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. 

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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

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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? 

 

A Cautionary Tale: Expats & Expets (What not to do)

This month I’m writing in the air while I fly away from my island home. My feet will touch the ground in five cities today before I arrive at my final destination. Leaving the kids and the work behind, of course my mind is filled with all sorts of ‘A Life Overseas’ things, but I cannot bring myself to write about anything serious. Instead I’ve chosen a completely inconsequential topic for your Monday.

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I think we are all familiar with the term “expat”.  By dictionary definition, an expat(riate) is “a person who lives outside of their native country.”

Today I’m discussing the lesser known term, ‘expets’.

An expet is a pet that lives under the care and protection of a family/couple/individual that carry a passport from one country, but live with, enjoy, and raise their pet in a different country. An expet can be acquired in the passport OR host country. (TCP – Third Culture Pet – and all the challenges apply here as well.)

I will stop here to say, the animal haters need not read any further.  This post isn’t for you.  I, too, was a hater until recently. I understand you, even if I can no longer support you or your shriveled up little heart.

Owning a pet simply for the sake of owning a pet is a thing in many parts of the world.  Owning a pet is NOT a thing in many parts of the world.  I submit to you that if you owned a pet, once you move to a new land where pets are not so common, you may really miss owning a pet.

Most expats with an expet have a dilemma when it comes time to travel to fundraise, rest, or take care of any other personal business.

It feels a little bit inconsiderate to ask a friend to take our pets for many weeks or a number of months.  These friends have their own pets and are staying behind to carry an extra workload, that you leave  them, as it is.  On the flip side, it feels weird to travel with our expets.  How exactly does one justify flying a dog through the air?

(Just wait, I will tell you.)

Left without any great options; we choose the lesser evil.

~            ~            ~

Many years back, our youngest daughter was due to be born at the same time our first-born daughter was heading to the USA to begin university.  Because two such major life-events were happening in the same time period, we planned a four-month furlough.

The kids’ masterful and spectacularly executed campaign began early in the furlough planning.

“Mom, we cannot leave Peanut here. Haitian culture doesn’t ‘do’ pets. Nobody will feed her or take care of her. She might get sick or die while we are away.”

That sounded dramatic, but not impossible.

“You guys, she will be okay. We’ll ask a few people to watch her in case one of them forgets – there will be a back-up plan.”

It was easy to tell they’d done some role-playing; the college bound child was more than ready for our response. “Mom and Dad, this is the last time I will live with Peanut in Haiti, I am already leaving my Haiti home. Having Peanut with us would help me with the transition time.”

(Enter unhealthy and debilitating parental guilt.)

And so began the dumbest decision  – that created a domino effect of dumb decisions that we have yet to put to an end when it comes to our expets.

It was late August in Haiti. The average temperature is 100 degrees by noon.  In order to check a dog on a commercial flight the forecasted temperature on both ends and any stops during the itinerary must not be warmer than 85 degrees.

Paralyzed by the parental guilt mentioned above, we looked for plan B.

We arranged for our two oldest girls to fly on a private missionary mail service plane with the dog to Florida.  Once in Florida the temperatures didn’t allow a commercial flight to our destination.  That obstacle was also taken in stride; I would fly commercial to Florida and rent a mini-van.  So began the cross-country trek toward Minnesota.  A very pregnant mom, five kids, and a giant slobbering expet named Peanut. My better half remained in Haiti, where he probably felt quite smug watching this all unfold.

~          ~           ~

Soon after my husband joined us, we welcomed our last daughter to the world the same week we bought bedding for our first to take to her dorm room.  It was a wild time in our lives. Three months of utter chaos that included meningitis, MRSA, scabies, a C-Section, multiple stomach flus, losing our house-renter and therefore putting a house on the market, strained relationships, postpartum hormones, moving a kid to College and packing up a large tribe to return to Haiti with the frazzled nerves and sleep deprivation caused by all of the aforementioned items.

Good news though. Our Haitian born Mastiff, Peanut, was introduced to snow and ice that Christmas. That is super important, obviously.

The time came to head home to the Caribbean. Troy found out that flights out of MSP when it was too cold would not allow a dog to be checked. Minnesota temperatures, do you follow them?  It is utter insanity.  In our defense, it was hard to think ahead.  Mostly because we don’t do that.  Who knew in late August in Haiti that a flight in early January out of Minnesota would be cold?  Certainly not us.

We booked flights for Troy and five of the kids. I was to stay back with the newborn and get our oldest moved into her dorm before returning to Haiti a week later. We pleaded with the arctic weather systems, Mother Nature, God, and anyone that seemed slightly powerful  – to please make the day that Troy and the kids left Minneapolis be a warmish one. Peanut needed to go home to Haiti.

(See my shocked face.)  You guessed it, the dog could not return on the flight we booked. It just so happened to be the coldest day yet that winter.  I waved goodbye from the truck as I turned to look at my newborn and my 100-pound Mastiff.  The kids yelled, “Bye Mom, we can’t wait to see Peanut when she gets home… Oh, and you!”

A  NEW plan was hatched. My Dad would drive Peanut to Texas. I would fly with the oldest and the newborn to Texas to get settled in at University and sob my eyes out and all that.  If the dog cannot fly out of Minnesota, we will drive the dog to a different city that has more favorable temperatures for dog-flights.

The day my Dad pulled up to the hotel  (photo above, dog did some of the driving) just next door to the Baylor University campus, it finally hit me.

We brought that dog to the USA because we are idiots, not because we are such loving and considerate parents.

Sneaking a Mastiff into a hotel is not a thing.  That, my friends, is a fact.

After a couple of days I hugged my oldest goodbye in the middle of campus, strapped the car seat tightly in its rear facing position and asked the dog to poop before we headed toward DFW area.  I cried the entire 90-mile drive.  I’d like to say it was grief of leaving my daughter behind. Truth-be-told, it was mainly dread over returning a rental car, getting the dog and her enormous kennel, the baby with stroller and car seat, and lots of luggage in and out of a shuttle and  hotel and then out of the hotel and into the airport at an hour we all abhor.

4am arrived. The dog, the baby, the luggage – all painstakingly loaded into a hotel van while sharply dressed business women and men looked at their watches and gave me the side-eye.  What? You don’t travel like this?  Whatever man, you don’t know my life.

With nursing baby, frightened dog, and precisely weighed fifty-two pound bags ready to go, I waited in line for my turn to greet some of the world’s most helpful and kind customer service agents.

“All of that is yours?”  – was the greeting that morning. I answered apologetically and bounced up and down to keep the baby happy. The agent began our check-in and placing our bags on the scale.  “All your bags are two pounds over.”

I needed a friend so I pretended not to know that. “Oh dear, I’m SO sorry. Lots of stuff to get home”, Ha ha ha light frivolous laughter – we are so happy to be here together at this counter this morning ha ha ha. Good times.

The agent wasn’t amused.  She looked at the giant dog in the kennel behind me and asked to see the papers.  I proudly produced them.  Her brow furrowed as she looked down at them.  Lydia fussed in my arms, Peanut whined in her kennel. The entire American Airlines waiting area looked on with disdain as the agent pounded on her keyboard looking up the reasons I should perish.

“Your veterinarian letter is supposed to be within seven days and it is dated 9 days ago.”

I wish there had been a record button inside my head at that moment. The gymnastics happening and the panic that ensued was life altering.  I explained that I was car-less, home less, friend-less.  I explained that what I did have was a dog and a newborn baby and a bunch of kids in Haiti waiting on me.  She didn’t budge.

I called both my Father and Mother, who were many hours away. “Good Morning, sorry to wake you – PRAY FOR ME and find a vet that will call me right away.”  Without context and half asleep, you can understand how confusing that was.

I explained to the agent that Haiti would never even ask to see my dumb Veterinarian letter, it was a formality and if they arrested me in Haiti I would be okay with that.  I mean really, how long can they hold a lactating half-crazed American woman, anyway? I begged her not to make rule enforcement her job. I assured her that I would take the risk and never blame her if it backfired.

She dug in. I dug in.  It wasn’t hard to cry.  So I did that.  For ten or fifteen minutes we waited one another out.  I pointed out that I had no way to move all the stuff and the kid and the kenneled up dog so she’d have to look at my sorry face all the live long day if she didn’t let us go. I planned my sit-in.

A supervisor was called.  The negotiations began all over again. The baby started wailing due to feeling the tension.

In the end it was Lydia’s loud crying, my insistence that nobody in Haiti would care, and my Mom’s prayers that seemed to set us free with boarding passes in hand.  The dog was taken by someone to go to the special loading area for dogs that don’t understand the rules.

As expected, in Haiti, the letter for the dog was accepted – no questions asked – and for a few moments I was everyone’s hero.

This brings me to the end of my tale. You might think, what’s the point, Tara?

The point is: don’t be stupid.

Let your friends take care of your pets. They’ll live.

 What about you?  Do you travel across international borders with your pet?

 Or  leave your pet behind?  If you have children, has the pet thing been complicated?

I wish I could tell you the questionable decisions surrounding TCPs stopped with Peanut.  Nope. Two other expets have joined the family. Meet Hazelnut and Chestnut, one of them just recently traveled by plane with us with a properly dated vet letter that nobody ever saw. He left a little parting gift at DFW gate A27.

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Tara Livesay works and lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
blog: livesayhaiti.com | twitter (sharing with her better half): @troylivesay

31 Flavors of Foreigners

Next Door NeighborsWhat’s your favorite ice-cream? Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors of ice-cream are fairly well known in the States. They’ve added some more flavors, but they founded their fame on the great number 31. My 1st choice is Rainbow Sherbet. So yum!

This is a get-to-know-you post! Let’s take it a little deeper than ice-cream preference, though, okay? Dessert information is mighty vital in any acquaintance; but we shall go to another classification of flavors.

What flavor of foreigner are you?

Charts make me happy. I put together a fun chart to help you answer that question. I call it “The Foreigner Classification Chart”. Start on the left and follow the flow to find out what flavor you are. Then leave your answers in the comments section.

The Foreigner Classification Chart:

31 Flavors Image.docx

(You might try clicking the above image to enlarge it if the text is hard to read)

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DaRonn and Angie Washington

Neat, right? Connection empowers us. True story: most Bolivians assume at first glance that I am German and they think my husband is Brazilian, even though we are both from the U.S.  Many presuppositions placed on foreigners about origin and occupation might give us advantages, and they might hinder us. Our minds classify people, whether we like it or not. Expanding our classification system helps us to interact with a broader spectrum of people.

Questions to answer in the comments section:

1. What’s your favorite ice-cream?

2. What flavor of foreigner are you?

You might want to check back and scan the comments periodically to see if any other readers here at ‘A Life Overseas‘ happen to be the same kind of foreigner you are.

For further reflection you can think, and comment if you like, on this bonus question:

BONUS: What’s the general opinion of the people native to your region regarding your flavor of foreigner?

Whatever flavor you are, it makes us super pleased to know YOU are a part of the conversation here and we hope that you find the content on this site helpful and thought provoking.

 

– Angie Washington, co-editor of A Life Overseas, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie work blog: House of Dreams Orphanage

You Take Yourself With You (And Other Important Things About Living Overseas)

Airport Check-in

The call from the American University in Cairo came on a Sunday morning, a business day in the Middle East. I had worked the night shift as a nurse and arrived home in time to eat breakfast and  hug my husband and three children, sending them on their way to church while I got much needed sleep.

As I lay on my bed in the warmth of that August morning, the phone rang. It was an administrator from the American University in Cairo. I don’t remember much about that phone call but her final words to me were these: “Tell your husband that his future at the American University in Cairo looks very promising”

Two weeks later we were in Cairo with our youth, our passion, and our three little ones. 

And that’s when it got hard. Because there are some important things that we didn’t realize when we were on one side of the pond – the side where churches applauded us and raised prayers on our behalf; the side where Christian fellowship was easy to find and when I was tired I could open up a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Here are some of the things I learned as I unpacked my bags and hung my heart.

  • You take yourself with you. You pack your suitcases with your belongings, and you pack yourself with your past and your problems. All those quirks and insecurities? They are magnified in cross-cultural situations. Think you are an introvert in your passport country? Try being at a party knowing two sentences of the local language. Struggle with expressing yourself? With anger? With self-righteousness? It will all come back at you in spades.  You don’t become a different person on the airplane. The beauty is that the God who called you, who knew you as you were being knit in the womb, who knows your comings and your goings, he knows that and he has chosen to use you – the real you. The late Ruth Siemens says this: “We are all damaged goods in a spoiled, enemy-occupied world.”  The good news of that quote is that he longs to transform us and he uses our time overseas to refine and change us. 
  • You leave a hero, you arrive a servant. When we left for Cairo someone at our church said “It’s like reading the Old Testament!” and indeed it was. The miracles that happened defied common sense, were beyond earthly understanding. And throughout we were the main stage, we were the center of attention. As hands were laid on us at a church service I remember a young pastor saying “Lord, we pray for this unique, gifted couple” and I felt overwhelmed with humility and fear. After 20 hours of travel, children bleary eyed from Benadryl, we arrived. We left with cute clothes and perky smiles, we arrived with bad breath, smelling like limp wash rags. We didn’t even know how to ask for water or where to find the nearest bathroom. We fell from the skyscraper to the dusty ground, hitting balconies on the way down. It was so hard and it was so good, a quick transition from hero to servant.
  • There will be times when you hate where you live. Nothing will be easy. From visas to setting up a telephone, life overseas involves tremendous patience. Patience with never-ending bureaucracy, patience with the concept of “Mañana” or in our case “Bukhara”. Patience with the people you are supposed to love, realizing it was easy to love one person in your home country, but not so easy to love millions of them when you are in the minority. We had to learn “In’Sh’allah, Bukrah, Maalesh” the IBM principal of Egypt translated as “Tomorrow, God-willing. Don’t worry about it!” I  learned that it’s okay to have a complex set of emotions about the places I’ve lived, loving them one day and hating them the next.
  • Travel challenges you, travel changes you.  I love travel. I’m a third culture kid – I flew before I walked. But it’s still a challenge. Crossing time zones, making connections, dealing with tired kids and spouse? It’s all a challenge. Travel is a bit like a mirror that shows your real character, and it’s not always pretty. Travel is exotic only in retrospect, rarely in real-time.  It’s during those times where you pray desperately that you will learn more of what it is to reflect the character of Christ, to love the unlovely, to cope with the unpleasant.
  • Loneliness is a part of the journey. Sometimes I think that when we sign up for this life of pilgrimage there should be a clause that says: “This life will bring you to points of loneliness that you can hardly bear. Signing here indicates that you have been warned.”  David writes this in Psalm 13:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

The Psalm poetically voices the anguish of a heart that feels alone and abandoned. This is what it feels like at times to be away from those you love, to be in a place where you have to learn everything from how to cook to how to say thank you. Loneliness is part of this journey. There is no easy way to say it, there are no platitudes. But if we read farther on in the Psalm, we see the author come to a place of peace:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Our years in Egypt took us through pregnancies, conflicts, and marriage crises, and they are still counted among our best.  Our hearts learned to trust in his unfailing love, to rejoice in salvation, to sing the Lord’s praise.

What about you? What are some of the things you learned as you got off the plane and entered into your new life overseas?

Marilyn Gardner loves God, her family, and her passport and can be found

blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries.

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Image credit: flik47 / 123RF Stock Photo

Tumbling in the Undertow

I’ll never forget the first time I went body surfing.

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Desert-grown children trying Pacific surf for the very first time.

Only a tiny part of a much larger set of events, it remains vividly stamped upon my mind

  • Ten years old!
  • Traveling – on a plane for the very first time that I could independently remember!
  • On a trip with my swim team and without my parents – also for the first time!
  • Coco Beach, Florida – a truly different world from where I was growing up!
  • My very first Shirley Temple, with a maraschino cherry, even!

Yet something about the white sand, the shimmery rolling waves advancing on the beach, the seabirds soaring and squawking far above, the relentless sun, the brilliant blue sky and a still-to-this-day lesson learned (although not always well- learned)…  I occasionally dream of that afternoon, still.

My parents had forbidden me to play in the ocean. They understood much better than I the power of the waves and recognized my ignorance of that power as well as my arrogance in my capacity to handle myself well in the water. I wasn’t to do anything more than wade in the ankle to knee deep froth along the beach.

I’d promised to obey, but didn’t keep that promise and God was still faithful to teach me an invaluable truth.

One of the team chaperones offered to carry me out on his shoulders. TECHNICALLY, my feet and ankles were all that was in the water while Mr. Staten bore the brunt of waves splashing onto his chest and face. It wasn’t long, however, before I pleaded to try out the waves on my own. Conceding, he finally lifted me down (I don’t think he was aware of my parents’ restriction), turned me loose – although he also stood right there beside me, and laughed as I learned to jump and float through the swells and then made my first attempts to actually body surf in those gentle, rolling waves. I’d never done anything so exhilarating or fun, until…

Until the first time I didn’t quite catch the wave and ended up tumbling (or at least feeling like I was) like laundry in a front loading washing machine, scraping my chin and then my legs on shells or sand or something and then totally clueless once I stopped rolling as to which direction, and more importantly – air, were up. Then Mr. Staten grabbed me by the arm and yanked me up out of the water. Shoulder aching and with a much more realistic respect for the ocean, I, my bleeding chin and my wounded pride were through body surfing…  for that day.

I lived an important principle in those moments. (There was also a corollary I later learned when I got home, although I don’t remember if I actually told my parents about my infraction or if they discovered it some other way the way parents tend to do. They did realize that I’d disobeyed them. )

What was that foundational reality?

20140128IMG_0058God commands us to be strong and courageous, but He doesn’t typically intend for us to be brave all alone.

I probably would have been just fine even if Mr Staten not been there to help me regain my footing – but my tumbling in the undertow did mark me. In fact, it terrified me. If he’d not been there to help me… or if he’d not ventured back out into the surf with me the next time… I don’t think I would have ever given it a second try. I would have been too afraid.

That’s a lesson to which I still cling, today, over thirty years later…

…for there have been many times when, working internationally, I’ve felt all alone:

  • when I climb on a plane and I’m terrified of flying;
  • when I can’t understand what people are saying to me;
  • when I can’t make people understand what I’m trying to say;
  • when I don’t feel good and just want someone to come and take care of me, but no one does;
  • when I’m in labor on one continent, my husband is on another, and there’s a huge ocean and a desert in between;
  • when someone says things about me that aren’t true and the only thing I can do is stay silent and hope;
  • when our mission organization collapses, begins a legal dissolution and we are left on the backside of the desert wondering how to survive and what’s next;
  • when I long for authentic accountability, but it comes in a form that only makes me chafe;.
  • when terrorism creeps ever closer, ever nearer, and the security checks everywhere never lets my husband forget it;
  • when God tells us it is time to start over all over again, in a new place; and…?

It is a list which could continue for a very long time.

Every international worker reading that list can probably come up with an even more exhaustive list of their own “all alone” times. But that’s not the point. Neither is the fact that we are never alone if we’ve placed our trust and hope in Jesus, even though that is a beautiful truth that often brings comfort and confidence when enduring those alone times.

The point is this:

When I look back at those so lonely moments, I can also now see at least one, if not many, flesh and blood persons that God had placed there with me… Mr Staten’s, if you will, who were there and ready to grab my by the arm, yank me up and set me back on my feet when I felt like I was tumbling in the undertow of this missionary life.

Without fail, they were always there.

So what was the problem? Why did I feel so alone?

Often I declined their help… simply refusing to acknowledge their willingness to be there and to do what they could. Other times, I insisted I could handle it on my own – just me and God against the world. My pride and I wouldn’t let me admit any weakness or need. Then there were those times when I was taking myself and my own problems way too seriously. And who knows how many times I made the excuse that they just couldn’t understand.

I’m finally coming to an understanding on that last one.

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True enough – other people may not be able to understand. And that reality really doesn’t matter.

Equally valid?  Those with whom God has surrounded me absolutely might not be who I’d choose to rely upon for help or rescue, given my druthers.

Yet neither one of those facts prohibits a brother or sister or colleague from being willing, available and able to help stop my lonely tumbling. Neither one means someone else is not God’s provision to set me back on my feet… regardless of my preferences or what I think.

When I stubbornly refuse to acknowledge or accept this provision:

I’m the one who disqualifies.

I’m the one who denies someone a God-gifted opportunity to serve.

I’m the one who blindly refuses grace proffered.

I’m the one who needs to admit that I don’t have it all figured out and that I’m still learning

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As an international worker, do you find it hard to rely upon and trust other people during challenging times? Why or why not?

Look back. Can you see times when God “pre-surrounded you” with exactly the people you’d need? Did you accept or refuse their support? Will you please share your story and what you’ve learned as a result?

– Richelle Wright, missionary on home assignment from Niger, W. Africa

blog:   Our Wright-ing Pad    ministry:   Wright’s Broadcasting Truth to Niger     facebook:  Richelle Wright

The Dreaded Question: Where Are You From?

airport

A young white woman asked my daughter Lucy to spin the globe and point at where she was from. Lucy rotated the globe until her hand hovered over Africa. Before she could be more specific the woman laughed and said, ‘no, tell me where you are from,’ and spun the globe toward the United States.

“I’m from Djibouti,” Lucy said and forcefully turned the globe, jabbed a finger at the tiny nation in the Horn of Africa. “I was born right there.”

The woman, who happened to be South African, was surprised but gracious. And Lucy, of course, was right. She was born there. She once said to me, “I don’t know why the rest of you live here, I’m the only one who was born here.” Another time Lucy saw a group of black women selling food under a banner that read African American Dishes. Lucy ran up to them and said, “African American, like me!” These women were also surprised but gracious.

More and more I hear people asking my children where they are from. For now, for Lucy, the answer seems obvious. She was born in Djibouti, she has spent her whole life except first grade there. She is eight years old and sees things in black and white. But already she is picking up on nuances that counter her assumption. Like that people in Djibouti, Kenya, and the US greet us by saying, “Welcome home.”

For our teenagers the answer is also complicated and they are becoming more aware of the complications. Their responses to the question vary.

My parents live in Djibouti, where I still have a bed and friends and where I lived for 10 years. But I also lived in Somaliland. But now I go to school in Kenya. I also went to school in France for a while. But I was born in Minnesota…

where are you from

I realized, after a trip to the US for Christmas this December, that we needed to talk about this question. Not so that we would come up with a satisfactory answer, there probably isn’t one, at least not one that would work in all circumstances. But so that my kids could hear me affirm whatever choices they made in describing where they came from, or where home is. So that I could help them find words, develop a vocabulary, begin to name the places that, when all pulled together, form the answer to ‘where are you from?’

I don’t know how to answer the question myself. One morning in Nairobi, an hour after landing via London from Minneapolis en route to Djibouti via Ethiopia, someone asked me where I was from.

Did she mean where had I just come from? London.

Did she mean where had I originated? Minneapolis.

Passport nation? America.

Did she mean where I keep my precious photo albums and fill up my daily routines? Djibouti.

Did she mean where half my heart lives nine months out of the year? Kenya.

I stumbled. It could have been jetlag but I think it was uncertainty. I couldn’t figure out what she wanted to know and the question flustered me until I nearly spilled my coffee. Rather than answering with whatever words came out my mind, I was frantically trying to decipher what she wanted to know and I couldn’t handle it.

“The airport,” I finally answered. Which was also true, we were, most recently, from the airport.

Is there a better question than ‘where are you from?’ How do you answer? And how does that answer cross over into what you consider home?

 -Rachel Pieh Jones, development worker, Djibouti

                         Blog: Djibouti Jones, Twitter: @RachelPiehJones, Facebook: Rachel Pieh Jones

*image credit

Disappointed by A National

If you have been in missions any length of time, you have experienced disappointment with a national person you’ve trusted.

It’s not a question of if, but when.

Someone will break your trust, they might steal from you, or worse.

I know of national workers who were entrusted with a ministry only to overthrow the leader; stealing the work.

Extreme. Maybe.

But at the very least we will have people we invest in disappoint us.

It could be through sin. At times they fail in areas of money, sex, or power. Perhaps they just vanish.

I’ve recently had this happen to me…(again).

Someone I believe in and spent a lot of time with went AWOL. They fell off the deep end. The guy disappeared from the face of the Earth. Choose whatever word picture you want, he is gone.

He didn’t steal from me. There was never a hint of inappropriate action towards my wife or children. He just left.

I’m disappointed.

My story is common. So when, (again, not if), this happens how should we (I) respond?

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1. Trust
The number one response when someone lets us down is to stop trusting. We view all the nationals through the lens of one person. When one lets us down, find another to invest in.

2. Hope
I’ve seen a common trend in many shame based cultures. If someone feels like they’ve failed or disappointed a mentor, the default response is flight. We need to know that raising up men and women of God is a long journey, not a sprint. There will be failings and restarts. So with the person who has let us down, we must maintain hope that they will return. Again and again, just like someone did with us.

3. View them as people, not “nationals”
Over the years, I have heard far too many negative statements about not being able to trust nationals, questions as to their motives, or false beliefs that they simply are not “civilized” enough to succeed. That’s Rubbish! They are people. Any pastor, business leader, or human being who works with people has had the same sense of disappointment we experience. People are broken. Isn’t that the ultimate reason why we do what we do?

At the end of the day, if we are not “risking” with people enough to be disappointed at times, what are we really accomplishing?

So yes, be hurt. Be disappointed. Sigh a good sigh.

Then get back up and go back and invest in someone else. Be willing to be let down again.

(Here concludes my motivational pep talk to myself……and many others)


Please lend your voice. What points would you add for dealing with disappointment?

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

Photo by Andy Bullock77 via Flickr

How Will You Know When To Go Home?

Lis and Mike Jan 2014Three weeks ago, just after Christmas, we learned that my husband, Mike, has testicular cancer.

We were in Thailand at the time, on a three-day getaway from our home in Laos. Mike had noticed something different downstairs ten days previously, and we’d scheduled an appointment to get it checked out in Thailand while we were there (Laos medical facilities are, shall we say, sub-par).

Right up until the day of the appointment, I wasn’t worried. The chances of it being anything serious are so slim, I reasoned. And after everything that’s already landed on us in the last two years – a baby’s broken femur, my broken ankle, depression, Mike’s two herniated discs and spinal surgeries – it’s so not our turn for this sort of medical drama anymore, amen.

I was carrying our five-month old and simultaneously trying to prevent our leashed and unhappy two-year-old from climbing into a fishpond, when Mike walked up to me after his appointment and said the words: “I have a tumor. It needs to come out as soon as possible. The doctor said it could be life-threatening.”

Well. So much for not our turn anymore.

As we were driving back to Laos the next day, Mike and I began to do something we’ve gotten rather skilled at doing – planning for how to deal with a medical challenge in Bangkok while we continued living in Laos.

During that drive home, we decided that Mike would leave ASAP to have surgery in Bangkok while I stayed in Laos with the kids. If further treatment was needed after that, we hoped that perhaps Mike could commute to Bangkok for radiation or chemotherapy and then return to Laos and work in between treatments.

It seemed like a good plan to us. It didn’t seem like such a good plan to two of our good Australian friends – both doctors – who are also currently living in Laos.

These two friends came around to our house that day after we arrived home from Thailand. Over the course of the next three hours they lovingly but firmly laid out all the reasons why, given Mike’s test results, we should all catch the first available flight to Australia.

Forty-eight hours later, one minute before midnight on New Years Eve, our flight from Bangkok to Brisbane lifted off. I believe we were being serenaded at the time by our exhausted two year old screaming in rotation, “COOKIE MAMA, RIGHT NOW!!” and “OFF PLANE!!”

Now it’s the 20th of January. We’re living at my parent’s house. Again. Mike had surgery in Brisbane six days after we landed in Australia. His tumor turned out, as expected, to be cancer. What we didn’t really expect was for a Stage 3 diagnosis. Lymph nodes in his groin and his chest have already been affected. I’m writing this article in the oncology unit, sitting beside Mike. The nurses are preparing to hook up the first treatment in what will be at least nine weeks of chemotherapy.

I am so profoundly grateful that we are not in Laos or Bangkok right now, and that our kids are being watched over by their grandparents while I’m here.

I was wondering yesterday what to write about this month that might be relevant to you all when this question popped into my mind: How will you know when it’s right to leave the field?

Our first inclination when Mike was diagnosed was to stay in Asia. We only decided to temporarily relocate to Australia because we invited, and then took, the advice of two friends who knew more than we did about what we might be dealing with.

One of those two doctor friends reassured us as we were still trying to process stepping away from Mike’s job, our house, and “normal” life for an indeterminate amount of time.

“The specifics about your house and everything else will sort themselves out,” she said. “They always do. And within six months this will all most likely be behind you. You’ll be back. You just need to step away for a while.”

What sort of situations or warning flags would make you decide to step away for a while, or even leave the field permanently?

Sometimes we’re faced with a pretty clear crisis point, like a cancer diagnosis, that raises the question of whether to go or to stay. Speaking as both a psychologist and someone who has been through a couple of those crisis points, I can tell you that no matter how calm you feel in the immediate aftermath of a crisis point, you may not be thinking logically and rationally. Right when you need to be making 101 important decisions, you will not be at your best.

Make up your mind now not to go it alone during those moments. Who will you trust to help you untangle your options and to give you advice? Think now about who could be a good sounding board for you then.

Beyond that, however, think about what sorts of seasons and reasons should cause you to at least consider leaving the field. In the absence of a specific crisis point, we can slowly acclimatize to all sorts of stresses and strains without realizing the extent of the pressure that we (or our relationships) are under. That proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water might have survived if he’d kept his eye on a thermostat. Along those lines, we should keep some of our own personal and relational thermostats within view when we’re living in potential pressure-cooker situations. When you choose to live overseas, it’s wise to identify some personal warning signs that should prompt you to reconsider whether your life overseas is worth the cost that you and your loved ones are paying.

What signs of marital strain would act as this sort of trigger for you? What about issues with your children, or your (or a loved one’s) faith, job, sense of vocation, or health? Where would you go if you had to leave the field on short notice?

Think about these questions this week. Talk about them with your partner, friends, or family.

I hope you never have to put any “emergency exit” scenarios into place. But if you do, I hope you’ll know when to leave and that you’ll have somewhere soft to land for a season while you sort out your life. On those fronts, at least, Mike and I count ourselves blessed.

Share your wisdom with us all. Have you ever had to make an emergency exit from your home abroad? What helped you during that time?

And, what sorts of reasons or seasons might prompt you to leave the field?

Jan 19, 2014: A family "everyone still has hair" photo shoot.
Jan 19, 2014: A family “everyone still has hair” photo shoot.

Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos
Website: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red

Is the Purpose of Missions the GOSPEL or the KINGDOM?

india

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_1865

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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

*photo credit: David Bartsch

On separation, grief, and forgiveness

Livesay 2013

 

Inevitably, moving away from friends and family means changed relationships. Pray, plan, and try as you might; things still change. We have hated that fact, fought against it, deeply grieved it, been angry, and attempted numerous times to make it untrue … To no avail.

When people ask us, “What is the hardest part about living there?” The answer is easy. It has nothing to do with tropical illnesses, bugs, heat, or lack of bacon, milk, and strawberries. It is not the daily interaction with heart-breaking poverty or the front-row seat to see the devastating consequences of it. Those things are certainly hard, but for us, they are not the hardest.

It has everything to do with wanting to stay connected to the family and friends we deeply love and left. It has everything to do with feeling guilty for letting them down, for missing big things in their lives, for being physically and emotionally distant and different and sometimes hard to relate to or understand.

It has everything to do with knowing we are where we want to be and knowing that it hurts some loved ones. It is painful to make a choice that hurts people you love.

On the flip side, there can sometimes be a gross sense of self-importance. In our first few years abroad you might have overheard us saying, “Why are they so mad at us? We are just doing what we think God led us to do. They are selfish. That doesn’t even make sense.”

True or not true, we missed our opportunity to empathize with the pain our close friends and family were feeling. We were defensive about their grief and that wasn’t fair to anyone.  One of my favorite posts at A Life Overseas is this post about grief, and the necessity of allowing it  – no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

That article closed with these words:

So please, allow grief in your own heart and in the hearts of your family members.  If you’re uncomfortable with other peoples’ grief (or your own), you might want to look deep, deep down in your own soul and see if there’s some long-outlawed, long-buried grief.  If you find some, begin gently to see it, vent it, feel it.  Begin talking about it, slowly, with a good listener.

Things have become easier in recent years. The grief process is long and we have been gone a long time. It seems that we have all mainly moved into acceptance phase.  Because grief is anything but linear, we know that tomorrow things could change.

The newfound peace and the less-stressed long distance relationships are the result of choosing to offer grace and choosing to offer forgiveness.  That has meant a new way of communicating with our loved ones. Instead of dreading interaction, we crave it.

I need forgiveness for blowing off and refusing to understand how my parents felt watching us remove the grandkids from their day-to-day life.  I need forgiveness for being too uncomfortable with their grief to sit with them in it.  I also need to extend forgiveness for things that have hurt me during this long adjustment period. My family and friends are not experiencing the things I am and I cannot expect them to always “get” me.  Grace goes a long way in bridging those gaps in understanding. An habitual attitude of forgiveness goes even further.

At one point I thought, “I will never be as close with these people as I once was.”  Today, eight years into this overseas adventure, I can honestly say that projection is not holding true. None of us were supposed to know how to live far away from one another and still make each other feel valuable and loved and important.  It took time  (a lot of time) to figure that out and all the mistakes along the way need to be released completely, keeping only the parts that taught us something.

Corrie Ten Boom wisely observed:

“If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.”

 

Have you struggled with relationships with the loved ones you left behind? 

What (if anything) has worked for you to begin to mend those things?  

I hope for those of you in the middle of difficult adjustments that this offers some hope for the future.  

 

Tara Livesay works in Maternal Health in Port au Prince, Haiti

blog:  livesayhaiti.com  |  twitter (sharing with her better half): @troylivesay

 

 

How to Transition to the Foreign Field and not Croak (Part 2)

In Part 1, we looked at three issues that can cause heartache for missionaries. Today I’ll explain three more issues that affect daily life overseas.

4)      Pornography/sexual sin

5)      Team stress

6)      Not getting enough pre-field training

 

4) PORNOGRAPHY/ SEXUAL SIN

Our neighborhood brothel.

Unaddressed sin problems are going to show up on the mission field. There are a lot of unique stressors to living cross-culturally, and that stress can be a trigger for issues like pornography, which absolutely destroys intimacy, trust, and happiness (yes, even among missionaries).

And I hate to be the one to tell you the ugly truth, but in Southeast Asia, porn problems can easily slip into prostitution problems.

So please, if you have a pornography problem or some other serious struggle, either address it before you go to the field, or just don’t go. Seek counseling and find freedom first, because that deep, dark, buried secret will bubble to the surface a lot when you live within the stress of a new culture. (Although my husband did not have a pornography problem either before or after coming to Cambodia, I do know Team Expansion’s policy is to address porn problems through addiction counseling, before they will clear you to leave.)

 

5) TEAM STRESS

I love the vision that is born when people collaborate on a team. As wonderful as working on a team can be, teams also provide an opportunity for conflict and interpersonal stress.  Conversely, sometimes missionaries have no team, either because they arrived without a team, or their team broke apart at some point. Neither a stressful team nor lack of a team is ideal.

In addition to taking conflict-resolution training (which is part of the training I discuss in the next point), you need to accept that your team situation may change over the years. Teams lose members, and they gain members. For varying reasons, you might need to choose teammates again after you get to the field, and you need to know that is ok. Your commitment to serving God needs to be deeper than your commitment to your team.

 

6) NOT GETTING ENOUGH PRE-FIELD TRAINING

You really need specific missions training before you move overseas. Our agency’s required training is very thorough, and each step along the way we learned something more about cross-cultural work or about ourselves. The two most life-changing trainings we took were Mission Training International’s pre-field course and the Kairos worldview course. I consider Mission Training International (MTI) to be essential preparation for cross-cultural service, and it should be attended in addition to any Bible school or seminary training you may already have.

Before becoming missionaries-in-training, we had been involved in paid or volunteer ministry for several years. That ministry experience has been very helpful to us in setting boundaries between family time and ministry time (something that especially affects a wife’s happiness). It’s also easy for missionaries to become frustrated with nationals who change slowly or not at all, but I remember times in the States when we worked with people stuck in harmful behavior patterns who weren’t showing evidence of positive change. So we’ve concluded that some of the stresses of missionary life are just ministry stresses, located in another country. It would be useful to get some ministry experience before leaving.

Here’s a review of the second set of issues and some practical steps you can take to prepare for missionary life:

4)      Pornography/sexual sin

                     — Tackle big problems like pornography before leaving.

5)      Team stress

                     — Be prepared for the possibility of team issues.

6)      Not getting enough pre-field training

                     — Get ministry experience in addition to specific pre-field missions training.

 

May you never lose sight of the dream God has given you. May you walk with God in every land and on every sea. May He steady you in your every uprooting and in your every re-planting, and may you ever only “not croak” as you transition between the two.

 

After a military childhood, a teenaged Elizabeth Trotter crash landed into American civilian life. When she married her high school sweetheart, her life plan was to be a chemical engineer while he practiced law. Instead, they both fell headlong into youth ministry and spent the next ten years serving the local church. When her husband later decided he wanted to move overseas, Elizabeth didn’t want to join him. But now, after two years of life in Cambodia with him and their four children, she can’t imagine doing anything else. She blogs at trotters41.com.

On Twitter (@trotters41) and Facebook (trotters41)

How to Transition to the Foreign Field and not Croak (Part 1)

I believe if a missionary family is happy and healthy, they will be more sustainable in the long-term. I also believe that the key to happy and healthy missionaries is preparation. One of the things I’ve learned while living overseas is that there is a lot of heartache among cross-cultural workers. I’ve also noticed that often, people’s heartache had common characteristics, and could have been addressed before arriving on the field.

I’m sharing practical steps you can take before you leave your home country. These steps will make your on-field life more smooth, more stable, and more productive. I’m incredibly grateful to our sending church and sending agency, who helped us take these steps prior to arriving in Cambodia. We simply followed their instructions. At the time, we didn’t realize the immense wisdom of their requirements, or how much our years of preparation would help us in settling happily in Cambodia. We could not have transitioned well without their guidance.

You should be aware that none of this preparation will prevent difficult things from happening to you on the field. Dealing with the following issues simply eases the strain of regular life, as the pain they cause is largely preventable. In no particular order, those issues are:

1)      Not having enough financial support

2)      One spouse doesn’t feel called into missions

3)      Not having marital intimacy

4)      Pornography/sexual sin

5)      Team stress

6)      Not getting enough pre-field training

Part 1 in this series will look at the first three issues, with Part 2 covering the remainder.

 

1) NOT HAVING ENOUGH FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Financial troubles are stressful in America, but they become even more stressful in a cross-cultural setting. When all of life is consumed in getting the best price at the market or saving just a little more money, you have no time margin. Your mind never rests.

Please don’t try to move overseas without sufficient funding, assuming you will be able to pinch pennies once you get there. Missionaries are known to lose financial support over the years — which means it’s difficult to prevent underfunding completely. However, it also means that starting underfunded will only lead to more underfunding. Many missions organizations won’t even clear you to move overseas until you’ve raised 100% of your proposed budget.

We modeled our budget off the budget of a missionary who was already in this field, but we also added some financial margin (about 10%). Although our overall projected budget was accurate, we had to seriously shift items once we got here. Some bills were much lower than expected, while others were much higher. And we are so thankful we planned some financial margin so that when we got ripped off in the beginning (which will inevitably happen before you know the language well and intuitively know what a fair price is), we weren’t worried.

 

2) ONE SPOUSE DOESN’T FEEL CALLED INTO MISSIONS (A “TRAILING SPOUSE”)

I was a trailing spouse. Being a missionary has been my husband’s dream since he was 10 years old. I think I knew this on a sub-conscious level when we got married, but I was so blissfully in love that any missionary living seemed very far away. When he “suddenly” wanted to apply with Team Expansion about five years ago, I was shocked. Most of my concerns were about safety and health, as I’m a recovering germaphobe/hypochondriac.

We pursued the application process in spite of my reservations. At times I was less supportive, and at times I was more supportive. I thought I could survive missionary life by imitating the way Sarah followed God’s leading through her husband Abraham. In the end, though, when it came to setting a departure date, I just couldn’t leave home. I needed to hear directly from God myself.

I was able to hear my own “call” only after we set aside special time to hear from God individually. During this time we didn’t talk about the subject as a couple, but I did listen to a veteran missionary’s story about fear and faith on the mission field. Then my husband and I went to our church leaders for advice. It was after this time of individual thinking and praying that I was able to drop the “trailing spouse” label.

I have my own call now, so I don’t have doubts about why I’m here, nor do I want to move back to America. I’ve made Cambodia my home, and I’ve made peace with missionary life. But I’ve seen other women who are still trailing spouses. Their husbands’ desires to be here and do mission work are stronger than theirs, and they are unhappy. They constantly want to go home. Please, trailing spouses, take time to verify your call to missions BEFORE leaving home. Taking the time to do that now will be worth it later on.

To read a more complete version of this story, click here.

 

3) NOT HAVING MARITAL INTIMACY

My husband has always been my best friend, and he remained my best friend even as I started forming close girl friendships in my new country.  Because of my relationship with my husband, I am not emotionally dependent on anyone back home (although I still keep in very close contact with my best girl friend in America). My husband and I communicate easily and well, but if you have difficulty communicating, be aware that your difficulties will be magnified on the field.

Our church leadership required that we attend a week-long intensive counseling session.  I initially resisted this, as I did not think we had any glaring problems. We’d been happy for 10 years! Why did we need counseling?? Once we were in the counselor’s office, though, we quickly realized we needed to deal with some areas in our life that we had not yet dealt with. (These issues were separate from the trailing spouse issue, which had been resolved by that time.) The experience was a major breakthrough for us and has helped us to be more understanding and supportive of each other.

If you are planning on long-term overseas missions, make your relationship with your spouse your strongest earthly relationship. A happy marriage makes those unavoidable annoyances of daily life much less noticeable. To that end, I highly recommend counseling.

As a side note, you really do need a good friend on the field, whether you are married or not. Pray for one before you get there, and trust God to provide one. He will!

We’ll look at the next three points in Part 2.  In the meantime, here’s a review of the issues, with some practical steps to take:

1)      Not having enough financial support            

                   — Build margin into your budget, and raise it fully.  

2)      One spouse doesn’t feel called into missions            

                   — Ensure both partners have a strong missionary call.

3)      Not having marital intimacy            

                   — Make your marriage your strongest relationship; possibly seek counseling.

Read Part 2 here.

——————————————————————————————-

After a military childhood, a teenaged Elizabeth Trotter crash landed into American civilian life. When she married her high school sweetheart, her life plan was to be a chemical engineer while he practiced law. Instead, they both fell headlong into youth ministry and spent the next ten years serving the local church. When her husband later decided he wanted to move overseas, Elizabeth didn’t want to join him. But now, after two years of life in Cambodia with him and their four children, she can’t imagine doing anything else. She blogs at trotters41.com. 

On Twitter (@trotters41) and Facebook (trotters41)