I have now been back in America for a whole week. During this time, I'm having the opportunity to process these last two years, get used to the reality of being in the US again, and prepare for my next steps. I'm excited to say that I hope to continue working overseas for as long as God has me there. These last two years have been very foundational for my future as well as a major source of growth for me. He has taken me on quite a ride, and here are 7 things that I have learned these last two years.
1. Don't be afraid to use this time to develop yourself.
Perhaps you will feel pressure to be constantly ministering to others. God also wants to use this time to develop you as a person. He wants to mold you and shape you into the person that He wants you to be in order to do the job He has set before you. Make sure to give yourself time for this, and seek others who will help you to grow.
2. Do use the support of your teammates.
We Americans really hold onto our individualism. We want to do things for ourselves, and we don't like to ask for help. Our team is there to support us through everything, and we need to be willing to ask for help. Even if that means time to take a break, help with personal development, or the actual work that is done on the field.
3. Be flexible.
We want to be available for the people we are serving and our teammates. As best as possible, allow your time to be flexible to prepare for last-minute changes or sudden needs. A looser schedule is better for forming stronger relationships. There will likely be days you find that you really need to do something for yourself or even to take extra time to spend with Him. A flexible schedule will help you take time out without feeling too stressed.
4. Be gracious.
As you enter your team, you should recognize that it is in some ways a "new" team as it integrates newcomers. Be gracious toward your team leaders and coworkers as they adjust, grow, and change. Be gracious to yourself, as well, as you grow and change, and especially if you feel like you've "failed" at something. (By the way, you didn't really "fail".)
5. Voice your concerns.
I hope you never feel like you don't have much say in what goes on in your team. You are there for two years, though, and you are able to add your thoughts about changes being made. Even if they ultimately move in another direction, at least you are heard, and they know about your concerns and wishes.
6. Trust and listen.
Building trust among your team is incredibly necessary. Without trust, you won't be willing to share, ask for help, or participate or interact with your team. You should know that your team is there ready and willing to help you, and so you should be ready to trust them as your new support system. If there is already a lack of trust on the team, perhaps you can help to facilitate a community of trust. As you trust others to listen to you, be a listening ear for them, as well. Most importantly, be ready to trust and listen to the Lord. You may think that you already trust Him in your life, but He will reveal to you areas that you need to trust Him more: with funds, with missing things happening at home, etc. He will stretch you in this area. Listen to Him as He grows you and moves you and shapes you for His plans.
7. Enjoy the ride.
Your time overseas shouldn't only be work, you should have time for fun, especially with local friends. Take time to enjoy life and the beauty of the country you find yourself in. Your two years will likely be a rollercoaster of a ride. Enjoy what He is planning and what He is doing in you and in those around you.
I hope that you find these tips useful. I'm excited for you as you begin this next journey. May the Lord bless you throughout these two years.