Facing Transitions

Life transitions—whether coming to China for the first time, leaving after a lifetime of ministry, moving to a new city or taking on a new assignment—can be a gateway to discovery or the death of a dream. Often they are both.

In this issue we take a 360-degree look at transitions, viewing them through the eyes of those experiencing change as well as those around them who are affected.

While transitions can have many causes, BJ Arthur reminds us in her lead article that the one constant throughout is God’s sovereignty. As he has led providentially in the unfolding of events in China, so we can trust him to lead in our lives when “the pillar moves.”

Drawing on the experience of his own family as they transitioned from China back to their home country, Jason Ingle shares personal lessons and offers valuable advice to those who find themselves on the welcoming end for those returning from overseas. Dr. Mark Strand, whose family experienced a similar transition, continues this theme from the standpoint of the sending church, providing practical guidance on how to integrate returning families and individuals into the faith community.

As Looming Transitions author Amy Young points out in her article, sending organizations can play a significant role in helping to facilitate effective transitions by providing the time and space for intentional debriefing.

Personal transitions have a ripple effect, impacting others in ways we might not anticipate. In “Kids in Transition,” Stephen Sark looks at how TCKs (third culture kids) respond when families are uprooted, and how parents and others can walk with them through the process. Rachel, a believer in China, offers an on-the-ground view of how the departure of foreign workers affects the local Christians they leave behind. By thinking through the implications of this transition ahead of time, both foreign workers and indigenous colleagues can take measures to head off some of the negative consequences Rachel mentions.

Transitions can be lonely, but they do not need to be faced alone. A wealth of resources is available for those who find themselves facing change. Amy Young’s Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service is accompanied by an activity book for families and a workbook for those in transition. In her review, Cassie Cahill echoes the sentiments of many who have found Young’s book helpful when she says, “I wish I would have had this book in my hand prior to arriving on the field. It serves as a practical handbook for considering all the changes that occur when one has decided to serve overseas.” Additional books and other programs are listed in the Resource Corner.

We trust this issue of ChinaSource Quarterly will provide a useful starting point for navigating the transition you or those around you may be experiencing.

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio