The Grove – Prepare

It is with a bit of fear and trembling I approach the topic of preparation. And you know what, that is OK. This is holy ground we are on.

Living in an era of tips and hints, I don’t want to reduce this to a list that removes the mystery and wonder of the ways God works. Yet saying, “Good luck, you’re on your own!” doesn’t honor the ways in which we can take steps to be prepared for the field.

As I picture you in my mind, whether preparing to move overseas for the first time, or preparing for a new assignment, or preparing for a change in your family dynamics, or preparing to return to the field after a time of sabbatical, I see you surrounded by boxes, and lists, and hopes and dreams. It is probably an exciting time, but also an exhausting one. Yes?

I want to remind you, you are not alone. Others have been prepared by the One who called them for a task or to a place and you will be too. As I recalled the great cloud of witnesses we have, I marveled in the variety of means God used to prepare them.

  • With Mary, He sent an angel to talk with her in person–she had someone physically show up, sit down and talk with her, answer questions, and reassure her.
  • With Daniel, He used formal education and relationships.
  • Esther was prepared through physical attributes and relationships with her uncle and Hegai.
  • Paul was prepared through the family and connections he was born into, the training he received, the positions he held, and then through a time of obscurity.
  • With Joseph, the son of Jacob, God prepared him through dreams, family betrayal, being lied about, imprisoned for years, forgotten, and an ability to hear from God about dreams.
  • David was prepared through mundane, ordinary tasks (tending and protecting sheep), obscurity, time alone, and musical training.
  • Moses was prepared by being given up at birth, being bilingual and bicultural, having a speech impediment, and through connections.
  • And with Joseph (betrothed to Mary), he was prepared through his strong character and a clear dream.

This is a brief list of eight people, can you imagine how long the list would be if we went chapter by chapter through the Bible and spent time studying the ways in which God prepared people? Four  things stand out to me:

  1. He prepares each of us in unique ways.
  2. God often uses multiple streams of preparation.
  3. Some of the preparation only makes sense looking back; some — like the training and education–made sense beforehand.
  4. And not all of the preparation will be, shall we say, fun or positive.

As you get ready to go to the field, may you hear God whisper over and over to your soul, “Fear not, for I have called you. I’ll go before you, beside you, and behind you.” Right now as you prepare for some of the knowns like the weather, the food, what clothes you need to pack, schooling and all of the materials needed, learning about the spiritual climate where you will go … know yourself.  If you tend to obsess about knowing more details, let us know in the comments (specifics aren’t needed) and we will leave comments letting you know we’re praying for you. And if you have the kind of personality that might need to focus a bit more on the details, leave us that kind of comment and we will pray for you too.

It’s not only the known you’ve been prepared for, you have also been prepared by The Sovereign One for journeys you didn’t know are before you. Trust that God knows where you are going and what you need and will meet you at the time.

Some things will be trivial delights. I never understood why I didn’t like big hunks of meat and cutting them with knives. This seemed out of place growing up in the US. But in China, this part of me made sense! And my lack of love for cheese. Oh the glories of never needing to special order food!

Others more serious. I don’t know what you will face. But I know the One who knows and he leaves us with two promises: he will not abandon us and he will provide us others to help bear the burdens.

What are some of the practical ways you are preparing? As you look back, how have you seen God prepare you for other parts of your life?


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  1. Debbie July 18, 2014

    Amy, I never like to read the prompt post till after I’ve written mine. I too went to the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11 and focused on Abraham because that is where we are at now. We know we are going to the states but we don’t know where we will end up. This past week has been so stressful with visas and financial things but I know God is in it even when my first response is to look at the circumstance instead of the Lord.

    1. Amy Young July 18, 2014

      Debbie, I can understand about wanting to write a post before reading the prompt :). Sounds like you and your family has a lot going on now. Though we join a long line of witnesses, it doesn’t remove the pain of some of the bumps, eh :)? Will be remembering you!

    2. ErinMP July 21, 2014

      Debbie- praying. It’s awesome about Abraham, too, that he really had little information and was called out from everything he knew… and to a whole new, wild land. Most of us at least have travel books, M contacts, etc…. but when in a situation like yours or Abraham, you are in a situation to really just focus on God (not all the other stuff) and faith in Him. The other stuff is good…but not God. 😉 So glad you brought Abraham up.

  2. Anisha July 18, 2014

    Love the examples you shared of how God has prepared others! Each one unique. And the part about knowing myself. I know that usually a good nap will set me straight, but it wasn’t until moving to Papua that I found out I sometimes take things waaayyyy too seriously. Spontaneous living room dance parties with my husband and three year old save me from emotional meltdowns!

    1. Elizabeth July 18, 2014

      Usually a good nap will set me straight too! Crazy how our restedness affects our attitude so much!

    2. Amy Young July 18, 2014

      Spontaneous dance parties are right up my alley! A friend of my claimed that if every family/person/team on the field had a Bob Cat Puppet, life would be better for them :). I know that my puppet was a great way to add levity to some of the stress of living overseas. Dancing is GREAT too 🙂

    3. ErinMP July 21, 2014

      Anisha–love this story of how you relax. <3

      1. Amy Young July 22, 2014

        Erin, I love the visuals you are sprinkling here :). Thank you so much! Keep it up 🙂

      2. Anisha July 22, 2014

        Erin I agree with Amy. Love the visuals!

  3. Elizabeth July 18, 2014

    Last year I wrote about preparing for the field on my personal blog, and I’m going to share it here (not in the link up because it’s not a new post specifically for this week’s Grove). It’s the stuff I learned from looking back over our first 2 years overseas and thinking about what had helped us prepare well. I hope it helps someone still in the preparation process 🙂 


    1. Beth Coffman July 18, 2014

      Oh this is so spot on! I am going to fave it and use it as a reference…

    2. Amy Young July 18, 2014

      Elizabeth I commented on your blog as well, but for others reading this, GO CHECK THIS OUT. I’m a big proponent of all of your points, but point #1 made me want to cheer out loud!

      1. Elizabeth July 19, 2014

        Thank you, Amy. I always thought #1 was one of my weaker points, so it means a lot to me that you would validate it so strongly! Thank you again for reading and reflecting back!

  4. Laura July 18, 2014

    Amy, I love what you said about not all of the preparing making sense until we look back. So true! I can think of college classes, ministry responsibilities, changes in plans, etc. that made no sense at the time. Or were things I’d rather not do, but now I can see how God was using all of them to prepare me for what was ahead. And to think that He’s still using everything now to prepare me for later is encouraging to think about.

    1. Amy Young July 18, 2014

      “And to think that He’s still using everything now to prepare me for later is encouraging to think about” …what an encouraging thought that no matter what we are going through, it can and will be used. 

    2. Elizabeth July 19, 2014

      I love this comment! I, too, can look back and see God’s hand much more clearly. I like to remind myself of that when I really have no clue what I’m doing and I don’t have a master plan for my life — that He has always had plans way outside anything I can think of, so I can trust Him for the future even though I don’t know what He’s doing now. 🙂 Love it!

  5. Raquel July 18, 2014

    This is my first time joining in on the conversation since I discovered this lovely community last month. So, Hi! 🙂

    I just wanted to say thank you for your encouraging words. I can’t even say how perfect the timing is for this post to speak into my life.

    I’m definitely in a time of transition & preparation… & waiting… a lot of waiting. Not totally sure what I’m preparing for, but trusting that God will lead me in His timing. I know He’s preparing me even in the quiet times like these, but it’s not always easy not being able to see what exactly I’m being prepared for.

    1. Amy Young July 18, 2014

      So glad you’ve commented :). I love the reminder that quiet times does not mean nothing is happening. Instead they are times of preparation as well, in a way that honors the mysterious and profound ways of God.

    2. Beth Coffman July 20, 2014

      I have been waiting for more than 20 years! Took a detour and then some. I knew I was called to serve when I was 18. I am now 45…:) time…patience and willingness…thank you for sharing…

      1. Amy Young July 20, 2014

        Beth, what a beautiful affirmation  of what Raquel was saying! Thank you 🙂

  6. Shelly July 18, 2014

    Amy, I really liked the list…and I can see some of the ways I was prepared to enter what I have been doing for the last 4.5 years.  In fact, my preparation goes further and further back as I share my story with others. What prompted me to ever consider living abroad? Was that the beginning of this trajectory?

    Anyway, I am entering another transition, a sabbatical after 7 years in the field. I see the next year as a time to ask what the last few years mean for the next few (several) years.  I land in the US in less than 6 weeks (yikes!) and most of my focus about life “there” has been on the logistics: housing, car, possible part-time work (which really needs to be support building), etc.  But I am most nervous about relationships. Who will be my close friend(s)?  I know what communication has been like since I left the States. Will it be any different now that I am “next door”?  I’m afraid there won’t be room in people’s lives for me.  And yet, my more hopeful self is excited about maybe even meeting new people who have not been part of my friendship circle. But will I be brave to reach out?

    Beyond relationships, what will “work” be after the year has passed? I have a lot of potential directions, but which to follow? If similar to what I have been doing, then I think some of the potential activities of the coming year will be helpful to prepare me, and that is exciting.

    That’s what is rolling around in my head these days.

    1. Amy Young July 20, 2014

      I enjoy hearing what’s rolling around in other people’s heads :)!

      Ah yes, the preparation isn’t “once and done,” is it? Instead, it’s mildly on-going with certain seasons having it FRONT and CENTER. I find the longer I’m at this, the more important the relational piece becomes. When I first went to the field I thought it was a given that if God had called, he would provide a good friend. Hehehe, not that he can’t, but it is not a given, that’s for sure. I think this idea was reinforced by my friend teammate BEING a good relational fit for me. Without boring with all the details, twas not to be with all future teammates and coworkers :).

      You also raise a good point that the logistics tend to be the front line of preparation (because we do need to do paperwork and have places to live), but once those settle down, other equally important needs come to the surface. Thanks for the thoughtful comment :)! You got me a’thinking at least!

  7. Kate July 18, 2014

    Hi there! This is my first time commenting, so I hope I am doing it correctly!

    My family and I are in a stage of preparation and this post hit the nail on the head.

    So far, much of our preparation has been filling out forms, getting medical clearance, jumping through random hoops, etc. And now we are at a place where it is certainly true that “not all of the preparation will be, shall we say, fun or positive.”

    We have a major hurdle to overcome in the next week and a half. We are doing all we can to overcome it, but it seems to be out of our hands (it IS out of our hands, it is in God’s hands, but I personally keep trying to snatch it back). If this hurdle is not overcome, we will be set back a further three months before we can leave. Which makes our jobs, our family, our everything in transition for much longer than we had hoped.

    Will you pray for us? For peace, for God’s timing, for God’s guidance to be unmistakable.

    Thank you!

    1. Kate July 18, 2014

      oops! I meant that picture to be my avatar type image… guess I did that wrong!

    2. Amy Young July 20, 2014

      Kate, first of all, the picture is perfectly sized for those of us whose eyes have gone through the “change of life” so to speak :). I love not having to put my face right next to the screen to see (and I HATE admitting what others have been saying for years applies to me too. Alas, it does. But enough about me.)

      You raise a great point about preparing for the field … there are various reasons we might be delayed. And those delays can add ambiguity upon ambiguity (and punches that are easier to roll with at the beginning of the process become more and more stress inducing!).

      As to this hurdle, let’s pray.

      Oh God, your word says that you have a cattle on a thousand hills. We know you can work miracles, part sees, open eyes, heal lame legs. We pray for Kate and her family and this hurdle. We ask that they would clear it and be ready to go to the field. God we pray for this stressful time that Kate and her husband would find ways to release the stress without releasing it on each other or the kids. We pray that the kids would feel as settled and secure as they can in this unsettling season. We pray for unexpected mercies and traveling partners. We thank you that you know ALL of the players — on their side of the ocean (whatever ocean) and those on the side of the ocean where they are going (even if it’s on the same side). God you know and you hear and you move. And you walk with us. We would ask that Kate and her family would hold on to those truths this week!

      We ask all of this in your Son’s precious name! Amen.

  8. Anisha July 19, 2014

    Thinking more about preparing and thought to share the One Question Interviews I recently posted. There are four letters from nationals of countries that receive overseas workers with advice for anyone coming to serve in their countries. Here’s the link to the last letter about serving in Mexico. Links to the previous letters are included in the post. I was challenged by these thoughtful letters and hope you find them helpful too!


    1. Amy Young July 20, 2014

      Anisha, thanks for linking the letters! What a treasure trove … and I love, love, love the ways you have modeled being a brother or sister in the family of God (and not the know-it-all big sister). What a great series!

  9. T July 20, 2014

    Hi.  I’m gonna go waaay off topic…cause I have to, and I guess if it isn’t okay, then Amy can delete it!  I can’t see the word “prepare” these last 3 weeks without thinking of John the Baptist.  I’ve been hit lately with our likeness to him…preparing the way for salvation to be delivered.  If you look at his dad’s prophecy and see what he says, it includes a type of job description for us.  Food for thought.  Now you can get back to reading about the other kind of “prepare”!

    1. Amy Young July 20, 2014

      T, you are SO not going off topic! You’re just looking at it from a different angle … and through the change of perspective helping to add to and deepen all of our understanding! After I read your comment this morning I was reading in Isaiah and saw the kind of preparing you mention here. Isn’t it rich that this word/concept has so much to offer us? Thanks for chiming in!

  10. P July 20, 2014

    I’m not currently in a state of preparation for moving to another country, but I’ve been there before and just wanted to share a few thoughts for those of you who may be heading over for the first time.  I’m sure most of us have this idea as we head out that God is sending us mostly to help change the world.  But I think there are times (probably many of them, if not all) that He sends us because we need to be changed too.  There’s not quite anything like the crucible of overseas living that can bring you face to face with the realization that you too need the gospel message and the God who set it in motion as much as the people you are wanting to share it and Him with.

    In our pre-field orientation, I remember Amy Young saying that the things we struggle with at home will be magnified and intensified on the field.  I also remember doubting that would happen to me, especially since most of my first semester I seemed to really only be struggling with how to write a lesson plan and manage so many varying levels of English abilities among my students.  BUT THEN (you saw that phrase coming, didn’t you) I found myself right in the middle of a fierce battle, and I can’t even begin to tell you how ashamed I felt.  The next year and a half of my stint overseas was a conglomeration of things I was totally unprepared for.  Things like seeing the ugliness of my sins in the choices I made to get what I wanted (so much so that at times I felt I had become the worst version of myself); overwhelming shame over who I was and hopelessness that I would ever be any better; undeserved grace and forgiveness from the Lord and from others; help and healing in unexpected places (like in grief).

    For all the terrible choices I made during those 2 years, I did manage to make one choice that brought about a good difference, though in the making of it there was a deep level of trusting God that I’ll admit I didn’t really want to step into.  That choice was vulnerability.  There came a point where I either had to start talking about what was going on, or drown.  “Confess your sins [and I would also add non-sinful struggles] to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16).  At the risk of being thought of as a horrid person (which I already felt about myself anyway), of being rejected, even of being sent home, I told my story.  I told friends at home, my teammates where I was serving, leaders in my organization, and I asked for the help that I needed.  It was anything but pretty and I still continued to struggle, BUT a door was opened for God’s light to come in.  There’s something about being open and vulnerable, being willing to truly be known, that invites the Lord into your heart and life in a way that I’m convinced can’t be experienced otherwise.  Vulnerability also invites vulnerability in others.

    So my sisters, as you prepare for the next leg of your journey – leaving, returning, staying, and everything else in between – the biggest piece of advice I would offer you is to cultivate vulnerability and openness, especially in the times when you are struggling (notice I said when and not if).  Struggles with sin, with doubt, with courage, with anything at all.  Don’t suck it up and soldier on.  It doesn’t go away if you ignore it….trust me!!  And your heart will only get more mangled in the process.  Remember that Jesus beckons you into freedom.  So…

    1. Be willing to be known, to let others know you – both in the good things that are worth celebrating and also in the things that you’d rather keep hidden.  The thought of revealing something shameful is far worse than the actual act of letting it out.  Say it aloud, or write it and let someone read it, hide your face while you speak if you need to….even if your voice shakes, just get it into the light.  It’s completely terrifying, I know, but so worth it.  Don’t struggle alone!  That has never been God’s intention for us.

    2. Be/Become someone who is a safe place for others to let themselves be known.  We’ve all done things that we’re ashamed of.  And we all have our own inward mantras of self-condemning phrases that are on repeat.  But God does not lay those on us, even when we’re at our worst.  So let’s offer grace and kindness and a loving voice of truth for each other as we fight against the enemy of our souls, and as we fight to hold onto the hope that is ours through the gospel of Christ.

    3. Remember these words that Amy said above: “Trust that God knows where you are going and what you need and will meet you at the time.”  He does and He will.

    1. Amy Young July 20, 2014

      P, what I so appreciate about this comment is the way you invite us to “use both our hands.” One to reach out to others, and the second, open, to be a safe landing place for others. I firmly believe God is at work in us regardless of where we live. He loves us and wants to grow to be more like Him — this growth and pursuit will not lessen based on location (now, not all seasons of life are the same and sometimes it might be “hot pursuit” and others it might seemed like “hide and seek.” But rest assured God isn’t playing with us, it’s just that not all seasons will look the same). The Accuser loves to whisper in our ears “no one will love you if they know X” or “you will be sent home if you share Y” or “you’ll get a bad reputation if folks knew Z.”

      P, you raise a good point to be wise in who you share with. Find people who are safe and wise and you can trust their counsel.

      You’ve added to and elevated our conversation. Thanks for modeling what you have invited us to do!

      1. P July 20, 2014

        I appreciate YOU being one of those safe people for me.  And for believing that there was still hope for me when I didn’t believe it myself.  Thanks for loaning me your faith.

  11. ErinMP July 21, 2014

    First time moving to a field to be a long-term M, AND first year elementary school teacher! Culture and job shock! Looking forward to it (note-completely related to the part about being excited but also exhausted), but definitely need prayer. I love this post, because it really spoke to my preparing season (I leave in 1.5 day), and because I always tend to feel…under-prepared and details-obsessed when transitioning. I can go with the flow when it’s just an adventure..but if I feel like something is riding on my performance I get very nervous and want to have details on everything. But this is an awesome opportunity and a blessing to so…yeah. Just joined the community, glad to be a part!

    1. Amy Young July 22, 2014

      Erin! So glad you’re here … I think you might be in transit even as I type so am praying for you 🙂

  12. Ellie July 21, 2014

    I LOVE this post. Thank you. I never seem to have time enough (small baby, bigger one who is poking me as I type(!), too much heat this time of year etc!) to write a full post in response but I really identify with God preparing us in different and unexpected ways which make more sense looking back.

    Very grateful for our overseas worker bible college training which has kept us here when otherwise may well have gone home but can identify with various different ways in that list of people God prepared too – my husband is prepared “a la Paul”  with some of his previous professional training, and I’m just thinking back to a period of struggle at Bible college where I felt like God said in answer to my wrestling “I will be your teacher” – I think that, thinking about it now, it was a lot more profound and longer-term than I took it to be at the time (the answer to my academic struggles and to continue on the same course!) and I’ve learned a lot more here when I’ve been prepared to get by myself with him for a while and wrestle with issues I’m struggling with with him instead of running away!

    Love to all of you.

    1. Amy Young July 22, 2014

      Ellie, I love hearing of the different ways God prepares people … and how even within the same family there is such colorful variety. Sounds like you are in a rather full season of life, feel no pressure to participate more than want. If that’s a lot … GREAT! If it’s less … also GREAT. We want this to be a sanctuary, not place of burden 🙂

  13. Kristi July 21, 2014

    Prepare. I’m not a leaper. I’m a planner. I like all my ducks in a row.  For over a decade I taught 4th grade. I was able to keep my 9 and 10 year olds in a reasonably straight line. Then I went to China and I didn’t even know how to say duck. I haven’t felt prepared for anything that I’ve experienced over the past 4 years. I will return to China in late August. My job has changed. Friends have left. Challenges are again ahead. I don’t feel prepared. I can just trust that the Father prepares in love.

    1. Amy Young July 21, 2014

      Kristi, your comment reminds me of a post I wrote about how I am a leaper and information only gets in the way for me :). The classic example was when my folks and I went out to freshman orientation and during a lunch at the school of Ed we happened to be seated across from the Dean of the school. He was saying something about it being a five year program and one of my parents turned to me and asked if I had known that. “Well, I know it now :)!” The campus was so beautiful 4 or 5 years were details I could overlook :). Isn’t it amazing how God can wire each of his children so differently?


      BUT I am very sorry for the amount of change you’ve experienced — especially when it comes to friends. I find I can about weather any thing if I have companions.

    2. Polly July 22, 2014

      Kristi I feel your heartache.  Change, transition and especially loss can be hard and lonely roads to travel.  But I hear in your poems a voice of one who, in these years of not feeling prepared for what has come, has seen and experienced God in ways you probably wouldn’t have otherwise,  and you have been altered.  I wrote the following to a friend recently and feel like it relates here too.

      Our culture (even Christian culture) talks a lot about “blessing” and often links it with things like happiness, provision, health.  In other words, the lack of difficulties and having life basically be as we would want it to be – pain free.  But Jesus gives a much different definition of what it means to be blessed (and who is blessed) in Matthew 5.  And one of the things He says is, “O the blessedness of those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  I like how The Message translates this: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”  This Kingdom of Jesus is so upside down.  To imagine that it’s when we are at the low points in life, when we experience loss, when we grieve, when things are just going terribly wrong, when we are broken, humbled, hungry of heart, when we sacrifice for the sake of someone else, that THAT’S when we are the most blessed, the most to be envied (as the Amplified version adds).  But that’s because it is precisely during these times that there has been more space created for God to move in, to have control, to give what only He can; and we have been put in a better (more willing) position to RECEIVE that which He longs to give.

      Though it may not be easy, I have full confidence that yes, God is preparing you in love because He prepares you with His presence, His strength, His grace, the fullness of His very self.  God is a planner too.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for WHOLENESS and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Courage to you this day my friend, and may the peace of Christ push out the anxiety as you look ahead to the coming year.

      1. Amy Young July 22, 2014

        Polly, what a powerful way to think about blessing. Thanks for keeping us pointed to Jesus!

    3. Kristi July 22, 2014

      Still thinking about “prepare.”



      Pleading and praise are squeezed from my trembling heart as my hands

      Reach toward the sky drawing hope for the future because

      Each and every breath I take and each step forward or backward is

      Planned and purposed for me before the foundation of the world

      All that I have to do is believe, trust,

      Remember the One who in loves prepares me

      Endured the pain of death to bring me abundant life

      1. Amy Young July 22, 2014

        Keep thinking :). This is great we can never get enough of your wisdom!

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