Help build your own stool at the watering hole

When I was in high school Cheers was a popular television show. If you’re not familiar with Cheers, it was a comedy set in a local bar where the regulars shared their lives, grew together over time, and in many ways were family to each other.

But what solidified it was the theme song. Read through these lyrics (or listen) and ask yourself if this doesn’t also sound like the church:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
your name

Obviously, the church would be centered on God. But guess what God loves? People. Cheers was long running because it was funny, tackled complexities of life, and fostered belonging. The name of the theme song is “Where everybody knows your name.” God is a God of belonging, of wanting to know us and wanting us to be known.

We know this and this is why we have heard His heart for the lost and responded to the call.

And over the years, places like A Life Overseas, Velvet Ashes, and Taking Route help us know we are not alone, challenge our thinking, and provide spaces to share our stories.

Which of these have you experienced on the field:




—Losing touch with yourself

—Not having the skills equal to the task

—Being used up and spit out by the missionary machine

—Fearing you will be exposed as a fraud

—Feeling you are out of your depth



I know you see yourself on somewhere on the list. Even if you are in your first year, and all is new and shiny, boredom has knocked on your door a time or two. I am dreaming another space for us, a space that doesn’t make you choose between tending your own soul (being) and building skills to help you do the work you are called to (doing). In order for the new space to meet your real needs, would you help by taking this survey? 

A couple of months ago I asked for your help and you participated in another survey. Your answers have enhanced the book I’m writing for people in their first year on the field beyond words. You inspired me so much I want to find ways to have your input in more areas. If you wondered if I read and use the data, here is a picture of the data printed out and poured over. (And the cards in the upper left-hand corner were used to write thank you’s to supporters).

So, thank you for taking this survey and helping to build a place that points us each to Jesus and each other.

Humming wit you . . .

You wanna be where you can see
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
your name {and worships God}.

Thanks for your help! Amy

God’s Tender Mercies {and a survey}

Hello ALOS friends,

Before we jump into the meat of this post, I have a request. After writing Looming Transitions  to help you with their transitions  and All the News to help you stay on the field via good communication with supporters, I want to help people navigate their first year on the field. In December I’m going to start (and hopefully make good progress) on a book geared especially for the first year on the field. Every year on the field is unique and special, but like other “firsts” in life, that first year on the field is often in a category unto itself. Would you help by taking this survey? It could take 10-30 minutes depending on how much detail you want to go into. Thank you in advance for sharing your experiences with others! Here is the survey.

This week is Thanksgiving in America. I wrote the following years ago in the midst of a very crazy season on the field. Making lists in November of what I was thankful for became an annual discipline to train myself to not miss the ordinary blessings in my life. I wrote:

Still, in the midst of the craziness, I am conscious that I truly do have much to be thankful! Limiting myself to this past week, here are several random pieces of life that I am thankful for:

—Getting to see new things in China. I had never been to Inner Mongolia, the province that borders Mongolia. The population is pretty evenly split between Mongolians and Han Chinese … racial tension does exist. As an outsider, it was cool to see all of the signs in Chinese and the old Mongolian script (not the Cyrillic style that is used in Mongolia). KFC in English, Chinese, and Mongolian! You don’t see that every day.

—Mutton! I’m thankful that I don’t live in a place where the main meat option is mutton (um, like Inner Mongolia). Man, but that is “meat with an attitude”!

—I’m thankful that my job includes the excitement of going out to see and encourage teachers and the fun of heading home and knowing when you wake up on the last day of a trip “tonight I’ll sleep in my own bed.”

—The hand-knit sweater my Chinese Mama made me – it weighs about five pounds (not an exaggeration!!!) but on cold days like today, it warms me outside and in. How many people have two mothers who really love them? Wow.

—Popcorn. Ok, that was my lunch today! But I love being an adult without children so I can eat what I want without having to set a nutritional example :-).

—Chocolate, Stain Remover Stick, and a commentary on British Lit. Isn’t that a great list?! It is what the team I’m visiting tomorrow has asked me to bring them. And it just about sum up what’s important in life!

—Indonesian Dancing. Last night a former student invited me to a dance performance at Beijing University. We’ve been doing a lot together recently – she has a tender spirit and knows where I stand on things but has no real interest in them herself … but I keep hoping!

—Playing CARDS! The same student and her boyfriend came over Saturday night for dinner and to play cards. They taught me a Chinese card game that is very similar to hearts … only I found out the hard way that you don’t want both the Queen of Spades AND all the hearts. The Queen is a ton of negative points regardless!

—Pumpkin bread and helpers! I’ve been cooking down pumpkin to make pumpkin bread for teams when I got to visit them. Saturday Gabe (age 4) and Nate (age 2) helped me by stirring and dumping as I made my bread for my next round of travels.

—My students!! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE them??? Well, I do. Today they handed in papers on their beliefs about reparations, finishing off that unit. How can you not love someone who write:

“Firstly I thank teacher Amy to give us some articles about reparations and these materials make us discuss, know different opinions.”

“In this unit we learned five articles, all of which focused on the understanding of reparation. I was a little shocked and excited to know these all, in such a direct way. I mean, just at one time, all these different (even opposed) opinions rushed into my brain and shook my former perspective strongly.”

—My job! I often think that I have the BEST job in our organization. I get to teach students and encourage our teachers … what is not to love. Wow. I feel that so much of what I do does make a difference and I know that not everyone can say that about their job.

I was given a promise earlier this fall by a friend when I was going through a rough period. The promise was “Don’t hold back Your tender mercies from me. My only hope is in your unfailing love and faithfulness.” And He hasn’t. Even in just this past week my cup runs over – He has been faithful over and over.

Tis time to be thankful!


P.S. Actually all of Psalm 40 is a good one to read this week. And thank you for helping with the survey: Remembering Your First Year.

Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash