Saturday, July 4, 2015

If you want to move to ____

Even after 14+ years overseas, I am far from an expert on living this life. And, when I give advice, much of it is from the perspective of "hindsight is 20/20" and what I wish we had done. But can I give that advice and not be a hypocrite? I hope so. Also, sometimes what I can say is from looking back and being thankful that we did do something a certain way, so there's that, too.

Sometimes people tell me that they're planning to move overseas, and they want advice. (Or they don't want it, but this is still what I'd like to say to them. ) So, without further ado, a few things:

1. Get training. If you're joining a mission, they'll probably help you with this, but if you're "independent," you need it too. (Maybe more so!) I'd recommend studying both Bible and cross-cultural living. (Can anyone recommend a general missions or cross cultural life training?) Learning on the job is great, but it's also wonderful when we can benefit from the experience of others who will teach us.

2. Language! Please plan to spend the first year or two in full time language study! It seems that so many people feel the urgency of ministry and choose the we'll-learn-as-we-go approach. And that can work; we did it to some extent. But it wasn't optimal! See all of my exclamation marks here? I really believe this is important... and neglected.

3. Visit. Here we have both followed my own advice and ignored it at different times. When we followed it, everything went so much better. Before you move full-time, it's really good to do a visit first, a focused visit that explores really living and working in that location. A generic short-term trip is a good start, and if that was a first taste that made you fall in love with a place, then come back again, before moving. No matter how wonderful a place seems, you look at it with different eyes when you live there or know that you will soon.

Do come on over! Moving overseas can be so overwhelming, so you have to start somewhere. Pick something to work and go with it. God will lead and guide you every step of the way.

That's just a start. What else would you all add to this? What do you wish that you had done before moving?


  1. Yes! Completely agree with all of these, especially the language learning! The missionaries who devote their time and efforts to language learning are often the ones who stay long-term and feel at home in their host countries. I would add also to talk to missionaries in the country where you'll be heading to get some practical advice -- what would be good to pack, what's easy to buy there, how is the food different so you can start planning new recipes that will work well there, etc.

    A good general missions training course I would highly recommend is the Perspectives class. We took it before we moved overseas and have referred back to it over and over again. MTI (the Missionary Training Institute in Colorado) offers excellent training as well. They have a course about cultural training and another on language learning that I've heard really good things about; I wish we would have gone through that training before coming!!

  2. Love this and totally agree! While we took cross-cultural classes, what helped us the most was living in a "safe" environment overseas. We did an apprenticeship in a very similar country under an experienced mission team learning everything from culture to how to set up a home and how our family functioned as a unit overseas. While it was SO hard, we couldn't have asked for better training, especially as there was absolutely no expectation outside of learning.
    I also have seen a great benefit for college students going as interns to a place similar to or where they want to go to for 8 weeks+.