Posted in Spirituality

The Gift of 30 Years

These past 30 years, they have been a gift. I know, life in and of itself is a gift. But these past 30 years? For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have been around to see them.

On 11 September 1989, I came so close to losing my life. It happened on a country road in Nigeria. We were travelling in a minibus very similar to the one in the photo. One of its tires burst, we came off the road and the car overturned.

From that point on, it was miracle after miracle. I was able to get to a hospital in the city, then back to Germany. I was able to get the treatment I needed to ensure I did not die of my injuries, and I even made a full recovery. None of that I take for granted. As the doctor said when I arrived at the hospital in my home town:”Someone must have been watching over you!”. Indeed.

What does one do with the gift of life, given a second time? Initially, everything was fresh and new and special, and oh so precious. It was a watershed moment, life was divided in before and after. That is good. It is good to be conscious that I don’t know how long I have, that none of us know how long we have. With time, normality took over again. Life flowed and built around the event. It will always be significant but is no longer defining. That is also good. Life is there to be lived. Not just in the dramatic moments but every bit as much in the humdrum of everyday life.

Yet as this anniversary comes around, it’s good to stop and reflect. It’s good to say

thank you for the gift of 30 years

(and hopefully many more).

There are many questions that remain unanswered. Why did the accident happen at all? I don’t know. Why did I live when Mark, who was also in the car, did not? I have no answer. I have no answer yet the words that were an immense source of strength and comfort for me in those first couple of days remain true:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38+39)

I finally left hospital on 9 November 1989. That very evening, the Berlin Wall fell. But that is a different story altogether.

 

Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Started (book review)

Sometimes you know a book will be good just because of who the author is.

Sometimes you get to have a few sneak peaks along the way and wish the whole book was already available.

Sometimes you even get to be part of the process in a tiny way, by contributing thoughts to some of the issues covered, and you can’t wait to read what others said.

And then the book arrives and it’s every bit as good as you’d hoped and expected.

This is one of those books!

Amy Young does a great job of painting a well-rounded picture of many of the dynamics people typically experience in their first year of living cross-culturally. She unpacks these enough to go beyond the headlines, without getting bogged down in too much detail. Just the right balance!

 

Added bonus: Amy includes a lot of real-life stories – shorter and longer quotes by a wide range of people, describing the highs and lows, joys and challenges of their first year living cross-culturally.

 

All in all, this book is an amazing resource for anyone who is about to move cross-culturally, who is in their first year overseas or who knows someone in that situation. Highly recommend it!

Posted in Uncategorized

An Activity To Help Returnees Bloom (at SPS)

Earlier this week, I was over at Small Planet Studio, sharing about a fun activity that helps you process major transitions:

Any gardeners among us?

I’m definitely not one! But I’ve got a fun and meaningful gardening and transition related activity that I think you’ll enjoy – whether or not you enjoy gardening!

Why don’t we go ahead and do this activity together right now? 

As I explain how to facilitate the activity, I’ll share a few snippets of my own reflections in italics.

 

Continue reading at Small Planet Studio!

Posted in cross-cultural, Member Care, re-entry

Ending Well

 

This is an amazing resource for anyone preparing to move back to their passport country! Ellen Rosenberger takes you into her and her family’s story of returning to the US, while also giving lots of really practical tips for doing transition well. Combining the two does not always work well but it very much does here!  I particularly enjoyed all the very creative ideas for saying goodbye well, and then (re-)engaging with the new place! The book also includes very useful lists of resources and action points both for those transitioning and for those welcoming them back. Highly recommend it!

Posted in cross-cultural

Citizen of the World

A love letter to Europe and to the world

 

 

Citizen of the world

Looking for a place called home

Citizen of the world

In a place I’m proud to roam

Here’s a song for all of us who love this crazy world and despair of it in equal measure…

And for those of us who left pieces of their heart in many different places and struggle to know where home is…

 

Photo by Juliana Kozoski on Unsplash

Posted in cross-cultural, The Grove Velvet Ashes

Spelling Out Re-Entry

I’ve done re-entry a few times. Sometimes better, other times not so well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

R  First off, Re-entry is such a misnomer! There is nothing “re-“ in it! OK, geographically you might be going back to the place you hail from. Fair enough. That’s the extent of “re-“, though! You are not going backwards! You are moving forwards, into the next phase of your journey. You are also definitely not going back to a familiar place! Depending on how long you were away for, it might still look familiar. But it has changed. And you have changed. That’s a whole lot of change! So…

 

E Entry“ – that’s more like it! You are entering a new place. Treat it as such! Remember when you first went overseas? How things were exciting and stressful and fun and there was so much to learn? It’s so much harder having that learner’s attitude when you’re supposedly going “home” but do your best! And have fun exploring!

 

E  So much Emotion. And yes, I do realise I shouldn’t be spelling it with a capital letter. But in reality, it desperately needs that capital letter! Chances are, as with any transition, your emotions will be all over the place. That’s ok. Allow yourself to feel them. Also know not to take them too seriously. This phase will pass and things will look different. These emotions are part of the ride. Feeling them is not wrong at all but they are not the whole story either.

 

N Did you stick out like a sore thumb in your host country? Did you often wish you could just blend in? Well, now you do blend in and instead of helping, it makes things harder. You are a hiddeN immigrant. You look like a local, sound like a local, maybe even act like a local. But on the inside, you’re different. Sure, that local part of you is real. But so much more has been added to the mix. So much that people around you can’t see and don’t know about. In many ways, sticking out was a gift. No one expected you to know and understand everything. Not so here. Most people will not understand that you are not able to just slot back in. You’re a hidden immigrant.

 

T Time does not make everything better. We all know that. But when it comes to re-entry (or any transition) it does help. You don’t stop missing places, people, your life in that other place. You do, though, add new memories, new relationships, new skills, new experiences. Your life again becomes what it is – a part of the larger whole that is your life. Always there but no longer dominating everything and blinding you to the beauty of the here and now.

 

R How do you think about re-entry? What is your gut reaction to the word? Reframing my thinking changed so much for me! Instead of feeling like I was going backwards, I decided I would think of this stage as a new season of a TV show. There are familiar characters, familiar story lines, that carry over. There are also surprises, new characters, unexpected developments. Whatever happens, things always move forward. There are developments we love but we might not be totally happy with everything that transpires.. Either way, it’s all part of the same story, always moving forward, with surprises just around the corner. For more on this, check out Small Planet Studio https://smallplanetstudio.com/

 

Y Find Your tribe! Connect with people who get it! On the ground, online. There are communities you can join, and wherever you are in the world, I would bet there are people around who understand. They might not be people you knew before but now you connect. I’m not saying avoid the hard work of (re-)connecting with people who don’t get it but it is so good for the soul to connect with people who do. Find those who are also walking this re-entry road, and those who have gone before.

 

And a bonus one, just because I can! A big fat G for GRACE! So much grace for yourself and for those around you who don’t get why it’s hard!

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

Photo by Killian Pham on Unsplash

 

Posted in cross-cultural, Spirituality

Hello! You are so very welcome!

Are you about to get on a plane and head “over there”? Have you just landed in your new place?

As someone who has been around a while, let me tell you that you are so very welcome! We are very excited to have you! We have been praying for you, rooting for you, preparing for your arrival and we are so glad you’re finally here!

Are you young, maybe fresh out of college? Do we all seem so wise and experienced to you? And old, probably, but let’s not talk about that 😉 Do you worry you might not have anything to contribute? True, we have learned a few things along the way. We have also developed blind spots. We need you and your fresh way of looking at things! We’ve seen disappointment and lost hope in places. Your enthusiasm and “naivete” help revive our souls.

Dear new graduate – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you arriving with young kids, uncertain how to support them through the transition? Wondering how you could possibly be involved in ministry, learn the language? Are you worried you might be a burden rather than an asset to the team? For sure, those are not easy challenges to navigate. There is not one right answer, not the perfect way to live this. But one thing I do know. You are so valuable! What a treasure it is to have young families on the team. The fun, the mess, the questions – the whole lot of it! And you as a person, the unique “you” the Lord created – we are so blessed to have you!

Dear young mum, young dad – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you single and worry you’ll be isolated? There are people and things back home (or in your previous location) that are on your heart, and that no one around you really understands. It’s hard being the only link between your different worlds! It’s hard not having at least some community that arrives with you. Hard – but also an opportunity! Doubly hard if you happen to an introvert (speaking from experience here!). You have to build community to survive. Don’t wait for others to include you (though if they do, that’s just the best!), take the initiative. And no, just because you’re single does not mean you have to work all hours of the day and night! Build a life! Play! Rest!

Dear single person – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you the quiet type, maybe an introvert? Do you feel you’ve landed in a world of extroverted, loud, visionary people? Are you not sure what you might have to contribute, if your quiet voice will be heard? Let me assure you, your quiet voice is so needed! You will be able to see things, hear things, connect with people in a way that others can’t. I know being an introvert in a communal culture can be so hard. There are ways of doing that well – seek the wisdom of others who have gone before! And if nothing else – thank you for keeping me company in the introvert corner 😊

Dear introvert – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

Are you the odd one out? Maybe you’re from a different country than everyone else on your team. A different age, life-stage. Maybe everyone else has been together a while and you’re the only new one. Truth be told – most of us probably feel like the odd one out much of the time. Feeling like everyone else belongs but we don’t. And yet. And yet there truly are added challenges for those who are a minority on the team. Oh but how much we do need your voice! The perspective only you can bring. Will you both challenge us and give us grace when we go into “majority mode”? I wish that didn’t happen but most likely it will. I am so sorry.

Dear “odd one out” – you are so welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!

 

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor 12:24b-26)

 

Here we go then!

 

How have you experienced the “hellos”, as a newbie or as someone who has been around a while? What has been helpful in overcoming some of the challenges?

 

This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.

 

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash