June is the month of transition for overseas workers and their families. It’s the month where many make the decision to stay – or to leave.
Decisions to leave are not made lightly – I know this. They are made with butterfly filled stomachs, hurting hearts, and a lot of soul-searching tears. The decision to leave a place where you have invested your heart also comes with many fears and questions.
What will it be like for us on the other side?
I’ve learned how to live well here – and it’s taken time. How will those invisible skills be used in my passport country?
How will we live effectively?
My friend Robynn Bliss went through this a few years ago. In a talk she and her husband gave at their church, she speaks to these questions. For all of us who have asked, or are asking, these questions, this post offers wisdom and grace for living well in the here and now.
I recently was asked to talk to our church about how I live out my faith. It got me thinking. In 2007 we were “redeployed”. It’s a long story but we knew God was moving us from South Asia to Manhattan, Kansas. As I processed that move it struck me that Jesus must have Kingdom of Heaven Purposes in mind and yet, I had no idea how to minister to people here. I remember asking someone how to talk about Jesus here, how to do good works in His name here in Manhattan, Kansas. Her response was, “I don’t know! You’re the overseas worker!” She seemed like such an intentional person. I was so shocked by her response. I asked a few others. No one had anything very tangible or helpful to tell me.
So….I consciously decided to pretend that everyone here was from South Asia! I would do what I knew to do! I would do what I’d been sent out by my church to do….but I’d do it here!
Here’s a little bit of what I mean:
*I recognize I’m here for the Kingdom’s sake! My life has significance. I firmly believe Jesus asks us to live somewhere for a reason. We were brought here on purpose!
Intentional Involvement:Lowell and I intentionally think how we can get involved in our community. I joined the PTO. I volunteered in the lunch room at Bluemont Elementary and then TR. Lowell joined the Friends of Sunset Zoo board. He’s now a court appointed special advocate for kids in the legal system. Those were all strategic decisions. How can we hang out more with people who need hope? Those seemed like good ways to start.
Creative Communication: In South Asia we learned to think creatively and energetically about how we might present the message of Jesus in ways that people could actually hear it. In those days we had long conversations about how to boil down the Good News to its sweet and redeeming essence. There were so many misunderstandings and misperceptions about faith and Jesus and church and what it means to relate to God. I think it’s true here too.
Honest and Open Faith Journey: When I was 21 I worked for a summer in Banff—a mountain resort town in the Canadian Rockies. I found myself intimidated about sharing my faith. It seemed strange and awkward to suddenly bring up Jesus into a conversation with a coworker. During that time I had an epiphany of sorts. We were all created by God himself to relate to God himself! That’s how we were made! To believe is actually more normal than not to believe. That truth transformed the way I live. Since then I’ve learned to talk openly about my relationship with Jesus with anybody and everybody: my joys, my frustrations, the prayers He’s answered, the prayers he hasn’t. I offer to pray for people. I follow up later with questions. Did Jesus answer prayer? If He didn’t I express my annoyance. “Shoot! I was really hoping he’d answer that one!”. If He does, I offer up sincere praise! “Yay! Thanks God!” There’s no need for me to be apologetic about believing.
Grace-drenched Truth: When our kids were little it didn’t seem like I had time to have conversations with others about the hope I had. Initially that frustrated me! But then I started asking Jesus to help me insert a little truth into every conversation I have –even the short ones with strangers and store clerks. The chances for longer forays into more of the message make me down right giddy…but who knows what God might do with sprinklings of grace drenched truth!?
Make your work your calling: When we lived in South Asia Lowell worked full-time as a curriculum designer. We also ran a guest house and a retreat center. Our work was in many ways our calling. It’s the same thing for all of us here! Your job is the holy arena God has placed you in for divine Kingdom purposes. You don’t have to be a full time religious worker to have a significant ministry. You have a chance to show people what life in the Kingdom of God looks like! You get to interact with people and real life and live out for them authentic up and down faith and hope and joy. It’s like he gave you your job…so you can quietly do your “real job”—!
Relax and Be Yourself: I try to be myself. Usually I’m relaxed. Jesus is in charge. We don’t have to defend him or his reputation. He just asks us to bear His image to the world. To be ministers of reconciliation. To extend grace and acceptance to people. To introduce them to the One who created them who is crazy about them and who longs for a relationship with them. For that matter I’m not trying to impress Jesus either when I share my faith, or when I love on my neighbor. There is no sticker chart, no points, for having spiritual conversations. Jesus is already crazy about me too. I can’t impress him. He loves me fully as I am—a normal middle-aged, hormonally challenged, emotionally stir fried woman…and He can’t get enough of me! It’s all true for you too!
Never Forget Your Primary Motivation and Mission: Our primary mission is love. We are called to love. It’s as simple (and as horrendously difficult) as that! Love our neighbour, love our post man, love our barista, love the noisy kids on our street—, love the person we meet who is so incredibly different than I am, love our spouses, love. Love becomes the goal but it’s also the means to the goal.
My husband and I try to be the same people we were in South Asia. We still love the Holy Mysterious Message of Grace. We still try to live it out…we just live in a different town now!
About Robynn: Robynn is holder of a Canadian passport and a US Green Card. Raised in Pakistan, she went on to live in India for 15 years as an adult. Robynn is honoured to be married to Lowell and to be mother of three intense thinkers who articulate constantly their agonies and joys. She lives and learns between worlds and processes that and more every Friday You can find her blogging here.