Happy New Year! Praise God for bringing us through 2001. It was a year with lots of challenges, but God was good! We look forward to what He has planned for us and trust His grace to meet the challenges of 2002.
Our topic this month is Preparing for Your Overseas Assignment. Five ladies contributed their advise on this topic.
The first and most important preparation for your overseas assignment is your relationship with the Lord. Don’t get so busy that you neglect your Bible reading and prayer. If you take time to quiet yourself with the Lord, He will guide you in your preparations and give you the grace for the changes ahead. Be sure and ask for prayer for yourself and your family as you are packing and moving. This is a time when extra prayer support is so helpful.
Learn All You Can
In order to know more specifically what you will need when you arrive at your field, gather as much information from as many different people as possible. Susie mentioned the importance of getting in touch with nationals as well as ex-pats. They have different points of view and their perspective will help you get a clearer view of what you will need. Ask about living conditions, things that are available locally, schooling options, ministry ideas, and so on.
Be sure to ask about acceptable, as well as, comfortable clothing. In west Africa, slacks were never acceptable, even in our own home. In southeast Asia, ladies usually wear slacks to evening meetings and dresses on Sunday. Although we were in the tropics, during a few weeks each year in west Africa, it was cool enough at night to appreciate a blanket on the bed.
Kay suggested buying on the field, rather than shipping household furnishings. They used what they could get in the country and didn’t plan to ship it to other countries or back home. This made their home seem more normal in the eye of the local people. It gives you the opportunity to see how other people furnish their homes and learn new styles of interior decorating, too. If you are going to a lower economic region, you can probably furnish your house cheaper than you could ship your things from home. (Editor’s note: Your best source of information is someone who lives in the area you are going to. In some areas, in order to have a reliable way to cook and store food, you must ship appliances from your home country.)
Choosing What to Pack
Linda said she slowly got rid of many of her children’s toys before the move. She would sell them or give them away a couple at a time so they were not really missed. They never had a problem with missing their “things.” Linda said this same method worked well for them when returning for furlough.
With the money Linda received, she invested in a Brio train set which was portable and could be added to later by folks sending gifts. When we first went out we bought a large bag of Lego blocks at a garage sale. They were worth their weight in gold! Lego blocks can become anything.Our boys built all kinds of other toys out of their Lego.
Laura said they brought some “extras” that made their new house feel like home. They took their son’s bedspread with cars and trains on it, his bike, and some other special toys. They had his friends “watch” some of his larger special toys so they didn’t have to sell or give them away.
Angie said one of the things that made their transition easier was their decision to take their hobbies along. She likes to scrapbook and so she stocked up on supplies so that she could still enjoy that hobby on the field. Her husband loves music and computers so they took their collection of CDs and some computer games. Although you will be quite busy on the field, you will still have quiet hours to fill. It helps to have some familiar things during those times.
Angie said she was glad they took along some holiday decorations, too. It was nice to have some of the same ornaments to hang that she had since childhood. Angie wished she had brought more holiday food supplies like canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and spices for baking. Bringing some of those food supplies with them, at least enough for the first year, would have made the holidays easier.
A better stock of medical supplies was on Angie’s list. She and her husband were hit with illnesses and injuries in the first few months on the field. Because they didn’t speak the language, getting the right medications was difficult to impossible. A wide range of medications including pain relievers, antacid, diarrhea medication, and antibiotics are recommended. If you take enough to last until your first furlough, then you will know better what will be needed for the future.
Personal hygiene supplies may be something you need to stock up on. You may not be able to buy what you are used to using, even if you go to a developed country. Also make sure you have enough makeup to last until your next furlough. Even if they have your brand, they may not have the color you are used to using.
Take along picture albums. Include extended family, homes you might visit while on furlough, pictures of the seasons, local stores, post office, bank and so on. It is amazing how quickly small children will forget. Review the pictures from time to time so that life on furlough is not a total shock to them.
Now a few ideas for packing for the journey. Kay let each of her young children pack a small carry-on, one they could carry themselves. This gave them something familiar to play with during the trip. Susie prepared ahead of time some small presents to give her young children along the way.
Arrival on the Field
On arrival, Linda makes the effort to set up “home” as quickly as possible. She unpacks and settles her children’s things immediately. The rest of the house may be a shambles, but when the children’s space is arranged everyone is happier. It is worth the extra work!
Once Laura and her family arrived on their field they enrolled their four-year-old in a local preschool. They also prayed together for friends for him. He now has three good local friends to play with almost every day. His knowledge of the language and his local friends were definitely the key to his love of his new country. After two years he loves his new home and says he doesn’t want to go back for furlough.