Maybe you were corn-fed on stories of missionaries who brought their coffins with them, or like Amy Carmichael, said goodbye to their families and homelands for life. Now, we’re pretty sure you’re familiar with FaceTime, Kayak, Marco Polo, and all sorts of amenities shrinking your distance around the world. Your folks and friends may well come to visit you, and your parents won’t be kissing grandbabies goodbye for life.
I would have gotten more cross-cultural training, especially focused on the culture to which I was going. I would have taken more time in language learning. But most of all, I needed realistic expectations.
Working in a foreign field is the same as being in a war. I know: I’ve fought in both. And the similarities are striking.
There is not much glorious about warfare. It may look exciting on TV or in the movies, but in the trenches it’s a lot of hard work. And the enemy has ambushes everywhere. Often you can’t tell the enemy from the friendly. And your friends get injured and killed. It hurts.
The culture won’t make a bit of sense. You’ll even resent the people sometimes, or think how they do things is ridiculous.
At the time, I was drowning in lists. I no longer had a kitchen table; we’d sold it (or given it away? I don’t remember). We were getting immunizations and snapping passport photos of wiggly preschoolers and typing elaborate packing lists into spreadsheets. I found myself longing for the moment I would snap my seatbelt buckle on a Uganda-bound plane: At least then, even if there was more to do, I couldn’t do a single thing about it.
In the midst of said hurricane, I retrieved some medicine from the pharmacy. My kids were bouncing up and down like little pogo sticks. “We’re moving to Uganda!” one of them brightly announced to the pharmacist.
It’s that time again, y’all–where we corral good stuff from around the world that matters for your journey over there. But we’re not just spewing it out there: We want your dialogue. Check ’em out–and give us some thoughts.
If you’re headed to Africa, here’s a must-read. After my own [Janel’s] time in Africa, I was amazed at how the prosperity gospel was often furthering poverty and hindering the genuine growth of the Church. As Lindsay Steele reports, “As people have become desperate to rise out of poverty, many have looked to churches and seen their ticket to prosperity….This shift in focus is not only affecting believers and the Church, but it’s tainting opportunities for ministry to others, specifically to Muslims.” Read more here.
The International Mission Board gives a critical fly-by on animism, found everywhere from Oprah to Asia. Keep in mind that “People influenced by animism do not usually self-identify as animists, If asked what religion they practice, they are likely to pick the predominant one in their region—Christianity, Islam, Judaism,” author Jennifer Waldrep explains. But “it is the oldest way of seeing the world since Adam’s walk with God.” Could it be a critical factor in your intended region? Read up here.
Did you know Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, is November 6-10? Want to join in praying for this critical people group this season, beginning October 28? Especially if you’re headed to a Hindustan nation (read: Indian subcontinent), check out Pray 15 Days’ 15-day guide.
Eleven years ago was a long period of searching for truth about God to feed my own soul. I’d lost my grandpa. My (now former) fiancé had called off our wedding four months before we were to be married. In short, I was in a state of life- altering confusion.
One night alone in my room kneeling by my bed, when I was at a point of final desperation, I cried out to God, tears waterfalling down my cheeks.
I can’t do this anymore. I have tried to live my life my way and all I have is a mess. Lord, I want you to take charge of my life. I am sorry for all the bad things I’ve done, the self-centered person I’ve been and horrible decisions I’ve made. I want a different life now if it’s not too late.
Early the next morning, just as I was beginning to awake, my eyes not quite open yet, I heard it.
Moving to Africa was like seeing a new version of my husband.
Sure; in some ways it aged us and strained us in ways we could have never experienced. But it was also extremely cool to see my husband as the guy tooling around an African metropolis, learning to navigate the streets to care for his family. I would have never anticipated the overwhelming generosity he possessed; the crazy-cool gifts of cultural understanding and helping Africans through heartbreaking conflicts and difficulties. What if I’d never seen the African version of him? And as I at last realized my dream of moving overseas, we laughed out loud about the “Afro-disiac” it was for our marriage!
And as C.S. Lewis has written, Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.
All of us encounter those days where we’re thinking, if he throws his socks beside the hamper one more time, I am going to tell him exactly where he should put them. Or, Honey, I get hormones. But does PMS really last all month?
And living overseas tacks on its own version. Did we really need to stay at a six-hour church service on your only real day off? Or, We set aside tonight for a movie night because we don’t even have the energy to talk. And now the electricity’s out. Again.
While living in Uganda, we paid a trusted African friend to watch our kids while we went on date nights. At first, she looked at us like we’d grown horns.
“He still takes you out on dates?”
She opined aloud that if I were Ugandan and had borne four children, my husband would probably be looking for another woman to…entertain him. So believe it or not, our consistent dates and happy marriage were a fun and refreshing testimony to those watching us.