When people ask me, “What is the hardest part of living overseas?” my immediate response is “Getting along with other expats.”
It sounds so incredibly 7th grade, I know. But we are a strong-willed, convicted, highly emotional crew. And when you stick a bunch of us on a team and say, “Now go be best friends,” well, it doesn’t just happen that easily.
The storming happens. The annoyances occur. The feelings are hurt.
There was one day that I found myself so frustrated with certain people on my team that I hoped they would fail overseas and choose to go home.
It would be so much easier to do this work by myself. It would be so much faster and more efficient to put team meetings and team fellowship aside and just DO THE WORK.
After all, I came here to serve native people, didn’t I? I never intended to spend all my time coddling the emotional needs of my teammates abroad!
I would honestly never want *the field* to claim anyone. Yet there I was that day anyway, wishing this very thing on my teammates.
Wow. Sin. Sin in my heart.
I am being overly vulnerable here making you privy to my ugly thoughts. Give me some grace, girls.
Because after spending some time in Romans 12, I’ve been jolted back to a new reality. GOD’S reality.
And that reality is this:
AS A FAITH-FILLED EXPATRIATE, MY TEAM IS MY CHURCH.
When my Creator tells me to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12: 18), He’s including my team.
When my Heavenly Father tells me to love others with brotherly affection (Romans 12: 10), He’s talking about my team.
When my Redeemer tells me to outdo my peers in showing honor (Romans 12: 10), He’s referring to my team.
I have absolutely no right to love people in a different language if I’m not giving love in my own language first.
And where I live, the people who speak my language are on my team.
A dear teammate and I have had our ups and downs over the course of our first year overseas together. But any time we have needed to talk something out, I have appreciated so much her desire to sit and pray with me.
We are opposites in every way. Introvert and extrovert. Stay-at-home-mom, working mom. Humble and quiet, loud and forthright. There’s lots of room for tension here, especially when we’re sharing team time and language study and raising toddlers together.
But the greatest testimony of our first year abroad is not how much new vocabulary we’ve learned or how well we can maneuver our way around this city.
We rejoice in the fact that we love each other more than ever before. We haven’t given up. We haven’t turned away from each other.
We’ve kept pursuing what we knew would benefit everyone in the long run: TEAM.
And it’s simply because we’re the church here! Even if it’s just her and me in the room…we are the church. And the church doesn’t quit when things are hard.
Love never fails. Love doesn’t boast. Love isn’t self-seeking.
My friend and I have said that if we leave this country where we’re working and not a soul has been saved, but we still love each other, there is victory in that.
I am deeply convicted that our relationships with our teammates overflow into our relationships with host nationals.
We at Velvet Ashes are here to encourage and affirm you. We want to validate your feelings and give you a safe place to be understood.
But we also want to encourage you to go the extra mile. To die to yourself in whatever capacity that is today. We want to edify you and motivate you to be the healthiest person you can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Maybe this week that looks like reconciling a relationship on your team. Maybe it means you decide to love your teammate enough to be honest about how she’s hurt you. Maybe it means going out of your way to be kind to a teammate who has consumed your energy.
Regardless, let us desire something deeper than feel-good and back-patting posts from each other. Let us quit seeking our own validation and seek to make His name great through our love.
If the church is Jesus’ bride, how dare we defile her, in our passport countries or in our host cultures. Let us honor her, esteem her, and uphold her in a way that makes those around us rise to their feet and gaze in awe at the beauty they behold.
It starts with our teams, my friends. And I’m the greatest of sinners when it comes to missing this ministry right before my eyes.
How have you found it difficult to resolve conflict on your team? How has the Father convicted you to persevere through those difficult times? Do you have any verses you could share to preach to our hearts when times are tough?