Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Living Overseas isn't an Adventure, it's a Life

Maybe it's the fact that I turn 40 this year and I am waving at the people-pleasing thirties in the rearview mirror.

Maybe it's because I'm living overseas and I get to post things like this online, not having to watch the facial expressions of my friends as they read my ridiculousness.

Picking up the calling to live and work overseas is not an adventure. We need to stop using that word. We try to sweeten the grief of saying good-bye to our passport country by using the word, "adventure." It's been written in letters of encouragement; put on index cards and surrounded by butterflies; tagged on a Facebook post with mountains while wearing red North Face jackets and black-strapped Chacos.

Let's make it all stop.

Each time we say these things to another person moving overseas, we are setting them up to stay short term. As they pack their bags and dream of "adventure," they are slowly telling the Lord, "This had better be fun or I'm out."

I realize that some people intentionally sign up for one or two years overseas, and that's great. But here's the reality, if you love Jesus and are moving overseas in order to make Him known in a new country than this is going to take a longer commitment. With a life commitment overseas, most days will not be filled with adventure.

Your pictures might look adventurous, but there are actual moments behind those crusty pagodas and exotic jumping tribes. Are there adventurous days? Yes. But there were also adventurous days when I lived in a suburb of North Houston. When you see pictures of your friends backpacking through Cambodia in order to find an unreached people group, you also need to know that they most likely camped in a cave and wore wet socks for three days.


They most likely reached their destination and failed to find a single villager. This is not an adventure, it's a frustration. But this frustration is worth it and that is why we do it.

Honestly, I get nervous for many of these young men and women raising their hands in an emotional flurry, committing to move overseas. While it's exciting to move to a new country, we need people to actually stay and that is going to require us getting over the adventure piece. If you stay for a year, you will probably return feeling like it's an adventure. But what we need over here are people who stay for the long haul. People that learn language, buy local, pee in outhouses at their friend's home, and become ok with rolling power outages. Adventure needs to take a back seat to real life. Life is only adventurous to the degree that we allow the Lord to intersects our lives with others.

I have loved all the moments of life overseas, but I will say that I've loved them because of how they have refined me as a Christian woman and not because they've all been fun. We have to start believing that God wants us to stay overseas for more than a year or two an that's going to require us to recalibrate our expectations. For some of us, that will mean that we will remain single for a really long time. Others of us have signed up to raise our children thousands of miles from their grandparents. These realities are very much not adventurous, they are simply hard. But the hard is where the Lord meets us to fold our lives into His.

And that is always the adventure. 

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