Beautiful article published by Velvet Ashes. I had the thought the other day- “I left to move overseas in my twenties and now somehow I’m almost in my mid-thirties.” This article hits it spot on. There is a lot that we do choose to sacrifice and humbly, I have to admit that this is what resonates with me the most: “Saying yes doesn’t provide you with a guarantee of favor or even an answer to your prayers. Saying yes may cost you greatly.”
I feel like I’ve become good at transitioning in and out of different countries, cultures, and communities, however; no matter how much you prepare, transitions are always filled with some stress.
Breaking habits can be difficult. All those things that you do unconsciously now require thinking that places additional stresses on already diminished energy. Simple things like driving and speaking can be stressful. In the past couple of weeks I’ve realized when my brain doesn’t compute something properly, I just stop in my tracks. As I have pulled into neighborhoods and realized I am driving on the opposite side of the road and/or as my brain wants to answer questions in a different language and can’t find the words in English, I have realized a delay in response and I tend to just stop in my tracks. It is difficult to explain if you haven’t experienced it. I just read a transition blog and they stated “A disrupted simple task triggered a complex web of decisions for a process that was automatic the day before. Decision fatigue is real, my friends.” It can be quite exhausting. I feel pretty exhausted. In hindsight, I would recommend giving yourself transition time if you are re-entering a home culture from cross-cultural service.
I’ve been back in the states for longer periods of time than this, but this time is different. I jumped directly back into a job where I’m running over 100%, moved to a community where I knew no one, sold all my belongings in Nepal, and ended a relationship all at the same time. Bad timing that it all happened at once? Perhaps, but I’m in it now and just trying to keep my head up to breathe. God has been answering prayers and providing community in my new city and I’m trying to focus on self-care and rest as much as I can.
I don’t know if I’ll ever stop moving and transitioning and it has become a skill I’ve tried to master, but there is a part of me that craves some kind of constant. The Lord is my constant and I imagine Jesus must have felt the same way at times. There are challenges moving back and forth, but also joys that many will never experience. I don’t know what is next, but for now, its realizing transitions can be difficult and trying to take it one day at a time.
Spending an extended time in the states was really great. I was in a comfortable place to heal and really enjoyed having extra amenities such as a nice bath tub, air conditioning, clean water, clean air, etc. This time, I left America with a greater sense of appreciation for all the things that I was leaving.
When I arrived at the airport the airline agent asked me, “So why do you only have a one-way ticket?” My response was, “Because I’m not returning …well, I will someday, but not for now.” It felt a little odd. Then as I cleared customs, the immigration officer proceeded to ask “Where is home?” I stuttered for a second… hmmm..Where is home? Nepal? America? Which city? Which state? My stuff is scattered all over the world in different basements and suitcases. I have work, relationships, homes, family, and friends in various countries around the world. Who knew, “Where is home?” would be such a difficult question for me to answer.
As I returned to Nepal this time, it was very comfortable. Not comfortable in terms of a physical sense, but comfortable in terms of being familiar. Returning in general can be challenging, returning in winter is even more extreme. Initial impressions are impactful for me because it typically only takes a few days before I forget, adapt, and its back to the new normal again. However; the ride on the plane into Kathmandu is always my favorite and prepares me for coming *home*. I’m typically one of maybe two or three women and a plane full of Nepalese men returning home after 3-4 years of migrant work in the Middle East. Probably only their second time on an airplane and there is such excitement. It always makes me smile… it reminds me of a class full of children being exposed to something foreign and new. There is typically a huge line for the bathroom during the entire flight. When you enter the bathroom, its clear to see using an airplane toilet is not the same thing as a squatty potty! People crowd and push forward to get on and off the plane. There is an uncertainty of how to use the overhead bins, tray tables, and movie screens. Its fun to watch them discover and learn. When we pass the Himalayas, everyone from one side of the plane runs to the other side of the plane to gawk with wonder and awe. I always have that image of a bus tipping because there is too much weight on one side! When the plane hits the ground, typically, most of the Nepalese men jump up and the poor flight attendants are scurrying trying to get everyone to sit down. This has become familiar and reminder that I’m almost to my home in Nepal. Arriving at the airport with a proper visa makes things easy and being able to speak the language allows me to get a proper taxi fare back to my flat. I enjoy the new familiarity that speaking the language brings and allows me to have comfortable and easy conversations. Seeing the dirt and the torn up roads, cows in the roads and the crazy traffic are all familiarities of Nepal. Seeing my friends and *family* in Nepal is a familiar sense of “home”.
However; Nepal has been my home for the past 4 years but new seasons are ahead. I have been doing work with a company in India and often travel to New Delhi. I have a team and friends and a different aspect of life in India. Also being back in America is great, but I’m not sure where is home? My parents live in Cincinnati and I went to school there for a time. My community and church and friends are in Atlanta, which often feels like home. I spent 2 months in a new city, Tucson, which I just left and have belongings scattered in various places. I’ve lived in various cities and states and have community and friends in many places. So, where is home?
My best explanation is that home is not on earth. My home is in heaven. One thing that I try to do whenever I enter a new city or country is to find the nearest prayer house. I’ve realized that as foreign as things can be, I always feel the same sense of “home” when I’m in the Lord’s presence. Wherever I may be…whichever country…God is the same God all around the world. My home is in heaven, not on earth.
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:11-12 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
Although it can be confusing and sometimes difficult to explain, home is wherever I am in God’s presence.
I enjoyed Andy Stanley’s recent sermon on fearing less. In the end of the sermon he summarized that we should ultimately place trust (fear) in Jesus over fearing any “thing”. We don’t have to control our fears as [Jesus] perfect love casts out fear.
With my upcoming surgery, I’ve encountered some fears creeping in. When doctors make definitive statements it can be discouraging. My friend told me a story about her friend who before surgery asked the doctors to “just leave something for God to work with”. I realized I do have an understand that the Lord is above all because my first thought was, “I’ve seen God create something out of nothing” so even if man removes “all”, God can always counteract it. However; believing that for myself is another thing altogether. I have to remind myself not to focus on the seen but have faith in the unseen.
I always thought that one thing I have been able to trample on is “fear of the unknown”. I don’t let fear hold me back. I have seen so many people stifled because of this fear and they aren’t achieving their dreams or living their lives fully because of this fear. I realized I started enjoying my life to the fullest when I could actually calculate the risk and started asking myself “What’s the worst thing that could really happen if I do this?” Usually, the answer to that question was that I would end up back in the same situation as I was in when I asked myself the question. Most decisions are not irreversible. I listen to many people struggle with fear over whether or not to buy a house, take a new job, quit a job, make a move, go back to school, etc. These are all potentially reversible decisions. It might be more work to reverse a decision if you end up not liking it, but if there is a possibility to increase your happiness and fulfillment and/or you feel called to do something, then I believe its usually worth the risk.
I believe the new season the Lord has brought me into is learning to not fear what I perceive as irreversible decisions/situations and realizing that although things may not be easy, He will always be there amidst the storms. The Lord says in Matthew 10:28 ” And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I’ve realized when I dig deeper and deeper into any “fear” I may have that seems irreversible, the outcome is that I’m not placing my complete trust in Christ alone. I’ve seen the Lord miraculously heal people and He very easily could do that in future situations, and I’ve also seen people suffer while carrying a supernatural joy amidst the struggle. Another pitfall is when people carry a bitterness, offense, or anger at the Lord if they are not healed supernaturally. I realize that any way God chooses to operate is good and that you just have to keep your eyes on Him through all situations and outcomes.
In addition to keeping my hope in Jesus alone, I am working to really reflect and be thankful for all the good that do exist right now in my life. Focusing on the positives can really shift things drastically. I pray that I will continue to keep my eyes on Jesus and not fear any worldly problems and I pray that for anyone who reads this as well.
Misty Edwards sings a song called “Arms Wide Open” that I’ve had on repeat recently. In her song she sings “What does love look like? It’s the question I’ve been pondering?”
“Love looks like something”. And it does… but I’ve been realizing for me it looks different than what people (including myself) often idealize, think, or see as they come to serve for a short time in a new culture.
I read a blog post recently that was posted on Velvet Ashes (posted below), which is a website to encourage and connect women serving overseas. The author put the struggle in terms I could really relate to after 3+ years living in a different culture. The “newness” has worn off and its not so easy to constantly deal with the challenges it can bring.
Luckily, although I’ve experienced some of the more rough challenges she mentions below in other cultures/countries, I feel that the people of Nepal are generally so genuine and truly kind. However; that doesn’t go without saying that there are many cultural challenges that I face on a daily basis. The constant bureaucracy that I have to face, the demands for bribes, constantly being charged 3-5x’s the price of everything just because of the way I look, navigating my way through a culture where lying isn’t considered wrong and the challenges that come when I have found out that people I’ve invested in have stolen from me or lied to me, getting my house broken into, getting my clothes stolen, getting blamed for an accident that was in no way my fault, etc …this list goes on and on.
We have so many short-term teams route through Nepal and stay anywhere from 1 week- 6 months. I love the fresh vision and excitement that they bring, but I’m often worn down by their unrealistic understanding of whats “really” happening. I sometimes hear them share stories and testimonies and realize that they have idealized something that they “thought” may have happened, but now that I can understand and communicate in Nepali, I often realize they have a distorted view of what actually happened. On the other hand, I’ve watched so many cases in which something was actually said, but said for the purpose of getting money from the foreigner. Its sad, but its reality.
For me, I have realized that real “love” is discipleship. Standing with and through and supporting those who have hurt me, taken advantage of me, and who have made mistakes, but being open and willing to give them a second chance, a third chance, etc just as Jesus has done for us.
As the author captured “It is really quite easy to love someone theoretically from a distance, it is quite another to be faced with a daily death of self, where your weaknesses are exposed and your value is diminished, where you feel unsafe and insecure. That kind of love MUST come from God alone and that love is the real Christ exposing love.”
Sometimes I feel defeated, but I pray for His grace alone and realize what love really looks like is His death on the cross, not some idealized version of my compassion for a people group or situation.
I really loved the people of my host country before we came. I mean, I prayed for them, I sacrificed for them, I fought for them and advocated for them, I spoke in front of groups for them! It was a God given love fueled by excitement at what the future could be.
And then we moved here.
For awhile the excitement held through the stressors. The new houses, the new tastes, the new language and the new people all brought with them a sense of adventure and the future still held such promise. I loved the people and I loved their smiles, they were so friendly, and I just knew God would do amazing things.
Then we were robbed. Then I was sold eggs for triple the price. Then I was blamed for things that weren’t my fault. Then I was yelled at as we walked the streets. Then we were touched and grabbed until my children would cry and as my language improved I began to understand the words behind those friendly smiles.
Sometimes smiles hide the meanest words.
My love for my people has dwindled. In fact, it is bordering on non-existent, which I hear is quite normal for a newbie first termer such as myself, but I miss the old me who loved. The old me who was so passionate. The old me who was untouched by the reality of humiliation and stress. I miss the old idealistic me.
True love, love that comes from God, is a love that doesn’t need to be met with equal love, or any love, for that matter. It’s a love that perseveres through the mocking humiliation that comes daily.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16
True love is expressed in death, his death, my death, our death and it brings life.
“So, death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:12
My death = Their life
It is really quite easy to love someone theoretically from a distance, it is quite another to be faced with a daily death of self, where your weaknesses are exposed and your value is diminished, where you feel unsafe and insecure. That kind of love MUST come from God alone and that love is the real Christ exposing love.
This kind of God given sacrificial love actually requires real life sacrifice and there is a tension in my soul because true sacrifice is true loss and I feel it. I believe Christ felt it too. The pain from the mockery, the tiredness from the crowds, always misunderstood. Yet he endured, with joy, for our sake, to manifest perfect love.
I miss idealistic me because of the passion I once had to see people changed by the gospel, but old idealistic me didn’t truly love this people, how could I? The love had not yet been tried. Now I have an opportunity, an exciting one, to love for real and to love as Christ loves, unconditionally for the sake of those who have not yet heard.
To walk what Jesus walked and manifest his love by willingly accepting the humiliation that has and will come.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Colossians 1:24
As I sit tonight and type via candlelight, I often forget how foreign things are that are so common to us in the western world. I realized unless you have lived here its hard to even put it in words. Since its winter, we have less and less electricity. Most days we get about 3 hrs of electric. The rest of the time we have load shedding and the power is turned off. It’s such a normality after living here but coming back from a developed country, I am reminded of all the things that come to mind here that I wouldn’t even think about in a developed location: I can’t dry my hair, I can’t charge my phone or computer, I can’t use the internet, I need to use candle light, I can’t use an electric kettle, my shower drips with such little water pressure and showers are limited to a few minutes and/or we turn on the faucet and there is no water, the food is typically stale or rotten, everything is always broken as things are made of such poor quality, everything is covered in a layer of dust and the pollution is so thick its difficult to breathe, etc. Its trivial, but I think sometimes I forget all the little things can just add up.
I know the Lord has given me a grace to be here because amidst all these annoyances, I still love the country dearly. There are many things to be thankful about including my new comfort of being in a country where I can get around and communicate! Its such a good feeling to finally not have that weight on my shoulders and feel comfortable to understand and reply with ease. Of course I still have a lot to learn but that feels like one huge weight off my shoulders and a new level of comfort I was suddley reminded of after I spent time in Taiwan and couldn’t speak or read anything in Chinese. I also am so blessed by the genuine love of the children, my friends, and acquaintances here. From my landlord, to the shop keepers, to the children at our children’s home, to the ladies at work, and our pastors, I’m reminded how much love they exude and its so nice to have those lifetime relationships. The people here are amazing and have a genuineness unlque to few countries I’ve visited. I have a new level of comfort with life here that also makes things feel good; from navigating the crazy streets to knowing where everything is located, its a comfortable feeling to be settled.
Upon this more recent return, I have mixed emotions coming in and out of this beautiful country that I call home, but am grateful that the Lord has placed me here for this time. I treasure friendships with those that have lived here for short and long periods of time from 6 months to 20 years, as we get to share a connection with *understanding* this very unique country in a way that no one else will understand. This past week I found out my good friend who has been in Nepal for the past 5 years is moving to France. Also, my friend who has been here the past 2.5 years is moving to Mongolia! Its such a transitional place. I’m grateful for sowing into relationships with national Nepalese, as I know thats one constant amongst much change.
Sometimes it amazes me how “small” the world seems. After spending time in America to literally being back on the other side of the world, I am very grateful for the technological advancements that now exist so I can stay connected. Excited to see what this next season holds.
Durga is a Nepalese friend of mine that lives at the Gesthemane House of Prayer in Kathmandu. I’ve written about her before in my updates and it has been an honor to get to see how the Lord is working in her life. I’m super proud to share that she was baptized on January 16, 2016! Although I was very sad to have missed the event, I couldn’t be more happy to share the news and I’ve included a video link below.
Here is a quick summary from my friends, Jenny & Clem’s, updates:
“Durga has been asking us for months to baptise her after she had an open vision where the Lord visited her in an amazing way. A couple of months ago, Durga was sleeping when suddenly, she woke up with a pain in her body and, in her words, “a beautiful man came into her room bringing the rain.” The man asked her to come and “take a shower” in the rain. She said that after the man spoke the pain left her body. She shared the vision with us and we immediately realised that the Lord was speaking for Durga to be baptised. On January 16, 2016, Durga, before a witness of people, declared that she believes and belongs to Jesus and was baptised! We didn’t have a pool to baptise her in so we had to improvise with some rather funny results; however, the day was a beautiful day of worship, prayer, and celebrating that God, in His great love, can take a women who was ‘vowed’ to a Hindu temple for life to be a temple beggar and, in a short year’s time, set her free, bringing her out of death into life in Christ Jesus!”