I just completed my seventh Trans-Pacific flight for 2018.
I don’t think my “M” heroes would ever write a statement like that! They were the ones who, when they were “called” to a life overseas, packed all of their belongings in a casket as they were sold out to taking the Good News to far off regions of the world. They traveled by ship, often enduring difficult conditions and weeks at sea. In their hearts they knew of the likelihood that they would never return to their homelands or families.
As a TCK myself, my parents were part of the generation where a “furlough” or “home assignment” only took place every 5 years. My parents faithfully wrote handwritten or typed letters home each week. In those days, it took over two weeks for letters to arrive, so, about a month before questions from the last letter were answered. For my parents, it seemed easy to fully integrate into life overseas when news of home was not very accessible.
Today, we have technology that enables instant communication and air travel with relative ease. It is not too difficult to keep one foot in the world back home while living in the country of our overseas life.
But how does one fully engage with one foot in both worlds?
Jim Elliot, one of my heroes from my parent’s generation says, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” The tension of being integrated in two worlds has been an everyday reality of life for me. The question of being “fully there” is real.
Over the last five years, I have slept most nights with my cell phone next to my bed, just in case there was an urgent issue regarding my elderly Dad. For me, the dilemma of aging parents and how to honor them when I live on the other side of the world has been an ongoing issue as I have physically lived overseas, and yet I found that my heart has been divided between the two places I call home. It has been a challenge to “be all there” in either location.
The Asian culture in which we live, never questioned my trips home to care for my Dad. Rather, the question of my Asian friends was, “Why are you here when your father needs you during this season?”
Two years ago, after the death of my stepmom, my father’s needs became more intense. He had made provision for himself so that my brother and I could carry on the ministry to which God had called us. Still my heart remained conflicted as my desire was to love and honor and advocate for him as his dementia progressed. Sometimes I was able to problem solve for my Dad through emails and phone calls. Other times it required my physical presence.
And yet, even in the tension, I found that God gave me the grace to be “in the moment” with the people in my life.
When I was with my Dad, I was able to be present and engage in his care. When I was in Asia, God also gave the grace and determination to be fully present in the moment with the young woman sharing her heart in my living room.
I learned to accept the things I could not control regarding my father’s care. (As a nurse myself, that control issue is a big deal!) God provided comfort and assurance through His Word that He is Sovereign and that He cared for my Dad more than I ever could.
Two months ago, I had the privilege to be at my Dad’s bedside and to walk him Home. This faithful servant of the Lord is now truly whole and free at last. I, too, now find that I am experiencing a new-found freedom and a new season of life, even as I grieve.
As I look back, I see how God provided so many little details to allow me to honor my father from a great distance. It was not an easy season, and yet, it has been a season filled with grace, growth and thankfulness as I have learned more about entrusting my struggling heart to my faithful, loving heavenly Father.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning,
Great is your faithfulness.
As I now reintegrate into our life in overseas, there is an air of expectation as I look forward to what is ahead.
I know that God gives grace for each season—including this new season of not having my phone next to my bed!
In your overseas life, how do you respond to the tension of living in two worlds? What have you learned about God and about yourself in the tension?
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