We Are Not Called to “Do Things Well”

In March last year, I packed up my possessions, moved overseas, and gained the new title, “Cross-cultural worker.”

I started making a few friends, learning a new language, and experiencing another culture, all the things cross-cultural workers tend to “do,” yet I felt like a fraud.

Would anyone notice that I could not yet string a whole sentence together?

Forget about language, I struggled to even complete a proper shopping trip to the local markets without feeling overwhelmed by the stares and the shouts. One time, after a particularly grueling language lesson, I drove all the way to the markets, and as I pulled off the side of the road and people came running towards me, I put my car in reverse and hightailed out of there. I didn’t really need tomatoes that day anyway, did I?

My spiritual life was also suffering as I struggled to learn how to spend time with God while adjusting to a whole new way of life.

I looked at the other cross-cultural workers in my city and saw successful, thriving families, and joy. I knew there were struggles there for sure, but all I could see was the sweet way in which they lived life. How could I find that joy when the people I loved most lived in a faraway land, and I was here, in a place where it seemed I could do nothing right.

I heard about the Velvet Ashes Connection Groups from a friend and registered immediately. It was a Facebook group and as the other ladies gave their introductions, I started to wonder if they would see me as the fraud I believed I was?

There is no weight to these new relationships. You do not live with these women, you’re not (generally) on the same team. In fact, the chances are you’ve never met and these ten weeks might be the only time you’ll ever connect in this way together. You have a unique time to encourage and be encouraged by a number of virtual strangers. Only the thing is, while you might be strangers, you have a few very important things in common, beginning with Jesus, and including understanding the feelings of living cross-culturally.

So as others shared in the group, I shared too—things I had not even realized had been on my heart. And what I started to realize, is that maybe I was not the fraud I thought I was. Through this group, I was being shown that I was not alone. There was no need to explain the specifics of why a simple shopping trip could be so difficult, or why a trip to immigration might bring on mild anxiety. They got it. They shared in it too, in different ways, around the world.

As we shared our struggles and joys with one another I began to realize I’d been looking at this cross-cultural thing all wrong. Here were amazing ladies who had also endured the humbling process of moving to a place where even the simplest things could be difficult to do, and yet they had found a way to find joy in the perseverance.

I started to understand that we are not called to “do things well,” rather, we are called into God’s glory (2 Thess 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10). People who are willing to step out in faith and trust Jesus with everything. It took meeting with these ladies week after week to realize that my focus was wrong. I had been so caught up in what I was doing (or not doing well) that I was missing what God was and is doing around me . . . and the joy that is found from the opportunity to be a part of that.

Being part of a Connection group did not make the market a less stressful place to go to, but it did give me the opportunity to see this world in which God has put me, through other’s eyes. As I learned how God was working amongst the ladies in the group, they too saw and reminded me that God is also truly present right where I am.

If you want to be challenged and encouraged, consider joining a connection group this Autumn. Registration opens tomorrow! Spend time reviewing this page so you can find the group that works best for you.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash


  1. Patty September 9, 2018

    Thank you for writing this. I felt the same way my first year on the field and struggled with failure. My Velvet Ashes group was my friend and encouragement for many weeks. I felt every woman understood and even when the time was up I was still friends with some on FB. I [email protected] for them as they struggled in countries that were experiencing hardships. They were there when I had lost two [email protected] partners and teammates heading stateside.
    Join a group and know these women understand.

  2. Elizabeth September 10, 2018

    So true! I feel like this is part of the point of cross-cultural ministry…our inadequacies are a blessing to others. That’s the only way I can explain it sometimes because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special. I’m just a Christ-follower who happens to be living in a foreign country, sorting things out as I go along. Maybe I will check out the groups.

  3. Sarah C Hilkemann September 10, 2018

    Sally, thank you for sharing your story and heart! I have spent a big portion of the last five years trying to do all the things and do them perfectly. It is definitely still my tendency. Thank you for this good reminder, and also the experience you shared from your Connection Group!

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