Migrant. Do you consider yourself a migrant? In the narrow UN definition, most of us would not qualify since we are not employed by our adopted country. But in the broader sense of living either temporarily or permanently in a country where we were not born, and having acquired some significant social ties to this county, most of us would qualify. Like the Bible says, we are strangers and aliens in the land of promise.
There are many helpful suggestions for migrants that we may not have taken personally. Whether we are long-time migrants in the country we serve or have just arrived, some common migrant thoughts can trip us up. Here are a few for you to consider:
Comparisons between our native country and our adopted country
Comparisons can be a slippery slope to the blues. Our comparisons may make our native country, with all its perks, seem all good. Then the reverse is true of our adopted country. In this skewed condition, our host country is all bad.
We can start down this slide when the day is exceptionally hot and humid, or when we cannot find our favorite comfort food. Say you live in a place where you cannot get good chocolate, and the stash you brought is depleted. And, its been raining for four days straight. If we don’t head it off quickly, we could be in the dungeon of despair by lunchtime.
Tying our self worth to what we do
This is a much more subtle snare. Back home we may have had a title, a paying job, or a position based on our husband’s job. We didn’t think those things mattered. We weren’t looking for people to put us on a pedestal, but in some corner of our minds we felt we deserved any recognition we got. After all, we had worked for it or it was a perk of our position.
In some host countries you will always be esteemed by your local family and friends. But in other places, we may not be looked up to or put on a pedestal. The work we do may be misunderstood– even thought unnecessary or strange. We may work very hard to be able to communicate only to be laughed at for our strong accent.
But like one wise pastor in Nigeria told us, “Here, we are plumbers. We stop leaks and fix pipes.” Plumbing is a humble job. Most people don’t think much of plumbers until they are needed. In our adopted country, if we tie our self worth to our work, we would be low on the social scale. But if we look at our Sender, we can see our real worth for the Kingdom. There really are times when only a plumber will fit the bill.
Trying to change your adopted country
Getting angry at the way things are done in our adopted county is an exercise in futility and a waste of our time, energy, and sanity. We are not going to change the generations-old customs and habits of this country.
Of course, we work to make life better in our adopted country. But is it not our concentrated self-effort and frustration that will change our adopted country. Rather it is the work of God in the hearts of individuals.
Before we migrate or soon afterwards, there are some steps we can take that will ensure a smoother migration.
1. Be sure it is God guiding you to your adopted country. We really need a sure foundation of trust in God for direction. It makes us much less subject to doubt and fear. You can be sure there will be days in your adopted country that will try your faith, but you will pass the test with God’s help.
2. Know that where God guides He provides. This lesson is best learned in your home country first. God gives you everything you need to succeed in fulfilling His will. He may provide in some very unusual and unexpected ways, but be assured He will provide.
3. Take one step at a time. Don’t push ahead or lag behind. We have grace for each step of the way. Take the challenges as they come, try new things, gain grace for the adjustments, but keep moving forward.
4. Stay submitted to God. Be open to any revision or adjustment He may want you to make. What you thought you knew about your adopted country may not have been totally accurate. Don’t be afraid to adjust to the situation as you find it. When you are submitted to God, He can help you make the correct revisions.
5. As a couple, be together. Don’t let the fears and insecurities you face separate you. Grow together as you listen to and help each other. Gain perspective as you see your new home through each other’s eyes. And remember to let your husband know that you really do need his understanding and support. Some men are clueless until you give them a clue.
6. Resist the temptation to play, ‘What if?’ No one knows the future, but we can know God. Many of the negatives we imagine, could happen no matter what we do. Use wisdom, plan appropriately to the scope of the decision, and you will do just fine.
7. Avoid second-guessing. This is the other side of ‘What if?’ It is ‘If only.’ Once you know you have made a wise decision that pleases God, stay on course. When tests come, affirm your faith in God.
8. Lay down all the details. Have some fun or quiet moments. Don’t be so task-oriented that you can’t enjoy the journey. Breaks will refresh and restore your balance.
Migrating can be the hardest thing we will ever do, and at the same time the most exciting and fulfilling. I am so thankful God has had us migrate several times. There were some tough times, but oh how many joys we would have missed!
We would love to hear your migration stories. If you would like to share your story, please send me an email at: Diane