Dear Future Teammate

So much of our communication with new teammates gets sugarcoated into oblivion until neither one of us really knows what we’re saying. I wrote a letter to my future teammate that many of you could’ve written yourselves. I’m not suggesting any of us actually use this in our welcome books, but it sure does feel good to lay it out here.

Dear Future Teammate,

As I sit here and type up a “Welcome Guide” for you, I feel like a parent attempting to prepare a kid to go off to college. We (your teammates who are here anxiously awaiting your arrival) have had a couple of meetings and even more conversations about what to put in this guide and how to word it just right. We’re super concerned about the balance of information. How do we give you enough information to empower you but not too much as to overwhelm you?

There’s so much to tell you and so much you will not know how to do by yourself once you arrive in this foreign land. We’re trying to get it all down in this guidebook, but we realize it’s an impossible task. When we get together and discuss this kind of thing, our heart cry is “we want to help!” Sometimes we just don’t know how. Sometimes we let life get in the way and get distracted and forget you are new here and don’t even know how to buy shampoo. Please forgive us ahead of time. Please give us grace as we do our best to settle in for another year ourselves and welcome you to our team.

If we seem a little stressed at times, that’s because we are. Please know you’re not the cause of our stress. Cross-cultural living is stressful! If we seem a little overworked, that’s because we are. The needs are great and the workers are few. Welcome to our crew. If we seem confused, well, yes…we are. In the words of Rob Gifford (China Road, 2008), “And if I seem a little confused about China, it’s because I am. And if you’re not confused, then you simply haven’t been paying attention.”

We seem to get one thing figured out just in time for something we have absolutely no control over to change. Don’t get me wrong, we love living here. We have seasons of rest and peace, but right now we’re not in one of those seasons, so please bear with us.

When you’re tempted to despair and throw in the towel because it feels like every time you turn around you stumble on yet another thing you didn’t know but wish you would have, give us grace once again. Have you ever played the board game, “Settlers of Catan?” Well, the first time I played that game I was convinced my friends were just making up crazy rules every five minutes as part of an inside scheme to make me lose and feel stupid. First year can feel just like that!

The thing is, there’s so much to tell you that we can’t possibly tell you all at once, and if we did, you’d only be able to retain about 10% of it (maybe 2% if you’re jetlagged). So, we try to put it all out there in a “Welcome Packet” or “Team Guide” or whatever we’ve decided to call it this year, but inevitably we miss some details (which may seem like board game rules for the insane to you).

Please don’t judge our failure to mention this or that as a failure to love you. We are rooting for you. We want nothing more than to see you grab on to your calling and thrive here in this place we call home. It’s not going to happen overnight. But, we do hope it happens! First year is painful and hard. You’ll learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible as you navigate this challenge.

Would you believe me if I told you it’s worth it? I hope so. It’s worth it to set up house well. It’s worth it to dig in and learn some survival language skills. It’s worth it to ride a bus and have no idea where it’s taking you. It’s worth it to fill your mouth with food you’ve never seen before. It’s worth it to come here and let go of “normal.”

I look forward to meeting you and wonder if we’ll be friends. There are so many people here and so much going on that it’s hard to say, but I’m definitely welcoming the opportunity! Either way, I hope and pray you’ll find people to do life with here. I also urge you to keep Jesus on the forefront of every day. He’s there with you now, He’s here waiting for you now and He’s everywhere in between. This journey He’s set before you has been authorized by Him. God bless you as you begin your new chapter here!

Sincerely,

M’Lynn Taylor

How would receiving this type of letter your first year helped? What would you add to it?

12 Comments

  1. Jenilee July 6, 2015

    Well, having nearly finished our first year overseas in language school only to be staring down ANOTHER first year in our actual country of calling… I can say yes to all of the above. The immense about of unknowns mixed with “I should have known this!” or “Why didn’t they tell me this?” lol Oh, this life!! Yet, we remain flexible and hold tightly to the faith that He will guide us in THIS day. Tomorrow will come and He will be there too…

  2. Jenilee July 6, 2015

    ah! I didn’t know it would make that picture that big! lol I totally misread the profile pic thingy… oh, is there a way to edit that out? #newbiecommenter

    1. M'Lynn July 6, 2015

      Hahaha! Welcome, Jenilee. This is perfect! “I wish they would have told me my photo was going to be ginormous” LOL. You look beautiful, and I’m checking in on my phone, so it’s not that big. And…I’m not sure how to change it, but maybe someone else does?? Calling tech support. Come in, tech support…

      1. Jenilee July 6, 2015

        lol! yes… a perfect example of our lives 🙂 So much joy… be able to laugh. alot! But, I second the call for tech support.. ring, ring!

        1. Danielle Wheeler July 6, 2015

          Sorry for the delay, Jenilee.  Your beautiful (but BIG) pic is removed.  You are not the first to do that. 🙂  Welcome to the comment conversation here at VA.  So glad to have you!

  3. Jennifer July 6, 2015

    Whether your first year seems like a wonderful dream… or a great challenge… eventually you will find the other side of the story.  The cross cultural life has both wonderful moments… and great challenges… sometimes at the very same time. The greatest lesson you can learn is flexibility… going with the flow when things don’t go the way you expect. The one constant is change and unexpected moments.

    1. M'Lynn August 8, 2015

      It’s those “very same time” moments that make my head spin! This is great advice, Jennifer. Thanks for chiming in!

  4. Danielle Wheeler July 6, 2015

    M’Lynn, your gracious letter captures the tension – how to help, but not completely overwhelm!

    I know some people have honeymoon phases when they land overseas (but many, including myself, don’t!).  It sounds so foreboding and discouraging to be told the first year will be painful and hard, but I think if you don’t have that expectation to some degree it will only be harder when your honeymoon expectations are broken!  Then you’re left wondering what is wrong with you.  This way, when the hard and painful comes, people can realize that oh, this is normal, and I will make it through this.

    I hope many newbies get to read your letter.

  5. Emily July 7, 2015

    I would say, “It is ok to fail. In fact, we encourage it. Fail, fail, and fail again. We will be right here with you helping you get back up. Failing means you tried, and trying is how you learn. We aren’t perfect, and you won’t be either. And that’s ok.”

    1. M'Lynn August 8, 2015

      So…I’m failing at responding to comments in a timely fashion! But, I do love “failing means you tried and trying is how you learn.” I can apply that to my life right now and to parenting as well! Good word. Thanks for bringing it. 🙂

  6. Tia July 23, 2015

    We are are at week 2 in our new country and I’m just catching up on my VA post! This was so timely for me.  We are feeling overwhelmed and I’m wondering if I just majorly missed the boat on this “calling”.  Danielle, as my family and friends have been checking up on me and listening to my tearful complaints I’ve been saying, ” I sure skipped the honeymoon stage” from day 1!  M’Lynn, it’s a great letter to a new teammate that seems to cover just about all the bases for this newbie!

    1. M'Lynn August 8, 2015

      Tia, I’m glad this hit home for you! And, hoping you’ll be able to keep sticking it out through the entry process. I’m going through it for my gazillionth time and even though I’m not new here, I do wish something seemed exciting about this place right now! It will be better in a few weeks after I get my routine down. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.

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