Circle of Sisters

I knew before we left that I would need a circle of sisters around me. Not literally. No, we didn’t have a host of folks begging to ride our coat tails to the shores of war recovering West Africa. But thankfully it was 2010 and folks could come along for the ride via blogs, email and the occasional when-internet-was-good-enough skype date.

Before we left for the field I thought long and hard about who I wanted in my inner circle of sisterly support. I prayed that God would bring them to my mind and then my goal was to commit to sending a weekly email to them covering the nitty gritty details of life in all it’s crazy hard and beautiful ups and downs.

I chose four very different women. One was my sister-in-law who from the beginning has been a great friend to me. Another a friend I’ve known nearly my whole life and who never ceases to encourage and cheer me on. I also chose a dear sister who was my roommate and keep-me-sane best friend while working in the ministry my husband and I met serving with. The fourth woman was more like a mama, a spiritual mama, to me and even now I look to her for advice on marriage and motherhood.

In the beginning it was simply a way to keep myself grounded. I needed women guarding me spiritually and sending encouragement that helped me go on when I wanted to shut the door to our little two-room-cement-floor-hot-as-blue-blazes-house and never come out. What their support turned into was a space for me to feel understood and known.

Being a foreigner can be isolating. I’ve shared life with many women serving on foreign soil. I’ve sat across the table from many women who have lived overseas and some have had great teams on the field with them and others have been on the field alone or with few others that shared their culture or background. All of us agreed no matter what, there comes a time that you will long for someone that knows you, inside and out, and accepts you with your brokenness and shortcomings.

We need people in our lives that don’t think we are superheroes for the life we are leading. Without those people we either will begin to think we are superheroes or we will be crushed under the weight of the realization we are weak to meet the needs and do the task set before us.

The compound we lived in was overseen by a group of Italian nuns. A small cloister of sisters who loved on the community of recovering TB and leprosy survivors who came to our area to receive treatment. In the mornings you could hear them singing from their home across the yard and I would awaken to their sweet voices.

The four women who received my weekly email were like those sisters singing over the day, my day. From afar they were singing over my day with the knowledge that I am terribly weak but God is immensely strong to work through me. That feeling of being known quelled my fears and helped me believe God was indeed for me and the work I was a part of. In fact, being known by those sisters reminded me I was most intimately known by my Father who made me for the task he called me to.

Do you have a circle of people who know you and encourage you in your work? How has that helped you in your life overseas?

Photo Credit: Dani_vr via Compfight cc

8 Comments

  1. Kim September 29, 2014

    Thank you so much for this idea.  I know this is exactly what I need to do.  It can be very lonely and I am so desperate to be known for the real me without any language or cultural barriers.  I love to Skype my friends, but it can feel overwhelming to try to catch them up on all the happenings…then trying to process my feelings at the same time makes for very long Skype dates that don’t happen often enough.  I’m starting this right now!

  2. Kim September 29, 2014

    GAAAAAH!  My picture is so big!  Ha!  Oops.  Creeeeeeepy!  Help! 🙂

    1. Jessica Hoover October 1, 2014

      Gah! That pic is HUGE! No worries. Glad that this found you where you are and encouraged you to take some practical steps to connect and be known. Really, truly it was a buoy for me when I was on the field. {HUGS}

  3. Elizabeth September 29, 2014

    It’s so wonderful to have these kinds of friends! I have a couple on-field friends, who know what it’s like and neither judge nor applaud too heavily. And I have my best friend in America. She hears all my bad stuff and all my good stuff, and I hear the same from her. Plus we have a small family-and-best-friends-only group who hears about things first, and about the most private things that might never make it to a newsletter. We are so grateful to have them. Our org actually talked about levels or tiers of prayer warriors during orientation. They wanted us to model Jesus where he had his large groups of disciples following Him, and then He had the 12, and then he had the inner 3, and then He had John.

    In the beginning we didn’t set out to do it this way. It just sort of happened. We have the required newsletters for a wider audience. About a year ago we wanted to create a smaller list with more personal and private requests. It’s about half the other list. Less public, and people we trust more, who are closer to us emotionally, and who support us tangibly in some way (and that’s not just $$$!). Then we have that family group I talked about, and I have my best friend, and my husband has a couple mentors as well. So we have “safe” places, and that’s nice.

    1. Jessica Hoover October 1, 2014

      I love that you’ve really thought about this in the way that you’ve structured your contact lists, etc. I think  it is so important for us to have that circle and for some of them to be our supporters (if that is how our organization/work is structured/financed). We have the same thing in a small facebook group. It is a place that we can take the day to day and the big prayer needs. Yes, “safe places” are important.

  4. Annalisa September 30, 2014

    I have a mixed circle (triangle?).  My grandfather, before he passed, was always one of my biggest supporters; he always let me know that he loved me and missed me, but that he was proud of me as well.  He didn’t think I was a superhero, though; he just knew that I’d have tough times.

    These days, my triangle is made of my mother, my best friend Theresa, and my buddy David.  Two women, one male.  Two Christians, one agnostic.  Two people who know me in real life, one person who knows me only online. Two people in my generation, one a generation ahead.  All three of them have realistic viewpoints of me, but that’s the only thing they have in common (besides being Americans).  This has helped me immensely as there are days when “God’s using you to help people” is not something I can handle hearing.  And then there are days when explaining something to my mother–who actually has a degree in computer science but whose skills no longer go much beyond turning on the computer and checking e-mail–is so complicated that it’s nice to have people who actually understand present-day technology.  And, of course, it’s sometimes nice to have a guy to suggest 101 solutions to a problem that I actually want a solution to…whether or not any of those 101 solutions will work in this culture…

  5. Jessica Hoover October 1, 2014

    I think having a diverse group is key. The four women that I had in my inner circle were all very different and brought different insights and encouragement to the table.

  6. Circle of Sisters November 21, 2014

    […] Today I’m sharing this part of my story over at Velvet Ashes. Even if you aren’t a woman serving overseas I invite you to read and think about the importance of community along the rocky path of life. Click on over and read the whole story. […]

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