Dear Starry-Eyed Self,
You’ve spent the better part of the last year preparing to go to the field. You’ve shared with countless people your dreams to reach the unreached. You’ve experienced difficulties in fundraising, only to see the Father provide in unforeseen and miraculous ways. You’ve checked things off your list to prepare to move away. You’ve sold most of your possessions, cringing a bit since most of them were 3-year-old wedding gifts. You’ve read books on your new home, trying to understand the new world you’re about to dive into. You haven’t studied the language, and that will come back to bite you, but hang in there.
I want to share with you some things you’ll need to remember during this giant transition:
- You will cling to your calling and your relationship with God like never before. When situation after situation goes awry, you find yourself in tears over culture shock every day, or when you think you can’t stay in your new home another moment, turn to Jesus. God led you here very clearly (remember the word spoken through the stranger that was spot-on?), and He knew there would be trials. He knew you’d need to cling to Him. He loves it when you rely on Him and not yourself. On the hard days, remind yourself of God’s faithfulness. Look at all He did to get you here! Now He wants to use you. Don’t quit on Him now!
- Be slow to judge your new culture. There will be so many moments of culture clashing. You won’t understand why people can’t act civilized and stand in a line properly. You’ll be hurt by racist comments. You’ll wonder why locals haven’t learned good hygiene. Why isn’t there soap in the bathrooms? Why do they spit everywhere? Try to see them as God sees them…created in His image. They have a long, turbulent history that will take time to learn and understand their reasons for said behaviors. Recent famines have led to many peculiar habits. Their closed borders prevented them from learning about other people groups. You won’t figure all this out for a while, so until then, be gracious and kind.
- Be flexible. Your new home has a saying: “Plans can’t keep up with changes.” You learned this in orientation, but you didn’t quite grasp it. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn all about it! When someone knocks on your door saying you need to be somewhere in 5 minutes, don’t freak out. First of all, 5 minutes is relative. If you show up late, no one will care. Secondly, the messenger probably didn’t know you needed to be there until about 10 minutes ago. It’s always a notice passed down through the ranks until it finally reaches you. When students show up unexpectedly, don’t fret about your toddler-tornadoed home. Welcome them in. It took them guts to come and knock on the foreigner’s door; reward them with kindness and hot water, their favorite year-round drink.
- Be patient as you find your purpose. This one will take a while. You came to the field with a one-year-old knowing your main purpose would be to care for him well in a new land. When you’re feeling all the feels of not knowing why you came to a foreign country simply to raise a child, because you’re not involved in any other type of work, don’t give up. Talk to other mamas who have been around a while. Ask them how they were able to get involved in ministry with a house and family to take care of. Disregard all the guilty baggage you feel when they suggest a house helper—take it! Get creative with ways to spend time with locals. When you have babies underfoot, they just might have to come to you. The kids won’t be this young and needy forever. Your time of more interactions will come.
- Don’t give up learning how to cook. You were at a disadvantage before moving overseas because you had only just begun learning how to cook. Now you’ll have to learn how to make everything from scratch, and without some ingredients you’re used to. You’ll learn to make do with substitutions. You’ll realize some things just aren’t worth the time, effort or money they require and will learn to look forward to them when you go back to your other home. You’ll throw away more food than you want to admit, but you had to—it was that gross. Don’t worry. Your new country has a saying that sounds better in its original language, “慢慢来” (màn màn lái), which means, “take your time, you’ll get it eventually.” You wouldn’t guess it now, but in a few years your teammate will ask you to be her food contributor on her new site that reaches women serving across the world. How ironic.
Obeying God’s calling for your life won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding. When you finally learn the language well enough to hold conversations, you’ll see the hearts of people softening around you. You’ll come to understand living this life in another country takes incredible faith in knowing that God will be with you and take care of you no matter what.
Hang In There Sister,
Your Reflective Self
What advice do you have to give to newbies preparing to go to the field? Share your wisdom!
I’ve made these granola bites for years. They’re super quick to whip up, use super simple ingredients, and are incredibly versatile. They’re also very easy to double, triple, quadruple because let me tell you–they’ll disappear quickly! I’ll be making these–scratch that, I’ll have my kids make them–all summer to feed their ever-hungry bellies!
Granola Energy Bites
Makes: About 20 bites
Ready in: 20 minutes
Adapted from: Gimme Some Oven
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup toasted shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup whole or ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey or pure maple syrup
Stir all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
Cover the mixing bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or until the mixture is chilled. (This will help the mixture stick together more easily.)
Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. You’ll have to squeeze them until compacted together.
Then enjoy immediately! Or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
**Note: You can use a combination of so many ingredients and flavors. Different nuts and seeds, dried fruits, etc. Just be sure your ratios are about the same as listed above so they don’t turn out too sticky or not sticky enough to hold together. Experiment and share your new creations!