How a Connection Group Changed My Life

It’s an exciting day at Velvet Ashes.  Registration is now open for our Spring Connection Groups!  Kristina Krauss is here to share with us her experience with her Connection Group this past fall…

Greetings ladies! I would like to take a moment to share with you how much the Connection Groups have meant to me. I’m grateful to the leadership team at Velvet Ashes for the time spent to set the groups up. I may not have noticed before as it snuck up on me, but my group has been life-changing for me.

I’m a long-term cross-cultural worker and I remember the days before internet and cell phones. We lived in a small town in Mexico with only one phone in our town. We had to walk down to the small store, pay money, and make a call. It cost a lot and was painful to catch people back in the states in a good moment for a visit.

I didn’t make the transition to the modern world very well. I now have a phone plan in my home and it is free to call the states. I don’t use it, though, as I have great internet and Skype on my laptop. The problem is, when I tried to connect with friends back in the States, I was so disconnected from life up there, schedules, etiquette for “visiting appointments” that I didn’t succeed in starting up visiting long-distance. I tried a few times, but had my feelings hurt by what felt like a lack of interest and friends not willing to spend the time with me. I didn’t know how to work around their schedules.

Here I have all the technology to connect with friends and family from home, but haven’t been able to pull it off.  So I Skype with my husband when I make trips for teacher training conferences. That’s it.

This summer I had a counseling appointment, where member care said I was headed for serious trouble. I have a stressful job, I have been isolated for too long, and I now have two stress-induced long-term illnesses. She told me I needed to find some English company and make it a priority, as well as take some time off.

I live near Mexico City, so there should be some English-speaking Christian communities somewhere. I looked and looked, but didn’t find anything.

Then I went online and found Velvet Ashes, reading the posts and commenting as much as I could. I signed up for a connection group last fall. It’s interesting to meet online with five other ladies I have never met and try to get to know them just with voices on Skype. I have to admit, at first it was hard to open up with them. But in just a few short weeks, I’m dumping way too much stuff on them already! Jajajaja (Giggling in Spanish).

So I had a great time this fall in my connection group, and I enjoyed getting to know our leader and the group of lovely ladies: Michelle, Sarah, Raquel, and Alex. I don’t know why, but I ended up crying on occasions. Maybe it was a release, or maybe it’s just joy to finally have broken through the silence to find people to talk to. I talk with Mexicans here, and our little group of gringos (we are 7 now!), but I have felt so isolated for so long.

There is another joy, too. As the groups were coming to a close, I contacted a great friend from my hometown and church, and initiated a “weekly one-hour Skype visit.” She accepted and we have begun visiting for an hour every Wednesday. She told me Wednesdays have become her favorite days because of our visit! The truth is, people in America do care. We have just become so disconnected that they don’t know how to approach me either.

My connection group has been fabulous for me; it felt like having a real visit with friends every Wednesday as I took the day off from work to visit with the girls and relax. The connection group showed me a system where I could connect with people in another country. Because of them, I tried this same system with my friend from home and it is working! She is excited, and so am I.

Thank you, ladies. Thank you for pouring into me and taking the time to visit with me. Thank you for letting me share my deep burdens with you, and for showing me how to connect again. And thank you, Velvet Ashes, for making it happen.

*****  

Has it been easier or harder than you expected to find deep community where you are? Have you wrestled with feeling isolated?  Disconnected from your home culture?

Does a Connection Group sound like something you need?  Would you like a group of other cross-cultural women to share with each week?  Women who can relate to your cross-cultural lives?  (We have re-entry groups too!)

Check out details here, and then come register (for free)!

connectiongroups2015open

   

Photo Credits : Unsplash

6 Comments

  1. Raquel February 24, 2015

    Kristi, I was super excited when I saw your name as I opened my VA email! 🙂 I am so thankful for our group & all of your support as well! I enjoyed getting to know you via Skype & maybe one day we will finally meet in person! Until then, I’m still praying for you & you always know where to find me online 😉

  2. Sarah Hilkemann February 25, 2015

    Yay, Kristi! I’m so happy that you got to share this with all of us at VA. I’m so thankful that I got to be in the same group with you last fall and see how the Father worked in your life!

  3. Laurie February 25, 2015

    I am glad you found some connections that helped you with stress and isolation. I lived in Honduras for almost a decade. I was in Mexico too a very long time ago when my phone was a few blocks away in a public park. I enjoyed a Skype relationship with a counselor for awhile in Honduras. The counselor was stateside. I also had a close US friend who I could see when I needed to. In fact, at her urging, I moved to her neighborhood. Connections are very important. I am glad that you found meaningful and valuable relationships in your journey.

  4. Kristina Krauss February 25, 2015

    Hey there Raquel and Sarah!! Good to “see” you and hear from you. 🙂  Laurie, sounds like you have some very similar experiences in Latin-American. The truth is that over the years, it can get pretty lonely, and it can sneak up on us. I am glad that I pushed through and made some friends, and I hope to continue making more! That is amazing Laurie that you actually moved to her neighborhood. I would recommend looking into friendship possibilities BEFORE moving to anyone, but it is wonderful you were willing to move. I thought I was tough, but I guess connections really do matter. 🙂

  5. Laurie February 25, 2015

    I don’t know if I was clear about the move. I already lived in the same city, but I was not close to my work nor my 2 closest friends in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. So, after much urging, I changed rented houses to shorten the commute to work, church, and to coffee with friends. Now, 2 of us are once again in the US, and the third is ministering with her husband in a village outside of the capital. For that time, though, we appreciated the connection.

  6. Kristina Krauss February 25, 2015

    Yes, yes! I did understand it was in the same city. I have just found that it is still very hard to move houses, even within the same city. Plus, it is wonderful to include in the reasons to move, the reality that it will be easier to have coffee with friends if it is close-by. Thanks for sharing your story.

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