More Than Moving...
I grew up in the family of domestic missionaries. My parents moved from Oklahoma to the town of Rome, New York to work with a church of twenty that was meeting in a home that became ours. I was three. We slept in the upstairs bedrooms and the church met in the ground level and basement.
And I remember all of it fondly. In fact, I loved growing up there.
(This is me at 3 "photo bombing" my Dad's official church photo. There ARE hazards in domestic missions).
When we arrived in Rome in January, we quickly discovered that upstate New York is cold from early October to mid to late April and has an annual snowfall of over one hundred inches. Living 1500 miles from Oklahoma meant that we saw our grandparents every other year and grew up states away from our aunts, uncles, and cousins.
However, while moving to Upstate New York was a change for our family, and took us away from what we knew, it was still a place where we spoke the same language (though they do call pecans, “pee-cans”), and we used the same banking, schooling, and public utilities. We watched the same programs on television and listened to the same music on the radio. My parents drove on the same side of the road and continued to shop in grocery stores where there was an abundance of food to be purchased. We lived in a house that had a refrigerator to keep our food cold and had an indoor oven to warm it up. We had a doctor who lived two blocks from our house who took care of all our medical needs. We used the same kind of money as we did in our previous location and wore the same style of clothes. Kids my age played the same sports and games. And, just as in Oklahoma, we always felt safe.
It would be extremely short sighted and narrow-minded to compare my experience with Brooklyn Howard. Brooklyn, after completing her undergraduate degree, moved to Mozambique to join a team of Christian mission workers who over the past 20 years have planted eighty churches. Brooklyn, who arrived in country in January, joins teammates who live with and share Jesus with the Makua-Metto people. The Makua speak their own language, which is different that the Portuguese, which is the official language of Mozambique. Brooklyn has been learning the language of her new country at an intense pace.
In our Zoom calls, Brooklyn shares with me the massive changes in culture, language, and daily activities she now experiences. She also shares what it is like being an American woman with different colored skin than the people around her.
Brooklyn shared with me recently all that is entailed to simply cook dinner. What she described was not what my mom had to endure to cook our evening meals. To help me better understand what it is like to be on the mission field, Brooklyn recommended this book:
Getting Started: Making The Most of Your First Year of Cross-Cultural Service by Amy Young.
I read this book quickly and then I read it again. The author, herself a veteran missionary, shares the reality of living in completely different surroundings with people who have vastly unfamiliar cultural practices, views of life, and expectations. The author does this by asking 184 mission workers what they experienced, good, bad, joyful, and painful during their first year of mission work. The author asks nine straightforward questions and then builds the book around these questions and answers. The responses filtered through the author’s insight not only helps new missionaries know what to expect, but this book helps Christians who support mission workers have a better sense of the first-year experience.
Here are the nine questions:
1. On a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (amazing), what number would you give your first year?
2. Why did you give the number you gave?
3. Before you went to the field, what did you anticipate being hard or challenging parts of your first year?
4. What ended up being three of the hardest or challenging parts of your first year?
5. Before you went to the field, what did you anticipate with excitement about your life on the field?
6. As you look back on your first year, share three of the highlights from that year.
7. What did you learn about yourself during your first year?
8. What did you learn about God during your first year?
9. What would you like to tell your first-year self?
If you are interested in finding the answers to these questions and learning how to be more encouraging and helpful to missionaries you know, I recommend that you get a copy of this book. If you have an Amazon Kindle Unlimited it is free. A paperback copy of the book costs $12.99.
I am thankful to Brooklyn for her commitment to share Jesus with the Mokua people, and I am also thankful that she shared this resource with me. It helps me to understand what she, and so many other mission workers, face every day as they live their lives in cultures vastly different than mine.
It may seem obvious, but I will share it again. Mission workers need:
Your generous financial support
Thank you to the forty-five plus mission workers that partner with The Flow. Help them to know that their lives impact not only the people they serve in their new culture, but our lives as well.
In Jesus name…