What I wish I’d known…

I was recently asked by a friend to share some thoughts on what I wish I’d known before going overseas for others who are following the same track I’m on. As I reflect on how to respond, my mind goes a couple different directions…

First, I immediately jump to my misconceived assumption that the majority of people in Turkey would speak English. It was a shock to get here and recognize that I had my work cut out for me language-wise. Being such a relational person, it’s been really hard for me to not be able to strike up conversation with my Turkish language helpers aside from the vocabulary they’re helping me learn. Its painful being a people person and not being able to communicate! I’ve now been here for 3 months, spending 20 hours of each week studying the language. My advice for others going abroad would be to get a head start on language learning before arriving at the field… Even though support raising kept me really busy, I still wish I would have known to study Turkish more beforehand so I would have a foundation to build on… There is hope though. Yesterday I was actually able to share what I believe with two of my friends- IN TURKISH. I’m still amazed and humbled that it made sense! So despite my language struggle, God is evidently at work!

Also, I encounter more brokenness than I know how to handle. I knew what I was getting into, but I didn’t know how the extent of how it would effect me. The stories I hear from the refugees I am working with are filled with injustice and pain and overwhelming oppression. When a woman unloads her personal tragedy to me, relating an experience that goes beyond my understanding of how humans could possibly be so evil and cause so much harm, I break. My emotions. My body. My heart. I physically feel sick. Ministry is heavy. But then I remember: Christ shared in our sufferings. He knows what they have gone through. He’s experienced being treated far worse, becoming lower than excrement. And he suffered so we can have freedom. All our burdens became his on the cross. And I am here to share that good news. To usher them into a Kingdom of justice, of righteousness, and of joy. This is the Kingdom we are meant to be a part of. So, when I’m sitting in that chair, listening to their story and absorbing their hurt, the immense amounts of empathy and pain and righteous indignation that I feel can also be laid down. I’m learning to surrender the burdens I take on from my ministry, so that I can be a vessel of light and of hope of the victory we have through Jesus. My advice: start practicing surrender right now. Make it a daily habit to bring your burdens- personal and ministry related, no matter how big or small- and lay them at the foot of the cross. Learning how to do this as a spiritual discipline before you go on the field will be helpful for when you encounter brokenness in mass quantity.

Lastly, I wish I knew how big identity crisis would be upon leaving APU for the field. Identity is always a common issue, but even more so after college and while living overseas. In Turkey, it’s definitely been a process finding my niche and role, and I became aware of how I was holding unto that as identity instead of Christ as identity. See, I am currently working primarily with kids, while at APU I thrived discipling college students. For awhile I struggled with not feeling like myself because I’m doing a different type of work. However, I’m going to be changing work areas all throughout my life, so defining who I am by what ministry I do simply cannot be my identity. We obviously change and grow and are molded, and each season serves to strengthen who we are in Christ, preparing us for the next season. When I look at myself and my achievements, the ground starts to shake and I feel like I’m in the wrong place. But when my eyes are glued on Him he keeps building on that firm foundation, assuring me of His faithfulness and affirming His calling to serve where he placed me. I had no idea I would jump from directing trips to Mexico for college students to teaching a classroom of 5-9 year old, beautiful little refugee children. I loved what I did at APU and I love what I do now. They both involve very different sets of giftings. However, God has shown me that when I open my heart to serve as He leads, He will grow new passions in me and equip me for where he has placed me. God desires a willing and obedient spirit, with identity placed solely in Christ, so that his glory can be made known. Taking our eyes off of ourselves is the first step:)

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