A Transition Toolbox for when you look like a local but don't FEEL like a local

At Mission Central we like to share observations from mission workers on what they’ve learned during their time serving others.


Transition can do all kind of things to your system. Mood swings, excitement, disorientation, depressing thoughts, culture stress, loneliness, lack of social network, boredom, helplessness, lots of time to think on your own, getting lost in opportunities (in the theater of your mind), fleeing into the soap opera on TV, tiredness, sleeplessness, lack of focus … all of those—and please go ahead and add your own.

You think I wrote this out of a textbook? Ha! No, I have been experiencing all of these at times myself since we relocated to Europe after 25 years in Taiwan.

Do you remember any time in your adult life when you have been put in a place where you did not know anyone and anything? Is it suddenly hard to find friends you can call on and talk to without having made an appointment a couple of weeks ahead? Is it difficult to get to know some people who seem open for a new friendship? Do you lack the knowledge of the language spoken around you in order to establish deep friendships?

I do not feel like a local; I do not belong here. I do not feel this is my heart language.

Transitioning to Europe is not like transitioning to Asia, where I look different and people are interested in the foreign, white, “beautiful” face. I do not stand out here. I do look like a local; I can speak the local dialect. But I do not feel like a local; I do not belong here. I do not feel this is my heart language.

Luckily, I am an optimist by nature. Or should I rather say, God has been so good to me that I have a sense of looking at things from the positive side. As the fifth child in my family, I was told frequently that I was not planned—I was a surprise! My answer to that, rather than making me feel depressed, instantly sprang out from the bottom of my heart: “How fortunate! You are so lucky to have me now!!!” The world is richer to have me in it. That’s what God thinks of all of us, right?

But when you get into a depressed mode, this conviction seems far away. You sit in the room alone, nobody around you to cheer you up or converse with. The question is: How will I cheer myself up with not knowing a soul around me? Yes, I can chat with God … and everybody who is available on an app in the appropriate time zone.

Then, I get out my toolbox for “What to do in culture stress?” I’m struggling through this transition, even though I have been caring for and coaching newcomers and people in culture stress for more than 20 years. I am glad that I have this toolbox of experiences and helpful ideas for coping.

One by one, I:

  • Check out some interesting sights in the area
  • Get to know my surroundings
  • Walk, look, observe
  • Go shopping (until price shock hits me)
  • Invite someone for dinner at the next Sunday service
  • Plan something that will cheer me up like an outing or a concert
  • Listen to music, sing, play an instrument
  • Read some books
  • Laugh, laugh, and laugh some more, about myself
  • Journal
  • Find someone to talk to

One of the most important tools in the transition toolbox is to find someone to talk to, who will walk with you through this part of your journey. Someone who will take time and listen. Someone who is willing to share some of your joys and heartaches. Someone who seems to know what you are talking about.

I encourage anyone in transition to find this someone, who can help you remember that you are important and have always been wanted by the great “I AM.”


Reprinted with permission from SEND International
https://send.org/Blog/transition-tips

Series: Mission Workers’ Perspectives

See all Read more...
Article

Leaving a Legacy

What does it mean to leave a legacy? Leaving a legacy when you're gone to serve the KingdomRead more Read more...

Article

Why Local and Global Missions Need Each Other

"God has been in the business of pushing his people out of their current context and sending them into the wider world."Read more Read more...

Article

Are We Serving Orphans?

Disturbing facts about the orphanage model are causing many churches to rethink their strategy for orphan ministry.Read more Read more...

Article

What We Get Wrong About Church Planting

What we are actually planting is the Gospel and what we are harvesting is the church.Read more Read more...

More on Mission Central

Random Posts

Article

The Context for Discipleship

What is discipleship? Discipleship in a missional community leads to vibrant mature followers of Jesus.Read more Read more...

Article

Global Mission: Still an Urgent Task?

Celebrating Lausanne's 40th anniversary in 2014 sparked many conversations and reflections about time and purpose.Read more Read more...

Devotional

Altar Vision Devotional - Week 5

How does surrender connect to loss and lead to freedom?Read more Read more...

Article

Marketplace Ministry: A Light for Leaders

LeaderImpact shares this story of how a simple conversation became an opportunity to lead someone to Jesus.Read more Read more...

Random Posts

Event Recap

Evangelical Missiological Society and Lausanne Movement in Vancouver

What are the current trends impacting missions, migration, and multiplication in Canada.Read more Read more...

Article

Intimacy and Doing God's Will

Redefining mission, intimacy and doing God's will is the pillar to our identity and as people of mission.Read more Read more...

Article

Towards an Intercultural Ecclesiology

"The largest faith communities were not homogeneously Caucasian, but were Chinese, Korean or Filipino congregations."Read more Read more...

Devotional

Altar Vision Devotional - Week 9

Surrender, no matter what!Read more Read more...