If there is anything that convicts a third culture kid it is a post like this! Because it’s not easy to love our passport countries and sometimes we fall into the category of the biggest criticizers. And that’s why I love this post by Lindsey Lautsbaugh – because she walks us through what it means to both appropriately love our passport countries as well as how to respond to those who don’t. You will recognize the name as Lindsey’s husband Chris is a regular contributor to A Life Overseas. But Lindsey is new to this space and the wisdom and grace she shares in this piece are welcome additions. You can read more about Lindsey at the end of the piece.
I was 19 and just beginning to explore a future in missions. An internationally diverse group of us traveled all around Namibia doing presentations in local high schools. To begin our presentation, each team member would introduce themselves.
“My name is Lindsey and I am from the United States of America.”
As the only American in the group I secretly revelled in the loud cheers and applause that I got each and every time. No other person got that sort of response for their nation.
Fast forward 10 years… how times have changed.
My husband and I, on a Sunday morning, were listening to our local church pastor. He was preaching out of 1 Peter on how to live in an anti-God society. I remember the moment so clearly. Our pastor was really finding his groove.
“What do Christians do when their nation is so corrupt or so violent… completely opposed to the Kingdom of God? God has strength for those who live under rulers of nations like Iraq, Zimbabwe and the United States!”
We stared straight ahead but could read each others minds instantly. “Did he just compare our President to Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe?”. Yes, he did.
We were not blind to the changing perception of our home country. If we did have any doubts that times and perceptions had changed, this church service erased them.
A few months later we had a prayer time with all our staff and students at our Bible School. For some reason, those leading the time felt to pray for America… not something we had done before. The prayer topic was not well received to put it lightly. As everyone broke into groups to pray, a strange silence enveloped the room (not normal for a prayer time in Africa!).
After 10-15 minutes the leaders spoke up, “What is going on? Why is no one praying?” Finally someone broke the silence, “In order to pray for a nation you have to have something good to say about them, I can think of nothing good to say about America.” Person after person admitted this was true for them too. This awkward-ness was compounded by the fact that their were several Americans in the room.
The reality is, people from many nations other than America have these similar stories and worse. No matter where we go in the world, there is a high likelihood that one nation or culture is despised or looked down upon by another nation or culture.
What do you do when you are a “missionary” trying to serve, connect and engage with those who do not accept your nation?
I can tell story after story of people who have talked down to, insulted, or otherwise disliked my “home nation”. Here are 3 things I’ve learned in this process:
Humble yourself and listen well
Hearing people demean my nation is not comfortable on many levels. I can feel defensive of my nation as a whole. I can also feel personally wounded. I can easily think, “If they believe all Americans are arrogant and stupid… what does that mean about me?” Honestly, it doesn’t help when people try to re-assure me that I am the exception to this rule.
Every time I am in these situations I instantly remind myself to “stay humble and listen well“. Don’t get defensive, antagonistic or rude in any way. Don’t just ignore it either. This is an opportunity to learn deeply and be formed more into the image of Christ who humbled himself to the point of death on the cross. Clearly, this is not death on the cross.
Even if people truly do hate my nation, God loves those people. Let God humble us enough to love and listen to them well. As we listen, perhaps there is a chance to apologise for a true wrong that was done to them in the name of our country. These chances are missed when we don’t humbly listen.
Lastly, in this humbling we get a small taste of those who endure xenophobia, racism and sexism on a daily basis. It is only a small taste, but it is an opportunity for deeper empathy and compassion.
See the opportunity for true relationship
These opportunities have often been gateways to true and deep friendship.
A few weeks ago a person said to me, “Well, I’m sure your nation is going to bomb Russia for this Ukraine situation. You have a bomb for every problem”. The cynicism was heavy in his voice.
I carefully listened and then felt to ask, “Do you see me in this same way? Arrogant and walking all over people?”.
Instead of ignoring the comment or even silently agreeing in my mind I felt to reach out in true relationship. He stopped in his tracks, surprised I had said that. Instantly he softened and we had a good chat, both of us affirming each other.
To another friend I once admitted, “I sometimes am intimidated to meet new people in South Africa. I feel that once they hear my accent I will instantly be judged. I actually feel embarrassed to talk to new people.” My friend was shocked and our friendship went to a whole new level with my admission.
These moments of division can actually be a turning point towards true relationship if we pursue it lovingly and sincerely.
Let it soften you, not harden you
I have found there are two ways to become hard hearted.
First, we can harden our heart towards others. “All people from __________ culture make fun of me because of my nationality!” We began to make generalisations and blanket statements… just like was being done to us. Hurtful comments towards our home nation can harden our hearts towards others. We carry resentment. We don’t feel accepted.
Constantly work towards keeping a soft disposition instead of becoming hard and bitter.
Sometimes, though, we join with haters and say, “Yes! My nation is so terrible… they are so materialistic, I can’t stand it.” This is an error.
It is appropriate and Christ-like to love our nation of birth, to bless them and want to see the best for them. Don’t let your heart become hard towards your nation of birth.
I’ve seen so many missionaries who seem to be in missions because they can’t stand their own nation… not because they love their nation and the nation God has called them to.
Fight with everything you’ve got to stay soft in heart.
What about you? Have you ever faced this in missions? What lessons have you learned along the way?
Lindsey lives in Cape Town, South Africa as a missionary with Youth With a Mission. She grew up as a pastor’s kid and dreamed of being a missionary as long as she can remember. At the age of 19 she packed her bags and headed to Africa. She’s been living the missions life ever since. Lindsey is married to Chris Lautsbaugh and together they have 2 sons, Garett and Thabo. Her passion is teaching on relationships including marriage, parenting, dating, sexuality, and friendship. In South Africa she works at a University of the Nations campus, training young people to have a passion for Jesus and people. Lindsey writes at thisisloveactually.com and is on Titter (@mrslautsbaugh).
Photo Credit: The photo was taken by Cliff Gardner (Marilyn’s husband) on a recent trip to Iran. It is not intended to offend anyone, rather to bring out the point of the post. On a side note when walking through the bazaar an Iranian woman grabbed the arm of one of the delegation and said “Where are you from?” When she responded “Amreeka” the woman shook her head and said ” “Welcome, where have you been? We have been waiting for you for 32 years.” It was a genuine expression that was to be repeated over and over during their time in Tehran and Qom.
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