To the “Non-Missionary” Living Overseas


You are the one who is not a missionary. You are the Christian whose husband is with the foreign service or military. You are the Christian whose wife is a physician in a well-known hospital far away from your passport country. You are the business or military or foreign service family who moves too many times to count.

And you come to this space for respite and encouragement; to learn and to grow. But sometimes, you wish the conversation was more geared toward you.

You don’t know the missionary vocabulary. You don’t raise support. You have many missionary friends, but there are times when the conversation becomes unrelatable. Loneliness and sometimes even inferiority cloud your vision. You may have even felt veiled criticism when it comes to your house and your possessions. You can’t necessarily talk about how your spouse was “called” to what they do, because, was it a “calling?” It made so much sense. You watched doors swing wide open when he passed the foreign service exam. You watched government beauracracy work with extraordinary efficiency as paper work was completed. You have watched miracles as your kids have been moved from the proverbial pillar to post, and yet they are still okay with this journey that you are on.

So, no – you haven’t heard a “call,” but that doesn’t mean you haven’t seen miracles. God has not orchestrated the details of your life any less than the one who bears the title “missionary.”

You are the Christian who wants to be a part of this conversation, but sometimes feels alien.

You are welcome here! We need your voices, we need your perspective.

For years, my husband and I tried to join a mission organization. We knocked on so many doors that our fists were raw with frustration. For sure, he had a great job and we loved where we lived, we loved what we were doing. We loved that God had brought a group of people into our lives that were not Christians, people who we cherished, and they cherished us. People with whom we could share our faith journey and the grace we had tasted– but it didn’t feel good enough. We felt like we needed that stamp of approval from the mission community. The stamp never came.

Instead, God did something so much better. He changed us. He opened our eyes wide to the world around us and showed us that we were in exactly the right place for such a time as this. We relaxed and settled into the life that he had given us, instead of trying to be something and someone that we couldn’t be.

So if that is you today — know how much this community needs your perspective. You are an influencer in your own right, within the context where God has placed you. You are the ones who open your beautiful homes wide and allow others to come and rest. You are the ones who feed people blueberry muffins when they haven’t seen a blueberry for a long time. You are the one who walks among non-Christians daily, and you have so much to teach us by your life.

Don’t let the vocabulary frustrate you – you may not be raising missionary kids, but you are for sure raising third culture kids, and the denominator is the same. Continue learning, growing, and giving to the community around you. Continue praying for the people who God has put in your foreign service or military or business or education path.

There is no limit to the ways God can use people who call themselves by His name. He doesn’t care if the field is engineering or education; diplomacy or relief work. He is still the one who shapes our lives and gives us grace to live where he has placed us.

So know this today: You are welcome. You are needed. You are living out a life overseas and that’s what this is about.

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An adult third culture kid, Marilyn grew up in Pakistan and then raised her own 5 third culture kids in Pakistan and Egypt. After finally learning how to live in the United States, she finds herself unexpectedly living in the Kurdish Region of Iraq working at a university. She is the author of Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging and Worlds Apart - A Third Culture Kid's Journey. Her writing appears in Plough Magazine, Fathom Magazine, and a few other places around the web. You can find her blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries: Communicating Across the Boundaries of Faith & Culture.

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