Out of Office Reply

Some things will just suck the blog right out of you.

Furlough and book editing are apparently two of those things.

Our family spent the summer back in the States, and while we very much enjoyed catching up with friends and family, it was exhausting. You all know that already. We’ve been back less than a week and have enjoyed the company of a plumber, the air con repair guys, inspiring traffic jams, a long power cut, and extroverted mold.

So yeah, my apologies for being a bit “out of the office” when it comes to our community here. Seems a life overseas sometimes gets in the way of A Life Overseas.

Anyways, I also wanted to give you a heads up on Elizabeth’s and my new book, Serving Well: help for the wannabe, newbie, or weary cross-cultural Christian worker. I’m neck deep in editing and will be submitting another draft to the publisher this week. Hopefully it will come out mid-2019.

It is a great honor to parse these words, and our deepest hope is that they would bless and encourage folks for years to come. So would you mind praying? Pray for wisdom in what to cut and what to not cut. Pray that the global church would be blessed through this work.

Pray for the wannabes, the newbies, and the weary ones.

And know that, although I’ve been a bit less communicative, my heart is still here. I am still for you and the work to which you’ve been called. I still serve in a local international church here in Cambodia and I still do pastoral counseling and debriefing.

And I’m still editing and formatting and working on that dang bibliography.

May God’s mercy be with you.

 

All for ONE,
Jonathan T.

Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World

What a season of books for A Life Overseas! I loved seeing Amy Young’s post earlier this week about All the News That’s Fit to Tell. And Elizabeth Trotter released a book recently as well, Hats. Such a privilege to write alongside these wise and creative people. Definitely check out their books!

And I’ve got my own book to share, though it is hardly ‘my own.’ The voices of 24 writers from all over the globe and all manner of experience fill these pages.


It can be easy to box Third Culture Kids into a book or a paradigm, to limit them to their label. But, of course, TCKs are as diverse as the countries in which they live. There are similar characteristics and experiences but there are infinite possibilities for how TCKs will live and respond.

In 2012, on my website, Djibouti Jones, I hosted a guest post essay series about Third Culture Kids called Painting Pictures. The title was taken from Sara Groves’ song, Painting Pictures of Egypt,

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend…

I knew the series would capture this diversity of experience when I received two particular essays in the same week. One was called, “When an Adult TCK Chooses a Life Overseas.” The next one was called, “When an Adult TCK Does Not Choose a Life Overseas.” The authors had no idea the other had written on this topic.

Other essays covered topics from adoption to re-entry grief, university transition to marrying a TCK. They were written by parents, children, educators, and counselors and we had the immense privilege of launching the series with a post by none other than Ruth Van Reken, who wisely laid the groundwork for defining the term.

At the time, I had just sent two of my children to boarding school. Now, six years later, I am about to launch them back into their passport countries. I revisited the essays and found they resonated on an even deeper level than they had in 2012.

I compiled the essays into a single resource and included interviews and follow-ups with most of the authors. Then, I added action points to each essay, suggestions for how kids or parents or friends or individuals can take the topic and make it personal and useful.

The result, with a gorgeous cover designed by Cecily Paterson (the author of Six Stages of Re-Entry Grief), is Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World.

The book will be released on May 22, 2018.

I personally have two essays in the collection, but feel more like a conduit or a midwife, than an author. It is an honor to bring these wise voices together, from all over the globe, and present them to you.

I would love as many people to be able to access this resource as possible, so to that end, if you pre-order the book, that is order it before May 22, I will send a free copy to the person of your choice. Maybe someone you’d like to start a TCK conversation with, someone who just moved abroad, a family member, an educator, a church member, a coworker, a graduating senior…Of course, you can still get the book after May 22!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Order the book on Amazon
  2. Email me the receipt (rachelpiehjones(@)gmail(dot)com)
  3. Include the email address of the person you’d like to gift the book to (I promise I won’t keep their email addresses for anything else, just to send the book)

And then, once the book is released, leaving an Amazon review would be totally awesome.

My hope is that these essays would help and encourage TCKs and those who love them as deeply as they have me.

Here are some other great resources for TCKs:

Misunderstood, by Tanya Crossman

Between Worlds and Worlds Apart, by Marilyn Gardner

Noggy Bloggy, a blog by a TCK chronicling with vulnerable honesty his journey with depression, and host of an incredible TCK art series

Home, James, by Emily Steele Jackson, a novel about a TCK

What are some of your go-to resources?

A Resource for Missionaries in Transition {and a give away!}

 looming-transitions_coverLooming Transitions: starting and finishing well in cross-cultural service, a book I wrote with you in mind, was launched this week. I love to hear the back-stories on books or movies, so thought I’d share with you how this book came to be. In 2007 I transitioned back to China after a three year study leave. About eight months into my transition being (mostly) over and life up and running in China, I was feeling (mostly) settled. My organization asked to lead a workshop on how to finish well, geared toward people who would be returning to the U.S. after having lived and taught in Asia. I jumped at the chance; fresh off my own Band-Aid ripping off experience, I figured I had help to share.

All I needed to do was conduct a little bit of internet research, read some articles, throw in a few personal stories, and voilà one basically ready-made presentation. My plan went off without a hitch until I did my first internet search. Almost everything about “ending chapters” in life was related to retiring. Retiring is certainly a major area for looming transitions and finishing well. But what about all of the transitions that we go through when an end is coming, yet life will still go on after the transition?

The first year I presented the workshop, I pulled together a few thoughts and told myself the problem was my late start in the search. Information was out there and I would find it. During the next year, I found little help for the workshop. I went back to the list of ideas I had created the first year, added more meat to them and the idea of a book began to grow.

This book is for those who will be going through a major life transition, either moving to the field or preparing to return to your “home” country. It covers all of the potential moves you might make: to the field, back to your home country for a Home Assignment or furlough, or if you sense for now your time on the field is coming to a close. Chance are you’ve been around someone who left the field without finishing as well as they could, either because they shut down too early or started too late.

Allowing parts of yourself to die in order to create space for new life and seasons is not for the faint of heart. But it can be done. The burning question this book answers is how can you keep your soul fertile and sanity intact during transitions?

There are no simple platitudes offered in Looming Transition. You won’t find “three easy steps to anything.” However, you will find suggestions for your soul, your stuff, and your sanity.

This book is intended for the 4-6 months before you move and benefits of Looming Transitions include:

  • 11 ways to stay connected to God through transition
  • 7 areas of your personal life that can experience revival in the midst of upheaval
  • 5 places to look for messes in your life (and ways to keep the mess in check)
  • 4 key aspects to know about yourself and loved ones going into a transition (one example is How to know if you are pre- or post-griever (and why it matters))
  • 5 significant arenas to start early
  • It’s not all about you: 3 important steps that allow others to end this season of your life well
  • Insight on how to grieve a transition that is slow in coming
  • How to identify and manage stress leading up to a transition

Looming Transitions is available on Amazon—both in paperback and kindle. In addition, I’ve created graphics you can use for blogs, newsletters, and social media as a small way to help those of you in transitions! If you could help spread the word to mission committees, organizations and people you know who will be transitioning to or from the field, you can be a part of helping more to start and finish well in cross-cultural service. This book can also be offered at a discount for purchases of 10 copies or more (messymiddle (at) gmail (dot) com).

Because I know many of you are in need of this book now, I’d love to offer three copies to readers of A Life Overseas. Leave a comment about the type of transition you’re in or who you’d give this book to and three winners will be drawn and notified on Monday.

With blessing, Amy

*** The giveaway is now over and the winners have been notified. I am blessed and humbled by this community! To slow me down and keep me grounded in your needs, for the drawing I wrote each of your names on a piece of paper and prayed for you. The outpouring of comments has reminded me of how very much we need each other, we need A Life Overseas, and we need resources. Very blessed to be a part of all that’s going on here as we know the truth that life is hard, God is good, and God is sovereign and do our best to understand and hold all three in tension.

The Little Word That Frees Us

We talk a lot about Missionary Kids (MKs) being Third Culture Kids (TCKs), but we talk less often about another aspect of their lives, the Preacher’s Kid (PKs) aspect. These MKs of ours, these kids we love so fiercely, are both TCKs and PKs. They deal with both the cultural issues of TCKs and the potential religious baggage of PKs. It’s the religious baggage that I want to talk about today.

venn1

(A nifty little visual to illustrate the intersection of TCKs and PKs in the souls of our MKs.)

Timothy L. Sanford, an adult MK and licensed professional counselor, wrote about some of the ramifications of growing up in ministry and missionary families in his book “I Have to be Perfect” (And Other Parsonage Heresies). To give you a bit of context for this little-known book, Ruth Van Reken, co-author of the classic Third Culture Kids book, both endorsed it and helped to edit it.

I’m not a PK or an MK, and I can never presume to speak for them. This book was, however, surprisingly relatable for me, and at times rather painful. Perhaps it’s because I entered ministry at age 19 — not still a child, not quite a woman. Perhaps it’s because I spent a few formative years in a highly legalistic church where everyone seemed to be on display.

Whatever the reason, I found I was susceptible to the lies addressed in this book. If I, without growing up in a ministry home, resonate with these PK issues, then maybe other missionaries and church workers do, too. I also know that many MKs and PKs end up serving overseas, and I began wondering if the ideas presented in this book have broader applications for the body of Christ.

While acknowledging the very special and unique lives PKs and MKs have lived, I also want to recognize that adults in ministry roles can absorb false ideas about themselves, about God, and about His people. And we all need truth and grace extended to us.

So this blog series is for all people in ministry contexts. Whether you grew up as a PK or an MK, whether you are currently or were formerly in overseas missions or local church ministry, or whether you’re married to someone who is, this blog series is for you. It’s also for the Church at large. If you are someone who cares about the walking wounded among us, this blog series is for you, too.

I believe, along with William Paul Young, that “since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing.” Sometimes the Church gets stuck in damaging behavior patterns, and we, as a collective people, perpetuate beliefs in the lives of ministry families that simply aren’t true. Lies seep into our souls, and as a community we need to acknowledge them, wrestle with them, and ultimately, reject them – for there is a religious culture at work here that needs destroying.

I love the Church, and I believe one of the glorious reasons God places us in a local Body is so that we can “love each other deeply, from the heart,” and by so doing, participate in the healing of each other’s hearts. That is what these posts are about. Sharing our stories, and finding healing and wholeness together.

It is not about blaming parents or making anyone feel guilty. Rather, it is about mobilizing the Church to dismantle some of our harmful systems. It is about calling on Christians to change the way we do life together. Ministers, missionaries, and their families are the most notable casualties here, but the Body as a whole suffers when any member suffers. I believe we can be part of the healing.

 

_freedom__by_candymax-d1c7acla

 

But we need to do something first: we need to give ourselves permission to be honest. Before moving on to the lies PKs tend to believe, Timothy Sanford gives us permission to say the little word “and.” Saying “and” enables us to tell the rest of our story; it enables us to tell all our story.

This is where he caught my attention — because I had not given myself permission to say “and.” I had only been saying “but.” “And” is not the same as “but.” “But” tries to nullify, where “and” respects and includes. “But” attempts to cancel out the bad in our lives by focusing on the good, or to cancel out the good in our lives by focusing on the bad. The problem is, this doesn’t work. The negatives don’t nullify the positives, in anyone’s life. And the positives don’t nullify the negatives. Ever.

For some reason this concept was even more freeing than the yays and yucks I learned about in mission training. The good doesn’t mean the bad didn’t happen, but neither does the bad mean the good didn’t happen. They both happened. The question is, can I hold them both together, at the same time?

For a long time, I couldn’t hold them both together. I had thought it was disloyal to admit that my parents’ choices could ever cause me pain. But as a TCK in a military family, there was pain associated with our various relocations. There was good, and there was bad in our life. Just as there is good, and there is bad, in everyone’s lives. I needed permission to say so. I needed permission to say, “I had an idyllic childhood, AND all the goodbyes and hellos were painful.”

And perhaps you do too. Perhaps you need to know it is equally valid to talk about the negatives as well as the positives. Perhaps you need permission to break the silence you’ve been holding. Perhaps you need permission to say,

“My parents were good people, AND they did some bad things, too.”

“Our church (or agency) leadership loved us, AND they made decisions that hurt us, too.”

“I had some really neat experiences because of my parents’ jobs, AND there were some pretty awful experiences, too.”

Sometimes we just need permission to say these things.

Furthermore, when I read this book, I realized that I must also give that permission to my kids. The life my kids live because of my choices, it’s not all bad. And it’s not all good. (But neither would their life be, had I not gone into ministry, or not chosen to live overseas.)

Oh how I want to see life in black and white, as purely good or purely bad. But life is never black and white. And I learned I can’t take offense at the various things my kids might say were good or bad. I need to let them hold their own “ands.”

“But” is insufficient. We need to say “and.” This little word opens up a whole new life for us. And. Just breathe. In, and out. And then, tell the rest of the story, the rest of your story. Tell all of it together. Tell the entire thing, the parts that make you feel broken, and the parts that make you feel whole. Tell your ands.

Wherever you are in the world, it is my prayer that you will find people who can handle all the ands of your life.

 

What are the “ands” of your life? Are you being honest about them with yourself and with others? Or is there something you need to say that you’re not saying?

Perhaps the situation is reversed, and you need to hear someone else’s “and.” Are you willing to listen, even if it brings you pain?

Are our communities safe enough to tell the whole story of our lives? Are our communities safe enough for the “and”? Are we brave enough to listen to each other’s “ands”?

 

Bit by bit over the next few months, we will be processing the lies PKs & MKs (& the rest of us) tend to believe about people in ministry. As we delve deeper into these issues, I hope you will return each month to tell your stories and share your hearts, broken and otherwise, in the comments.

_

Part 2: “I’m Not Supposed to Have Needs

Part 3: “I Can’t Trust Anyone

Part 4: “God is Disappointed With Me

Part 5: A Conversation with Timothy Sanford

photo credit

Breakfast with Gracia Burnham

Gracia Burnham and me at IHOP standing conveniently in front of the globe

I arrived at the restaurant way too early and waited in the foyer Wednesday morning.  Part of me still expected her to show up with an entourage.  A driver and bodyguard at least!  She is that much of a rock star to me.

Over a decade ago Gracia Burnham, author of ‘In the Presence of My Enemies’, became a widowed mother of three after 16 years of missionary service in the Philippines. Her husband was killed after they both spent a year in captivity in the jungle.

Now she was having breakfast with me. Wow! She is so much more wonderful in real life than I had imagined in my mind. Can you believe it? So sweet, kind, humble, gentle, smiley, and peaceful. And very short!

I asked if I could blog about our chat and she graciously agreed.

Q: This is my favorite quote from the book –

Because the Abu Sayyaf — and all of us — still retain the power of personal choice, the option of standing stubbornly against the will of God. And that obstinate stance is, apparently, something an almighty God is not willing to bulldoze. Of course, he could have fired heavenly lasers into the brains of Janjalani and Musab and Sabaya, forcing them to wake up one morning and say, “Okay, Martin and Gracia, this has been long enough. Feel free to hike off whenever you like.” But that would have made them puppets instead of independent human beings with free will of their own, for which they will be eternally responsible.

In this section you give some vivid imagery of who God is not. He is not a bulldozer, not a sharpshooter, and not a puppet-master.  Could you give me an image of who God is to you?

Gracia:

God herds me. I see God like a herder behind and around some sheep and they are all milling around and God has his arms out and they are being herded by him. God as my leader? No, I don’t see God out front leading or guiding. God is my herder.

Q: Do you miss living overseas? I’m sorry, people probably ask you that all the time.

Gracia:

I don’t get asked that very often. People assume that I am content and happy to be in the United States. And there is a chosen contentment. But I very much miss living overseas. I would much rather be in the Philippines.

Q: What new trends do you see in this generation of missionaries who are just getting started out as compared to when you began as a missionary over two decades ago?

Gracia:

What I see in today’s missionary is a strong emphasis on safety and comfort. And who am I to say that making a safe and healthy home is not the way to go? But it is a trend. The missionaries going now are talking about the big house they are going to have and where it is going to be and how it is going to be better than the standard of living of the people they are ministering to. Whereas, years ago, the idea was to go to the people and if all they had was one white t-shirt to wear then you wore one white t-shirt. Maybe you had five white t-shirts that you rotated. But the people only ever saw you in one white t-shirt.

Another thing I see happening in the States is the efforts of the church have shifted. Now, all the focus is on getting people on short term trips. I sat in on the board meeting of a group of churches as they discussed their strategy for missions. I had to bite my tongue when they said that the whole of what they were going to do was try and get everyone in their congregation to go serve for a week or two on a short trip. Where is the part where we teach children about the people of the world? When do we pray with the young people so they can ask God if they are called to be a missionary? When do we say to a child who feels called to the mission field, “Yes, okay, we will train you, and pray with you, and spiritually prepare you for a life of sacrifice and simplicity”?

Yes, the simple lifestyle. I don’t see as much simplicity in today’s missionary. The focus is on safety and comfort. Before, the focus was on sacrifice and simplicity. Different lifestyles. We are in different times, so there are different focuses.

——————————–

Discussion question:

What pros and cons do you see in the two different missions focuses Gracia highlights? 1. Sacrifice and Simplicity 2. Safety and Comfort

 – Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

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

——————————–

Click here to hear the back story of when Graica Burnham called me, me?!?, on the phone: A Call from Gracia Burnham.

Related links: The Changing Face of Missions – – Short Term Missions and a Church in Haiti – – A Case for Short Term Missions

The Changing Face of Missions

I want us to consider how globalization is effecting us as missionaries. Fritz Kling wrote a book entitled “The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church” His book will be the backdrop for our discussion. In it he identifies two characters; Missions Marm and Apple Guy.

The Missionary
By: Marc Milligan

Missions Marm – An older, single woman who loaded her trunk (or perhaps even a coffin packed with belongings) onto a ship or plane for her trip to the field, knowing she would only see “home” for an extended furlough every five years. Communication was by sporadic mail service. A lifetime of service seemed too short to accomplish the task.

Brett, the surfer  dude with a taste for big fat............
By: thefuturistics

Apple Guy – a young, hip family man, wearing shorts, flip-flops, and sporting scraggly facial hair who excels at multi-tasking and staying in constant communication with those at home. His family would soon fly into join him for a three-year commitment after renting out the house they were maintaining in the United States. The goodbyes were brief because family is planning a  visit for a sight-seeing trip in a few months.

“Mission Marm” had given up all of her Western accoutrements and conveniences to serve in any way or place that she was needed. “Apple Guy” brought his gadgets and toys with him to a place he had chosen.

The changing of the missions guard brings up several questions:
– Will the next generation bring enough depth and commitment to difficult cross-cultural assignments?
– Are older missionaries prepared to minister and teach Christian faith to people in complex and changing cultures?
– Will Apple Guy and contemporaries know how to forge relationships in less developed and less powerful countries?

Kling states, “Right now, over 400,000 Christian missionaries are living in countries other than their own…the future of the global church will look very different. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky is reputed to have explained why he always seemed to be the first player to the puck: “I don’t skate to where the puck is; I skate to where the puck is going to be.” I wonder…if the global church (is) skating to where the puck was going to be.”

While many of us identify with Apple Guy (we are, after all, reading a blog), can we learn from and embrace the strength of a Mission Marm? In my twenty plus years I have seen many changes in missions (think no email, Skype, or smart phones). While toting my Apple products, I can see a distinct difference in the thinking and attitudes of younger missionaries.

Don’t think: “How will missions adapt?”

Think: “How will I adapt?”

Here are some thoughts for discussion:

How can we maintain the strength and commitment of a Missions Marm?
What do we need to guard against in being Apple Guys?
How can we draw on the strengths from both generations to accomplish the task?

Let’s Discuss!!

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

——

For more about this topic, I encourage you to pick up The Meeting of the Waters.

In the Presence of My Enemies {Giveaway}

I am excited to send these out!

You can win one of 3 hardcover books sent to ANYWHERE in the world!

How far does your forgiveness reach? That was the question pulsating in my heart as I read the harrowing true story of Gracia and Martin Burnham, ‘In the Presence of My Enemies’. During my first year in Bolivia, Gracia became a widow after 17 years of serving the Lord alongside her husband in the Philippines. He lost his life as a victim of brutal gunfire after a year in captivity at the hands of kidnappers.

Gracia tells the story of what that year was like, of her husband’s death, and of the redeeming grace of God that allows her to continue to minister to people who need Christ’s forgiveness. The following excerpt addresses the searing question: Why?

Because the Abu Sayyaf — and all of us — still retain the power of personal choice, the option of standing stubbornly against the will of God. And that obstinate stance is, apparently, something an almighty God is not willing to bulldoze. Of course, he could have fired heavenly lasers into the brains of Janjalani and Musab and Sabaya, forcing them to wake up one morning and say, “Okay, Martin and Gracia, this has been long enough. Feel free to hike off whenever you like.” But that would have made them puppets instead of independent human beings with free will of their own, for which they will be eternally responsible.

A bit of author background from the website ‘Martin and Gracia Burnham Foundation

Gracia Burnham is the widow of Martin Burnham and the mother of Jeff, Mindy and Zach.

For 17 years she and Martin served with New Tribes Mission in the Philippines where Martin was a jungle pilot delivering mail, supplies and encouragement to other missionaries and transporting sick and injured patients to medical facilities. Gracia served in various roles supporting the aviation program and also home-schooled their children–all of which were born in the Philippines.

While celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at Dos Palmas Resort off Palawan Island, the Burnhams were kidnapped on May 27, 2001, by the Abu Sayyaf Group, a militant group of Muslims. They seized several more guests and took them to Basilan Island, an ASG stronghold.

In the ensuing months some of the hostages were killed, but most were set free. From November 2001, only the Burnhams and one other hostage remained in captivity.

During their 376 days of captivity, they faced near starvation, constant exhaustion, frequent gun battles, coldhearted murder-and intense soul-searching about a God who sometimes seemed to have forgotten them.

On June 7, 2002, in a firefight between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf Group, Martin was killed. Gracia was wounded, but was freed.

Since that time Gracia has authored two books, In The Presence Of My Enemies, and To Fly Again. Her oldest son, Jeff, and his wife, Sarah, have accepted an assignment with Flying Mission Services in Botswana, Africa. Mindy is now married to Andy Hedvall, a “missionary kid” from South America. Mindy has completed her course of study at New Tribes Bible Institute in Waukesha, WI and Andy continues in his training there. Zachary is now attending Calvary Bible College in Kansas City. Gracia resides in Rose Hill, Kansas..

You can enter to win by referring someone you know to the A Life Overseas blog, twitter feed, or facebook page. Leave a comment to let us know your chosen method of communication:

  1. Sharing a link of the facebook page
  2. Tweeting something nice using our handle @alifeoverseas or hashtag #alifeoverseas
  3. Promoting A Life Overseas blog on your personal blog
  4. Sending a personal email
  5. Texting a message
  6. Making a phone / skype /Magic Jack /etc. call
  7. Talking about A Life Overseas in real life with a real person

A nice button for your linking leisure:

It will be my privilege to send you one of these books. I really wish everyone reading this could win one. This book is that good! I will pick a winner from the list of comments on this post on Monday evening, February 25th.

EDIT: The drawing is now closed. Congratulations to our winners: Laura Davis, Bonnie Schilling, and Nicky!

– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

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