Goodbye Again: Memos from (Another) Transition

Reading Time: 5 minutes

goodbye

Editor’s note: Anyone serving overseas can relate to the truism of the post below: The life of an expatriate–missionary life included–is filled with farewells. “Goodbye” doesn’t just launch a life overseas. It defines part of this new, transitory existence.

Whether you have yet to say your overseas-bound goodbye or are prepping for more, Rebecca Hopkins can relate.

 

I hand over my gift and fumble at the words.

My friend looks at me, her face stoic, almost nonchalant and it’s hard to know if I’m doing this right.

I should be better at this. How many times have I said “goodbye” over the years?

There were the zillions of moves I made as both a kid and an adult. And here in Indonesia, expats come and go and goodbyes are anticipated or very sudden. But they happen all the time.

I’m moving to another part of Indonesia in a few weeks. And I’m saying goodbye a lot like I’ve lived life here over the years—sitting on the floor of a friend’s house, bouncing back and forth between awkward small talk and serious heart stuff, my kids fighting for space on my lap, knocking over glasses of hot tea onto the wooden planked floor, a light morning rain tapping on the metal roof.

Goodbye, Again

Throughout ten years of visits with friends, I always feel both totally out of my comfort zone and completely in my element.

I guess you could say the same thing about my relationship with moving. Somehow I feel very at home with packing up and starting over. And yet it also makes me feel lost every time I do it.

I wish I could say there is more “good” in all of my goodbyes here. But just like daily life here, they’re a bit messy, confusing, and almost always sweaty.

I go, intending to say the right word of thanks, and hope for some kind of satisfying closure, but usually, it feels like we’re being interrupted. Maybe the friend is in a crisis and I’m not really sure it’ll end up okay. Or I’m still learning how to love well in this culture, in my second language, and I’m pretty sure I’ve left behind a long list of misunderstandings and offenses.

Then I wonder about the stoicism I see. Does the goodbye matter? Do I?

I bet I look stoic sometimes, too. But really, I’m distracted…by my kids hiding in my shoulder so they don’t have their picture taken again, by the sound of the mosque’s call to prayer, or by my own desire to just have this goodbye over with so I can go home and hide, too.

Sometimes I get a text later with more honest feelings and that should feel better. But that just makes me feel sad, too.

That “Lost” Period

I know it’s going to be okay. The next place is exciting and the people are great and the work there is amazing and I need to just get there and move forward and grow roots and a bunch of other cliches that do actually work.

But still…right now I’m in that “lost” period. And I’m wondering if anyone else out there is here with me, too?

One small decision this week helps me. I plan to cut a branch off my plumeria tree—the one my husband gave me for my birthday a few years ago—and take it with me on the plane ride. Then I’ll plant it at my next home.

It seems a little silly and indulgent, especially because the next yard has its own plumeria trees already. But then I remembered how my mom would pack up all her plants and stick them in the back of our station wagon and take them to the next Army post.

Like she knew, too, that taking living things from your last home would help you figure out life in the next one.

Sometimes I need to remember life doesn’t end just because your time in the last place does.

What about here?

But what of my work? I set a date for myself when I’d force myself to pull out of everything. The orphanage. The hospital visits. The neighbor in crisis. And then I keep extending it…then moving it up.

Can’t decide if it’s better to put it off until I’m neck-deep in boxes, for one more visit while I’m just down the road, or just rip off the band-aid. Both sound bad.

And what about my fears? There are people who are coming after us who will never know me here in this place, on this team. What happens to the place I had in this place?

It’s small, I know. I’m small. This island is small.  But me, here in this place for this time, mattered to me.

All the adventure and growth and friendships and faith and pregnancies and flights and prayers and disappointments and doubts and grace—they all mattered to me. What happens to all that?

I know. Some of it goes with me. It changed me, after all, broke me to pieces then healed into something new.

And some of this place will remain. This has been the hardest part for me to believe. But in case you’re going through your own goodbye or bad-bye, I want to remind us both. Just as the relationships matter to us, we mattered to friends, too.

The Hello-Goodbye Circle

One of my childhood tricks for coping with moves was to sagely remind myself that every tear-filled goodbye started with a scared, hope-filled hello and many hellos end up in teary goodbyes.

That sounds like a lot of tears.  But the point is, those goodbyes have to happen so the next hellos can happen so the next goodbyes can happen and I’m starting to wonder how I ever found this comforting.

Sigh.

It seems I’m not in the mood tonight for my own pep talks. But I’ll finish this by asking this: Is there anyone out there saying goodbye, too?

I thought so. Then let’s be a little bit lost in all the goodbyes and hellos together.

 

Rebecca Hopkins (www.rebeccahopkins.org) wants to help people feel heard, seen and welcome.  She spent the first half of her life moving around as an Army kid and the past 14 years trying to grow roots on three different Indonesian islands while her husband took to the skies as a pilot.

She now works in Colorado for Paraclete Mission Group and writes about issues related to non-profit and cross-cultural work. Trained a journalist and shaped by the rich diversity of Indonesia, she loves dialogue, understanding and truths that last longer than her latest address.

 

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A Missionary Budget: What Costs Does it Include?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

missionary budget

Wondering what goes into a missionary budget (which, when you’re raising support, can feel overwhelming)? We let you peek behind the curtain with some opinions of other global workers.

“A missionary Budget may cover all the costs of sending the missionary, not just what YOU need to live.”

A missionary budget may include all the expenses of fielding the missionary. Besides a salary, budget categories might include

  • taxes
  • health and life insurance
  • retirement
  • travel expenses (including cost of home assignments)
  • administrative expenses (including the costs of communicating with supporters, and often a certain percentage that supports the mission agency’s home office)
  • training costs (e.g. language school)
  • purchase or rental of property
  • purchase and maintenance of a vehicle.

It’s also wise to include some kind of surplus account, or perhaps a 5% buffer built right into the budget in anticipation of

  • lost support, cost of living increases
  • changing exchange rates
  • inflation
  • an emergency fund and/or insurance that covers medical evacuation

All this can add up to a daunting amount.

But trust me: Cutting corners is not worth the savings.

Being well prepared will help you and your family avoid some of the stress of arriving on the field and not having what you need. 

Most mission agencies include some kind of “admin fee.” What these fees cover varies considerably. A high admin fee may include some of the expenses listed above. A low one may suggest these items are listed elsewhere in your budget.

Editor’s note: If you’re considering going without a sending agency (and budgeting is one of your reasons), be sure to check out our series on the pros and cons.

It’s tempting to cut out things like contingency and retirement funds, but if missions is your career, you may regret neglecting such things.

Online resources you may find helpful: sample missionary budgets, basic budgeting forms, and How Much Is Enough?

Answer from Marti, who’s served as a mission mobilizer since 1995, including more than ten years with Pioneers.

“If married, both should get a salary.”

A missionary candidate recently asked me if I thought it was better for a married couple to both be counted as legal employees. Should just the serving member of the couple be paid, to simplify payroll even if both are working as missionaries?

Our organization issues W-2’s to my wife and I with half of our total income per year. I think it’s more respectful of our partnership to do it that way and honor my spouse’s major contributions to the work. That was our original reason.

We’ve discovered strong financial reasons along the way too.

When you are negotiating your budget with your agency and others, it’s to your advantage to present the full force of your contribution i.e. two full-time workers. Although people might remember there are two of us, it is to your financial advantage to remind them of the income you both are earning together.

Many missionaries, even if they start under the traditional model of only one marriage partner as the breadwinner, evolve eventually to give both spouses a significant responsibility in the work. There can be a tendency for some to forget that you are working not just 40 hours but 80+ hours as two workers.

Employing both partners accrues Social Security credits for that partner, too. I’m not sure, but I believe this means she’d have higher income in retirement than if she wasn’t an official employee.

Consider, too, that liability insurance and taxation “safe harbor laws” (allowing return to your home state for a number of days without being taxed) likely don’t extend to a non-employee legally.

Answer from Sam in Taiwan, who has served with Beyond and Joni and Friends for well over a decade.

“your MISSIONARY budget is hopefully designed for your longevity on the field, from veterans who’ve realistically counted the cost.”

Raising an amount so much higher than a salary may surprise you. Why’s this necessary? You may be raising the actual costs it takes a business to employ a person (which can be an additional 100-180% of a salary)–plus costs intrinsic to being a successful global worker. 

These expenses may include costs like

  • overhead for project costs for your ministry. For example, if you hope to run a supply distribution for at-risk children, you may be raising costs to maintain that programming. The more independent your project is from your sending organization, the more likely you may need to raise those project costs.
  • travel expenses.
  • your computer, software, internet, desk, chair, phone, office space, etc. Some agencies don’t already provide these.
  • member care. These costs cover critical mental and emotional support for the challenges of living cross-culturally and more challenging circumstances. There are a vital component to your longevity, and should be factored into your budget (or your organization’s).

Editor’s note: When considering what to relate to potential financial supporters about your own budget, see this post, “RAISING SUPPORT: 2 COMMANDMENTS OF SHARING BUDGET NEEDS”. Sometimes missionary budgets are difficult for non-missionaries to understand without passing undue judgment.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FOR A MISSIONARY BUDGET

Obviously, lower administrative fees in a missionary budget help reduce your overall budget. But typically, more moderate to high admin fees include more benefits and services that help keep you going on the mission field.

Other thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Different sending organizations have very different philosophies of budget-setting (ranging from frugal to robust, job-based or needs-based). They also have varying levels of control over budget-setting.
  • Ask your organization about categories or aspects of a budget you don’t understand.
  • Keep in mind that the amount may seem overwhelming when you’re raising a high support goal. But your budget is hopefully designed for your longevity on the field, from veterans who’ve realistically counted the cost.
  • It’s also far easier to raise support before your first departure–and much harder to raise from the field and even during travel back to your passport culture. So go well-funded from the start!

Answer from John, the Human Resources director for Engineering Ministries’ International’s offices around the world.

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“Is there any way other than begging for financial support?”

The Fix: For What Might Be Broken in Your Fundraising

 

Help! I don’t feel as “called” as my spouse

Reading Time: 7 minutes

don't feel as called

Editor’s note: For this perennial topic, we’re pulling some tips from the archive for all you spouses wrestling through what do to when your spouse is all-in, sign-me-up, let’s-do-this -thing-for-Jesus! But you don’t feel as “called.”

Hey. Every situation is different, I know. But I’ve talked to a few of you.

I’ve seen the look on your face—not just the usual culture shock or pre-departure if-this-country-doesn’t-kill-me-packing-for-it-might expression. There’s a nearly imperceptible tightness in your smile.

Because you signed up for this. But at the same time, didn’t.

You signed up to follow Jesus, your name on the dotted line beneath the great Commission. And the ring on your finger keeps reminding you of unending constancy; faithfulness.

(But did that mean my spouse’s dreams? You wonder every now and then.)

Or maybe your brain has signed up, knowing God doesn’t just call one of you. (Right? you ask me.) Knowing he asks a whole family to go or to stay.

But your heart signing up? That part could take awhile. And unfortunately, with the lack of medical care for your kids and the size of the reptiles, it could take longer than you planned.

I’m obeying you, Lord. This is my choice. (Write this down—I made the right choice when it killed me, and took me away from my mom living right down the street to help with the kids.)

I don’t know if you’ve already made your decision, or are waffling a little as the gravity of this choice starts to show like the hem of a slip.

(Spoiler alert: At the end of this post, you will still not know exactly what to do.)

I can only tell you what I know.

own your decision. 100%. Even if you don’t feel as called

This decision is hard enough when you feel completely called and feel zero hesitation.

But what’s not okay, even when you don’t feel as called? Choosing to be powerless.

When it was time for us to head back from Africa, that’s the time I felt the least “called” anywhere. It felt like a perfect storm of circumstances were grounding us from flying into Uganda—and what had become like home.

During that tumultuous home assignment, we were straddling two continents and homes. And that included, what? At least three evaporating sources of identity for me. (Missionary. Teacher of refugees. Educator of my kids.)

I remember words my husband spoke to me as we wound our way over a New Mexico highway. He cautioned me, encouraging me to dig into my confusion, my low-burning anger.

He said something like,
=&0=&

Why? Because your life is about to change just as much.

And the demands and required teamwork of overseas living require more buy-in from a spouse than simply submitting to another’s passion.

I have seen this subtle, underground division work its way into the cracks of a marriage’s foundation like ivy, spreading slowly in a thick blanket. They’re so subtle, a person may hardly notice until it’s nearly too late.

There’s such wisdom in the words of 1 Peter: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 

That verse ratchets things to a whole new level, right? It’s not just unity of action. It’s my mind as one flesh with yours.

dont feel as called

Whose Calling is More Important?

“Calling” gets tricky these days. It can be wielded as “a rubber stamp from God on doing what I really, really want.”

It can also be a mystical, vague buzzword that gets us hung up.

And the truth is, “calling” gets tricky in a marriage. Because few of us have had actual writing on the wall. For most of us calling is less “I’ve heard an audible Word from God–and more synthesizing passions with Scripture and the world’s need.

It’s a working out of what would be our own alabaster box, our own act of beautiful, sacrificial worship, to a God worthy of every loss.

But Jeremiah, Jonah, even Jesus? They had words with God about their calling.

What about when your spouse’s desires are different? When you just don’t feel as called?

Desires are not just something to steamroll over as an act of faith. Trying to rid yourself of desire is actually more…Buddhist. We see Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane of total honesty with his desire, yet total surrender.
=&2=&

In case you missed it, allow me to say it openly: God accepts you fully whether you go overseas or not.

Whether or not this is an “obedience” issue for you isn’t something our blog can weigh in on. But do the hard work of exploring your call together, knowing your particular application of the Great Commission is your joyful choice.

Should I submit to my spouse when i don’t feel as called?

Side note: Depending on your theology, you may feel that this is an area where you need to submit to your spouse. That may be the case.

But let us encourage you that–as demonstrated in Esther or Ruth or Proverbs 31–submission does not mean silence. (Jesus shows this in his submission to the Father in Gethsemane.)

And God is the author of women’s dreams, too; check out Jesus’ words to a woman about the priority of following him over family.

What now?

Like I mentioned in the beginning–I promise you no easy answers.

This is your time as a couple to be transparent, to think deeply and broadly (and Scripturally) about what is right and good for your marriage, your family. It’s time to seek God’s face together, for what you can willingly, open-handedly give him.

 

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.

Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House) releases October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit. 

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“Do I have the Call to Be a Missionary?” Free Webinar

Reading Time: 2 minutes

the call

It’s the first step, and one of the hardest to discern: How can you tell if you’re experiencing the call from God to be a missionary? How does God speak, and guide people overseas?

At Go. Serve. Love, we’ve explored this idea a lot, with both warning and affirmation. How would one even define the call?

One of our partners, the Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention–using podcasts, training, and other resources–aims to increase and retain the number of long-term missionaries sent around the world.

They’ve developed this free webinar to help you sort out the call…and whether you have it.

By way of introduction, they ask,

How does God extend the call to missionaries? What influences does He often use to speak to those He’s calling to the mission field?

Mobilizers, missionaries, pastors, youth leaders, and teachers are invited to join Dave Jacob, founder and director of the Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention, as he discusses the important factors that influence the missionary call.

As always, we love it when you join the dialogue, creating community with others in the Body of Christ around the world exploring some of the same life-altering, Kingdom-powered questions.

Tell us about the call in your comments below:

  • How have you begun to discern God’s will in your own life?
  • What can be confused with the call?
  • What’s clear about calling–and what isn’t? 
  • What keeps people from discerning God’s will for their lives about missions?
  • What events, people, resources, questions, etc. have helped in your own examination of whether or not to go overseas?

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Best Posts of 2020!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

best posts of 2020

We get a distinct thrill over here in partnering with you in a small way as you look in an overseas direction. Here are the posts that seemed to resonate with you–and represent some of the best posts of 2020.

May God empower your every next move for his honor and renown.

The Go. Serve. Love Team

Our Best Posts of 2020

10 REALITIES A MISSIONARY PROBABLY WON’T TELL YOU

missionary realities overseas global work hard truth

(This one’s a bit of a cheater–not published in 2020, but since it went viral this year, definitely makes the “best posts of 2020” list!)

Wondering about the hard realities of missionary life? A long-term global worker weighs in with unflinching truths about what to expect.

YOUR MISSIONARY BIOGRAPHIES WEEKEND WATCHLIST: AMAZON PRIME

Your Missionary Biographies Weekend Watchlist: Amazon Prime

Ready for a watchlist of Amazon Prime missionary biographies? Pressing into God’s future for your life could be as easy as pressing “play”.

WHEN COVID CHANGES YOUR OVERSEAS PLANS

COVID

You planned for a lot of things going overseas. But who expected COVID? What truth can you keep in mind?

CORONAVIRUS: IDEAS TO PRAY FOR THE WORLD (PRINTABLE INFOGRAPHIC)

best posts of 2020

We trust that coronavirus is on his leash, and will be corralled for his purposes. As the world is turned upside down–how do we pray amidst a pandemic?

 

 

 

Best missions podcasts of 2020!

Missions podcasts educate and equip me for my unique role in the Great Commission–and help me keep pace with God’s work around the globe.

CHOOSING AN EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY MISSIONS ORGANIZATION

Don’t underestimate how your organization’s health could have on your work overseas. These questions help find an emotionally-healthy agency.

GOD’S “NO”: WHEN HE CLOSES A DOOR OVERSEAS

https://www.goservelove.net/door-no/

Especially in light of COVID-19, maybe you’re dealing with your own closed door, a painful “no”, not here, not now. You’re asking, “did I hear God right? Weren’t my sacrifices meaningful?”

WE WERE MISSIONARY KIDS. HERE’S WHAT MY PARENTS DID RIGHT

Wonder if your children are getting shortchanged by your choices? Rebecca Skinner explores ways her parents nurtured their missionary kids in one of our classic best posts of 2020.

FREE UPG PRINTABLE INFOGRAPHIC: PRAY FOR MUSLIMS!

Middle East

1.8 billion Muslims haven’t heard of Jesus’ love and freedom. Yet more have turned to Christ in 15 years than the last 1400 combined. Pray with us!

BECOMING A MISSIONARY: ULTIMATE PREPARATION CHECKLIST!

becoming a missionaryWe’re welcoming the Missions App’s ultimate preparation checklist for becoming a missionary & a multi-agency application. Drumroll, please.

 

WHAT RACIAL DISCRIMINATION REMINDS US ABOUT OVERSEAS MISSIONS

racism

As people looking toward overseas missions, how do we respond to racism, injustice, and a nation exploding in anger and riots?

Missions Trends to Help You Work Smarter: The Series

trends in missions

We’re scouring for trends in missions to help you work smarter & love better. Pay attention to these key trends God’s using to draw people to himself.

That wraps up our best posts of 2020!

The great news? Our God is still actively on the move

in every corner of this planet.

Pray with us for his name to be made known

more than ever before in 2021.

How to Say, “Hey, Kids. We’re Moving Overseas”

Reading Time: 7 minutes

kids moving

Editor’s note: When God begins to pull your hearts in an overseas direction, that potential decision is inevitably a life-shifting chapter of your kids’ calling and story, too.

We’re pulling this post from the vault to help you navigate.

“When Should We Tell Them?”

I’d say–and most sites agree–as soon as possible.

Your goal? Well-adjusted kids with ownership in your decision, and who can eventually follow God courageously in their own life decisions.

If your kids keep secrets as well as mine did didn’t, it can be hard to discern (“What if they tell people in Sunday School and our cover is blown? We’re not ready to tell the whole church”).

But even before you tell-them-tell-them, you can start planting seeds in your kids’ heads.

The more kids feel “brought along” in the process, being able to ask their questions, process, understand how and why you’re thinking this way, the less they’re likely to feel excluded and out of control.

This can start small.

“What if?”

Take advantage of times when a conversation at the dinner table turns to events around the world, or your church service brings up missions. (Or get a little sneakier, and bring up age-appropriate world events yourself.) You could ask questions like,

  • “Do you think you could ever live overseas?”
  • “Do you think we could ever be missionaries?”
  • “What do you think it would be like to be missionaries?”
  • “Why do you think it’s important for people to be missionaries?”
When praying at bedtime, talk about how your heart hurts for people who don’t know Jesus.
Purchase a scratch-off map of the world, download the Operation World app (my kids love pushing the “I’m praying” button in the app).

Let kids choose a country each night, and perhaps look up a few facts or pictures about those countries. Eventually, start to talk more about how many people in your future host country don’t know Jesus, and the specific needs.

Show them pictures.

Look up videos and photos, and read kids stories and blog posts (missionary stories work, though realize many are told to demonstrate missionaries’ sacrifice–and kids may get the idea you’ll be in a mud hut with no other kids around and asked to die for Jesus. Use discernment, m-kay?). See if missionaries you’ll be with can send a video or photo of their child and their house.

Get fictional.

This may sound weird–but after my husband and I returned from our vision trip to Africa, I started telling my kids about a pair of fictional siblings. They will always remember “Shiloh and Summer stories I told as we drove somewhere.

These kids just happened to be my kids; age–and just happened to be moving to Uganda. (This site suggests using toys–perhaps a plane and some dolls?–to tell younger kids.)

Without overselling it, get excited about a new “adventure.”

I talked about how the kids had to go through airport security, had to sleep under a muggy mosquito net but were thankful they wouldn’t get sick, and realized people around them looked at lot different now, but were mostly really nice.

These fictional characters missed grandparents, and yet made new friends. They counted down the dates till Grandma and Grandpa came to visit, when the kids got to be the hosts.

Get honest.

Kids can have an uncanny “you’re not for real” radar. Let them know they can trust you–that there will be no spin on the truth when they want to know how things really are. That’s not to avoid optimism, but let kids no that no questions or answers are out of bounds.

kids moving

Bring Older Kids (especially teens and tweens) along on the vision trip–and into as many conversations as you can.

A friend was overwhelmingly glad she made this decision.

Older kids are rightfully growing more independent–and are more likely to feel the threats of moving. They can keep secrets, generally.

So as you wade through this, show them the respect of communicating openly about the pros and cons; the questions you’re asking.

Demonstrate how you make godly decisions. Ask your child’s opinion, as long as they understand you’re the one with veto power. Hear their hearts. Shepherd them through their hearts’ most profound questions without resorting to spiritual platitudes.

Don’t let them feel written off. Help them feel like a valuable member of your team–and that if God’s calling you, he’s calling them, too.

Give them a head start on language.

They’ll have relationships to establish, too. Help eliminate some of the weirdness by getting them a tutor, an app, a class.

Let them know what will stay the same.

Kids, having no framework of life overseas, might envision leaving everything.

  • Start a running “wish list” of items they’d like to pack with them, helping them feel they have some sense of control (though you’ve got list veto power).
  • When you tell them they can’t, in fact, bring their bike or your minivan, let them know they’ll probably get to help you find a new one in your new country.
  • Don’t forget items that simply help your child feel at home: their special plate, a poster from their wall, etc.
  • And try to make establishing kids’ rooms a priority once you move, to help them feel like it’s home.kids moving

Help Kids develop a vision for life there.

Try to make it as long-term as possible. (“We’re going on a plane and watching movies!” isn’t much consolation when your child is missing his old home and tired of mosquito bites and power outages.)

  • Could they play soccer in your new country, too?
  • Will the weather be nice year-round?
  • Will there likely be a big yard, or a park nearby?
  • Is there a food they’ll get to try that you loved?
  • Will there be a beach nearby?
  • Are there cool animals in your host country?
  • Will your child probably get to go on safari?
  • Is there a great tree to climb at a new friend’s house?
  • As you get to know what other kids might live in your country-to-be, see if one might become a penpal. Tell your kids what those kids like (Legos! Books! Barbies! Sports!), and help them get a little excited. Maybe you could even pick out a small toy (Legos are light and often expensive overseas)  to send or bring with you as a gift.
  • Are you thinking you might be able to get a pet?

Grieve with Your Kids.

Don’t gloss over mourning by just propelling your kids forward. Sit with them and cry a little about leaving cousins, grandparents, and the friends they have here.

  • Make real plans about your first Skype appointment with a friend overseas.
  • Make a network of kids who will pray with your child.
  • Perhaps get some parents in cahoots with you to send a letter (or a series of penpal letters) or small care package to greet you upon arrival, or cards to stick in your child’s suitcase as a surprise.
  • Consider establishing an email account under your supervision for your kids, where they know they will get “for kids only” emails from back home.
  • When kids complete hard parts of the journey–like saying goodbye to a friend–create “white space” in your (no doubt packed) schedule for emotional needs, too. I admit to distracting my kids a bit during our massive garage sale by letting them have a lemonade stand.
  • Have reasonable expectations in your own mind. You might hear that six months after is often the low point when you move. Expect that your first year will be tough, and frought with a lot of highs and lows. (Duh, right?)
  • Don’t miss this post on The Art of Saying Goodbye.

Make a photo album. Get an app.

Ask friends to contribute photos; save Christmas photo cards. Download Marco Polo or another strategic way to connect with friends. (Just remember you will likely no longer live in the land of free wi-fi.)

Make the discussion ongoing.

As you progress through your journey, continue to ask questions about how kids are feeling, what questions they have, what they’re scared or excited about, etc.

Consider recruiting family friends to take your kids out individually and ask questions/listen to them talk, in order to give kids other arenas in which to discuss their feelings and thoughts.

Remember most kids are super-resilient.

With the exception of preteens and teenagers (at least one missions org has been rumored not let you move with kids around this age), my kids were bouncing around Uganda in about two minutes. (Their parents took considerably longer.)

In general, remember kids are taking their cues from you.

If it’s home to you and you’re there, kids will feel like home. If you’re willing to try new things (roasted grasshoppers. Boom), they might, too. (Don’t miss 8 Ways to Help your Family Flourish Overseas!)

That doesn’t mean you slap on a happy face. We can talk with kids age-appropriately about times we feel sad or afraid. But in general, where your family is together will eventually be home sweet home.

What would you suggest for preparing kids for the big move? comment below!

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.

Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.

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Rebecca & David’s Story: “We’re Ordinary People”

Reading Time: 5 minutes

ordinary people

Editor’s note: David and Rebecca, regular readers of Go. Serve. Love and self-proclaimed ordinary people, recently contacted us with some crazy-cool news. Together-ready, waiting for God’s direction–they recently became global workers in North Africa, one of the least-reached regions of the world.

And all in a span of about six weeks.

They asked if they could tell you his story, told here in David’s voice. Bring it on, David.

My wife is a preschool teacher working on a counseling degree, and I am an MBA student with some freelance work.

We have not:

  • Been to seminary
  • Raised support
  • Completed any formal “missions” training
  • Been formally approved by a “sending agency” (Organizations are great! But not a requirement.)

We have no delusions of grandeur, no formal “ministry plan.”

No burning bush has been seen. We have heard no booming voice.

We are not “professional” religious workers. We’re ordinary people, folks.

What happened to some ordinary people.

My work was already mostly remote/virtual. And in July, both of our academic programs moved online.

In light of the shift, my wife and I wanted to earnestly consider if there was somewhere else in the world where we should go.

We were able to connect with several teams around the world, including a team that runs a financially sustainable English-teaching preschool in North Africa.

not an option.

Jesus ends each of the gospels (and begins Acts) with a command to go into all the world and to make disciples.

Still, somewhere in the range of 40-60% of the people in the world have virtually zero opportunity to learn about Jesus. There are no churches, very few Christians, very limited resources. These areas are called “unreached people groups” because they have essentially zero access to any true knowledge of Jesus.

These billions of people are born, live their lives without the hope of Jesus, and die without having the chance to even hear that Jesus made a way for them to be restored to a right relationship with God for eternity.

One of the beauties of the American life? In many towns, you can drive down “church row” and walk into any one of dozens of churches. We have easy access to learn about God.

This is simply not the reality in much of the world.

It has been a journey for my wife and I to arrive at this point. And not everyone will agree with us. But to the two us, the command is so clear.

The default should be to go; that is the command. Instead of anguishing over a “call to go,” we decided instead to consider if we had been clearly, specifically called to stay.

My wife likes to describe it this way: We never question if we should be faithful to a spouse. Nobody ever says “Meh, I’m just not really sure if the Lord has called me to that.” It’s a really clear command!

And yet we seem to pick and choose commands we want to take seriously.

Do we neglect “here”? Of course not.

But if Jesus called all of us ordinary people to go to all the nations, and if 2000 years later, 40-60% of those nations have virtually zero access to learn about Jesus, could we have missed something?

This is not prescriptive. But along with you, my wife and I dream of a world where more people at least realize this is possible.

Man, that was fast.

My wife and I learned in July that all of our school would be online. All of my work is already online.

Our initial response: disappointment. But with the Holy Spirit’s influence, we quickly shifted to “Ok, we can do this anywhere in the world.”

We began to prayerfully explore what opportunities were available.

Six weeks later to the day, our feet touched the sand in North Africa.

the whole world (and covid) in his hands.

COVID-19 has made international travel difficult for Americans. A lot of organizations have brought people back to the U.S. and are limiting travel.

While totally understanding the need for wisdom and risk management, we believe God is establishing the places and the times of people groups throughout the world. Ordinary people or not, we want to be faithful to our role in providing access for people to find Him.

A travel issue delayed us two days in New York City. Our team leaders in North Africa traveled physically to the airport to advocate on our behalf.

It was a rough trip. We are just now getting out of our two-week quarantine. But it was totally doable.

The journey before the journey.

It has been our heart to go and make disciples of all the nations for some time. We weren’t clear on the where/what/how/when, but were intentional in posturing for that eventuality.

Steps ordinary people took–that anyone can start doing today.

  • We explored teams and organizations for several years through emails, video calls, etc. When the time came, we were able to reconnect and quickly identify current opportunities.
  • We learned about cross-cultural relationships by befriending international students. (Click for more ways to reach out right where you’re at.)
  • We built a network of counselors and advisors who understood our hearts and our journey who could give wise counsel.
  • We lived well below our means. When the time came, we had savings to cover airfare/startup costs in-country/etc. (Check out thoughts here on the role of debt in going overseas.)
  • We sought to develop skillsets that are easily transferable in many international contexts.
  • We held our plans and ambitions with open hands, open to quick redirecting of our path.

Where we go from here

We never planned to be in North Africa this fall. Many are the plans in our hearts, but we know that ultimately God’s purpose will stand.

We are currently working through orientation and training with the preschool and settling into a new life here. So far, we’ve been able to interact with local teachers, parents, and children at the preschool.

Mostly, we are trying to humbly learn how to live, work, study, and play in a very different context. We’re just ordinary people seeking to be faithful to Jesus’ command to go to all the nations and make disciples.

Packing: A Few Tips and Tricks

Reading Time: 6 minutes

packing luggage

We realize that with COVID-19, many of you may just be hoping you get to the packing phase–and actually get to leave for your host nation.

This week, we’re bringing out of the archives tips on luggage, what to put in it, and a few ideas about what works.

When my family went over, I confess my 2-year-old may have fallen over backwards after I crammed his carry-on backpack a bit full. It was amazing how many prayers of mine were offered on behalf of that poor British Airways attendant who would be checking in (and yes, offering a lot of grace toward) our family of six.

Becoming a Missionary: Ultimate Preparation Checklist!

Reading Time: 6 minutes

becoming a missionary

Editor’s note: Go. Serve. Love knows the decision and process for becoming a missionary can very quickly become complicated–even overwhelming. It’s why we’re thrilled to partner with the brand-new Mission App, a 15-20 minute application sent for you to mission agencies who match your chosen criteria!

We’re excited to welcome the Mission App today as they hand you their ultimate preparation checklist for becoming a missionary. Drumroll, please.

One more thing: becoming a missionary is a continual process of being shaped. These are essential areas in which to continue growing even, and especially, once on the field.

Use these to increase self-awareness, not as a signal you’ve arrived.

Read: If you’re checking off these boxes and considering them “done!”–you’re missing the idea. Each of these ideas is a touchstone to highlight areas of strength, weakness–and continued necessary growth either way.

Becoming a Missionary: Questions to consider as you prepare!

We understand that becoming a missionary may seem to be a huge, scary unknown.  What if there’s something you haven’t considered… and it’s important?

This Ultimate Checklist is meant to help you think through the questions that matter in becoming a missionary.

Don’t worry – these things will never be checked off as ‘completely accomplished’ for anyone. We just hope you will be encouraged as you see how far God has already brought you.

You might be further along toward becoming a missionary than you think!

And maybe we’ll remind you of something you wish you’d remembered.

Abiding with Jesus – Am I …

  • growing since I first met Jesus? Jot down ways God continues to change you.
  • feeding myself through study of God’s Word? Write highlights of what God has been impressing upon you in the past month from your time in his Word.
  • developing my prayer life? – Jot down how you’ve seen God interact with your prayers this week.

Character / Personal Growth – Am I…

  • demonstrating fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)? List a few ways you’ve seen this fruit in you this week.
  • quick to repent? List one thing you’ve repented of this week.
  • quick to forgive? Name one thing God’s given you grace to forgive this week.
  • full of integrity? Are your external and internal lives congruent?
  • living in humility? Name recent times you’ve God’s strength through your weakness.
  • learning how to handle conflict well? List one way you hope to grow in your handling of conflict.
  • learning how to handle failure? Name a failure Jesus has brought you through this month.

Family – Do I…

  • have a healthy marriage (if applicable)? Ask your spouse, your kids, your godly close friends what you do well and what you need to learn.
  • need to consider my kids’ readiness to go? Talk with them about the loss of current friends, the making of new ones, & the changing of circumstances (no Wi-Fi maybe?).
  • need to consider responsibilities like adult kids or aging parents? Jot down a prayer asking God for wisdom if this applies to you.
  • understand schooling options for my kids? Talk through if you and your kids are ready for the possibility of boarding school or homeschooling.

Relationship with others – What…

  • characterizes your relationships with those you work with or live near?  Write down positive and negative ways you’ve been described, and how you handle conflict.
  • is it about your life that draws people to you/renders others cold toward you? Write down what comes to mind.
  • shows that you consistently count others as more significant than self? Becoming a missionary means a dedicated life of others-focus–the life of a Christ-follower. Give examples of when you listened well more than you talked of yourself in the last few days.

Church Participation – Am I…

  • involved with a local church? Write down ways you have served in your church in the past and currently.
  • sent by my church? Write down how your church has supported you and confirmed the leading God has given you to share Jesus in another culture.  List those who are praying for you or who are willing to support you financially.

Biblical Formation – Do I…

  • understand core biblical doctrine?  Describe how God is healing the broken relationships in this world (between people and God and between people and each other) using specific Scriptures. What classes or books have you explored to increase your knowledge of solid doctrine? Write down your understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus from Scripture.
  • know how to articulate my faith?  Write down your core beliefs and why you believe them.
  • need to take formal Bible classes? Check with your sending church or organization to see if these are required.

Professional Training – Am I…

God’s Leading –  Can I…

  • put in words how God led me to consider becoming a missionary? Write down how God has led you so far in this journey toward sharing the Good News in another culture.
  • name a specific mission agency I feel connected with? Write a list of agencies that you are considering working with if you know of any.

becoming a missionary

Evangelism & Discipleship Training – Do I…

  • have a heart for reaching out beyond my own life? Becoming a missionary isn’t a magic wand to change your outreach habits! How have you demonstrated reaching out in the last month? (Grab ideas to start right where you’re at.)
  • know how to share the Good News about Jesus? Write down a brief summary of this Good News.
  • have the tools you need, understanding how they might interact with the complex culture to which you hope to go? Jot down questions you may want to pursue answers for.
  • continue to train in discipleship making? Write down where you are learning now or where you could learn.
  • train others already in following Jesus? Write down ways you are currently training others in following Jesus.

Church Planting Training – Have I…

  • thought about planting a church? Write down your thoughts as you pray about this.
  • considered being trained to plant a church? Write down where you might get training.

Cross Cultural Preparation – Do I…

  • know how to adjust to new cultures? Write down how you handle change or being different. (Don’t miss this series on beginning to navigate cultural differences and “icebergs”.)
  • understand the religion in my potential new host country? Do a little research online to start or even better talk to someone.
  • understand the culture in my potential new host country? Do some research and talk to someone who has lived there for more than a year.
  • plan to learn the language? Research what language is most spoken in your potential host culture.  Make a plan of how you will learn; language schools are usually available, or perhaps you’ll employ a tutor.  You may want to find some flash cards (online works, too, or an app like Word Climber) and build your vocabulary in your free time.

becoming a missionary

Becoming a Missionary: Next Steps

If you asked yourself these questions and realized you’re ready to take the next step toward becoming a missionary, here are a few things you may want to do.

Mission Agency Selection

  • Research agencies: Go to themissionapp.com to search easily.
  • Look for options: Talk to people you know about what is available.
  • Find an agency that matches your purpose: Think through how God is leading you in terms of ministry, people group, and location.

Application / Orientation / Training

  • Send in The Mission App’s preliminary application. You can choose to fill out our single application, which we route to multiple agencies that fit your purpose.
  • Fill out full-time application or interview with your choice of agencies. Call them if they don’t call you.
  • Attend mission agency orientation. Your agency provides details of where and when.
  • Attend any extra training required. Your agency will send details of what is required.

Prayer Partners

  • Raise up prayer partners (at least 100). Start with your small group, your church, your family, your friends.
  • Start communicating to prayer partners. You can use a group email, mass email service (like MailChimp), or a Facebook page or Instagram account.  Be consistent in reporting requests and answers.  (Remember to consider security if you are moving to a “creative access country”. Seek out your agency’s wisdom and safety guidelines.)

Finances

  • Determine the model of how you will be supported. Your mission agency will likely have this in place.
  • Engage in fundraising training. You don’t have to fly blind–or damage relationships! Learn from organizations who train others in fundraising. (Find out more at Go. Serve. Love’s page on Funding God’s Adventure.)
  • Start fundraising. Let people know what it is exactly that you will be doing and what your financial needs are.

See?  Not so bad.  Now that the adventure of missions is not so unknown, you’ve got a clearer picture of where you stand and what to do next.  Grab ahold of God’s hand and go!

Like this post? Don’t miss gO. sERVE. lOVE’S FREE PRINTABLE, FLEXIBLE TIMELINE FOR YOUR JOURNEY OVERSEAs–and our free self-assessment below!