The Questions I Don't Know How to Answer

It’s been several months now since our epic flights across that really large pond, connecting our two very different worlds. Our worlds that are home and not home all at the same time.

Over these past several months, we’ve driven tens of thousands of miles and have had dozens and dozens of speaking engagements in one fashion or another. In the midst of all the travel, or perhaps because of all the travel, we’ve been able to sit down and talk with so many precious friends and supporters across the country. We love connecting and reconnecting; we really do. We love the curiosity about our lives and work in Southern Asia, the dialogues that have been sparked over coffee and over a table in a foyer somewhere. 

Please know, dear reader and friend of ours, that we love your questions. We want you to ask; that’s far better than silence, far better than acting as if we haven’t lived on the other side of the world for these last three years. Sometimes it’s just plain hard, though, to put into words, to construct a sentence or two that we can eventually wrap up with pretty bows, this thing you might ask about. This thing that is our new lives overseas, our experiences, our very hearts.

Your questions are important, and they validate our lives, this whole experience of going and staying overseas. I want to try to answer, but mostly I need to offer a long explanation as to why I can’t actually give you a straightforward answer. There are so many questions, so in the interest of not winning an award for the longest blog post in the history of the universe, I’m going to break them down over several posts. You’re welcome. 

Question: Do you like it (over there)?

Answer: Well, in a nutshell, yes. I mean it isn’t easy to live there. But just because something isn’t easy doesn't mean that it isn’t good. Our family has made our home there. We feel incredibly blessed.

Explanation: I remember our life in America before our big move. I didn’t always like everything about it, not at every single moment, not 100% of the time. Maybe it was the color of the drapes or the carpet. Maybe it was a sibling squabble in the backseat on the way home from story time at the library. Maybe it was just the grit of the daily grind. I didn’t always have warm, fuzzy feelings on the inside as I pulled into my driveway. Chances are, you don’t either. But, I was truly happy; I was content; I was trusting in God. Now it’s exactly the same scenario overseas.

I like my home in the concrete jungle, but I don’t always love it. I don’t always love every single thing every single day. I confess that the roaches and the ants and the chaos and the open sewers are not super fun experiences. I don’t smile when the power goes out for the 348th time in a row. Some days are hard. Other days are harder. There are moments, though, so many wonderful moments, in our overseas context that infuse our daily life with deep pain and deep fulfillment and deep joy. I can honestly say that I’m still happy; I’m still feeling content; I’m still trusting in God. This is my home; this is my life now. But I didn’t sign up to go (over there) based on the warm fuzzy feelings. I signed up for obedience, the same as you in your own context.

Question: How was your trip?

Answer: Well, it wasn’t actually a trip. You know, my family and I moved there. We live there.  We don’t go back and forth between Asia and America, except for this little thing called itineration.

Explanation: Now, I know that I am probably, okay definitely, being a total Grammar-Nazi about this. But this is deeply personal for me. Going on a trip implies a few short days or perhaps weeks of taking super cool photos, experiencing some things that will make for great stories later on, and wrapping up the adventure being not too worse for the wear. If this was only a trip, then my kids wouldn't have cried so hard or so long when we left. If it was only a trip, then I would've packed my bags up years ago and come “home” to America. I wouldn't have stayed past the first earthquake or the time our neighbor was gunned down, or the first time I realized that feeling lost and alone and confused was going to become part of my daily routine for months on end as culture stress took center stage. 

If this was only a trip, why on earth would I have taken my kids with me, ensuring they wouldn't go to their cousins’ ball games or family game nights or any holidays at all for years and years? You see, on a global trip, you typically don't have to teach yourself and your kids how to become skilled at Skype, tearing into birthday and Christmas presents as if it’s perfectly normal to do so with one eye cocked toward the computer. 

I’ve been on dozens of trips around the world. They have been great, each one in its own right. But I know something, too. One quick trip around the world won’t change anything. A ten day tourist visa won’t set the captives in Southern Asia free. It’s easy to go; it’s much harder to stay.

*What about you? How would you answer these questions? Better yet, what else would you ask? Please jump into the international waters with me!

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