July - A Year Away from Home: What I Learned

July 2008

In college God opened my eyes to see the world, His love for all peoples, and my responsibility to be a part of reaching those unreached peoples with the gospel. So after graduation, rather than going ahead with my previous plans, I decided to spend a year overseas, specifically in the 10/40 Window. I knew it would be easy for me to get distracted by the American Dream if I were to go right into the market place. As I was packing my bags, boarding the plane, and stepping onto foreign soil I was unsure what my future would hold. I knew I wanted to live a lifestyle that would further the gospel in all the world, but I did not know where I would be most effective. As I walked away a year later, I had a clearer picture of the needs of the world and the call of scripture.

There are so many things that God taught me over the course of that year. I learned three big life lessons during that time.

One of the first things I saw was PEOPLE and lots of them. I am from a town of 4,160 people, and I spent the year in a city that numbered 3.15 million. Not only that, but in my small hometown there are 16 churches. Comparably, there was only one church in a city of 3.15 million. After seeing this, I could not deny the harvest really is plentiful. It was also very evident to me that the workers were few. All the foreign laborers in the city would meet every weekend for fellowship and worship. There were about 29 believers, of which only 12 were full-time, long-term workers there. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

After I learned the ropes on how to heat my shower water, how to use the “automatic” manual washing machine and how to make contact with my family back home, I started to realize something: I could do it! I could live in a developing country, even if I am a typical girly-girl. With or without the comforts from home, I could survive! I saw God providing above and beyond my needs just as he does in America. Those things that He provided sometimes looked a little different overseas, but He is the ultimate provider for all!

The last and most impacting thing I saw was the need for long-term workers, people who will say, “Yes, Lord. I will give my life to make disciples among the unreached people of the world.” As my time there was nearing to a close, I realized that I was just getting started. I saw that my relationships were just beginning to have depth. My friends were just starting to trust me in a way that fostered spiritual conversation. I also grasped the fact that in order to reach people from another culture, you really need to be a learner of their culture and language. I do not know how many cultural faux-pas I committed. There were some differing common courtesies that I was unaware of for the majority of my time overseas. I also noticed that there were many conversations that I was not able to have with my friends, even though they were fairly fluent in English. They had stopping points in their abilities, and sadly a lot of those stopping points were related to deeper issues, emotions, and spiritual things. I also realized that even if they could speak English really well, it was important for them to hear the gospel in their native “heart” language.

Before leaving, I thought a year was a long time to spend in another country. When the year was over, I understood the need for people to go and live their lives among the unreached. The task will not be completed with short trips. The unreached people need followers of Christ to come and live out the gospel among them. It takes time to break down the cultural, linguistic, and religious barriers. It takes time for people to see how you genuinely care about them. It takes time to learn how to relate the gospel to people who are different than you are. And it takes time to see disciples made where there is no current knowledge of Christ.

Take the time today to consider how God wants to use you to take His name to the unreached.