Whether you are a freshman in college dreaming of the day you can hop on a plane and start your journey overseas, or a senior terrified of the unknown, you cannot go wrong considering a position working overseas. It starts as an exhilarating thought that maybe God could use you in exciting ways and turns into a sense of doubt as you count the cost of leaving everything you know behind. But, after returning from my two-year commitment with GoCorps, I can say with confidence that every terrifying support meeting, heart breaking goodbye, and exhausting cultural dilemma was more worth it than I could have ever imagined.
So here are a few things I learned:
1. You are tiny and inadequate. Embrace it. You don’t need eloquent words of wisdom and you aren’t the answer to everyone’s problem. It’s the Holy Spirit that changes hearts, not you. Jesus served with extreme humility, and he is God. So we must do the same. The first step to helping anyone is recognizing your weakness and leaning on the strength and grace of God.
2. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. You will face hard times and if you don’t have a strong theological understanding of suffering, you might be tempted to believe that you don’t deserve to suffer. Remember that God is so good, regardless of the circumstances. He remains good, even if he never does another good thing for us. And the Gospel can sometimes be proclaimed the most clearly when we are suffering.
3. Be kind to yourself. Cultural stress is real, and it is exhausting. Make sure you do things that keep you energized. Find people who you feel safe to be yourself with. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t know the language or get frustrated at the supermarket. (The amount of time that I cried at the supermarket…).
4. Always take a Sabbath. I think God is pretty smart and knows what he is talking about. In different countries, the holy day might not be Sunday. But give yourself at least on day a week where you can decide to stay in be all day, explore the city, or do whatever refreshes your spirit.
5. Roll with the punches. I had a unique situation where my visa was revoked in my second year and I moved to another country. It was hard and confusing and at the time I didn’t see the plan; but being flexible and able to laugh at the hard stuff will save you. It doesn’t mean you can’t cry, just remember His mercies are new and fresh every morning.
6. There is no one who needs the Gospel more than you do. We all need the grace of the cross, so take care of your own spiritual life. Make it a priority. It is so easy to think that everything you do is about Jesus and forget to actually have quality, one-on-one time with him.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. --- Ephesians 3:14-18