No Matter What, He is Faithful

No Matter What, He is Faithful

Six and a half years ago, two wide-eyed girls arrived in Cambodia, full of hopes and dreams and two suitcases apiece. The humidity hit full blast as soon as the airport doors opened and senses were on overload from the honking taxis, masses of people going every which direction, and the smells of curry spices and ginger and sewer water that had no place to go.

Part of me wants to run back to that newbie worker, arms waving. “Turn around while you can! It will be too hard, too challenging, cost you too much.” My heart bears the scars of battle wounds that 27-year old could not comprehend.  

But I didn’t know all of that yet. My heart was ready for adventure, full of determination and passion for the cause. And a lot of questions. Would I survive in the crazy traffic? Would my mind be able to retain new sounds and words and a language completely foreign to me? What about the possibility of break-ins and illness and what would happen when all the newness wore off?

Those first days and weeks in the country I was trying to call my home were a beautiful mixture of fun experiences and exhaustion and a sense that this was right where I was supposed to be. I saw God provide the perfect living situation for my teammate and me, a friend to walk to the local church with who patiently allowed us to practice our language, and the most compassionate tuk-tuk (local taxi) driver who rescued us when we needed to get across town and only spoke five words.

Language learning was stretching but suddenly I could buy mangoes in the market and understand if I was getting a fair price or not.  

The traffic was scary and confusing but I figured out how to cross the street without getting run over.

Making meals and running errands were completely different in this new place, but my teammate and I got creative and fell in love with Pinterest and asked our friends all kinds of questions about the proper way to do things.

I learned how to be part of a team. I learned how to worship in another language, although this took a long time. I came to understand there are bonds of connection formed even without language, across the barriers of different cultures.

Maybe for you, the adventure is just about to get started. You are carefully getting your suitcases packed with everything you’ll need to start this new life. The goodbyes are proving painful, yet your heart is full of that same determination, love for the people you will meet, passion for the cause.

I want to say to you, sister on the brink of this life overseas, that you have SO much fun in store for you. I’m smiling remembering those early days and all I thought I knew but didn’t. I’m giggling over my language mistakes and misunderstandings and one day you will too. You’ll figure out where to find your groceries, how to cross the street, how to survive in your new home.

But don’t get me wrong. It will be hard. The “honeymoon stage” of cross-cultural adjustment will wear off. No exceptions. I hate that for you, thinking of the challenges you might have to face, the scars your own heart will come to bear. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, that you could live from one adventure to another.

But this is life on the field.

This life will stretch you in ways you never thought possible. You will see God in all His mystery, realizing you have so much more to learn of Him. There will be days that it feels like He has abandoned you. You will question your calling, why you have left comfort and family and home for this. But He is right there in your midst, calling you His precious daughter.

I can’t promise you it will feel like it is worth it. I can’t promise you that you won’t fail.

But this I can promise you. The Father who flung the stars into place is faithful. Always, even in the mess, the waiting, the hurt. He is faithful when things don’t work out, when you have to leave early, or stay when everyone else goes. He is faithful in the victories no matter how big or small. And no matter what, you are His. Always.

If you’ve been on the field for awhile, what are some of your memories of those initial days and weeks in your new home? If you are heading there soon, what you are most excited about? What questions do you have that this community could help answer?

Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash


  1. Linda K. Thomas August 12, 2019

    Oh. . . . Your post brings up so many memories. I suffered culture shock in South America as well as struggling with the intense heat and strange smells. I decided I could run away and walk back to the States. I laugh about that now but I wasn’t laughing then. But my passport was locked in an office in the capital city so I was stuck. Eventually, I came to love living and working at our remote mission center but the transition was rugged. I wrote about the struggles in my new memoir. I’m not sure I should mention the title here, but do want to thank you for your words of wisdom and your encouragement in God to get through such times. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 15, 2019

      Linda, I smiled when you said you wanted to run away but your passport was locked up. I am guessing a lot of us can relate! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Lilly August 14, 2019

    The first year crossing a culture is hard…. I have done it 4 times now. Each time emotions surprise me that I wasn’t expecting. I realize expectations I had without knowing. But like you said, how faithful He is. I remember the first time – 17 years ago – and I still remember both the raw emotions and how sweet those times with Christ were in the early morning. The song Be Still My Soul has been a HUGE encouragement since then. Thank you so much for this encouragement Sarah!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 15, 2019

      Thank you for sharing, Lilly! Now I’m humming Be Still My Soul. 🙂 Such a good reminder as we start new adventures and wade through all the emotions!

  3. Jasmine November 7, 2019

    I lived overseas as a student M-worker for about a year and a half straight. I cannot even begin to explain the emotional journey I went on. I hated my host country for a full year and then the Lord did a 180 in my heart and I fell in love for the last short amount of time I was there. Now I have graduated and feel the Lord pulling me back to that place to do long term work. I fear the unknown. I know things will be different than when I was a student. As I have been preparing to head back, there have been no words to describe what I have been feeling…. but when you talked about the pain of saying goodbye and how it is equal to the determination and passion in your heart, that’t exactly where I am at. There are things that I am giving up that I never thought I would have to surrender at the feet of the Lord, but here I am. I have counted the costs. I know that it is going to be hard. I know that there are going to be expectations that I will not be able to live up to…. But I also know that God is bigger than all of that. He is so much bigger than my fears, insecurities, doubts, sadness, etc. He is worthy. He is for me. And just as he has proven himself in the past to be faithful, he will continue to prove himself for the rest of my life. Thank you for your encouragement.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann November 7, 2019

      Jasmine, thank you so much for your comment and your honesty! The journey will be hard, there’s no doubt about that. There will be costs and sacrifices you can’t see right now, but also joys and comfort from the Father you haven’t experienced yet. We are cheering for you and here for you as you in this new season!

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