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

Advertisements
Posted in cross-cultural, Spirituality

When Those Roots Break All Over Again

It was a year on from that roller coaster season of good-byes and packing and planning and crying and dreaming… Most of you know the craziness that is a major transition. After 15 years in the same city, my roots were deep. And pulling them up was hard.

Still – I had survived and even made it through the first year back in my passport country. My team needed (and offered!) a lot of grace and patience to put up with me. We had bonded over cultural mistakes and frustrations – and lots of coffee and pastries!

 

I was doing well. Or so I thought. Then June hit and those dreaded good-byes started again. Only this time, I was not the one leaving. I was staying when most of my team, most of the people I had done life with for the past year, came to the end of their time in this city. I was so not prepared for this. I was still recovering from the previous season of good-byes. I had started putting down small, fragile roots over this past year. They had become intertwined with those of the people around me. With them leaving, I found myself almost ripped loose again. Roots were broken. I was all alone in my little patch of ground.

 

Well, not quite, I wasn’t. Some people were still there. People who had been here a little longer, who were able to give me a bit of stability. And so I continued on. At first reluctant to allow the newbies to get close but with time, having enough of a network around me that the constant goodbyes became (a bit) more bearable. Even if they do still suck.

 

Here is what I’ve learned over the years. Not all goodbyes are created equal.

 

Leaving is hard. Saying goodbye to people and places that will forever be part of your heart and life is tough. Yet somehow, you build up to it, you have people cheering for you, and so you get through. My big transitions have all been by choice. A season came to an end. I have never had to leave (be it for medical, financial, security or other reasons). Oh my heart goes out to everyone who has experienced that. So many more layers to thpse goodbyes. I am keenly aware that’s a story for someone else to tell.

 

Few of us are prepared for the ongoing goodbyes that come with living in any kind of international context. Yet for many of us, they are so much part and parcel of life. The amazing gift of new people coming into our lives, and the sadness of friends leaving. So with time, we become good at doing goodbyes well. We help with the packing, cleaning, painting. We babysit. We express gratitude and appreciation. We have some of the “hard but necessary” conversations. And we stay.

 

In case you’re wondering – no, it doesn’t work that perfectly in my world either. But we learn, we grow. And we do get better at this, those of us who are stayers.

 

Ok, let’s get back to those “first time stayers”. Hearts still a little bit fragile from the big transition they’re starting to emerge from, they’re in a unique place. So many firsts in these x number of months! This “end of school year and lots of goodbyes” season is another one of those firsts.

 

If you’re in that place, can I give you a (virtual) hug? It’s hard! Please don’t give up! Please don’t let your heart be hardened, even if it does feel safer! Look around you and see who is still there. Have the courage to keep engaging in these remaining relationships. Allow yourself to feel the pain that comes with this season but equally allow yourself to look ahead, to find things to look forward to. Learn to hold the two in tension.

 

For those of us who have done this staying thing a little bit longer, let us extend extra amounts of grace to those whose fragile roots are getting damaged and broken all over again. Let us encourage their hearts and let us be grateful for the blessing that their newness to this is to us. Let us cry with them, keeping our own hearts soft.

 

And for all of us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Let us receive God’s compassion and comfort, with the readiness to share it with others.

 

 

How have you experienced the different kinds of good-byes? Do you have any tips on supporting “first time stayers” well?

 

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

 

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

Posted in Uncategorized

Flying Alone

heathrow goodbye

Heathrow Terminal 5.  One last look around WH Smith.  Anything I’ve forgotten to buy?  What can I not get back in Berlin?  Cadbury’s Dairy Milk are on special.  Definitely need to get some of those!

And then on to the gate, waiting to return to my other life. A week of wonderful times with friends, of visiting old haunts, of reliving my old life, comes to an end.  Another world awaits me.

Flying alone can be hard.  And boring, but that’s not the point.  It’s more the sense of completely leaving behind a very special week, because no one can share those memories with me.  This is how someone else expressed this dynamic:

  One friend wrote that the hardest part for her is flying alone. Not because I don’t have the ability or because I’m afraid, but because it highlights the fact that no matter where I go, there is no person that is consistent in my life. Sitting at an airport gate by yourself can be lonely for anyone. However, I agree with my friend. When you’re a single missionary, it’s a deeper loneliness than simply not having someone to chat with while you wait for your flight. It’s the knowledge that you are leaving one “home” for your other “home,” and no one is making this transition with you. Your two “lives” are consistent, but you are the only one who lives them both.

(http://continualtransition.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/our-perspective-returning-to-north-america/)

Today, I am feeling this a lot.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Maggie Smith – you can’t really go wrong with a movie featuring practically a Who’s Who of British actors!  That’s what a friend and I decided when we headed out to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  And we couldn’t have been more right!  What a treat!

Here is a brief summary of the plot:

A group of British retirees have outsourced their retirement, attracted by the less expensive and seemingly exotic India. They are enticed by advertisements about the newly restored Marigold Hotel and given false dreams of a life with leisure. They arrive at the hotel to find that it is not as advertised and, although the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, the retirees are profoundly transformed by their subsequent experiences.

I can’t even say what I enjoyed most.  There are the sights, the sounds, the colours of India!  Incredible!  The amazing acting skills.  The humour.

But what has stayed with me the most, is how differently each of the characters copes with being thrown into a completely alien environment.

Evelyn (Judi Dench), sums it up well: “This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it.  And not just cope, thrive.”  And she does, throwing herself into it with gusto.  Taking on new challenges, getting her first paid job ever.  “India, like life itself, I suppose, is about what you bring to it.”  Can’t say it better than that!

Muriel (Maggie Smith) arrives in India with a lot of bitterness and racism.  Her initial encounters with India are summed up well by this statement: ““No thank you! If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it!” She doesn’t venture outside the hotel for the longest time, and not just because she is confined to a wheelchair after a hip replacement operation.  Yet slowly but surely, despite herself, Muriel gets drawn out of herself by one of the hotel maids.  They don’t have a common language and yet the Sunaina somehow manages to break through Muriel’s defences.

Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are a married couple, who respond in completely opposite ways.  At one point, Jean asks one of the other guests: “How can you bear this country?  What do you see that I don’t?”  And she never does see it.  Douglas, on the other hand, is always out and about, discovering the place.  How tragic that they don’t know how to communicate about what they are experiencing and why they are reacting the way they do!

Thinking back over times I have encountered a new culture, I can recognise myself in all the characters.  Sometimes feeling overwhelmed, just wanting to withdraw and hide.  Sometimes being cautious, but still venturing out.  And sometimes loving every moment it!  Lots to think about and learn here.

Finally, we have Sonny (Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame), whose dream is to “create a home for the elderly, so wonderful that they will simply refuse to die.”  He is the eternal optimist, seeing challenges as opportunities, and not letting anything get him down for long.  It is fitting that the most well-known quote is something Sonny says:

“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

If you haven’t yet, go and see it!

Posted in Uncategorized

Large chunks of my heart…

In the months before I left the ME, people kept urging me to disengage and transition back. And I made a conscious decision to “be all there, wherever I was.” And I don’t regret that at all—I’d do it again. What I do regret was that I failed to apply that rule when I started over in the States. I’m being taught to “be all here”even while large chunks of my heart are in another world, with another people. I think it’s a most excellent problem to have—the challenge to balance yourself, your interests, your relationships, your conversations, your love. I’m here for “such a time as this”—to engage with those who are right before me. This is a reality, too, and this American life is worthy of my full attention and energy, especially when I firmly believe that our Father is forever sustaining us, preparing us and directing our steps.

Large chunks of MY heart will forever be in the crazy country that comes up with things like this:

Can’t stand Marmite (or even Ma’amite) but love love love the humour!

Yup, never again will my heart be all in one place.  At times, I feel a huge need to cling on to “that place”.  To make my apartment a shrine filled with Union Jacks.  To listen to the BBC 24/7.  To not be all here, in this place and this life.  To not allow new treasures to be added to (and mixed in with) the ones from across the channel.  Most people won’t understand.  How could they (after all, there are many things about their lives I will never understand either).  But there are some who do and for those I am deeply thankful.

I long to arrive at the place where I am able to

engage in both worlds with a beautiful balance.

(Quotes are from the blog post “Back to Amreeka: They Don’t Know… “.  Click here to read the whole thing.)