I too traveled or moved a lot even before I got married to a wonderful man from America and became a PW here in Brazil.
I guess the most scary part to me was when I traveled to a giant country called the U.S.A. to visit my sister. I had traveled a lot around the Philippines and Thailand and Indonesia with our volleyball team. Travel was fun until I realized I would be traveling alone in the U.S.A. But I know God was with me, so it wasn’t that bad.
But when I married my husband, I realized for the first time I was totally cut off from my family and married to a stranger. We had only known each other 6 weeks to the day! The most painful part hit me when my mother died that same week. I mourned alone. I thought I was going crazy. I never had a chance to see her for the last time, but I know we will see each other again in heaven.
Traveling is fun and learning about other cultures, and even learning a little language to survive for a short while is fun. But living in a foreign country is hard. The good part is, we have a good God that sustains us and gives us strength to live one day at a time.
Bill & I are PWs – new ones, only 3 years into the always changing lifestyle. We are also not spring chickens, chronologically being in our mid-fiftys. God called me in 1961 to serve Him as a PW and being hard-headed it took me 40 years to become pliable enough for Him to use. From 1999 through February of 2003, we lived in or traveled through 5 different countries. We slept in more than 150 different beds, the longest we have lived in any one house or room was 5 months and we were blessed with spending 4 months in 2001 in the U.S. visiting 3 kids, 3 grandchildren and friends.
We arrived in the U.S. from our last assignment, of almost 2 ½ years, on March 1, 2003. We spent 21 days in Dallas and the next 6 ½ weeks on a speaking tour in 4 states sharing with a different audience each night in a different city. We returned to our dorm room in Dallas, moved two days later to a small trailer and one week later moved to Louisiana to live with our eldest son and his wonderful wife. We have now been in one place and blessed with sleeping in the same bed for a little over 2 months. It is almost scary! Do we dare get comfortable, do we let ourselves feel at home, how long is this being in one place going to last?
We sought help from a mission furlough specialist when we weren’t sleeping, afraid of what the next day would bring – another move another change – and all the usual reverse cultural shock situations. She reminded us of Whom we were serving and that nothing He does is without reason – even all the moving and changes. She also reminded us of our humanity and how we humans like to have things somewhat stable. With her help we were able to take our eyes off of ourselves, where the enemy was delighted to have them, and put them back on our Father and seek His arms and comfort. Each day that we seek Him, He provides us with reassurance that all we are going through He knows about and is in charge of. We are in His service here and when His work is done He will send us on our way to the next place. This is about Him and we accept that or we go on our own.
We still have some symptoms of stress and discomfort; we also see work that is being done in people’s lives. He lovingly reminds us of Who is in charge and that we have a choice in our service. Isn’t it great that He gives us a choice – we are not stuck in this lifestyle, we chose it. Jesus was a vagabond, homeless, moving from place to place and we are called to be like Him, even if it means living like He did – that gives such freedom and peace.
I realized recently that moving from a first world into a third world culture means more than just having to carry buckets of water for bathing. The change was much more subtle. And I liked the change! I feel human, and honest and a bit like a child again. No more caution about what to comment on a dress or a hairdo. You don’t have to hold back your curiosity about someone’s coming and going, and when you want something you just ask for it.
We live amongst a tribal people group in Africa, and to be quite honest I love it. If I want, I can walk between the straw-roofed mud huts bare foot and greet everyone, because I know everyone will greet me back. It’s so delightful to ask someone where he/she is going, and where they live. Of course, that’s after the greetings; then follow questions about their family’s health, which can be quite in detail – it depends on the size of the family.
When they come from the market you can ask them what they bought, how much they paid for it and what they intend doing with it! No more jealous thoughts about the contents of your neighbor’s shopping bag. And if you don’t like what they bought you tell them that. Of course, I’m also subjected to the same questions and responses wherever I go.
What a relief, no more little white lies to be polite. When they cook something and you have to taste it – you just go the honest route and tell them that you don’t like it, otherwise you will end up with it every second day. You can always get back at them and give them something foreign to eat like chocolate cake and laugh at the disgusted look on their faces. You can walk hand in hand with your best friend (of the same sex, that is), and nobody will even think that you are, well, a bit adventurous in your social life.
The biggest change I had to overcome was the comments on my ‘fuller figure.’ When we came here, I was totally depressed after an afternoon of chatting to people in the neighborhood. Their comments, like: “Wow, you became fat since I last saw you” – which, by the way, was yesterday, or “What are you eating? You are really getting fat now,” cut through my thin-as-can-be mind set like a knife through butter. I was devastated. I mean, since we came to the field, I was constantly on a diet because the change in dietary habits also changed my figure. The last thing I wanted to hear was this. I soon realized that comments like those were intended to be BIG (excuse the pun) compliments, and it meant that I was prosperous and healthy. They are all as thin as rakes and try everything to look fat, even putting on layers of clothes in the tropical heat! I am changing in this respect slowly but surely – at least I can keep my cool now until I’m home and then just go and be depressed where nobody can see me.
The biggest challenge for the newly changed me will be when we go to our home country on leave later this year. What would the pastor’s wife think if I were to tell her that she had really become fat since I last saw her. Or, if I told the cashier at the supermarket that I saw her going into the gynaecologist’s office the other day and wanted to know why she went there. Or, if I told my mother-in-law that her new sofa was ugly?
So, the solution to this changing problem would be to become like a chameleon. When here in Africa, I can change into the bright colors of honesty and inquisitiveness (some might call it rudeness), and when back home, I’ll have to change to the more subtle shades of diplomacy and caution.
A change is as good as a holiday, they say. Well, this change wasn’t a holiday, but it surely was, and still is, fun. My translation of Phil 4:13 is ‘I can change into anything through Christ who strengthens me’.
Recently, Tim and I have been through a Season of Change ourselves. We have had a bad ‘move’ from Kuwait back to England. Nothing has gone right and we are at present living in temporary housing whilst we wait to occupy the house we should be in. The date for moving in, which should have been mid-August i.e. two weeks after we got back to the UK, has, for various reasons, been put back to mid-October.
In the meantime, though we packed up our house mid-June and sent the boxes off, or so we thought, we have since found out that the ship which is carrying our boxes from Kuwait and which should have arrived in the UK shortly after we flew back, is also delayed. She and our boxes won’t now reach the UK until the end of September. In the meantime we are living out of our suitcases, and of course have been since we first packed up in mid-June.
You could say this has been a somewhat stressful Season of Change! And I have to confess that occasionally during the last three months I have had doubts and fears about God’s care and love. How very foolish though, to think this way, and how easily was I harried by Satan into thinking so negatively.
I really thought that moving into this temporary house was very inconvenient but God in His wisdom thought otherwise. By living here in this particular part of the base I have met many potential friends, which I may not have done so easily if we had moved into the correct house straight away, being tucked away as it is up a hill and away from everyone else.
The Lord knows how important friendships are when you move areas or even countries every two years or so, and once again He has seen to my needs. As for living without my own kitchen equipment or even most of my clothes, well it is a challenge, and if I really had to I could go out and buy replacements but I am resisting as much as I can, so as not to duplicate and waste money in the long run.
A changing routine is harder for some than others. But there is nothing wrong with emotional reactions to these great life changes concerning our family and surroundings. Try to have a steady routine way of doing things that is not related to certain surroundings. Do not associate activities with a certain location or you will be uneasy and distracted doing things such as devotions, exercise, etc. Somehow over the years, God showed me a “portable” lifestyle. As a matter of fact even at the moment we are living in two locations in towns an hour and a half from each other.
We truly say to folks that “we are from “the Carolinas” since we have homes in SC and NC. This divided homestead has been going on for nearly two years. It is humanly speaking “temporary”, but unknown to us when it will end. The property in NC is up for sale and so far no takers…so could be next week, next year or who knows? Well someone does know! God knows….so we leave it with him.
We try to spend most of the time with each other at the same location…but sometimes it is necessary to be apart due to appointments, or my husband’s office schedule…etc. I think I lost about 2 months at the beginning of what I then thought of as an “impossible” situation. But I soon realized what a special opportunity God had give to enjoy life from a different perspective. It is just that I am such a control freak. And organized, and scheduled. It’s tough keeping up with all that in two different homes at the same time! I found my ONLY stability at times was our church home and family, which thank God is located smack dab in the middle!
Once again I am brought to the realization that God wants us to live one day at a time, and notice what He would notice through us each day…and follow His leading in what He draws our attention to. So simple, yet so profound! We have become such a scatter-brained and unfocused humanity! With all the “stuff” media, travel, material possessions, etc., living a simple focused life can be most hard!
Look to Jesus and enjoy the simple life that He is calling you to. Don’t try to figure it, control it, change it, or arrange it. Simply focus on and follow Him (follow means to let Him take the lead…to walk behind).And enjoy the view along the way!
I’ve been finding myself laying on my face before the Lord for every ounce of strength I need. It’s so easy to get discouraged when you don’t see any possibilities/position available to you, and you know there is a call of God on your life to be in full time ministry. Just recently I came across a precious scripture that I think the Lord wrote just for me. “Let the beloved of the Lord REST SECURE IN HIM, for He shields me all day long, and the one the Lord loves (me) RESTS between His shoulders.” Deut 33:12. God has been impressing upon me to REST IN HIS PROVISION, REST IN HIS LOVE, REST IN HIS GRACE.
I don’t know about you but RESTING is very difficult for me. It doesn’t mean I do nothing. I find my source in Him there will be a stillness that will flow out of me instead of worry, anxiety, fear, insecurity. And the other scripture that has spoken life to me is Ps. 16:8-9 “I have set the Lord always before me, because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices, my body also will REST SECURE.”