The last 5 years of serving in our host country, rules and regulations surrounding our work and lives have gotten tighter and tighter. Fewer and fewer foreigners are in-country; the pandemic has only exacerbated that. Foreigners can no longer run non-profits. Foreign English teachers, once a very easy job to obtain, no matter your qualifications, are slowly being pushed out. Our brand-new English consulting business took a hard hit a few months ago after huge education reforms rolled out, making half of our business impossible to continue. Leaders and officials often have a chip on their shoulder when talking about or dealing with foreigners.
It seems like the whammies just keep coming. If I’m honest, these last few years have made me question our presence here.
Throw into all of that a pandemic and all of its ramifications, especially towards foreigners, as I wrote about here.
And then I can’t forget the quiet doubts that linger when living across the world from the culture I grew up in. Are my kids thriving here? They’re missing out on so many opportunities I perceive as “normal childhood activities” that I had. What if something tragic happens to a loved one? Will we be able to go back in time? Should we go back, or is that suffering part of the sacrifice of our calling? Are we even being effective here? Opportunities to serve and share our lives now require lots of creativity, prolonging the process of influence even more.
And yet we’re still here.
Many have been kicked out for good. Hundreds are still waiting for the borders to open to return. But a tiny percentage of us have been given the grace to remain.
When the doubts and questions fly around my head, I take a moment to remember. Remembering and recalling is a powerful way for me to adjust my perspective. When I can recall all the times God has been faithful, given abundant grace, or pulled us through an issue I couldn’t see the end of, my heart is grateful once again. I’m able to understand when James commands us to “consider it all joy,” because when I have the right perspective, how could I not rejoice at the Father of the universe directing my steps?
As I reflect, and if I’m aware enough in the midst of a trial, I can see where God encourages me along the way in big and small ways.
If the skies are clear and I can see the sun or even some puffy clouds, I rejoice at such a gift. The air is getting cleaner year-by-year, but blue skies are still precious!
In the midst of facing lots of discrimination a few months ago, we were deeply encouraged one day when we visited a friend’s village and we felt welcomed and wanted. Pre-pandemic, we were often treated like mini celebrities, but that all came to a screeching halt and often people were terrified of us. When we were in the village, people were kind and gathered around to take pictures. One family even sent their daughter to hug and kiss me. Pandemic, what? It truly touched my soul to feel wanted and welcomed.
When we found out we couldn’t return for a summer break, we stuck our necks out and asked friends and supporters if anyone would send us some items we needed replenished. Several responded and followed through with the time-consuming and expensive process it takes to send a package! Each time one arrives, our entire family is giddy with excitement, reminded we are loved and not forgotten.
Music and lyrics can also have a deep impact on me. I’ve been playing these 3 songs on repeat lately:
“Man of Your Word” – Maverick City Music
This song has deep Truths in it, reminding me that the Lord has promised me so many things that I often forget, resulting in anxiousness or fear of the unknown.
“You Get the Glory” – Jonathan Traylor
During recent challenging times, this song has been an anthem I sometimes have to force myself to declare—no matter what happens, God will get the glory because he ordained it all to happen, in His perfect time and way, all for my good. (Psalm 84:11)
“Joyful” – Dante Bowe
This song is just fun! The lyrics are simple and reminiscent of a childhood song, but also remind me that each day is a gift and I alone get to choose my attitude and response, no matter what comes along.
I can’t predict what will happen anytime soon, or even what life and work will look like in 10 years. I do know we’re called to serve here until God calls us elsewhere, so until then, we’ll stay and endure the changes that are sure to come. When the doubts arise, as I’m sure the enemy will continue to throw them, I hope I can choose to remember and reflect on His goodness. And perhaps have a jam session.
What helps you through times of doubt? Do you have a scripture, book, or song you like to revisit during anxious times?
I used to spend hours in the kitchen nearly every day–cooking, baking, or keeping up the supply of other homemade items. Recently, our lives have shifted to another gear and I’m finding myself looking for quicker meals or ones I can prep in the morning and finish quickly later. I want to be someone who loves crock pot meals, but I just don’t love chicken that’s been cooked forever, beef is mega expensive, and we don’t eat much pork. However, this pork is delicious! Every time I’ve served it, my family or guests are going back for seconds and thirds. Enjoy!
Crispy Pulled Pork
Ready in: 5-10 hours
Slightly adapted from: Cafe Delites
3-4 pounds (or 2 kg) skinless, boneless pork butt (or shoulder)
3-4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 onion , cut into wedges
8 cloves garlic , smashed
2 limes , juiced (or 4 Tbsp of lime juice)
2 large oranges , juiced (or 3/4 cup orange juice)
1 12oz can Coke
Rinse and pat dry pork with a paper towel.
In the bowl of a 6-quart slow cooker, add pork, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, onion, garlic, lime juice, orange juice, Coke, and bay leaves.
Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 5-6 hours (until the meat falls apart).
Remove pork and shred with two forks (DO NOT DISCARD THE LIQUID!)
Transfer the pork to a baking sheet or 9×13 pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil spray (or lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper).
Pour 1 ladle full (about 1 cup) of the liquid from the slow cooker over the pork to season. Broil for 5-10 minutes on high heat until the meat becomes golden browned and crispy on the edges.
Season with a little extra salt and pepper if desired. Pour over more of the slow cooker juices once the meat has crisped for added flavor, just before serving! Serve in tacos, burritos, salad, or just fork-fuls.