I’m about to do something I try to never do as I speak on behalf of someone else —and in this case for thousands spread out all over the globe, active in various ministries. I know that my perspective is sorely limited, so please forgive me if I hit a wrong note or two. Though the particular tendencies may not represent a trouble area for you, I hope you will relate to the bottom line: every one of us needs permission to share and permission to care.
Permission to share
I think it is safe to say that there it is a tendency of overseas workers to carefully filter what they say to family and friends as well as what they post on social media. Those of us who do not receive our financial support from an organization may sometimes fear the loss of funds due to the gathered opinion from snippets of statements written in 140 characters or less. Those who receive money from an organization may also fear what some higher-ups may conclude from a few curated boxes highlighting the events of their lives. There is also the ever-present concern that our well-meaning mothers will go off the deep end if they sense trouble abroad.
While we mean it when we say, “We covet your prayers,” and “We are so thankful for your support,” we don’t expect you to understand the ins and outs of expat life. So, we keep some things close to the chest.
Where they sit on the chest, they feel quite heavy. They are made up of days upon days of attempts to make strange places our homes, of caring for the hurting and needy, of managing mom guilt and ministry. Truly, we have a friend in Jesus, and he gets every ache of our hearts. We were created to thrive in this relationship with Him, but we were also created to live in relationship with one another. We need permission to share.
I am grateful to have found this allowance I ached for in my Velvet Ashes Connection Group. Each week, we brought both our victories and burdens into the light of a phone, laptop, or tablet. Our leader shared the emotional burdens of a dream come untrue, and we all followed suit. Though the specific details of each of our current events differed, the resulting feelings of isolation and disillusionment mingled with joy and hope were consistent. The permission to share was a gift I did not know I needed but greedily scooped up like the contents of a US postmarked parcel.
Permission to care
Overwhelmed by our own burdens, it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to the needs of others. When we browse internet news, we have a hard time deciphering what’s real and what’s fake, and we become either depressed by or detached from the events happening back home. In our host culture, we are bombarded by the needs of others whether in a formal request or outstretched hands. Unable to meet the needs of everyone we encounter, we alleviate the nagging guilt by removing ourselves from the sources or walking quickly enough to avoid eye contact. We do all that we can, but it never feels like enough. We need permission to care.
Sisters bound by the bonds of blood-bought freedom and its resulting responsibility, we linked arms around the world to carry the burdens of our fellow overseas workers. I believed these women when they promised to pray for me because I was convinced that each one of us knows how much we need them. There was no pressure to meet any need brought before the group because it was physically impossible to do so. Instead, we encouraged one another in the Lord and placed our sisters’ burdens in His capable hands.
One of our members took a week off from the group, unable to take on one more ounce of burden. Knowingly sympathizing, we gave her the space to care for her own soul alone. She came back to the group, ready to share and care after her time spent seeking the Lord’s heart. She was welcomed back, and it appeared she did not need prodding to share or to care once more. She knew the place to which she returned was intended for just that.
I carry the lessons learned in my Velvet Ashes Connection Group as I move forward in my life overseas and as minister to others serving in similar capacities. We all need permission to share and permission to care. May my spirit always be the kind that fills such vital needs for others.