“Transition can be defined as the movement of people from one stage of life to another or from one cultural context to another…Families going overseas experience transition every time they leave or enter a country.” (Families on the Move, Marion Knell, p. 47)
October 17, 2010, San Jose, Costa Rica. After a long absence, I walk into my own house as a stranger. My life and work have just abruptly turned a corner. For the first time in 25 years I am no longer the primary caregiver for any of my children. The nest is empty, my Costa Rica ministries had been taken over by others, and my own home is in disarray.
“Even good changes are stressful, and in multiple transitions there is a lot of disorientation, exhaustion and grief.” (Knell, p. 56)
I have spent the better part of the last 11 years studying transitions and what they do to us. I’ve taught this information to countless missionary families and helped them apply it. I have helped hundreds of children of all ages prepare for future transitions and cry through completed ones. I’ve been the counselor; now I’m the counselee.
I take the time to label the simultaneous transitions I’m going through myself, and don’t know whether to laugh in relief (no WONDER I feel so awful!) or cry in despair (I can’t make it through this!). So I do some of each! And I quote to myself all the things I recommend to others to help through the tough times:
- Take your time! Take time to relax, to rest, to have fun!
- Include in your life as many things that are familiar and soothing as you can: favorite music, movies, books, crafts.
- Eat healthy meals and frequent snacks.
- When you get overwhelmed, STOP and rest.
- Trust God’s promises to provide whatever you need and to use everything in your life for your best.
What a joy it is to watch God keep His promises! He does know what I need, and He generously provides it: time to adjust, organize, rest, and cry. It’s even encouraging to realize that all the experience I have with families in transition has been a blessing to me personally – without it, I doubt I could have made it through this intensely difficult time of change. Thank you, Father!
Meanwhile, friends have asked me about my ministry – what will I do now? It seems to be an especially pressing question since my former family responsibilities have waned; nobody wants to think of me sitting home, sad, lonely, and bored, with nothing to do! But when I take a look around, it seems that God has already filled in the gaps I left behind when I left for our extended home assignment. Fortunately, I’ve been through this before! I know that for a missionary, the problem is never that there isn’t enough work to do, it’s being discerning in what God wants us to do (and not do). Experience has taught me that the scope of my ministry will broaden, but for now, I don’t have to know how. I have no doubt that God will show me what to do when it’s the right time. And for once in my life, I welcome the rest that comes with waiting on God!
As He was leading our family overseas, God put Jeremiah 29:11 into the forefront of my mind: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
That’s a verse I clung to whenever I was nervous about something new (which has been many times in the last 15 years!). And now, in this time of peaceful waiting, God brought along another passage: Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” It’s not just that God’s plans are for my good, but His plans are to use me to bless others. It’s time to stop asking: “How will this affect ME?” It’s time to start thinking about the rest of the world.
March 9, 2011. Sitting in our living room, Gary & I enjoy a time of sharing with our Latin America field leaders, Jim & Corinne. As I share my deep love for (and broad experience in) mentoring new missionary families and Missionary Kid education, God begins to pull some of the pieces together. I am in a perfect location to walk alongside WorldVenture families who come to Costa Rica for language school. With excitement we begin to develop a new vision for follow-up with our families after they have left here for their field of service. If there was any doubt that this was clearly God directing, within a few days He provides future opportunities for me to serve missionary families in Brazil, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Honduras!
So here I am, trying to process this. I am thrilled that God is still going to use me in helping families through their adjustments, and excited that it will be broader geographically. In the past, it has been a tremendous blessing to bring friends and teams along to help run Missionary Kid programs in Miami and Costa Rica. Now it looks like we might be able to do the same thing in other places, as the need for MK care arises. God’s timing is perfect, as this ministry discovery process coincides with our annual MK Caregiver Conference April 5-9. That will be the perfect opportunity to network and brainstorm, and I am sure God will provide some specific direction for me there!
When God brings me to mind, please be sure to thank Him first for everything He’s been doing for me!
- His loving provision of time for me to rest and recoup
- His comfort in times of sadness
- His care for the rest of the family, which frees me up to serve Him here
- His provision of training and experience for me to do this ministry
- His clear guidance
- The opportunity to be His partner as He moves forward His plan for His church
The things I would ask of God are:
- Continued clear direction
- Courage & strength to do His will
- That my ministry will consist only of letting others get a clear look of Him reflected off of me