Are You Happy? The Challenges Of Being Real

“Are you happy?” she asked as she dumped rice into the folded banana leaves.

I assume she must have heard me crying. She is here for the holidays and the making and selling of “bread” made from mung beans, sticky rice, and pork. She loves to take a break under the jackfruit tree that is right next to our house. Maybe during one of her siestas she heard me crying or, worse yet, complaining loudly to my husband about nothing working right or how overwhelming this village transition is.

I gritted my teeth. The Lord had burdened my heart before we moved here with the idea of vulnerability, being real even when your

superhero cross-cultural worker image will be destroyed

and you are worried your neighbor will thus find Jesus completely worthless and unappealing

because the privileged white cross-cultural worker living in what seems to be a castle is crying over having to hand wash a few clothes…

Ministry over. No one is coming to Jesus in this village. Maybe we should move.

I digress.

Teeth gritted and pride humbled, I told her it was hard to live here: hard to do all the things she does every day, hard to make new friends while missing others, hard to deal with cultural differences like someone cutting down branches on our tree to get ant eggs which, in turn, means said giant red ants will be mercilessly biting my children for days…and they are mad when I ask them to stop…


She nodded, tying off the bundle of stuffed leaves and putting it in the pile for steaming. Inside, half of me was screaming out explanation after explanation for my troubles while the other half was making a pretty good argument (if I don’t say so myself) for just being real:

1. God doesn’t need me to be perfect to reach the lost.

2. My weakness and sin show how much I need Jesus.

3. I choose to cease attempts at hiding my imperfections in order to reach the lost for Him who is perfection.

Thankfully, the Lord helped me hold back the excuses. My friend handed me a steamed “bread” with the banana leaves pealed back like, well, a banana.

“Are you happy?” I finally was able to ask, hoping to share a deeper moment of friendship.

“No.” she replied. I held my breath in anticipation as she looked soberly past me toward the mountains.

“Why not?” I prompted in a whisper.

After a long pause, she grinned, “Because I hate making this bread.”


What inner dialogues have you had recently?

Photo Credit: dinesh_valke via Compfight cc


  1. Laura C October 29, 2014

    I loved this!  Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Casey October 29, 2014

    Thanks for the encouragement, Laura!

  3. Amy Young October 29, 2014

    Thanks Casey 🙂 … and what a good reminder our local friends more often that we may realize — have similar feelings about things 🙂

    1. Casey November 5, 2014

      So true, Amy. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Beth Everett October 30, 2014

    Casey I really appreciated this! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Brittany October 30, 2014

    Oh how many times I have had this struggle!  My language partner is actually getting ready to move her family to the States and I have gotten comfortable with being vulnerable with her.  She doesn’t understand why we are here when she is so desperate to leave.  And when things are hard, she tells me we need to just go home.  When she complains about things, she tells me, “At least I’m leaving!  You are staying here!”  But this woman is one with whom I’ve had some incredible conversations.  (There have been times this first year in the field that I’ve thought, wow, if God sends us back home right now, I’ll know that He brought us here for Carmen.)  Every time she asks me why we are here, why don’t we just go back home where everything is “better”, I get to tell her how much I love Jesus and what a pleasure it is to do anything for Him, even when it’s hard.  Things are hard here every day.  And a lot of days lately, I have not been happy.  I do feel shame for that, but I’m learning more and more that it’s a grace of God to be vulnerable with the natives because it gives me opportunities to boast in Him.

    1. Casey October 30, 2014

      Brittany, Thanks for sharing! That is such an interesting perspective. I’d love to hear how your helper does in the States and if her perspective changes. Thanks for deepening this discussion and for being vulnerable with those you work with!

    2. Amy Young October 31, 2014

      Brittany I’m sad you’ll be experiencing another loss. I’m sorry, friend.

  6. Ellen Benefield October 30, 2014

    I loved this. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Casey October 30, 2014

      Thanks, Ellen!


  7. Phyllis November 4, 2014

    Thank you so much for this! It’s something I’ve really struggled with over the years, because I have been around a few overseas workers who absolutely won’t admit any hardships or unhappinesses at all. That attitude really makes relationships almost impossible. I wish I could share this with them!


    There’s also another side of this that I struggle with: right now I really am happy. I LOVE my life. And there’s another person who just won’t believe that. She can’t get past the assumption that I’m “suffering for Christ.” Greatly suffering. No matter what I say.


    Being real is hard!

    1. Casey November 5, 2014

      What a great comment, Phyllis! Being real is really a balancing act based on our perspectives and others.

  8. Sarah Crane November 4, 2014

    Thank you for this.  In my first year of overseas work in a very rural place, after a year in a town I really loved, I have experienced ALL of the above.  There have been times of being so very happy, and times of tears, and many times of wrestling with being real about how I am feeling.  It’s especially hard when the practiced, daily answer of the local language when asked “How are you?” is “I am here, I am fine, all is well.”….whether or not things are well.  I laughed aloud at the digression to “Ministry over. No one is coming to Jesus. Maybe we should move.” How often I can rabbit trail to that place.  This post is a lesson and encouragement to my heart to be real, for God will use it, every bit.  His work won’t fail when I’m real.  Maybe, hopefully, it will even progress further and it will open places of heart conversations and realness within my community like your experience.  Thanks for sharing and for the encouragement this is!

    1. Casey November 5, 2014

      Sarah, thanks for the encouragement and your insight! I’d love to hear more from you as I don’t know many people working rurally. =)

      1. Sarah Crane November 12, 2014

        Oh sister, we’ve got a whole rural team! We’re an hour and a half from closest bigger city, and about 8 hours from capital!  And I am looking forward to more from you too!  It’s funny how sometimes I start to feel not as rural, and then I go to visit friends in nay larger town or a city here and it’s crazy different!

        I’m in a village in Western Uganda, so a bit different from your setting, but I’m sure there are so many similarities. I feel like the motto of my life here, of learning language and culture and just how in the world to do life and ministry here, is a common local phrase, “Mpola, Mpola” or “Buke, Buke” …. slowly, slowly.  Slowly, slowly do I learn and adjust and then re-learn and re-adjust to this place and this life and how He works here.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.