Hi friends! This month marks 6 years of living overseas and in light of that we want to share with you guys some of the top things we have learned, both spiritually and practically.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but as we challenged ourselves to think of what we have learned and ways we have grown, these were some things that came to mind. So, in no particular order, here are some of the things we have learned as global workers.
- The learning never stops…though it does slow down.
The first several years (yes, years) are full of learning. Language, culture, where to get groceries, how to use public transportation, how the healthcare system works…the learning feels literally endless. We are still learning six years in, but the “drinking from a firehose” feeling has definitely subsided.
- There are pros and cons to every place you live.
Some days I feel myself sliding towards only seeing the cons, other days I can’t imagine that anybody has it better than this. But what we’ve come to realize is that there are pros and cons to every place in the world. You might trade convenience for beautiful views, or amazing tropical weather for being near family. Whatever it is, look for the good and appreciate where you live.
- Moving overseas doesn’t make you awesome (Alternatively titled: the temptation to live for self doesn’t disappear.)
This is something that we knew in theory but have learned bigtime in practice. Saying goodbye to life as we knew it and moving overseas was a huge act of obedience. But that doesn’t automatically make us super-christians. The daily struggle to die to self, to put others first with our time and resources, to get in the Word when we don’t feel like it is still VERY real. So, we keep growing in humility and maturity in Christ.
- It can change your life in ways you didn’t expect.
I knew the obvious ones: we would learn a new language, we would miss family events in the US, we’d adopt a broader worldview. But I didn’t expect the huge changes that would come from living a simpler, slower life, and the family dynamic that is so different because our kids’ favorite foods are not “American.” There are so many things that have changed about our lives that I wasn’t prepared for…and I love.
- Stuff is just stuff.
Our “stuff” or physical possessions just do not have much worth to us anymore. We’ve had stuff get moldy, be stolen, get damaged on airplanes, and rust out thanks to rainforest humidity. But you know what? Stuff is just stuff (and we honestly still have more than we need!)
- You will probably doubt yourself…many times.
Even though the hand of God was clear in directing us here to Ecuador, there have still been many, many times that we’ve thought, “What are we doing here again?” I think it is just part of the process. It’s so important to have those Ebenezers, those stones of remembrance to look back and remember exactly how and why God called you to where you are today. This process of reflection on God’s faithfulness in the past and his calling for the future has helped us overcome these times of doubt.
- Flexibility is crucial.
Ok, this should probably have been number one even though I said in no particular order. Flexibility is so key to surviving and thriving on the mission field. Plans don’t work out, things don’t happen when they are supposed to, and we’ve had to give up our kids’ strict bedtime (ouch!) But when we let go of our carefully laid plans, God shows up with his much better ones.
- Community is even more crucial.
Being connected to our sending church, meeting with and participating in a local church, having people in our home, and friends that we can just have fun with are all super important to life on the mission field. Life without people just isn’t possible and we have found that having a solid base of support, both locally and from friends and family back in the US, has been vital to us being able to thrive. I wrote an entire post on this recently so you can check that out here.
- It is hard and God is good.
It has been hard. If you’ve heard us share about the last few years, you probably know that. We don’t sugarcoat the difficulties of living and working overseas. But God has been so good to us. He has sustained us through things that we thought, humanly-speaking, would break us. Each time we reach a point of discouragement or doubt, he sends just the right encouragement to our souls.
We have learned so much over the years and we are so grateful for this journey of growth. If you’ve lived or worked overseas, what would you add to this list? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Together for the Gospel,
Marcos and Maddie