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?

3827201437_930f3beb32

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

O Holy Night

beautiful-christmas-holiday

Every direction you turn, images of Christmas are evident.You need not look far to find beautiful and thoughtful displays, tastefully decorated homes with glowing trees, and rows and rows of symmetrical twinkling lights. Step into one of these homes and the warm fire will greet you as you breathe in fresh scents of pine and cinnamon. It is beautiful and clean and so.very.pristine. 

Looking upon these exquisite arrangements one senses order and peace.

O Holy Night
In contrast I’m reflecting on the untidy disorder and chaos in the lives of so many celebrating Christmas around the world this year. They experience vastly different surroundings and a much more simplified version of the annual celebration of the Christ child. It looks nothing like the photos in the magazines and has not even the tiniest hint of Martha Stewart. There are no smells of fresh-baked cookies or apple cider to entice them. They don’t string lights around a tree, pile colorfully wrapped gifts high, or build gingerbread houses; yet meek and mild – they celebrate.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,’Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth

How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp? Where are the smells and  sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph’s journey?

It begs the question:  Do ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and ashamed teenage mother-to-be anything like that?

Do the marginalized and suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did – or do we?

A thrill of hope – the weary world rejoices

I’m reflecting on these two extremes.  I love the exquisitely ordered and the beautifully arranged. I close my eyes and picture that sort of beauty in our Heavenly home.

While yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
I long for a day when disparity and injustice ends. I dream of a Christmas were no child is enslaved, abused, and sold. I pray for the glorious morn, where the oppressed are free. I long to wake up to learn that no child is suffering or slowly starving to death. I dream of a day when people from every continent and every nation celebrate Jesus and His birth surrounded by love, joy, dancing, singing and immeasurable peace and beauty and justice.
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace
Truthfully I also find great inspiration in the simple, dingy, gritty, humble celebrations of those who struggle and toil without access to our unstained images of Christmas. I long for their stripped down total dependence on God. I pray for spiritual wealth like that of the materially poor. I want their depth. I want their undying hope. I want a Christmas less like Oprah’s and more like theirs.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease
Our youngest daughter Lydia has been struggling with choices. When offered a choice of two things she’ll often reply, “I want two ones.”  When she says that, she means I want them both.

As I soak in Christmas this year I find myself wanting two ones.  I want the perfect looking, delicious smelling, pain-free and unpolluted Christmas and I want the dirty, stinky, humble, difficult, but miraculous Christmas that Mary and Joseph and the rich in faith experience.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name
While I attempt to reconcile two very different Christmases, the celebrations only make sense to me in the context of good overcoming evil. God coming to earth in the form of His son Jesus, to live a sinless life, to die for us … In His resurrection the promise that one day there will be beauty and justice for all.

The end of death. 
The end of suffering.

O Holy Night
~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~
The post above is being re-shared, and was originally written in 2010. Thanks for the opportunity  to recycle it.
***
We struggled with the loss of our known traditions when we moved to Haiti, living in tension between the two experiences took some getting used to. We started a new tradition as a family of making and sharing little Christmas plays each year. We’ve enjoyed making them for seven years now and wanted to share year three with you today. See it HERE.
***
What about you?  Which Christmas do you most identify with and why?  Did you begin any new traditions when you left your “home”  and couldn’t participate in the old ones?
***
Tara Livesay works in the area of Maternal Health in Port au Prince, Haiti.
 blog:  livesayhaiti.com  |  twitter (sharing with her better half): @troylivesay
Photo credit: Christmas tree photo favim.com

When Cross Cultural Differences Are Shocking

I was busy working yesterday morning during my daily precious kid-free hour, when I heard my three-month-old baby give a great shriek of panicked distress from outside. It was the sort of scream that makes a mother drop everything and bolt for the source.

When I located the source he was naked, sucking frantically on his fist, and still kicking his fat legs in protest. Our housekeeper was carrying him inside. She looked at me and grinned, then pointed to the garden tap and my child’s bare, wet bottom.

“Alex poo poo,” she said.

I leaned over and patted Alex on the head.

“Welcome to the world of cross cultural differences, little one,” I said. “They’re not always going to feel comfortable.”

After spending the best part of my life so far hop-scotching around the globe (not to mention some time working in a maximum security men’s prison and some more time working with the police) I like to think that I’m fairly unshockable. But then something happens …

I meet someone at a Mardi Gras party in New Orleans, for example, who tells me they’re on a health kick that involves drinking their own urine every morning.

nydailynewscom
Source: nydailynews.com

I visit my parents in the Philippines and learn that some penitents there mark Easter by beating themselves bloody and then recreating the crucifixion.

I go to childbirth classes in an area of Australia that some might refer to as being “well populated by hippies, tree-huggers, and granola-types.” There, one of my classmates proclaims that she’ll be having a lotus birth. Later, I learn that a lotus birth means you don’t cut the umbilical cord after the baby is born, but wrap up the entire placenta and carry it around with the baby until the cord stump rots out and falls off, “naturally” detaching the placenta.

Three weeks after we moved to Laos, I accompany my husband, Mike, on my first trip to the villages. Right in front of me – just after I’ve been introduced as Mike’s wife –the village chief turns to Mike and inquires whether he will also be taking a Lao wife during his time in Laos. He even asks this in English. It was awesome.

The other night I asked Mike about these sorts of things.

“You’ve lived and worked in 15 countries now,” I said. “What cross cultural difference has shocked you lately?”

Mike paused. I wondered if he was remembering that this article was going to end up on the internet and calculating the risks of saying anything too disparaging about the Powers That Be in our current host country.

Then he smiled.

“Once in Tajikistan, a local co-worker I didn’t know well informed me just 30 minutes before his wedding that I was going to be the best man,” he said. “That came as a bit of a shock. It also came with a lot of sheep-fat-eating and vodka-drinking responsibilities that I really didn’t want. There was also the time in a village in Uganda when the women were so happy we’d installed two borehole wells that they sang and danced for two hours without stopping.

Uganda-1 (2005)

Occaisionally these cross-cultural shocks are wonderful – moments of surprising collision with a different sort of beauty or love or kindness, and you’re moved and humbled and enriched all at once.

Sometimes these sorts of moments are shocking simply because they fall outside the boundaries of anything we have considered before. Voluntarily drinking your own urine, for example, is just not something I’d ever thought of before that moment in New Orleans. It’s not something that I’d say is necessarily wrong. It’s just, well, icky. And I have trouble understanding how it could be a good idea to drink something your body has already disposed of as a waste product once already.

However, sometimes the shock we can feel in these cross-cultural moments goes beyond surprise. Sometimes I can’t just shrug my shoulders and think “not for me, but to each their own.” Sometimes there is a healthy dose of serious judgment mixed in there. These are the cross-cultural encounters that I find more enduringly troubling, because they force me to grapple with my fundamental ideas about right and wrong.

I think, for example, that certain widely-practiced initiation ceremonies (e.g., Female Genital Mutilation) are not just different. They’re wrong. I’m probably on pretty firm ground with FGM, but what about when it comes to other cultural sexual practices that differ markedly from the Westernized norms? What about mutilating yourself physically in the name of religious devotion? What about practices or customs that disregard or objectify women?

Sometimes it’s hard to know when a cross-cultural shock is simply a serendipitous invitation to broaden my worldview and when it’s OK to draw a line in the sand and dare to label a particular practice or custom as “wrong”.

Many of you, I know, have lived among worlds for some time now. You might have become quite practiced at waking up one morning in Arusha and then, just 48 hours later, greeting the sunrise in Los Angeles. You might feel equally comfortable shopping for vegetables at farmers markets in Bangkok or Sydney. You might even be able to switch languages (and adopt an attendant, different cultural persona) with a casual and admirable facility.

But I’d wager that cross-cultural differences still sometimes catch you completely unawares. Do share your own stories below …

Have you been shocked by a cross cultural difference lately?

And when do you think it’s ever OK to point to a different cultural practice that you find shocking and label it “wrong”?

Airplanes are Time Machines

We joke that airplanes are time machines. When we come back to South America from North America it feels as though we step back in time. The clinics feel outdated. The cows on cobblestone streets look like the pioneer days in the movies. The open fires in homes and restaurants tended by women in skirts with babies slung on their backs set a scene of a bygone era.

I suppose we could also launch a mind bending conversation about the relativity of time. Like how you “skip” a day when flying from L.A. to Sydney. Or how you can “go back” to yesterday by flying from Tokyo to Honolulu. Such a thrilling life for international travelers! We’ll save all that for the science forums.

I’d rather touch on something even non-nerds can converse about: the cultural concept of time.

Yang Liu created a collection of captivating infogrpahics and put them in a book. After spending significant time in Germany and China she compares: standing in line, dealing with problems, social dynamics at parties, etc. You can see a larger sampling on Brain Pickings.  For the purpose of this post I want us to consider just this one:

Yang Liu's infographic on punctualityOn the left, in the blue box, we see the Germanic concept of punctuality. On the right, in the red box, we see the Chinese concept of punctuality. What would the image portray as an infographic on punctuality for the region where you reside?

The Bolivian rhythm is quite different than the Nebraska rhythm I was raised on. Adjusting my definition of “late” has relieved some tension. Others have tried to sanctify punctuality, as if it was included in the beatitudes. That is a mite too exhausting for me. I choose rather to ascribe to a different addendum to the Sermon on the Mount:  Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

Culture shock still creeps up on me every once in a while, though. It usually hits me when I think I have something all figured out. I thought for sure I had the slower place down pat. Then some challenges arose in a particular relationship with a Bolivian.

Consistently, my expectations were not met. I hoped for growth. I taught for growth. We went round and round the issues, and still I didn’t see what I wanted to see in the life of this other person.

When I was venting my frustrations to a very wise lady she helped me see this situation in a new light. She asked if I loved the other person. What good Christian would say no? Of course I love this person. She then said that it was time to lift the timeline. Oftentimes when dealing with relational issues we cannot put a timeline of expectation on the other person. When we are committed to the relationship we will trust that God is helping the other person to grow and change in His timing.

Since that moment, when I see myself become impatient with another person, especially this person, I remember that I let the timeline go. What a great freedom!

The Message bible says in Matthew 11:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The unforced rhythms of grace for others.

The unforced rhythms of grace for myself.

The unforced rhythms of grace to live in company with God.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace

What is time like in your region of the world?

Are there some areas in your life where lifting the timeline expectation might relieve some pressure?

 – Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie  facebook: atangie

Consumer or Consumed?

photo copy

Like many of you, we are raising our children outside of their passport country.

Our two oldest daughters have returned to life in the United States. We are currently in Texas for a few months to be near our second-born as she navigates the transition and finds her place in a world that she hasn’t lived in for seven years.  As you can imagine, there are plenty of challenges and painful things to process. 

Our youngest five children have lived almost their entire lives outside of the Unites States of America, their passport country. Our Haitian born children identify themselves as Haitian-Americans without feeling that either country is their home. Our American born children identify themselves as American-Haitians without feeling that either country is their home.

Last weekend we needed to take our two sons shopping for shoes.  They only own sandals and we needed to go buy tennis-shoes for their first practice. For the first time in their lives they are playing on an organized YMCA soccer team. The excitement is palpable, although we figured out that they thought they were playing in a big lit-up stadium with thousands of fans, like on television. The reality of it being at a cruddy junior-high field without lights and only a dozen or so bored parents watching made it a little less epic than they originally thought it might be. How awesome would it be to live inside of the mind and reality of a kid that sees himself as David Beckham before he even walks onto a soccer field for the first time?  (Very.Awesome.Indeed.) Excuse me while I digress.

We entered the shoe store with our sons, ages 9 and 12, and began to search for the perfect shoe in their sizes. Our younger son spotted a pair he liked. He picked up the display shoe and said, “Oh this is a size 3. Do they have other sizes, Mom?” Behind the display there were dozens of boxes of shoes, but having never shopped for shoes in a bona-fide shoe store, he didn’t know the system.  “Yes buddy, these shoes behind the display are all different sizes, see here?” I replied.

We began trying shoes on together.  Our older son said, “Oh, they let you untie them? That’s so nice.”   A bit later our sons said, “Mom and Dad, these shoes cost so much!”  We said, “Well guys, these are pretty average prices for new shoes.”  They continued to marvel at the expense of shoes. Finally Noah picked up the display shoe of a pair of baby-size shoes. “Mom, you’re telling me that $84 for a pair of baby shoes is a normal price?!?”  That is when we realized they thought the prices on the signs were for one shoe.  “No guys, the price is for a pair of shoes.” – we explained.

1173704_10153222234590603_1418293792_n

My husband and I made eye contact and engaged in long conversations that silently said, “Oh dear Lord, we are entertained and horrified by this all at once. What have we done?!?”

A few minutes later, our almost always-joyful older son began to act odd. “What is wrong buddy?” He couldn’t answer. He didn’t have the ability to identify what was wrong right then.  Later, when pressed, he said, “I don’t usually choose my shoes. They just come to Haiti.”  We realized he had a valid point. He is 12 years old but for the last 7 years I have been buying one pair of sturdy sandals on-line each year and they usually appear to him without much discussion at all, and certainly without entering a store. He was stressed out by the multiple choices and was shutting down, not able to make a decision anymore.

We love raising our kids in Haiti. There are so many things we can shield them from, not least of which is advertising and marketing aimed directly at them. There are huge benefits to them, but as parents we realize that we’ve not done enough to prepare our kids for the future.  If they are going to grow up (it seems like they insist upon this – which is a very large bummer) and leave our home they are going to need to be able to face choices, make decisions, participate in commerce, and understand a shoe store. We find it a tricky balance, teaching kids how to be wise and careful consumers, without teaching them to be overtly consumeristic. They need shoes. They don’t need to be sucked into the advertising vortex that sells them the “shoes will make you happy and more shoes will make you more happy” idea.

The shoe store is just the beginning of the  adapting and practicing they all need to do. We don’t think it is the biggest deal ever that they don’t know these things automatically, but we think it is important that we try to help them learn. Luckily, we have a few months in the USA to work on some of these things.

If you need us we’ll be at Famous Footwear, learning.

How do you strike the balance?  How do you teach a child that is exposed to one or two choices to be able to make a decision when hundreds of choices are offered? How do you teach your kids to shop while raising them in places where there aren’t many shopping options?  How important do you think this is? 

 

 

Tara Livesay works as a midwife apprentice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti 

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

 

Can Nations Change?

Many negatives characteristics describe the nations we serve in. Some of these issues may even be the reasons we are serving overseas. Issues of crime, corruption and poverty are common to most nations where we as missionaries reside. Although, the irony is, these issues are no longer limited to the developing world, but are rampant on a broken planet.

It is easy to list the difficulties of a nation or shake your fist at rampant injustice.

But, can we see progress in these nations?

In the individual lives we minister to it, is easy to observe change. We can track growth or see the smile of hope. When we cast our eyes outward towards the nation, do we see this same progress or continual decline?

By: SuSanA Secretariat
By: SuSanA Secretariat

Throughout the Bible, men like Joseph and Daniel influenced whole nations. They did it by being faithful to obey what God had asked. As they served in their area of influence, nations were impacted.

I’ve been thinking about this recently in South Africa. We moved rental homes within the past few weeks. Six years ago when we last moved, it took two months and repeated phone calls to have our telephone line moved. The corporation who deals with telecommunication is a monopoly. They, along with the electricity company, receive universal hatred and angst in South Africa. You cannot say their names with out the requisite eye rolling.

This time, my phone was moved in four working days!

We’ve seen reform in the department of Home Affairs. This is the government agency which deals with registering births, deaths, and issuing legal documents such as passports. While we were adopting our son, we experienced lost paperwork, botched documents, and poor customer service. At one point our son had three birthdays!

While they will not yet be described as efficient, we’ve seen better procedures put in place and a huge improvement in the ability to get updates. I’ve heard stories of people receiving documents in months which took us years.

I’ve seen tremendous progress in South Africa in terms of jobs and opportunities, Neighborhoods are blending and people of color are engaged in virtually every field of society. I vividly remember the first time I saw a black doctor serving the most affluent hospital in a traditionally white area. Sure, we still have the biggest gap of rich and poor in the world, but I can see change.

Many times I lose these perspectives and get caught in the day-to-day frustrations of a nation different than my own.

It is easy for me to feel discouraged as I view the mountain of change which still needs to occur. In all our nations, we have enough of these messages bombarding our senses on a daily basis. Today, let’s engage in the ministry of encouragement, rather than discouragement.

What signs of progress can you see in the nation you serve?

Share with the Life Overseas community encouraging us about positive changes you see taking place in your nation.

 

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

Benefits of Raising Kids on the Mission Field

Plenty of emphasis is placed on the dangers of raising children on the mission field. The thought of crime and disease sends shivers down the spine of a parent contemplating “the life overseas.”

Choosing missions for your kids causes them miss out on grandparents and culture in our home countries.

It becomes so easy to contemplate or fear whether our children will one day resent the choice we’ve made for them.

But, let’s be honest.

There are so many benefits to living on the field and having our children grow up in this atmosphere.

Let me share a story with you we recently experienced.

7782131434_35a117ed01
Some rights reserved by Lyn Lomasi

Our oldest son has reached the age where the initial conversations about the birds and bees need to happen. As parents, my wife and I want to tell him these things before he hears it at school.

So I planned a special night away for “the talk.” As I began to share the big picture, something became quickly apparent.

He was totally clueless! At one point, he even asked if sex was a musical instrument (sax).

My wife and I are thrilled to have had our son make it to 8 1/2 years old and be completely clueless about these things. Growing up in our home country would have rendered this impossible.

Every situation, every culture, and every nation has negatives for children. I could give you a list of the things I do not like about raising my kids on the missions field.

But, I would rather give you a list of some of the benefits.

Other perks include:
International perspective.
Interracial perspective.
Less materialistic emphasis.
Less television.
Less cynical, critical, and sarcastic.

For all these I am grateful, and I believe my children have benefitted from “A Life Overseas.”

So now, it is your turn.

We all can name a negative or two(perhaps many), or list the sacrifices we have made on behalf of our kids.

But, what if we do the opposite?

Share a few of your benefits to raising children on the mission field. 

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

Tales of the Awkward

 

270913865_e16d6dd442_b

If you have ever left your birth-culture and spent any length of time in a host or second culture, you have likely come to realize that cultural norms and differences in customs can take some getting used to; a learning curve is to be expected. For some of us, the curve is less like a curve and more like… oh, I don’t know … a cliff.

Things as simple as how we greet one another can cause us to break into a cold sweat, even in a tropical environment.

Non-touchy people such as myself need to adjust accordingly to the traditions and rituals of the culture in which they hope to live, work, and build friendships.  

Because it does not appear I will be leaving anytime soon, and because of my desire to be culturally sensitive,  I have been forced to become more comfortable with the Haitian way of kissing (or bumping) cheeks upon greeting. I’d never go so far as to say that it feels natural to me, but I roll with it as best I can.

Every so often I might run into a person that does a two cheek greeting. I’m not going to lie, all that back and forth really throws me for a loop.  I’ve never quite understood the rules of engagement because sometimes people full on kiss your cheek and other times they simply touch cheek to cheek. It is sort of like a cheek high-five. I don’t know when you are supposed to do one and when you are supposed to do the other.  It is quite vexing, I know that much.

Just when I thought I had made the appropriate adjustments, I met a new group. Maybe you have met them? The three kisses crowd.

I give the side-eye to this group, because – THREE kisses? 

That just seems excessive.

Gives me vertigo.

I’ve been doing some charting and graphing and I can confirm that greetings and goodbyes take one billion times longer … but to heck with that observation, what is time anyway?  

One afternoon my teenage daughter’s boyfriend was over visiting her.  He comes from the kiss-the-cheek-crowd so I always attempt to get with the program and follow the rules.  

He was sitting down on the floor with my daughter when I leaned down to greet him.  I fully expected him to remain stationary. I didn’t know he was going to move and I completely misjudged and overshot the distance between us as I approached for my culturally appropriate greeting.  

In one terribly awkward slow-motion moment I missed his cheek, instead kissing below his cheek in the region commonly referred to as, the neck 

Horrid.  

I wanted the earth to swallow me whole.

Embarrassed, I quickly exited the room.  For the next several hours I hoped he didn’t think I meant to kiss his neck.

Creepy mom much?

According to Wikipedia:

A kiss is a common gesture of greeting, and at times a kiss is expected. Throughout all cultures people greet one another as a sign of recognition, affection, friendship and reverence. While hand shakes, hugs, bows, nods and nose rubbing are all acceptable greetings, the most common greeting is a kiss, or kisses, on the cheek. Cheek kissing is “a ritual or social gesture to indicate friendship, perform a greeting, to confer congratulations, to comfort someone, or to show respect.”[1] Cheek kissing is most common in Europe and Latin America and has become a standard greeting in Southern Europe.

While cheek kissing is a common greeting in many cultures, each country has a unique way of kissing. In Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro the Netherlands and Egypt it is customary to “kiss three times, on alternate cheeks.”[2] Italians usually kiss twice in a greeting and in Mexico and Belgium only one kiss is necessary. In the Galapagos women kiss on the right cheek only[3] and in Oman it is not unusual for men to kiss one another on the nose after a handshake.[4] French culture accepts a number of ways to greet depending on the region. Two kisses are most common throughout all of France but in Provence three kisses are given and in Nantes four are exchanged.[5]

 

More than a year has passed now, and I fear that teenage boys are still walking around guarding their necks from me .

~                ~               ~

Have you had your own awkward cultural mess-up moment?   Let’s hear it. 

 

Tara Livesay works as a midwife apprentice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti 

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

4780980791_19867a507f_b

My Kid Can Cuss in Two Languages

When the new normal cuts against your soul like a cheese grater on your knuckles, what do you do? Do you lift those bloody knuckles and fight back? Or do you woefully bandage them, let them heal, and wait for the next time the scraping starts again?

We live in Bolivia. We are a bi-lingual family: Spanish and English. Eleven years in a place gives you cool skills like that. Did you know that part of language acquisition means learning naughty words? Bi-lingual means double the fun in this area.

My child comes to me with tears brimming. A foul name from a sibling caused the tears. We do the parent thing. We discuss it. We know our child, the one with the silver tongue, has struggled, been bullied, been picked on. We know the defenses have gone up and one survival technique has been to learn rough speech.

It’s only fair to blame Bolivia for this child’s special knack, right? The romantic tongue of this Latin people makes allowances for explicit descriptions and colorful expletives. I should expect complete cultural assimilation from my children, right? Oh that blessed blame game… like those songs that never end, they just go on and on my friend…

My kid can cuss in two languages. Not an ideal bumper sticker. Although, it could be plastered right next to the one about honor roll. My kid is on the honor roll, too. Somehow that balance doesn’t soothe me, though.

Can I be grateful that our children face real issues under our care? Grateful for the cheese grater? It shall not be said they lived a sheltered life. No indeed.

I was about 11 years old when I had to get stitches because I sliced my finger cutting a head of cabbage. I remember my mom had to drag my younger brothers and sisters with us to Doctor Brown’s office. I sat on the tall bench and screamed as the little ones looked on with wide eyes. Plastered stiff against the wall in that tiny room the whole lot of them maintained perfect silence as the needle went in and out of my tiny index finger. Still have the scar. Still one of my favorite childhood memories. No joke.

Even though blood was everywhere, I was in pain, and the numbing shots did not help, I felt a goodness about me. With all those kids around me I knew I was not alone. I knew I would make it through. And it did.

So my kids fight the habits, and sometimes scrape their knuckles. Oh sure, the guilt still drives me to grind my teeth and bite my nails. Questions buzz around like a mosquitoes in my ear when I am trying to sleep. The prayers turn accusatory with a hint of pitiful begging.

Then the scars on the knuckles of my own soul remind me that our humanity is one of our most becoming features. I dare to hope that amidst the pain, goodness can be felt surrounding us.

———————————————-

You can share your cheese grater story below.  Please know, you are not alone.

What compromises do you feel you have had to make for the sake of “the call”?

When faced with a moral conflict how do you decide your response?

Who surrounds you, reminding you of the good in life, when things get rough?

– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie  facebook: atangie

To Love Two Places

Heidi and her husband are overseas newbies. They moved to Kenya in October, 2012, to capture the stories and images of the people and work across Africa. Her story of loss and gains is a poignantly beautiful look at the early days. Some Life Overseas readers are looking forward to those days, some are looking back on them, and some are smack in the middle of them.

EagleFlyingIt’s been nine months now since the airplane’s wheels lifted off of our beloved Minnesota soil and I felt arrows of sorrow shoot through my chest. My heart was already heavy, burdened with the faces of goodbye, and I struggled to swallow as the mighty Mississippi River shrank into a ribbon and then disappeared behind a cloud.

And that was just the beginning of the heart pains.

Eight months ago, I took off my wedding ring and hid it away, because I didn’t want the streets of Nairobi to steal it from me. But my finger’s nakedness is still stark and shrill.

For three months, we rode matatus, those reckless, necessary public transit vans that added color and anxiety to our days. But despite the sunburns, blisters, and tears, we grew. We learned how to walk the streets like everybody else, we started to recognize the people we passed each morning, and we gained camaraderie with our fellow vehicle-less man. We started to belong.

Itasca, the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi in northern Minnesota.
Itasca, the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi in northern Minnesota.

Now that we found a car and have settled into a sensible routine, the pain comes in a different way. The kite bird that caws like a seagull reminds me of our favorite vacation spot on the shore of Lake Superior. The still, warm evenings fill me with the longing to have a bonfire in a backyard covered with crackly leaves. And the road that circles our neighborhood ­­­­and serves as our nightly walking path makes me wish that the football field in the middle was a lake teeming with goslings and that my best friend was chatting beside me.

This homesickness sneaks up on me, startles me. And leaves me wondering why. Why now? We spent two years of our married life looking forward to our move to Kenya, and now that we’re here, we can’t stop gazing backwards.

It’s a fine art, I’m realizing, to live in the present moment, to take each heart pain as it comes and pray that it won’t last long. Or that it will bring us one step closer to calling this new, lakeless city home.

This afternoon, as we sit on our doorstep beneath our avocado tree with our Kenyan mutt nuzzling us for more attention, I feel my heart beginning to open, to sense that I am splitting in half. It comforts me and it scares me, because to love two places will be dangerous.

But it will also be beautiful.

How do you handle a split heart? What are the things you miss the most about your home country? What will you miss about your host country?

Me (1)

       Heidi Thulin, missionary writer in Nairobi, Kenya

blog: Thulins in Africa  ministry: On-Field Media 

Coping With Loneliness

Have you ever found yourself asking,

“What am I doing?”
“Is this worth it?”
“Is this what we signed up for?”

If so you are not alone in your emotions, although these feelings can make you feel very isolated.

Missions and any form of leadership carries with it an aspect of loneliness. Ordinary friendships become even more difficult when we take on these positions and roles.

Dan Allendar in his excellent book, Leading With A Limp, says “Loneliness also assaults a leader when he must absorb the inevitable expressions of disappointment from others. A leader bears loneliness, but also the guilt that comes with others disappointment.”

Have you experienced this?

As a missionary, we will have great successes, but also disappoint people and fail to live up to their expectations.

Sometimes the greatest loneliness in leadership comes on the heels of our greatest success.

Elijah experienced this immediately following his miraculous defeat of the prophets of Baal recounted in 1 Kings 18. Elijah just had the ultimate missionary newsletter headline.

One chapter later he finds himself on the run from Jezebel. Look at the conversation he has with God. (1 Kings 19)

Vs. 4 “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Vs 10 “He said, “I have been jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

I’m the only one left!
Where are you God?
What am I doing?

God shows up in a still, small voice; reassuring him of His Presence, urging Elijah to get back to work. (1 Kings 19:11-16)

The reality of leadership and missions comes with a realization no one can fully understand all that we go through. Except God.

But even with this amazing gift of the presence of God, it feels lonely.

Dan Allender list the following loneliness inducing traits of a leader or missionary (also from Leading With A Limp.)

– The moment we take this role, others assign to us the power to do good or harm.
– Leaders often have information they are unable to share, constantly creating a situation where they could be misunderstood by people not seeing the whole picture of our decisions.
– Honoring confidentiality puts a leader in the direct path of gossip. The tough decisions which cannot be defended or explained leave leaders vulnerable and alone.

No one can fully understand a leader, what may hurt more…is often no one wants to.

This is inevitable at some point in life and ministry. When it happens, what are some things you can do minimize the loneliness?

1. Have good Relationships – with God first and foremost, but also extremely important is our time with our family and spouse. I would also advise we seek at least one other person who can be a confidant and friend.

2. Rest – Lack of rest makes loneliness even worse.

3. Take Inventory – Are you over committed? Are you priorities in line? Remind yourself of why you do what you do….daily!

What other tips can you offer missionaries and leaders who struggle with this. Or, if you are so bold, let our Life Overseas family know you struggle with loneliness so we can be a support to you.

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

Living Around Danger

One of the biggest challenges of living and working in South Africa is the constant awareness of crime. Near the top of the list in violent crimes such as murder and rape, South Africa poses a bit a of a safety threat. Poverty drives muggings and home robberies. Very few nights pass when I do not look out my window to investigate some strange “noise”.

How do you deal with this in missions?
Where do I find peace as a husband and father?

By: Alan Cleaver

The initial year was the most difficult in this aspect of culture shock. I found myself jumpy and suspicious, casting a watchful eye over each passerby. As the months rolled into years, I have adjusted, becoming “smart”; knowing more potentially dangerous situations. Now 7 years on, fear is not an issue. There remains an ever-present “alertness” which you never totally realize is happening till you leave the country.

Let me share a story of an incident which happened to our family:

One day we came home to find our home had been broken into. Breaking a window on a side door, the thieves quickly entered removing televisions, laptops, jewelry, and other items which had memories attached to them. They were good. The house was only vacant 45 minutes.

The initial response was mostly relief. They only took stuff. No one was home so no one was hurt.

Then the possible scenarios start to unfold

But what if….?
What if we came home in the middle of the robbery?
What if this happened when my wife was home alone?
What if they come back?

That’s when the fear comes. Insurance can replace items, but no one can replace a life of a loved one. The lingering affects are nightmares and heightened awareness. For days and weeks, we found ourselves hustling our valuables into a safe each time we left the house. Our kids felt unsafe for a period of time. Then anger comes…

There is an irony to this story.

The incident I just explained did not happen on South African soil. It was not in a violent third-world country.

The robbery our family experienced was on our recent visit to the United States while on furlough.

We live and work in statistically one of the most dangerous places on the planet, and we get robbed in small town America.

Crime is a reality on the mission field, but these things can happen anywhere. Fear does not limit itself to geography, it can happen on the home front.

We can take all the precautions we wish, but can never eliminate the risk. Sometimes, when we feel the safest, (I was not waking up at night looking out of windows in rural Washington State!), is when we are at the greatest risk.

The bottom line on crime, whether abroad or at home, peace comes through trusting God.

Crime is a real part of a missionary’s life.

But never let the potential of what might happen stop you from obeying and living overseas if you are called to. While not a guarantee of “health, wealth, and safety“, being where you are meant to be is the place you can sleep the best at night.

Peace comes when you place yourself and your loved ones in the hands of an all powerful God.

What are some other keys to peace in a difficult environment?

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