2015 was a tough year for me. After a glorious Home Ministry Assignment the previous year celebrating our son’s graduation from college and recent engagement, I had a hard time returning to THE FIELD. During our time in the US, we felt the love and support of so many people, that I struggled with going back to the desert. The land where I give of myself and don’t often have people pouring back into me.
I left the beautiful country walks next to a serene river and returned to my urban neighborhood where the houses and windows are surrounded by walls and bars. The view on my morning walks along the broken sidewalk here are of graffiti and concrete. If you put my neighborhood in a US context, it would be one of those places that my friends with the manicured grassy yards, would be afraid to visit. It would be considered “the other side of the tracks.”
After finally settling back in and remembering that yes, I do have friends among the nationals in this country, my father-in-law passed away. Before I knew it, I was on a plane again, heading back to the security of crime-free neighborhoods. I cried. I cried because my father-in-law died, but I also cried because I didn’t want to go back to THAT PLACE. I didn’t want to have to transition back here again after another respite THERE.
A month later while we were in Turkey, my mother died. We got snowed in and couldn’t get to the US for five days. I cried a lot. But really, there wasn’t time to grieve because a few days after returning back home to the field in March, I organized a retreat. In April we had out of town guests, in May I organized another retreat and in July we received a short term team. In between all of those things, I cried. But then I picked myself up and did the next thing.
When I read about the Fall Velvet Ashes Connection Groups, I was at a point where I desperately needed fellowship, but I hadn’t wanted to initiate organizing and leading a small group among the ex-pat community here. I needed someone to organize something for me and for someone else to be the leader. I didn’t want to attend the local women’s Bible study for overseas workers where I would feel a responsibility to take meals when someone was sick, or baby-sit kids when there was a need. I wanted a place of low commitment. An anonymity of sorts but also a place to share stories with other like-minded women.
The Connections Groups seemed to fit that bill. Only a 9 week commitment with people who I might never meet in my lifetime and yet with whom I share so much in common. So, I took the plunge and signed up for a group. I was excited and leery. Being an Empty Nester, I am on the older side compared to many in the VA community. What if my group were all young moms with small children that I couldn’t relate to? It really seemed like a potluck….you only have information on the group leader when you pick your slot. It was worth the risk so I signed up.
As it turned out, my first Connection Group was with 3 other single women who were closer to my age. It was fun. It was interesting. And it was a support. We shared our lives, ideas and prayer requests during those 9 weeks together. We put photos on FB of what our 3rd world showers looked like.
The group was there for me when my father passed away in September. We began as strangers but ended as friends. I was sad when our last Skype call came because I grew to love those women. Yet, I was also glad to be free from a weekly commitment. These ladies will be forever in my heart, and we continue to keep up with one another through our prayer letters.
2016 has been a much better year for me. When the Spring Connection Groups were announced I eagerly signed up for a new group. Why not? It was such a blessing the first time around. What a surprise to discover that my new group consisted of mostly young moms with small children. In spite of our differing ages and stages in life, once again we clicked because of our similar calling and experiences. We laughed together and cried together. We praised God for the victories and shared the pain of our struggles. We were honest with each other and lifted one another up in prayer.
I came to know five very brave women who are serving God in spite of the cost. And, it wasn’t so bad being the gray-haired woman in the crowd as I discovered a group of younger women who were eager to tap into the wisdom that I have gained from raising my own TCK and serving overseas for 24 years. I felt loved and valued.
When the next VA Connection Group Sign-up occurs, I’m in! I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to spend nine weeks with women, just like myself, who have left everything they’ve known to follow the joyous but sometimes difficult path to foreign lands with the desire to see all nations come to know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
What impressions hold/held you back from joining a connection group? How has your experience in a group differed from your expectations? Connection Group Registration is now open! Need a reminder on the three waves? Click here.