How Did You Know It Was Time to Leave?

Today I joyfully introduce you to a woman who held my hand through my first month on the field and who I now get the privilege to call my teammate. She’s one of those women you just need to meet. She’s full of wisdom, resources, connections, and grace-filled advice. Lisa Ingle has lived and served in China for 19 years, met her husband here, and has raised 4 kiddos here. We have a lot to glean from her!

How did you know when it was time to leave?

At this point in our journey, we don’t know that it’s time to leave for good, and we don’t know that our next year of sabbatical will be permanent. If anything, our call and passion for the people we work with is stronger than ever. However, due to several pressing needs in our family, at this moment we have definitely felt the Father telling us that it’s ok to be absent from Asia for a season.

During a recent visit to the States, my husband and I were overwhelmed by the emotional and physical needs facing us from both sides of the ocean. It was a paradox for which we couldn’t see a solution. There is no way for us to be both places at one time, but the needs of each were screaming at us.

For the past few years my ten year old son has repeatedly told us that if he could choose a super power it would be teleportation, and I think I’m right there with him! In lieu of teleportation, we approached the only omnipresent One and cried out for direction, and as we did, my husband and I both felt a release to leave Asia for a time and focus on the needs before us in America.

That was hard…really hard.

For almost 19 years, we’ve had our hands to the plow and Asia is home. To our kids, America is vacation, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cheap Legos. Fearing the response, we met with a few trusted friends and mentors, as well as our church leadership to let them know the direction we were sensing. They affirmed our decision. It was a liberating process honestly, because we didn’t expect the love and support we received. We expected to be told that this was all part of the sacrifice we had made and that we would just need to suck it up and do the best we could. At one point one of these mentors gave us encouragement by reminding us that calling is to Him first, then vocation and location. At the end of the day, our calling hasn’t changed, but for a time, our location has.

What emotions have you experienced so far through the leaving process? How have you dealt with them?

Fear- I’ll admit I am a die-hard people pleaser and I despise disappointing those I’m close to. There are a lot of people to disappoint as we make this transition…a lot and I can’t handle the pressure of this particular fear. I have to remind myself that our Father is unfolding a specific plan here, not only for me, but for those I’m leaving behind. And in the end, His plan is good. Wow, this sounds familiar…it’s the same truth I’ve had to trust as we’ve left family and friends on the other side to come here. I’ve had 19 years of practice!

Grief- this one is overwhelming at times. I grieve the fact that my 3 year old may not grow up in Asia and have the same TCK experience that has shaped my other three children. I grieve that my best local friend will be so many miles away. I grieve the wonderful team with whom I’ve been honored to serve. I grieve the deep friendships I’ve enjoyed with incredible women like you. I know I will have great friendships with women in the States, but they’ll be…different. I grieve cheap, fresh vegetables. I grieve my favorite brand of milk tea. I grieve our yearly tromp to Thailand where we have a delightful vacation, time with the wonderful people in our organization, and really cheap, but good medical and dental care. I grieve the laughter as we share our latest language or culture mishaps. I grieve the worship as we see the brokenness around us, lift our hearts together and cry out for Him to make everything right.

Joy- let’s just get this first one out of the way. I am overjoyed at the thought of a dishwasher, a dryer, and the ability to go to one store, once a week to find everything you could possibly need or want to feed the bottomless pit that I call my family!

I am excited to be able to take my son for his monthly checkups and fill his prescription without having to figure out if there is someone coming over on the next plane who would carry it in for us, or pray that it doesn’t get confiscated at customs. I’m giddy at the thought that he will be able to get the occupational therapy he needs, without us having to travel to another city. I’m hopeful that there will be Sunday School teachers, choir directors, and VBS volunteers that will become part of my kids’ lives, and that these people will become part of their spiritual development as we attend a “typical church.”

I am overjoyed that my kids will become a part of the daily lives of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Most of all, I am filled with joyful anticipation of what the Father is about to do with us in this changing season of our lives. During our overseas life, we’ve always said that we’ve felt as if the Father is working as much to change us as He is to use us to change the broken lives around us. I believe that will still be true while we’re in the States, and although we will grieve not being part of our Asian life for now, or maybe even for good, our assignment won’t change—to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven—just our location will.

What lies have you had to combat about leaving?

You’re wrong. You’ve failed. You haven’t heard His voice. The reality? Psalm 121:7-8 The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

What truths has God spoken to you about leaving?

The needs of the world are overwhelming. The needs of my host country are overwhelming. The needs of my passport country are overwhelming.The needs of my organization are overwhelming. The needs of my community are overwhelming. The needs of my parents are overwhelming. The needs of my sisters and brothers are overwhelming. The needs of my children are overwhelming.

There is no way I can meet all those needs! But the liberating truth is that it’s not my job to take on all those needs. I am called to take His yoke upon my shoulders and bear His burden, which is light. When I stop to compare the needs of this side of the ocean to that side of the ocean, I feel as if I’ll be torn in two.

The truth is that we are seeking first His kingdom and righteousness and we are following a step at a time. No matter which way He leads us, to stay or go, we’re going to disappoint someone, and I’ve already told you how I feel about disappointing people. So all I can do is keep my eyes on my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith, and hope in Him to fill in the gaps that we’re leaving behind. And then, we tackle whatever need He puts in front of us today that He’s asking to use us to meet.

About a year ago, Psalm 130:7 became a very present help to me and still remains so, Oh Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. I hope in Him and live in His steadfast love and plentiful redemption, and wherever He leads us to be, here or there, His redemption will be abundant both for me and for those around me. That’s a truth to which I daily cling!

How does Lisa’s story resonate with you?  


  1. MaDonna May 18, 2015

    Thanks Ashley! Though we are not returning to our passport country, we are moving to a new city and what resonated with me the most is that I’m a people pleaser as well. I was so worried about people would say or think when we told them we were leaving the little school that we had started a few years ago. I still worry about how the families will do, how the kids will do, how the school will do – BUT, I’m reminded that it isn’t about me or about my husband and what we can do…we always said it was God’s school and if it is, then when he moves us on HE will take care of the families, take care of the kids, and the school will be fine. I love what you said, “I have to remind myself that our Father is unfolding a specific plan here, not only for me, but for those I’m leaving behind. And in the end, His plan is good.” That struck me today…he has a plan and it is good, actually it is much better than anything I could come up with or do. 

    I pray that your last few days/weeks/months are filled with memories, joy, and that as grief does come it will not overwhelm you to the point of feeling like your drowning. May God continue to encourage you these days with his Words and may he bless you richly for your obedience.

  2. Mallary May 18, 2015

    I had no idea the Ingles were going home for a season! I teared up as I read this. So many of Lisa’s emotions are what I faced a year ago…and still face. I’m still torn, still overwhelmed, still grieving.

    My prayers are with the Ingle family as they prepare for the transitions ahead.

  3. Soundra May 18, 2015

    Hi Lisa, My prayers go with you guys. I know it is a hard decision and I know you guys are following the father’s leading. You are a godly woman who has influenced many women all over the world. God bless you guys.

  4. Laurie May 18, 2015

    I knew I needed to leave for a season, however long that may be remains to be seen, when I couldn’t see a vision for what the next five years would look like. I knew what I had been doing was reasonably successful, reasonably self-sustaining, and that I had others who could oversee the work I had started. I just couldn’t reasonably envision what I wanted to do next. So I stepped back to reconsider where and how I fit into the overseas picture. After nearly a year in the US, I see that I had begun isolated. I also was not enjoying life very much anymore. It’s been a struggle to regain balance in my life. In fact, I am still struggling with becoming more social, more engaged and just enjoying life again.

  5. Michele Atha May 18, 2015

    What resonated with me?  The JOYS – after twenty plus years on the field in Brazil, I feel “used” to many parts of daily life, but the wonder of all the conveniences of life in the US can be overwhelmingly “joyful.”  Does the “grief” outweigh the “joy?” No, but there are times that a few simple conveniences could make the biggest difference in dealing with all the craziness of life in a foreign country.  Finding our JOY in the “ways” of our adopted countries is a fine task and something often hard for an overseas worker mama to do.  It takes effort and hard work!

    Good article!

  6. Gene Whitehead May 18, 2015

    Thank you for this powerful article! Your words are so much in line with the current path my wife and I are walking as we’ve just returned to North America and are discerning our next assignment. Even though we know we’re not alone in our thoughts, emotions and experiences it’s very encouraging to be visibly reminded.

  7. Katie May 18, 2015

    This post comes at a perfect one for me. I am right in the middle of making a decision of transitioning from teaching to following God’s calling to ministry. I’m finding it difficult because I want to my please the people that I’m leaving, but essentially whatever transition I make will leave a whole in the school I work at. I struggle with feelings of guilt, remorse, and confusion as I resign my position and open my eyes to what God has in front of me. The key verse you’ve chosen is helpful and comforting. I know that He will be guiding and caring for me. Yet I struggle not knowing what I will do next. Do you have any suggestions of how to feel peace even when I can’t see what’s coming next?

    Thank you!

    1. Lisa May 18, 2015

      I hear the cry of your heart Katie and totally understand the frustration of walking into the unknown.  There is a verse, Colossians 1:17, that I always go to when I’m “coming undone.”  “…he is before all things and in him all things hold together.”  This gives me peace when everything else is fuzzy or doesn’t make sense.  I’m part of his creation and he is holding me together, along with all the unknowns of my circumstances.  This verse is my most often used “breath prayer.”  I pray it encourages and gives you peace now and as you wait for the next step.  I pray it helps you be bold and take the next step when it comes.

  8. Julia May 18, 2015

    Leaving Asia was one of the hardest things I have done. Lisa’s words are so fitting and helpful- even as I continue to grieve all these years later.

  9. Monica F May 19, 2015

    Can I just say this had both my husband and I in tears.  Halfway through reading this post to my husband out loud, he stopped me and said, “Wait did YOU write this?”  The similarities, even the tiny details, are unbelievable (except we’ve lived in East Asia for only 10 years).  From the comments about teleportation, people-pleasing, trips to Thailand, leaving our best local friends, the Fears… and so on, I felt like I was reading my own mind.  We left our home in East Asia last summer for what we thought would be just a one year Sabbatical, but we have decided to extend our time in the States, taking a ‘remote assignment’ so my husband can finish his studies, but for us to also be supportive to some family members going through difficult times.  We will go back to Asia this summer for one month to say a ‘temporary’ goodbye to friends, and already I feel anxious about the potential ‘finality’ in that.  Lisa’s comment:

    However, due to several pressing needs in our family, at this moment we have definitely felt the Father telling us that it’s ok to be absent from Asia for a season.

    Being absent from Asia is a concept I’m trying to get used to, while being open to returning in the future.  I’m trying to press into what the Lord has for us here during our unexpected and extended time in the States… I know I’ll look back in a few years, and understand it all.  Thank you for this amazing post.  So thankful.

  10. Elisa Groth May 20, 2015


    Thank you so much for sharing what I’m sure is so very hard to even live through at times.  I love what you said about pleasing the Father first and above all.  Because you’re right, we’re always going to disappoint someone, I too struggle with people pleasing and not wanting to let anyone down.  BUT the only one I ever need to seek to fully please is my Abba!  If I walk in His ways and keep his commandments whether I please others or not is irrelevant.  Not that their feelings don’t matter but what matters most is that I’m following my Abba and where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do.

    Thank you for being honest about your fear and your grief.  I know these two well 😉  Lisa, while this chapter might be closing, He is starting a new one for you and your family and I am waiting with great anticipation to see how he will weave your years in China right into the rest of your lives (which are for now, in the States).  Although I’ll miss you and your family deeply it is an ache that I’m honored to feel as you have become like family for me.  And have walked with me through some of the hardest times of my life.  THANK YOU!

    Thank you for sharing with us and following your Abba!  Much love to you dear friend and a heart of gratitude for all that you’ve shared with us here!

  11. ErinMP May 24, 2015

    Thank you- especially for your note on guilt and taking the pressure off of ourselves to meet every overwhelming need. I am not returning to my passport country, but I did feel a lot of pressure from a few people in my life to stay in a not-so-healthy work environment…this post resonates with my ongoing battle with those words versus the word and leading of God, which sometimes puts us up against the disapproval of others. :/ Anyway, thank you.

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