Lessons from Village Life

Lessons from Village Life

Village life starts early in the morning.

The roaming rooster starts his call as the sun begins to peek above the horizon. The neighbor’s broom hits pavement, the daily routine of sweeping familiar and calming.

The dirt roads are soon filled with calls for noodles, motos whizzing by and trucks rumbling as they haul produce and bikes and all sorts of things to the border and back.

My teammate and I often eat breakfast at a local aunt’s stand, our favorite meal of fried pork and rice served hot with a side of chili sauce and eggs and always some kind of interesting conversation. We’ve received marriage proposals and inquisitive looks, questions about our purpose there and opportunities to share Bible stories while sipping our iced coffees.

We walk to the local market while everyone else hops on motos, which brings the label “The foreign girls who always exercise” called out when they don’t realize we understand. We stop for fresh coconut milk and conversation, fill a basket with veggies for our evening meal, and indulge in some expensive apples or grapes and a loaf of the very best bread for only 50 cents.

Village life flows in a familiar rhythm made up of people and neighbors and friends that we have grown to love. This life teaches me about the importance of depending on other people and not just surviving on my own independent and stubborn nature.

When our water gets turned off and we are at a loss, we head straight to the aunt down the road who knows just who to call. We stop to visit the local midwife and tell her Truth stories, and she tells us the inside scoop about doing life in this little town and where to go if there’s an emergency.

Neighboring in this context means sharing life and meals and friendship. It means bringing oranges when someone is sick and receiving free curry and noodles as a gracious gift. We walk the dusty roads and pray for strangers and friends, sitting much longer than feels comfortable in order to listen and care and understand.

Being part of a village means sacrifice because sometimes I want to just shut everyone out and ignore the cacophony of noise outside the gate. It means that I must ask for help and receive it humbly, coming down off some kind of pedestal of superiority, thinking I am never the one lacking.

Those village days are a distant memory now. Yet, I miss the ways that my heart connected with the people around me, the ways we worked together to move through our days and get the work done and have time to play.

I live in a culture now that moves independently, waving from across the street but never opening up home and heart. We smile and say everything is fine and that no help is necessary, when really there is a need and an ache and loneliness that is difficult to express.

The truth of the matter is, I need you. I need the gifts that you bring to the table that I don’t have. I need to be an auntie to your kiddos, let you listen when I talk about the ache of my singleness rather than keeping it hidden away. I need to send you flowers and let you stop by with a cup of coffee.

It takes a village, and we can be that village for each other.

What have you learned about community and leaning on one another in your context?

Photo by Noorulabdeen Ahmad on Unsplash


  1. Mary Raikes May 18, 2020

    Yes and Amen! I’m having a bit of a day where I don’t want to see anyone (in my passport country) and at the moment I can do that. But, I’m also missing the close-knit community life in my host country. I need to start depending on others again.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann May 18, 2020

      Mary, I hear you! I’m living more in that tension in a lot of areas of my life- I need time away from people to be refreshed, and it’s okay to give myself permission to close the doors and just be, but I also need people and sometimes I need to press in to the uncomfortable nature of community. But also the beauty of it. 🙂 It’s such a balance, isn’t it?

  2. Emily Jackson May 24, 2020

    It strikes me that overseas life seems to draw a lot of very independent people. You have to have quite a bit of self-reliance to take on living in a new culture far away from your previous support system. That independence can get in the way of learning to be dependent on others. Which, as you’ve pointed out, we need to be. We’re far from being self-reliant or the experts when we enter a new place. Thanks for these good thoughts.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann May 26, 2020

      Emily, that’s a good point! There needs to be some measure of stubborn perseverance and independence to pack up everything and leave to go overseas. And then some of that has be let go once we get there in order to really learn and connect. 🙂

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