5 Lessons I’ve Learned From Connection Groups

When I returned to my passport country after 16 years overseas, I knew it probably wouldn’t be plain sailing. I thought I was prepared for that. After all, I’d read books about re-entry, been to seminars – even taught about it and walked through it with other people! I should have been good at this re-entry thing. Well, here I was, four years in, and things weren’t going the way I had expected. True, there was much I loved about my new place and life. Yet thinking about what I’d left behind was still oh-so-painful. It was messy, and I was tired.

Just then, registration opened for Connection Groups. Amazingly, there was one for women in re-entry, at a time that worked for me. On the spur of the moment, I signed up. I had no idea what to expect.

On the face of it, I was the odd one out. The only one not from North America. The only one who hadn’t served in Asia. In reality, none of that mattered.

As we shared our stories, we bonded. There was such freedom to be real, to share the hard things about re-entry, as well as the hilarious stories. There was understanding and acceptance. There was laughter and there were tears. Feeling normal and understood was maybe the greatest gift these women gave me. They spurred me on, encouraged and inspired me. We were in this together. For those few weeks, we were an expression of God’s care for each other. There was something truly beautiful about that.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of several more Connection Groups. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Every time, it takes courage to trust, to open up and be vulnerable. It’s a bit scary but so worth it!

2. Just like with any other relationship, sometimes there are a few bumps to get over at the start. In one group, a couple of women dropped out early on. Those of us left all felt a bit wary, wondering whether to risk opening up. Would the group fall apart altogether? Well, we all took a deep breath (metaphorically speaking) and continued. Maybe because of the rocky start, we developed a wonderful sense of camaraderie and deep connection! I’m so glad we stuck it out!

3. It is so easy to believe that I have nothing to bring, or that others won’t understand me, because I’m too young or too old, because I’m from a different home culture, have not served in a really “tough” place, have not been overseas very long, have been overseas longer than others in the group have been alive. Whatever it may be, these are lies I catch myself believing all too often, causing me to hold back. However plausible they may sound in the moment, they’re still lies. With each Connection Group, I feel I’m on holy ground. There is something so breathtaking about the way the Lord again and again uses us in each others’ lives. We each have something to bring, and something to receive, whether we believe it or not. It might be a listening ear, or an “I understand.” It might be a joy that touches something in my spirit. It might be a prayer, a word of encouragement. It might be our very brokenness and weakness.

4. Technology can be a challenge. Some of you are in places with poor internet connection. Don’t feel you can’t participate! Some groups are on Facebook, and while it sounds odd, “talking by writing” can work! It takes a bit of getting used to but there is also something special about having the conversation up there, being able to look back over it and comment again when you’ve reflected some more. Give it a go—don’t let a poor internet connection keep you isolated!

5. And finally: do make use of the different ways of connecting beyond the weekly meeting. Post prayer requests or stories in the Facebook group. Have fun contributing to the “photo challenge”. Let people know you’ve prayed for them. It all deepens connection and creates more “me too” moments!

I’m excited for the web of connection the Lord will weave this spring. And a bit sad I won’t get to see all of it. Wouldn’t that be so much fun?

Have you participated in a Velvet Ashes Connection Group?  What have you learned? Connection Group registration is open! See the Connection Groups available this year here and register here.

15 Comments

  1. Amy Young February 21, 2017

    Bayta, I love these lessons and have experienced many of them too :). So thankful for your investment in the groups you have lead/facilitated!

    1. Bayta February 22, 2017

      Thanks, Amy! Every time, being part of a CG is such blessing – whether as facilitator or participant! Thankful for whoever came up with the idea 🙂

  2. Sarah Hilkemann February 21, 2017

    Love this, Bayta! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts. This is a wonderful introduction for what I hope happens in Connection groups this year!!

    1. Bayta February 22, 2017

      Thanks, Sarah! I’m excited fro this new round of CGs!

  3. Patti Baird February 22, 2017

    I am really fascinated by these connection groups. Unfortunately this “round” we will be in our passport country for the birth of our grandson! Am looking forward to another go around.

    1. Bayta February 22, 2017

      Oh I do hope you get the opportunity next time round (in the autumn), Patti! And in the meantime, enjoy this very special season with your family!

  4. Nancy February 22, 2017

    Bayta, thanks for helping me to see how wonderful connection groups are as you led the first group that I was in. Funny how quickly we came to love and appreciate each other. I am heading into my 3rd Skype connection group this round.

    1. Bayta February 22, 2017

      I wish it was possible to keep all the groups going, Nancy! Each one is unique and special! Hope you have a wonderful time with this new group.

  5. Nancy February 22, 2017

    One more comment. Skype has its moments of technical issues. Recently I have been participating in a book discussion via a Messenger video call with 5 of us. It seems to work well so those having trouble with Skype might want to try this Messenger thing.

    1. Bayta February 22, 2017

      Thanks, Nancy! Good to know there are other options out there.

  6. Susan February 23, 2017

    Thank you for your encouragement to be real and to really connect in group, despite our differences. I am going through re-entry right now after 12 years overseas, , and this small bit of your testimony really encouraged me. I’m really looking forward to the connection groups this spring and hearing the stories of other women! God is faithful how is continues to give us exactly what we need to spur us on.

    1. Bayta February 23, 2017

      Oh I’m so glad you will be part of a CG, Susan! Re-entry is an “interesting” ride and it is so good to connect with others in the same boat. Praying you and your group will have a very special and encouraging time over these next few weeks!

  7. Beth February 24, 2017

    Hey Bayta! So enjoyed being a part of your first CG…reading this makes me remember our time fondly and also leads me to reflect on some of what I learned in that season. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Bayta February 25, 2017

      Aw, thank you so much, Beth! I know your family has been through a few more transitions since then… Lovely to see the occasional photo of your cutie kids pop up on Facebook 🙂

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