When I moved to Southeast Asia, she was one of the first people I met. We were staying in a teammate’s house that shared a wall with Calah’s backyard.
I was outside at the same time she was one day, and we introduced ourselves. The discussion quickly led to the things I needed to acquire in order to set up our new home, and Calah told me all about the stores I should hold out for across the border in Thailand.
Sometimes you just need something happy, you know? Something that’s pretty and makes you feel normal, she said.
It was immediately evident that we would be great friends.
Before long, we were grabbing cups of coffee together and going out for massages. She showed me around town and helped me avoid some major cultural faux pas early into my transition abroad.
Our husbands connected, our children fell in love with each other, and our families spent increasingly more time together.
Dinners at each other’s homes, late night card games, and meaningful conversations all brought us even closer in community.
When I was having a major meltdown the day of my daughter’s first birthday, I called Calah. She talked me off a cliff, picked up the pieces of party paraphernalia, and pulled everything together before guests began to arrive for the celebration.
When our husbands took a weeklong service trip to a rural village, Calah and I moved in together. We put our girls down each night, and I cranked up the Friends episodes while she gathered the secret stash of imported specialty M&Ms. We did, you know, all the spiritual things.
In all reality, though, we shared those things, too. Nights of prayer, brunch Bible studies, long theological discussions…we met each other in a place where souls connect.
But as is common with a life overseas, Calah’s family was walking through a job transition, and it wasn’t clear where the future would lead them. I selfishly prayed that the Father would open up the perfect opportunity for them elsewhere in our city…perhaps even next door to our home.
How could He not? I thought as I considered all the work to be done in this country. We need workers HERE, God. And they know this language and are already established in this city!
I swallowed hard when she told me the news. In a swoop of perfect timing and impeccable provision, Calah and her husband were both offered ideal jobs in a city several country borders away.
I would be losing my first true friend in this new place I call home.
An international move is nothing new to the expat crew.
There is always the threat of another round of goodbyes.
The packing crates are always ready to gear up for another transition.
Roots are often wider than they are deep.
I’d been warned of this when I moved abroad. I had heard that many people would move in and out of my life. I’d read about the fluidity of relationships in the international community.
But for the first time, I experienced the sting of a farewell that I hadn’t initiated myself.
It’s always been me that’s moved, you see.
I’ve packed my belongings. I’ve been in control of when I would say goodbye.
But now I understand what it’s like to be the one staying behind.
This has not only opened my eyes to the pain of those from whom I’ve so eagerly departed; I’ve now been oriented into the transient community of a life overseas.
As expatriates, we share our hearts quickly. We walk with each other through significant process items.
We love deeply and connect intimately and attach easily. And once we’ve cozied up inside comfortable relationships, we’re forced to release our friends back into the hands of the world at large.
Like sponges, we soak up every particle of community offered by our fleeting social circles. Then, when the time is right, we are emptied of one season of relationships and prepare to soak up another.
Don’t be deceived that this community is fake, shallow, or insignificant.
No, this community is truly extraordinary.
How have you learned to welcome new people into your heart and life as you serve abroad? Have you ever tired of the constant changing of your social circles?
If you are searching for a community to dig into yourself, good news! Our Connection Group registration opens SOON (Tuesday, February 24, 6pm EST). We are excited to offer a variety of group formats this Spring, so click here to read all about it!
We have groups for both women on the field and for those that are adjusting to life off the field (on home assignment or returned). Come connect with other women who understand the life you’re living.
Photo Credit : Gratisography