What I Wish I Would Have Known: Sarah’s Perspective

before you go without

When you leave YOUR HOME COUNTRY, always pack chocolate chips, Secret deodorant,  books you can’t live without, and tampons. 

(some things you don’t want to mess around with.)

When you’re scrambling to imagine life without something? When it’s important to you? Pack it.

Sure, there are many things you will learn to live without (see my next point) and there are some things you don’t want to have to live without.

It’s okay to have certain things that are your “items” that you bring with you. Your list of essentials might be different from mine.  The point is everyone has certain things they don’t want to have to live without and that’s okay.

You’ll live without a lot of things you always thought you needed (/preferred).

The Western world (America especially) has many conveniences that we start to think are normal everywhere or even essential. Then you learn to make your own Caesar dressing or whipped cream topping or enchilada sauce.

Yes, it’s more work. But it’s also a good perspective about how a greater portion of the world lives.  American culture values immediate and convenient, efficient and quick, many times at the expense of our actually understanding the process of what goes into the product or the meal.

Most of the world doesn’t live with this mentality.  Sometimes good things are worth the effort.

their confusing systems actually become quite helpful.

For a of couple years we struggled with not being able to take care of some of the repairs around the home the way we could in America.  We struggled with where to find the parts, the right tools for the job, and sometimes even how to fix the problem.

Then we realized that you call a plumber and he goes and gets the correct parts, he has the correct tools, and he can fix the problem in about 5 minutes and it all costs an incredibly reasonable amount.

We found the system.

The culture is not set up for DIY home repairs.  These repair projects are done quickly and inexpensively by someone whose job and place in the culture it is to do this project.

Every culture will have its own systems that you have to learn.  The learning curve can be challenging, so be flexible.  And remember that once you understand the system, it might actually help you.

You’ll love and hate certain things about the culture at the same time.

Many days I both fully enjoy how vibrant and passionate Egyptians are…and I am tired of how loud it is!

I love the zeal for life and for celebration.  Then I’m annoyed by the constant honking.

You’ll find greater leniency for your preferences, and greater scrupulousness to the essentials.

Most of the times we get annoyed it is because our preferences are not respected or observed.  We prefer appointments to be on time, we prefer to always get what we ordered on the menu, we prefer to drive without traffic, and we prefer to do our own home repairs.

In all of these areas of preference, we can learn leniency. We can recognize not everyone holds these preferences and just because we do doesn’t make them the only right way to do something.

What we do need to hold fast are the essential issues: Integrity, justice, honesty, kindness.  And we hold tightly to these essentials even in the face of disagreement.

All cultures are broken and all cultures have distorted the image of God.  Our responsibility as redeemed light-bearers is to demonstrate as well as we can the characteristics of God, without bending to a certain culture’s standard.  

It’s ok to not become Egyptian or ColOmbian or Senegalese or whatever culture you are hoping to lovE.

There’s often a desire to fully integrate into the other culture. Maybe it comes from a desire to love people well, maybe from a desire to share the gospel more effectively, maybe from a desire to be that skilled as a missionary.

But the truth is you can’t, you are American or Korean or Canadian.  You might take on aspects of that new culture and might become less strongly identified with your culture of origin.  You can’t become a different culture.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok that you might always view the world differently than your neighbors and it’s ok that you prefer to eat pizza with your hands and beans and rice with a spoon.

Can you respect and appreciate the differences?  Can you honor the traditions that make their culture unique?  You don’t have to become that people group to love them, invest in them, get involved in their lives, and share truth, goodness, and love.

before you go

You won’t be able to love the people every day.

There were many times I fought against this statement. I will love them, I will love them. 

Repeat ten times through gritted teeth, with weary mind and body keep trying, keep trying.

Then I faced the fact that people are people and some days people are frustrating and annoying and messy; you can keep trying harder but you will just wear yourself out.

Instead, lift your focus from the people you want to love to the God you love and want them to love.  Seek to love Him more and as you do, He will love the people through you.

Make your home what you need it to be.

Your home will be your sanctuary, your place of peace, and your place to bring people into your life. Even if you might only live there for 2 years, make it your home and don’t just live temporary.

There were times I would just try to “make do” with something I already had because “maybe we wouldn’t be here very long.” Create the place that helps you feel home, that allows you to welcome others into your home, and that lets you feel settled.

This is important for being able to completely invest, especially on the tough days when you wonder if it’s all worth the effort and the price.

Even if you don’t buy furniture, let your home reflect what is important to you, let it reflect you.  We even hung a swing from the living room ceiling for the kids to play on.  Sometimes it creates quite a circus.

But it helps make our home ours.

before you go without

One day you will find that your heart is in two places: full and overflowing; broken and desperate.

You will look around at your surroundings and see the land where you have sown and invested, the sweat and the tears (so many tears!) that went into being obedient to your calling.

You made a new place your home, whether joyfully or begrudgingly, and that has changed you.  Your heart has expanded to love more, feel more, hurt more.

The first time we left Egypt for an extended time back in America, I remember looking around as I climbed up the steps to the plane.

My heart was so full I could barely breathe.  I was leaving a place that had welcomed me and in which I had wrestled to make a home, find my place, give of my love and light.

I was going back to the place which was originally home and in which I would again wrestle to find my place for six months.

Whichever country I stood in I would wrestle because neither is my forever home.  Whichever country I stood in, I missed something from the other.

Though it leaves me teary and easily overcome with emotion, I’m grateful to be pulled between these “homes,” walking the path before me, trusting in the One who will eventually lead me home.

Sarah serves in Egypt with her husband and four children. You can catch her blog here.

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