Dear future goer,
You must have a million thoughts running wild in your head about what life overseas will look like, how different it will be, and how much your life is about to change. I'm sure you have beautiful ideas of how you will impact many people with the Gospel, and be an invaluable asset to your team.
You ARE a valuable asset to your team. The Gospel WILL change your environment, and you'll get to be a part of it. Your life IS about to be incredibly different. But most likely, none of these things will go quite as you expect.
If I can impart just two nuggets of truth that were suprising to me, and that I wish I had known at the start of my two year commitment, here they are:
First, be ready to deal with the areas in your life that God has probably been hinting at for years. I don't know what that may mean for you specifically, but for me, it looked like dealing with really painful memories from my past so that I could walk forward in freedom and be more effective in ministry. For some reason, I thought that moving overseas meant having a clean slate, a total restart. I thought it would be so different, and unlike the life I knew at home. But what I found is that old struggles and old pain came on the new adventure too. And not only were they accompaning me, they became amplified as new experiences triggered memories from my past. God wanted to deal with those things, and I had been telling him "NO, I'm not ready" for years. God wasn't satisfied with letting me jump into ministry without healing me first. It took the whole first year of living in Asia for me to finally surrender to Him, asking Him to control the parts of my life that felt so out of control, and it was then that He healed me. It was then that I was able to participate more freely in the ministry my team was involved in, as well as develop better relationships with locals and people on my team. So my advice? Let God into the parts of your life that you don't think you're ready to face yet, or the things you think you're leaving behind in America. God is not only ready to bring healing and wholeness, He wants you to be whole so that you bring the kingdom to earth in freedom and grace.
Second, identify your expectations at they rise up, name them, and then try to hold those things in an open hand. One example of this, for me, was being a student as part of my ministry. When I moved overseas, I had just graduated from college and I really wanted a break from school. For whatever reason, I didn't realize until I was on the field that a huge part of our daily life here is language learning! It took a lot of humility to place that expectation in the palm of my hand and say "here God. this isn't what I thought I was signing up for, but I am still trusting that you know best." There are SO MANY expectation stories I could tell you, but let me wrap up all my thoughts with this...
Living in Asia for the past two years changed me. It changed the whole trajectory of my life and future career. In the past two years, God gave me visions of hope for the T people in our region. He brought some of the closest friends I've ever had. He healed the greatest source of pain in my life, replacing it with peace and joy. He revealed plans to continue living in this region indefinitely. He instilled a deep love for the people of our region, and a desire to see the gospel change their hearts and lives. He brought me a greater spouse than I had dreamed of (we just got married two weeks ago...woohoo!). He is continuing to provide for all of my needs.
No matter what you anticipate for the next two years, just know that it won't be what you expect, but it might be a whole lot better. Trust the Lord, and He will take you on an amazing adventure. Of this, I can be certain.
Farrah (my secret agent name)