with the Great Interrupter

train tracks

Two years ago my brother and his wife had an encounter with the Great Interrupter. In their case the encounter put them in a place of selling a home of over 15 years, leaving a church of the same, leaving a community where they have loved hard and been loved back, and leaving the only home their children remember. They embarked on a mid-life journey to begin a life in the Middle East. Like a train heading one direction only to switch mid-journey to another set of tracks, so was their interruption. Who needs a mid-life crisis when the Great Interrupter is in your life?

As a community at A Life Overseas we know intimately about these encounters with the Great Interrupter. When your life seems to be heading one way, the trajectory clear, and then in a slow but steady encounter with the Great Interrupter you realize that your life is being disturbed. No longer can you settle comfortably in the familiar because the voice of the Great Interrupter is strong and powerful, compelling if not always clear.

These interruptions are not easy. There are the myriad of details that boggle the mind and include everything from the first announcement made to friends and colleagues to changing lights so that the bathroom will be more acceptable for the realtor. Details that include sorting through children’s elementary school papers and art projects, dusty from storage, to giving away furniture. There are garage sales and goodbyes, more sorting and midnight tears; there are the tense arguments that burst forth unexpectedly when everything seemed to be going so well. There are the endless “What do we keep?” “What do we take?”  “How can we possibly do this?”

And then there are the pets. In my brother’s case there was the giving up of a cat to their newly married daughter, knowing that Shasta would no longer watch them from her perch on the chair or window. And the “lasts” — the last Thanksgiving in this particular house, the last Christmas, the last __________.(Just fill in the blank.) How I hate “lasts”. The finality puts a nervous pit in the stomach.  But through all this, the interruptions continue and the Great Interrupter continues to guide, and push, and remind us in whispers and in shouts that none of this is possible without His direction and great love.

Throughout history God has interrupted people’s lives, moving them from comfort to the unknown and asking them to trust along the way. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and more are in the ranks of those whose lives were interrupted and who walked in faith. They lived in a world without cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They didn’t even have the pony express. Leaving and saying good-bye was final.

As I watched my brother and sister-in-law I saw a quiet trust that sustained them. It reminded me and other observers that when God as the Great Interrupter is involved, although it may not make sense to some,  you are in a safety zone  and your soul can rest in this knowledge. For with great interruption comes great expectation.

Have you encountered God as the Great Interrupter? What is the story of your interruption? Join us by telling your story in the comments. 

This post is specifically dedicated to Laura Parker and Angie Washington, the two women who came together to start this online community, both of whom have had major encounters with the Great Interrupter these past few months. Thank you for your heart for all of us, more so for your heart for God.

Picture credit: http://pixabay.com/en/seemed-track-threshold-train-soft-102073/

3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Missionary Kid

Yesterday, we talked broadly about caring for the heart of your TCK. If you missed it, you can find it here. Today, we’re looking at the unique subset of TCKs known as Missionary Kids.

I thought I was done with youth ministry. I thought I’d move to Cambodia, be a “real missionary” (whatever that is) and never attend another youth camp or weekend retreat. I thought I’d never smell “junior high” ever again, or play those stupid messy games created by someone who’s never had clean-up duty. But I’ve never been so happy about being so wrong, because the missionary kids with whom I’ve had the privilege of interfacing over the past few years have encouraged and challenged and taught me so much.

They’ve also broken my heart.

As I’ve seen them say goodbye to home. Again.

As I’ve heard them describe the pain of being misunderstood.

As I’ve watched them hug good friends whom they know they will most likely never see again. Ever.

This post is dedicated to those students. To the ones who’ve let me in their lives, even just a little bit. To those who’ve laughed with me (and at me), to those who’ve answered my questions (even the stupid ones). Thank you.

And for the record, I tremble as I write these words, acutely aware of the multitudes of godly parents who are too busy caring for the hearts of their missionary kids to write an article like this. When I grow up, I want to be like them.

OK, here goes…

 

1. Don’t call them “Little Missionaries.”

They’re not. They’re kids, with unique temperaments, callings, and gifting. If they’ve decided to follow Jesus, then of course, they should be encouraged to do the things that Christians do (invite people to follow Jesus, love people, serve people, etc.), But God may not call them to the same cross-cultural work as you. Or cross-cultural work at all. And.That.Is.OK. Let them follow God where he leads them, and please don’t be offended if it’s not into full-time ministry.Processed with VSCOcam with k2 preset

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sending our kids to local schools, or out with local friends, but if we have the idea that our kids are little “soldiers for Jesus,” we’re playing a dangerous game. Kids aren’t soldiers, and they’re not missionaries. They’re children, and we should give them the space to develop as such.

My dad was a dentist, but I didn’t’ grow up among whirring drills and nitrous oxide (bummer). But that’s the point, isn’t it? I was allowed to grow up. And although I’m sure my dad used the phrase, “You’re going to feel some pressure,” he didn’t use it on me.

 

2. Be purposeful and strategic.

In Missionary Land, there’s a book/seminar/website for everything. We study how to cross cultures and what to do once we’ve crossed. We study how to help the poor without hurting them. We talk about planting churches without building them, developing disciples without dependence. We’re purpose-driven, strategizing, apostolic, visionary, pioneering, missional, culturally-sensitive, community developing, social justice flag-waving, chain-breaking, tired people.

But are we as purposeful and strategic in our God-given, God-ordained, role as parents? Do we ponder how to disciple other people’s kids more than our own? We are the first representatives to our kids of what a Christ-follower looks like. It’s an amazing privilege, and it is deserving of attention.

You’ve sacrificed a lot to be with the people in your host country. In loving them, listening to them, serving among them, you are aiming to show Christ. Make sure you do the same with your kids.

 

3. Remember that your MK’s good behavior does not validate your life or ministry, and his or her bad behavior does not invalidate it.

This one’s insidious. And devastating. But tying your validation to your child’s behavior (good or bad) is a socially acceptable form of idolatry. It has nothing to do with walking in obedience, and everything to do with looking outside of the Father for approval and validation.

All of us are on a spiritual journey. We mess up, find grace, keep walking. But this natural process often gets bypassed for MKs. They show up in churches and are expected to have it all together. No struggles, no sin, DEFINITELY no doubts. Maybe their parents expect this, afraid that a misbehaving or doubting child will threaten their support base. Maybe it’s church people.

In many ways, MKs live publicly, whether they want to or not. I mean, how many families in your passport country send monthly or quarterly newsletters to each other? One missionary kid confessed, “I had to be perfect so I wouldn’t mess up my dad’s ministry.” Another girl said, “Everyone thinks I’m better than them.” I asked her to clarify. She said, “They think because I’m an MK I’m more spiritual than them. They also think that I’m arrogant because they think I think I’m better than them.” It’s confusing, I know.

The pressure to validate a parent’s life choices is too heavy, and the risk of invalidating a parent’s life choices or ministry is too damning. Missionary kids should not have to carry either burden.

Resources:

If this point resonates with you, I highly recommend the book, I Have to be Perfect, and other Parsonage Heresies. It was written by an MK.

———————-

May our children know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our love for them is immense, never-ending, and flows straight from the heart of the Father. And when they feel our love, may they feel Him.

———————-

Have you ever felt the pressure to be perfect? What did that do to your heart?

Is there any danger in expecting children to be “little missionaries” or “soldiers for Jesus”?

3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Third Culture Kid

Jesus loves Third Culture Kids. He knows their needs and he hears their hearts’ cries. He can tell the difference between normal teen angst and deep emotional pain. He feels their searching and longing for home, and he cares. Jesus knows the right thing to say at the right time, all the time. As parents, youth workers, family, and friends, we’re not always so, um, Christ-like.

Yet, in spite of our weaknesses, we have the great honor and privilege of parenting and loving TCKs. So may we, with great tenderness and sensitivity, care for the hearts of the kids we’ve taken with us.

If you’re not raising kids abroad, please know that our TCKs need you too. They need extended families, peers, friends, team members, and churches who care.

So, with great deference to the TCKs who’ve shared their hearts with me, the experienced youth workers who’ve coached me, and the older parents who are busy providing such great examples, I want to consolidate a few ideas, and ask for yours.

1. Allow ALL Emotions.

One of the quickest ways to damage the heart of a TCK is to outlaw negative emotions (grief, anger, disappointment, etc.). Tell them they shouldn’t feel something, or that they just need to suck it up, or that their feelings show a lack of gratefulness. Yup, that’ll do it.

But, and this is the great part, allowing a TCK to experience the full range of emotions is one of the most caring things you can do. It’s also one of the healthiest things you can do. IMG_0250

One TCK told me, “We were never allowed to show any sadness. Even when my siblings left the Lord, we still couldn’t show any grief.” She was hurting deeply, but her family had placed all negative emotions off limits. She locked her pain away and kept it private for years.

Another TCK said, “My parents were often busy, and would give me lines like, ‘Living here is good for you! It’s something few other people ever get to experience. When you get older and look back on this time, you’ll be grateful for what you learned here.’ Their comments were well meant, but they didn’t know the depth of my pain.”

After listening to TCKs and others dealing with loss, I’ve come to believe that Romans 8:28, although true, is often used as the perfect “anti-grief” verse. Please don’t use it like that.

Often, a TCK who is not allowed the full range of emotions will cope by stuffing negative emotions (which is extremely unhealthy for their long-term emotional development). Alternatively, they may cope by removing whatever it is that outlawed their emotions; and if religion was the eraser used to remove emotion, religion may be the first thing they throw away.

Resources:

   – Not convinced this is an issue? Read the comments on Outlawed Grief. They wrecked me.

   – Learning to Grieve, by Marilyn Gardner.

   – On being with someone who is experiencing loss, Don’t be Afraid of Me, Please.

   – God Can Heal Our Broken Potatoes, by an adult TCK who served TCKs.

 

2. Ask Heart-Focused Questions.

Recognize that your TCK’s experiences will be vastly different from yours. Maybe more positive, maybe more negative. They may not identify with your host culture as much as you do. They may identify with it more than you. Are you ok with that?

When our family drives by the US Embassy and sees the flag flying, my kids feel nothing. When the President visited Phnom Penh and we saw Marine One (the President’s helicopter) flying over the Mekong, I stood there and cried like a baby. My boys looked up at me and said, “OK, can we go eat now?”

If you really want to care for the heart of your TCK, you have to ask questions. And you have to care about their answers. But not just their answers, you have to care about the heart behind the answers.

Try asking questions like:

What’s something you like about this country?

What’s something you don’t like about this country?

What did you enjoy about our last visit to (insert passport country)?

What was frustrating or annoying about our last visit to (insert passport country)?

Where do you feel like your home is?

Is there anything that scares you in this country?

Is there anything that scares you in (insert passport country)?

If you could change one thing about your life in this country, what would you change?

Here’s an example of how this might pan out. Prior to our first trip back to the States, we asked our kids, “Where is home for you?” Two kids said, “Cambodia’s home.” One said “America’s home” and one said, “I feel like I have two homes; one in America and one in Cambodia.” We took their answers at face value, without trying to convince them that they should feel differently.

We also preemptively asked our friends and families in the States NOT to say things to our kids like “Welcome Home!” and “Isn’t it great to be home?” Typically, it’s very hard for a TCK to identify one place as home, so we gently requested that folks ask instead, “What do you like about America?” or “What are you looking forward to doing in America?”

It was a pleasure to see our kids allowed to identify Cambodia, America (or both) as home. An older TCK once said, “The problem with Facebook is that you can only list one hometown.”heart1

Again, the goal is not just to complete a checklist; it’s to see into the heart of your TCK. So be sure you’re ready to really listen when they began answering. And again, if they say something you disagree with, or something that seems negative, so what?! This is about their feelings, not about how your feelings are superior or more developed or how you see reality more clearly.

You want your TCK to feel heard, and that won’t happen if you discount or disqualify their feelings. It doesn’t mean you can’t parent them or try to correct bad attitudes, it’s just that first and foremost, you’re aiming to hear their heart, not fix it.

Resources:

Some Thoughts from Adult TCKs to Those Who Raise Them, by Marilyn Gardner.

 

3. Study Your Family’s Culture

I’m sort of a spy. (Not really, but we’re towards the end of the post, and I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.)

Shortly after arriving in Cambodia, with kids aged 8, 6, 3, and 1, I knew I needed help. So I called up the local expat youth pastor and started asking questions. I asked, “What are the main predictors of healthy TCKs in Cambodia? Have you seen any commonalties among the families who seem to have healthy teens? Any commonalities among the families who seem to NOT have healthy teens?”

And then I asked my real spy question, “What families seem to be doing really well?” She gave me her top three, and I’ve been collecting meta-data ever since. (Just kidding! Who do you think I am, the NSA?)

“What it all boils down to,” the she told me, “is the family’s culture.” She said, “Generally, if the family culture is emotionally healthy, the TCK will be emotionally healthy.”

So, if you want to care for the heart of your TCK, consider your family culture as much as you consider your host country’s culture. You live abroad, you study culture. So, what’s your family’s? What are your rituals and habits? How do you deal with grief and celebrations? Do you value saving face, or do you communicate very directly? Is there a lot of physical touch? Laughter? You get the idea.

Parts of all cultures are holy and reflect the wonder and beauty of God. Parts of all cultures should change when they come into contact with the Gospel. What aspects of your family culture are awesome and wonderful? What parts need to be redeemed?

——————————–

May our TCKs be the most loved, most cared for people on the planet. May they never doubt our love or the love of the Father. And in their search for Home, may they find Him.

——————————–

Since MKs are a unique subset of TCKs, we thought we’d give them their own post:

3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Missionary Kid

——————————–

 

Help us make this a longer list. What are ways we can care for our TCKs?

If you’re a TCK or an Adult TCK, we’d love to hear your perspective. What did folks do that really helped you

feel loved and valued and cared for?

photo credit

What’s For Dinner?

what's for dinner1

My husband once ate camel hump with the former president of Somaliland. He said it was gelatinous and flavorful. A big, jiggling pile of fat. Yummy.

Our first night in Somaliland we ate fried flying ants. Our boss plucked them out of the air and dropped them into a pan of melted butter. “Tastes like bacon,” he said. Welcome to the country.

In an effort to meet people and learn language, I drank unpasteurized camel’s milk in Somaliland. The ladies selling it said, “you can’t learn Somali if you don’t drink camel’s milk.” I don’t know if the milk helped me learn but I do know it helped clean out my intestines. I had to run home and barely made it to the bathroom before multiple explosions rocked my body.

At a wedding in Djibouti I received a delicacy of small bits of meat dried until beef-jerky-like and soaked in rancid butter, kept in a tightly sealed wooden jar buried in the ground for months and then smoked to add a burnt charcoal flavor. I’m sorry Somalis, I struggle to appreciate muuqmaaq.

My language helper invited me to a diiqo – the gift-giving party after a wedding, like a wedding shower. I watched her two mothers (her father has two wives and they all live together) prepare the gifts. Muuqmaaq placed in aluminum bowls and set inside xeedhos, woven baskets shaped like inverted hourglasses. The xeedhos were sealed with a mixture of dates and black pepper. The dates and pepper were mashed with the women’s bare hands until it was a sticky mush and then smeared all around the outside of the baskets, to be eaten later, when the gifts were opened.

All of this could hardly be as bad as what I prepared for my family our first years in Africa. I had no idea how to cook and lived in a country with few packaged or convenience foods and limited variety. This is a great way to lose weight. But losing so much weight is also a great way to lose wedding rings (true story).

I’ve learned a thing or two since then and I’ve moved countries and now live in a former French colony where there is Cheese! Chicken! Eggs! Refrigeration! There is even bacon and wine. Still, we are short on peanut butter, non-chocolate cereal, and brown sugar but honestly, I have nothing to complain about.

djiboutiliciousI, oh master of the disgusting food so bad we still gag when we talk about it, actually self-published a cookbook, Djiboutilicious: celebrating culture and cooking in a country as hot as your oven. It is a compilation of recipes from men and women (and even a few kids) who have lived in the Horn of Africa for years and includes loads of photos, a few local recipes, and mainly Western food recipes using locally (in Djibouti) available ingredients. And I’m serious about that hot as your oven line, a few weeks ago my daughter and I baked cookies in our car. Just saying.

I’d like to give two copies of the book away (assuming my end-of-the-road Djibouti post office can find your end-of-the-road post office) and I’d also like to try some of your recipes. Leave a comment about the grossest thing you have ever eaten OR share a favorite recipe and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Djiboutilicious. I’ll randomly choose the winners June 20 and will inform them via email. I’m asking for your one-uppers here, so while you should probably bite your tongue at the next dinner party in your passport country, but no holds barred for this post!

What is the grossest thing you have eaten in your life overseas?

What is one of your favorite recipes?

Missing God in Missions

Over the last twenty plus years in missions I have learned we go through seasons. We are currently on a furlough, and it is times like these where you can see things in a way which brings greater clarity.

There is something which slowly and subtely was missing from my missions. I was not misusing ministry funds or walking in immorality.

But my focus had drifted.

Not even to bad things.

If our focus is on our product, numbers, programs, or fundraising strategies, we are not practicing missions. Our efforts may be closer to business or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Often when we feel consumed by these things, we remind ourselves that the focus should be the people. We look to serve, to bless, to lift out of poverty or rescue out of injustice.

While these things are good, and in many ways a better focus, this still is not truly missions.

After awhile our mission begins to look like any other humanitarian organization. What is different from us and the Red Cross or the Red CrescentHow is our care of people unique to those in any other NGO or non-profit group? Are we the peace corp with a fish sticker on our bumper?

Are we guilty of missing God in missions?

The Apostle Paul is perhaps the greatest example of a life lived for God and doing it in a sold out manner. He was the greatest missionary in history, having suffered shipwrecks and multiple forms of persecution.

The mission was important for Paul, but it was not the core.
He created great programs and products.
His life influenced the masses, people everywhere were blessed.

But these were not the focus.

Focus

Paul’s primary focus was God himself.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”   Phillipians 3:8-9  ESV

This passage was written while in prison! Being in prison, on mission, paled in comparison to knowing Christ!

What makes missions unique from entrepreneurial efforts or humanitarian causes is its focus first and foremost on the Creator. Missions must flow out of this.

Mission can become an idol. In other words, when living on mission replaces God; we have a problem.

I share this from a personal place of being stuck on this concept for months. A sabbatical or furlough is designed for this.

Refreshment, rejuvenation, but most of all Refocus.

Much of this post has been inspired by Skye Jethani’s book, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. This is a fantastic, thought-provoking book I recommend to all.

I’ve blogged extensively on this in the last weeks and months. It is the place where God has me and is not letting me “move on.”

I wanted to share it with our Life Overseas community.

It is so easy to get busy.  Without even realizing it, we find ourselves in a place of missing God in missions.

This challenge / encouragement does not come from a place of constant success.

Instead, I ask you to consider this from a fellow sojourner. From one who sees even more my need to keep my walk with God first and foremost in my missions endeavors.

Does this resonate? Do you disagree?
Other than an “official” furlough or sabbatical, how do you build in check ups to see how things are going?

Photo by By Nicola Perantoni

5 Things That Keep me Going in a Life Overseas

We are so excited today  to link up and officially introduce Velvet Ashes to the community here at A Life Overseas. Besides being a visually stunning site, Velvet Ashes is an online community for women living overseas to connect. Every week new themes and thoughts emerge in this growing community. It is a perfect complement to A Life Overseas. So enjoy this post from Danielle Wheeler, the founder of Velvet Ashes and then head over to peruse the site!

SONY DSC

5 Things That Keep Me Going in Life Overseas by Danielle Wheeler

Water spewed furiously from a hole in my wall.  I had merely flipped the lever in our little Chinese laundry room, and the entire faucet broke off in my hand.  Now I had a spouting fountain in my home.

I stood there, drenched, no idea how to stop it. Water pooled at my feet and began spilling into our dining room. Frantically, I ran for a bucket, filling it and chucking the water out a nearby window, hoping there was no one passing by five flights below.

I managed to grab my phone to call the repairman for our building. In broken Chinese, I said, “Can you come?  I have a problem.”

“What problem?” he wanted to know.

“A big problem. Water. Come fast. 

“What problem?” he repeated.

“Um … I don’t know how to say. Lots of water. Come fast.”

“What problem?” he persisted.

 “For the love!” I wanted to shout. Can you just come?!

Buckets later, he and his buddy showed up … with flashlights.  No toolbox, no plumber’s gear, just flashlights.

But they got the water to stop, so bless them and the flashlights that I judged.  

Later when the chaos had calmed and I was mopping up the aftermath, I took a shaky post-adrenaline breath. Then the tears came, sliding down, adding to the wetness. Pull yourself together, I told myself. It’s just water.

But I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t just water. It was ONE MORE THING. One more craziness to add to a very long list. We had been on the field for a few years now. I wasn’t in the throes of adjustment. I was smack in the middle of this overseas life, and I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing it.

I was so weary. And I was lonely, lonelier than I cared to admit.    

I squeezed the mop, water trickling out. So much of me being rung out. So little flowing in. How do I keep on going when I’ve got nothing left?  What do I do when this life I’ve chosen is too much and not enough?  When do I throw in the towel and say I’m done?

That wet day was four years ago.

I’m still living in China.

I’m still adding to my list of all the crazy things.

But here’s what’s different.

I’ve learned some game-changing things about myself over these last few years. Things that keep me going, that keep me out of those puddles on the floor. These things are filling me, so that I can do what we’re here to do.

5 Things That Keep Me Going in Life Overseas

 

  1. I need a safe place to share what I’m going through with people that truly understand.
  2. I need to create. I need to do something that pumps life into me, to regularly do something that makes my heart skip faster.
  3. I need to be able interact about deep and meaningful ideas. This is how God makes those ideas sink in and change my soul.
  4. I need to be mentored by the stories of those that have walked this road before me. God made us to be mentored.
  5. I need to turn and offer a mentoring hand to those journeying after me.

You may read these and think, “Lovely ideas, but don’t you know how hard it is do these things when you’re overseas?”  Believe me, I know. The complexities and isolation that so many of us face can often make these ideals feel impossible.

But what if they aren’t?

For me, I knew I needed a place to connect with other women serving overseas. It was that need that birthed a dream. A dream called Velvet Ashes. An online community for women serving overseas to share, to create, to interact, to find mentoring.

 

Velvet Ashes Logo

 The dream went live this past November, and it has quickly become a life-giving place to me and to so many others. It’s a place to show up and admit when you’re not ok. It’s a place to bare your fear, to share your sorrow, to cling to hope, to stop and breathe.

I’m here today to invite all the ladies to come join us here. Because I’m guessing you’d like to be like the Velvet Ash tree, the one that thrives in unlikely places, in the dry exhaustion of the desert, its roots are strong and connected. And perhaps like the tree, you know that your scars make you beautiful with a beauty meant to share.

At Velvet Ashes, we have three stories shared each week. We have a weekly Book Club where we interact together. We have Connection Groups that meet weekly via Skype. We have a monthly recipe for those wanting to create in the kitchen (or just learn how to feed yourself from your foreign kitchen!) And each Friday we meet at The Grove to share our hearts, our words, and our art on the prompt of the week. You can bring those things that make your heart skip faster, your photography, your sketches, your poetry, your blog post. And always, you can just jump in and join the conversation.

I wish I’d had a community like this to turn to on that wet day four years ago. Now I do.  

 Bio:

Velvet ashes - Danielle WheelerDanielle Wheeler is the girl who sat on her porch one day and had a dream breathed into her heart –a dream of global women linking virtual arms to find connection and courage for their cross-cultural lives. As the founder of Velvet Ashes, she loves watching this dream sprout and grow. She can be found buzzing around the streets of Beijing on an electric, canvas-covered tricycle, wrangling her three kids, and eating late night chocolate waffles with her husband. You can follow her tweets and pins and visit her blog Not Yet There.

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The bumpy road back: Five ways to support families during transition and re-entry

We’ve been deep in the throes of transition during the last two weeks. Just after Christmas last year we left Laos in a rush and headed for Australia so that my husband, Mike, could receive treatment for cancer. Now that he’s received the initial all-clear (hooray) we’re in the process of reassembling normal life. To get there, however, we had to relocate ourselves and two children under three back to Laos last weekend.

Much easier said than done.

It’s turning into a brutal re-entry. Three of the four of us left Australia already sick with colds. Thailand decided to stage a coup the day before we left, including instituting a 10 pm curfew. Scrambling to reach our hotel after our flight landed at 8:20 pm was a little stressful. Calming down two over-stimulated children enough for us to get any sleep was close to impossible. Arriving back in Laos at 2 pm the next day with everyone getting increasingly unwell, our car hemorrhaging oil, 99 degree heat, and no electricity for several hours was completely demoralizing. Being woken up by one or the other children every hour our first two nights home was beyond taxing. And having the electricity go out again during the loooooonnng sweltering afternoon of our second day back and being faced the possibility of an internal wiring problem in our house was the last straw.

I seriously entertained the idea of taking both kids back to Australia and telling Mike he could join us there when he was done here.

But we’re five days in now. One child, at least, has slept well the last two nights. After two days in the shop our car seems (mostly) fixed. The electricity has stayed on since Monday. No one is healthy again, yet, but my voice is pretty much back. Hopefully both kids are on the slow mend. I suspect I’ll stay (for now, at least :)).

We’ve been so touched by the support we’ve been offered in the last several weeks by friends and acquaintances both in Australia and in Laos. That support has made a huge difference to us practically and psychologically during this re-entry. So, this month, I thought I’d reflect on ways that people have helpful support us recently, and put together a post on things you can do to support those in the midst of challenging transitions:

Help during transition

1. Bring meals around

One lot of friends bought round kid-friendly food on Sunday night (As an extra bonus, they fed our eldest child and he actually ate). Another couple brought round a lovely dinner on Monday, complete with some baby food for Alex. Not having to wrap my head around cooking and making baby food during those first three days back when I felt so sick was so wonderful. While we were in Australia and Mike was in treatment, we also received numerous meals from my parents’ church community. Not having to cook a dinner for the family can really help ease the load. Cookies and other things you can give to kids as snacks are also very helpful.

2. Bring groceries

Two couples had stocked our house with some staples and groceries before we returned, including toilet paper, milk, cheese, bread, eggs, butter, peanut butter, cereal, apples, and coffee. This really helped deal with those initial breakfasts and lunches and meant we didn’t have to run right out and grocery shop – doubly helpful in light of our broken down car.

3. Lend needed items

When we arrived in Australia with a four month old and a two year old, friends and acquaintances from my parent’s church community there lent us all sorts of kid paraphernalia that really helped us out – including a high chair, a crib, a baby jumper, baby toys, toddler toys, children’s story books, and some hand-me-down clothes. Particularly if a family is traveling with young children, think about things they might find useful as part of their daily routine. Since we’ve been back here, another family has lent us their car this week while we’ve been trying to get ours fixed.

4. Watch children

This one can be hard, because it’s challenging for parents and kids to be separated in the midst of upheaval and change (particularly if the children don’t already know you). If you can make it work, however, it’s one of the most useful ways you can help out. Even if you come over to the new house and entertain older children or toddlers while parents unpack, sleep, or take care of life admin, it will be a huge help.

5. Give money

Just before we left Australia, generous friends there completely surprised us with money to help cover some of the extra expenses that have accrued this year.  That has turned out to be especially timely in light of our car problems.

I know I have just scratched the surface on this topic, but I need to go and do some of my own unpacking and sorting. We are a long way from settled. We will, however, get there.

Help out and add your thoughts in the comments section so that we can all benefit from your experiences.

What have others done to help you during challenging transitions?
What have you done to help others?

One-Uppers

For some reason 2014 is the year that I cannot seem to formulate many serious or deep thoughts when discussing my “life overseas”.  I would like to believe it is simply “a season”, and not some major personality flaw.

With a virus spreading like wild-fire, life in Haiti has been especially rough for the last several weeks, it doesn’t appear that it will let up anytime soon.  My husband and I are walking through new things with our adult kids that we launched not so long ago while trying to be present with the five we still have at home.

Things just feel a little more intense than usual. Maybe laughing at myself (and you) is my favored way to remain positive.

10374925_10154187820805603_6171741537959032662_n

When things get rough, find something to laugh at, even if it is yourself.

A few years back there was a skit on Saturday Night Live based on a character named Penelope.  She was the person who was always driven to one-up everyone else, in every situation, even when it was to celebrate how much more miserable she was than everyone else.

Perhaps you stated that your relatives came over on the Mayflower. Well, Penelope’s came over a month before yours did on the “Aprilflower.”

You got in a bad car accident yesterday? Penelope had been in three that very day.

She was often not even invited into a conversation, but still, she would interject and get the spotlight and out-do all other stories being shared with her over the top competitive one-upper neurosis.

I get a kick out of the way humanitarian workers, missionaries, and expats can come off a little bit like Penelope without even lying or trying.  Sometimes we scroll through our Twitter or other social media accounts and see our friends in the developed world airing their legitimate grievances and we nod in agreement.  Often times the Penelope in us comes out.

Now, remember, most of us are being totally honest and not necessarily trying to be a one-upper, but by default and by life circumstance, we just ARE.

Here are some possible examples,

A pal in Minnesota says, “I have been so sick with this nasty cold for more than a week.”  Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, I have had Dengue Fever, Cerebral Malaria, and Chikungunya this last year, being sick really stinks.”

Your little sister says, “Please pray for my daughter to do well in marching band try outs, she is very nervous.”  Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, my daughter is getting on a puddle jumper in a few hours to escape civil unrest in our country and she is nervous (about being shot) too.”

Person says, “Oh my gosh, our hot water broke and it has been a week without it!”  Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, we don’t have hot water (like, ever) – I hear that!”

Your aunt says, “The storm took out our power and we have gone without power for three days!” Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, our batteries and inverter got stolen and the generator is on the fritz too, we won’t have power for six to nine months – we have to fundraise 5K first.”

Friend says, “Oh.My.GOSH. I sat in traffic forEVER today on the way into the city.”  Expat/M/HW says: “I totally understand that. I do that every day of every month of every year. As a matter of fact, last night I slept in traffic.”

Brother says, “I paid $4.20 per gallon for gas this morning, how atrocious.” Expat/M/HW says: “Oh, gasoline? We haven’t had any here in three weeks. I would love to pay $4.20 for some.”

Co-worker says, “The grocery store was totally out of my brand of Greek yogurt, I was so bummed.” Expat/M/HW says, “The country I live in never built the store that had refrigerators for Greek yogurt. So, yeah, also bummed.”

Your buddy says, “We went out to eat and it took 45 minutes to get our food! Can you believe that?”  Expat/M?HW says, “We did too, there was nothing available on the menu so we had warm Coke for lunch.”

While the truth may be that your day-to-day inconveniences consistently trump those of your friends “back home”, I advise you to leave your Penelope responses in your head.

If you do,  you will always have friends.

  

Is it ever hard to offer others your sincere empathy or a listening ear when the complaints seem smallish from your point of view?  

Do you bust out your Penelope on them, or hold your tongue? 

 

 

When Friends Do the Next Right Thing

What do we do when the people we love do the next right thing? What if that next right thing leads them away from us?

When we say yes to God, we must often say no to the places we already know. And when God leads us overseas, we enter a communal life that is punctuated by goodbyes. Just like an airport, the missionary community endures constant arrivals and departures. But God is the travel agent here, and He hardly ever places anyone on the same itinerary. Perhaps we knew this uncomfortable truth before we said yes; perhaps we didn’t. Either way, though, we must now live with the consequences of our obedience.

And I, for one, sometimes grow weary of it.

These expatriate friendships of ours tend to grow swift and deep, and ripping ourselves away from those friendships is painful. This summer, I have to say goodbye to two friends, whom I love and respect, and will miss terribly. And I am still somewhat in denial.

I have never had any doubts that they are following God where He leads them next. They are doing the next right thing. Even in the leaving, they are doing the next right thing. They are honoring their friendships and saying their goodbyes thoughtfully and tenderly. They are setting up ministry for the workers who will follow them. They have listened to God, and they are doing what He says. But they will leave a gaping hole in my heart and in this city, and they can never be replaced.

runways

What am I supposed to do when my friends do the next right thing?

I actually don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But I know what I do do: I grieve. Because when a member of the international community leaves, all hearts bleed. The hearts of the leaving, and hearts of the staying. There is just no stopping that.

So I grieve for myself: it’s hard to say goodbye to people I love. I grieve for others in the community who must also say goodbye: these goodbyes are their losses too. I grieve for the ones leaving: they must say goodbye to a life they know in order to build a brand new life somewhere else.

And I also grieve for people who have not yet come to this area of the world — people who are making plans to live and work here, and even people who haven’t considered it yet, but will someday. I grieve that they will never know the wonderful people who have been such an integral part of the international community here.

So what can we do, as the body of Christ?? We are ALL involved in sending, receiving, and being His workers. How can we provide smooth takeoffs and soft landings for our brothers and sisters??

When our friends leave, can we say goodbye with love? Can we send them on their way with our blessing? Can we give ourselves the space to mourn these losses? Can we keep our friends in our hearts and in our minds and in our email inboxes, no matter where they live in the wide world?

When we leave, can we accept loving goodbyes and understand how utterly we will be missed? Can we depend upon God — and His people — to help us settle in our new home? Can we open our hearts to new people and new places, while still remembering those who love us from afar?

When new missionaries arrive, can we welcome them wholeheartedly, even though we know we will most likely have to say goodbye to them some day? Can we tell them where to set up their utility bills and show them where to buy furniture and help them fill their refrigerators?

When churches send out new missionaries, can we send them with our love and with our support? Can we resist the temptation to pull our hearts away too soon, in an attempt to ease the coming pain? Can we never cease to pray for them?

When missionaries return to their passport country, can we welcome them? Can we open wide our arms and our hearts and our homes to returning workers? Can we listen to their stories without judgment, and extend much grace in a time of great unsteadiness?

We were never meant to walk alone. So can we, as the global Church, be Christ to each other? Can we need each other, and can we be needed? Can we cushion each other’s pain during goodbyes and hellos? Can we do these dreaded transitions with bodies spread across the world, but with hearts beating as one?

 

Can you share a time when people have been there for you in your goodbyes and hellos? Or share what you have done for someone else in their time of transition?

Perhaps you haven’t seen goodbyes and hellos done well. If so, what do you think the Church needs to learn about sending and receiving workers? How can missionaries and mission organizations do better welcomes and farewells? How can we do this transition thing better, as senders, receivers, and goers? 

Photo Credit