Inviting Others to Help You Remain + Simple Chocolate Syrup

“Teammates would come, and teammates would go…and teammates would come, and teammates would go. We suffered our own little family whiplash with the loving, longing, and losing and replaying it all again.” — Denise, VA Retreat

If you’ve been in this line of work for more than 5 minutes, you know how true this quote is. Goodbyes, see you laters, welcomes, and transitions. So many transitions. The ebb and flow of cross-cultural workers is a constant.

By His grace, as far as we know, our team will remain the same from this year to next year. In nearly 8 years of serving with this org, this hasn’t happened a single time. I’m sure you can relate. We have either welcomed or said goodbye to teammates every year, if not every semester.

We are part of a teaching org with some gaps in our schedule, so we have the unique opportunity, I know unlike a lot of you reading, to return “home” every summer to see loved ones, raise support, and take a break. Most of the time, I wish I was like most of my colleagues who make the trek back every summer, but our family has stayed in-country every other summer a few times and have actually enjoyed it! Sure, we miss the BBQs, water parks, and endless fun with friends and family, but we have gained much richness from relationships because we remained.

You see, in this country, the kids study, study, study during the school year, making it difficult for my kids to build any friendships. Their parents, often teachers, also work long days during the school year. So the summer, although not completely wild and free for the locals, at least opens up some time for us to hang out more.

Even with the prospective play dates and Asian-style BBQs this summer, I was feeling sad we wouldn’t have any connections with Westerners for an extended time this summer, since all of our teammates will return. So, we invited our families to come. We have mentioned several times before that we would love for them to come and visit, but it’s expensive and timing is tricky.

My parents have been before, so encouraging them to come again took some convincing. We’re in a new city! We live close to some major tourist spots! You can see the grandbabies! With that last one, they were in.

Giving our loved ones the chance to see our lives, where we live, the people we serve, and just what our daily life looks like is monumental in their understanding of why we uprooted and moved halfway across the world. Their perspective changes dramatically; they can see, touch, taste, and smell where we live, and interact with our dear local friends. This is a game-changer for future conversations, and they can even help explain things on the homefront that we aren’t always able to.

Remaining during the summers, our slow season, and inviting our loved ones to join us in getting a better picture of why we are here can help us to remain here longer. Because isn’t family what often draws us back to our home country? We miss them dearly. We long to be near them. We miss the comforts of “home.” But what if they could see what we do where we are, see the impacts He is making through our work, and in turn support us in better ways? It’s worth a try! If you end up without some of those benefits, well, at least you got to watch them squirm at using a squatty potty or eating some squishy tofu using little wooden sticks.

What does it look like when you remain as you watch others leave? What helps you remain where you are?


Chocolate syrup is a real treat around here. Good milk isn’t cheap, so sprucing it up with chocolate syrup isn’t something I think of doing. But, when I do want to give everyone a treat, this syrup is a cinch to whip up with simple ingredients, and lasts us a long time!

Cocoa powder and sugar–the start of the simple ingredients list.

Careful when it starts boiling–it gets going fast!

Looks like someone snuck a drink while I was snapping pics. There were 3 little people hovering!

This syrup tastes way better than any of that store-bought stuff! It’s rich so you don’t need as much, and doesn’t have that funny after taste. Make some and enjoy!

Simple Chocolate Syrup 

Makes: 2 cups

Ready in: 15 minutes

Borrowed from: Annie’s Eats

1¼ cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup water

¼ tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa powder and whisk briefly to break up any clumps.  Stir in the water and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla.  Store in the refrigerator.


  1. Robin May 21, 2017

    Beautifully written reflections! And simple comfort food! The revolving door of drawing near to people and saying goodbye is difficult. It heightens my anticipation of heaven where there is a grand hello with no goodbyes. Blessings as you continue to serve and shine the loght of Jesus!

    1. Robin May 21, 2017


      1. Ashley Felder May 24, 2017

        “A grand hello with no goodbyes”–now THAT is a beautiful thought! Thanks for reminding me to keep my eyes fixed on eternity, where the party will be hoppin’, maybe even with some chocolate milk. 😉

  2. Katie Rose May 21, 2017

    Beautifully written reminders. Last year, I remained as my teammate unexpectedly left. It was a deliberate, hard choice though, one that the Father basically had to force me to follow Him through. Everything in me was ready to leave, bound by guilt that I wasn’t good enough to be the one left standing (read: on the floor in a fetal position). But He’s redeemed it all! He brought me through all the problems and emotions, and He planted me here–so much so that I’m dreading my term ending in July. But I also know who He has left to remain here after me: an amazing national partner and friend, who will keep going in the work that He put us together for a season to do.

    So to anyone not wanting to remain…remember that first of all, we’ve been called to remain in HIM–not our circumstances or even our “calling” (John 15). We’ve been called to remain in Him whose presence transcends and overcomes our circumstances. He’s writing a bigger story; He’s working out a bigger plan that what you can see. Keep trusting and remain in Him–just as He remains in you.

    1. Ashley Felder May 24, 2017

      I love when we get to see the beauty He had planned out, after He asks us to follow him down a tough path! And redeemed all the way to the other side—so awesome! I agree, too, that we must abide in Jesus, waiting for him to reveal the next page in our story. Part of my, story, though, is his very obvious calling here. This country wasn’t my first pick—actually, it was dead last–but God used a woman in my life, who had never met me, to speak a word into my life about coming here. He knew he had to be obvious with this hard-headed girl! And I’ve clung to that word/calling in the darkest moments, knowing He has us here until He calls us elsewhere. What a comforting fact that we can trust and have faith in the all-powerful God, and He in turn wants to be with US!

  3. M'Lynn May 22, 2017

    “Giving our loved ones the chance to see our lives, where we live, the people we serve, and just what our daily life looks like is monumental in their understanding of why we uprooted and moved halfway across the world.”

    Ashley, I completely and wholeheartedly agree! However, the first time my parents visited us, we started out in Beijing and that was nice and somewhat cozy. A few days later we arrived on the university campus where we lived and they were shocked with the sights and smells and sounds (“They’re selling vegetables on the ground? Chickens running loose through the neighborhood?! A drainage ditch that polluted? Neighbors that loud?!”) Thankfully I realized they needed to be quickly relocated to a nearby hotel instead of staying with us and this little gesture paid off big time by giving them some cultural buffers and allowing them to then see our life beyond the sensory overload. So…To anyone having family visit for the first time…Be ready to serve them by giving them grace when it’s all too much for them!

  4. Ashley Felder May 24, 2017

    Good advice! When my parents came last time, my mom worked at her local health department. *insert wide-eyed emoji here* I told her over and over that she’d just have to take off her work hat and trust us. She still talks about the “awful, nasty, dirty” Muslim restaurant we took them to eat lamb on a stick. “But, wasn’t it good, Mom??!” “I can’t remember. I was distracted by the filth.” HA! She literally lived on Bimbo donuts those 2 weeks. Hoping it’ll be better this time!

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