The Commitment to Make When You’re Maxed Out on Commitments

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. 

13 Comments

  1. Sarah September 20, 2016

    That was beautiful. I can truly relate. Although residing in a nice, safe neighborhood, it is nice and safe because of bars, walls, and guards with sawed off shot guns. It almost feels like a nice, safe prison. Lately I have been desperate for the quiet and calm of my parents 250 acre farm in the middle of no where… No walls, bars, or loud neighbors in sight!
    As I gear up to fly back to my passport country in just a couple of days I wonder if I will have the courage to return.
    I guess leaving my husband behind this time will be my incentive, if nothing else is.
    Sometimes, it just all seems to be too much pressure, too little emotional support, and zero understanding. I am holding on to Jesus right now and trusting that He will do a work in my heart and bring the refreshing I am desperate for.

    1. Nancy September 22, 2016

      The only safe place is in His arms. Keep your eyes on Him and breathe deep and take what He gives.

  2. Jaime September 20, 2016

    In the past I’ve always wanted to join a group, but never actually did because I didn’t want to give up another evening. This time, I’m in a different place. My local teammates have gone to the US for 2 months and left me as the only westerner in the province (that I know of, at least). When the email about Connection Groups came out, I saw that the dates matched PERFECTLY with the dates my teammates are away!! Does that sound like our Father’s provision or what? So, with great joy, I am signing up for the first time! Thank you Velvet Ashes!!

    1. T September 21, 2016

      I love the timing of it for you!!!! He is so kind to us, eh?

    2. Nancy September 22, 2016

      You will love it!

  3. Leigha September 20, 2016

    Nancy, as one of the five young moms in your spring group I can testify that having your wisdom and insight was a true GEM! Not only for the encouragement and ideas in raising my little tcks, but after having been through a really rough 2015 on the field myself, and discovering that my story had so many similarities to your experience (but with 24 years of perspective!) I felt a renewed sense of hope. Thank you for showing up, for being real, for loving and praying with us. I truly feel it was God’s sovereignty that he put us in the same group! Going now to sign up for another one and can’t wait to see what he has for me there.

    1. Caitlin L September 21, 2016

      I agree with Leigha! As one of the women who greatly benefited from your experience and encouragement I just want to thank you. Thank you for meeting us where we were and loving us so well! I loved our group as we mutually loved and encouraged one another even though we were all in different places and seasons. Thank you, Nancy!

      1. Kim September 21, 2016

        I totally agree with these lovely ladies!! What an inspiration you are Nancy and I felt you added such depth and richness to us that we would have totally missed!! I am so grateful to have walked a part of this journey with you!! You are a huge blessing!

        1. Kim September 21, 2016

          bwahaaha….how do I get that picture out of there???

  4. Nancy September 22, 2016

    I need to get the tissues out. I love you ladies and miss you so much! But who knows….maybe will end up in another VA connection group in another season. Even better….maybe we’ll meet. I am meeting with a woman from my first group in about 2 weeks in a far far away country that I happen to be traveling to for other reasons! I am so excited.

  5. Shelly September 23, 2016

    After reading of your experiences that preceded joining a Connection Group I so wish I had said yes to being in one. I have served as a facilitator, but knew that with recent losses in my own life and supporting others on the field, I just couldn’t serve in that role right now. But then I didn’t give it a thought to be a participant. Hm? Maybe that might have been a good thing for me in this season. Maybe in the spring. Thank you for bringing that to mind through this post.

  6. Nancy September 23, 2016

    It would be great to give a try to participating and receiving!

    1. Shelly September 23, 2016

      Yes, it would! :-)S

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