Many things in life have the potential to raise anxieties and create fear. It can be spiders, heights, germs, confined spaces or the dark. Those may affect just a few people. However, something that has the potential of making all of us anxious is a fear of the unknown.
How do you feel about moving halfway across the world to teach in an overseas school or serve in an international project? You might be able to romanticize some of the exotic elements of a new place and culture, but there are just so many unknowns!
What will it really be like? Will the water make you sick? Will you find friends? Will you be able to learn the language? Will you be able to handle intermittent water and power outages? Will the chaotic traffic and noise drive you crazy? Will you be able to cope leaving your friends and family behind?
Three weeks ago, my daughter and her husband moved from Togo, West Africa to Malawi, East Africa. They are young and adventurous. They just assumed it would all turn out. But I lived overseas for 21 years and have traveled to more than 30 countries. Most of my adult life I have been closely involved with people living and working overseas. I know the challenges people will face and I know that difficult things can and will happen.
What helps you maintain a sense of optimism, hope, confidence and peace in the face of the uncertain and unknown?
In regards to my daughter and son-in-law, I wondered, “What will their team leader really be like? Will they find people who will help them get settled? Will they be able to find adequate housing within their budget? Will my daughter and son-in-law find friends?”
With questions like those, you don’t know the answers until you get there. If you sense a life calling to move overseas, you need to step out in confidence, trust and hope. But is it just a confidence in the universe, or in Star Wars language, the confidence that “The Force is With You?”
My confidence in any situation is based on God’s promises to be with His people. Time and again, He says things like, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Because God is with you we do not need to be afraid nor discouraged – even if we are facing the uncertainty of the unknown and the probability of adversity! Not only that, He tells us that because He is with us, He will strengthen us and help us.
How do we know that is true? Or, how do we know that will be true for us? Let me focus on just one element: His faithfulness in the past is an indicator that He will be faithful and powerfully present with us in the midst of any future need.
Before our daughter moved to Malawi, I thought about all the unknowns they would face and I prayed for God to go before them and to be with them. Now, three weeks later it’s AMAZING to look back and see all that God has done!
- Yes, they had an unexpected 24 hour delay in Addis Ababa. But after the stress of moving out of their home in Togo, the extra day helped them catch up on rest and enjoy a stay at a good hotel.
- Yes, they had to face ten days before they found a house to rent. But they were invited to stay with their project director, his wife and three kids along with five other guests!
- Yes, it was crowded and there wasn’t a lot of privacy. But they experienced interdependent community at its best and friendships were forged which will help in the future.
- Yes, Malawi is a brand-new place to them. But God put expats and nationals into their path who have welcomed them with open arms. They have taken them to garage sales and driven them around town looking for houses to rent. The project director and his assistant took them to see his micro-enterprise projects as well as the school and clinic he established.
- Yes, it is a foreign setting. But our son-in-law has already been invited to join locals in two pick-up soccer games.
- Yes, the medical facilities are not what you would find in the US. But they have met local medical workers and foreign doctors to assure our daughter and her husband that even though she is pregnant with twins they should be able to provide care for a normal birth, or even if there are complications.
- Yes, there are unexpected stoppages of electricity and water. But there is much better connectivity to the internet and we have already had wonderful voice conversations. The electricity and water are still problems, but it looks like a solar power generation system is an affordable solution for the electricity and you can always store water ahead of time to get you through.
- Yes, their new, unlived-in house has many things that don’t work. But their house is on the outskirts of town and has beautiful views of the local mountains which is bringing joy and life to our daughter as she looks ahead to raising her twins in their new home.
Whether you are anticipating a move overseas or facing some other unknown, know that God is faithful and promises to be with you and help you.About the Author: Ron is the IDEAS Community Life Director for Asia and is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his twin grandchildren. Check out his previous post "Entertaining Angels Unaware."