I remember the first day in our new home in Asia. It had been a year since our China dream had come to a halt, a year of deep sadness and many questions, but also a necessary time of healing. Now the time had come and we were in Asia again, ready to trust again. Ready to start the second part of our life story, ready to take on a new adventure. The familiar feeling of excitement was there, mixed with a few worries about new things and the skills needed to learn for life in this place. There was also a large feeling of thankfulness that it wasn’t over; God had more in store for us.
That was my story. Here we will look at some others who have resettled in a new home, a new ministry, in Asia after they had to leave their China home.
This is not a research report in any way, but I believe that I am starting to see that workers remaining in, or returning to, Asia fit quite well into several categories. I am sure there are more, but the most common one, in my experience, is that people start over where their organization has an office in the region where they had worked. They often serve in a support role in which their experience is invaluable and they are able to continue to be involved in China ministry. Depending on the circumstances around their departure from China, they may be able to go into China regularly. For some workers there were openings in leadership positions, mainly in their own organizations but sometimes in other networks.
One couple said, “being able to use our experience and still being involved in China is the biggest blessing for us. One we don’t take for granted, but which we are very grateful for”
I have met with some who almost have finished a full year in their new Asia home; here are some of their comments:
I find myself comparing things here with China very often. I do it less and less, but probably still too much for my new local colleagues. “But in China we . . .” “In China it is . . .” It’s not necessarily that I think China is better in any way, but it is familiar to me. I could read the culture clues there, now I have to learn all over again.
In the beginning it was a huge help that we had been to this city [where we now live] before. We knew our way around. It didn’t take long though to realize that the place we sometimes jokingly called our second home was very different now. Being here at the busy time of the year, when the city is full of dear friends and lots of great people that we only got to see once a year and for a fun annual conference, not to mention getting a break from the long, freezing cold winter for a month in “paradise” was one thing. Being here now figuring out where to buy a bed for your child or where to find the arts and crafts shop to buy all the things on the very long list of things our kids had to bring to school the next day was like being on two different planets.
Time after time China friends would say, “I can’t believe you get to live here all year long! I am so jealous!”
“What? Jealous of what? That we can’t live in China or what?” I wanted to say. In my head I was thinking, “I would trade placed with you in a second.”
Sometimes I find it hard to see how laid back the other foreigners around me are taking the security situation. They talk so freely when we meet and it stresses me. I have to remind myself that they have not been through what we went through.
When we first moved here I felt so guilty—suddenly we were in a big, nice house. Life here seemed so simple. We were used to being in a cramped apartment.
I am grateful for the few locals I know here, but I can tell that my language abilities will never be the same as in China.
I first came expecting to be here for a couple of months while exploring opportunities, and maybe I needed that time to accept that this is the place for me. I still don’t feel totally settled though, but I am getting there. I need to remind myself that resettling takes time.
Now it all makes sense. So much of the culture in China fell into place by learning more of the guilt, shame, and fear culture in this new culture! It was like the puzzle pieces finally fell into the right place.
Invest in relationships in your new home town, both with locals and expats. Try to learn the local language—at least some of the basics. Do it when you first get there, because before you know it you will be too swamped with responsibilities and it will never happen.
For the group of people who were ready to move into their new homes in Asia at the beginning of this year, things have been a little different. One of the girls shared how she was so excited to get into her new Asia home in the middle of March. She started buying things for her new house and her boxes from home arrived; she had just had the first two classes of the new language she was going to study when the coronavirus lockdown started. Since then she has only been allowed out for the most urgent shopping and only for a short distance. She has not had the opportunity to get to know her new city, her new team or any of the exciting things she had looked forward to.
Some days are really hard, but I am so grateful for the people who journey with me. They have journeyed with me when I lived in China and through all the ordeal I went through. In our chat group we cry and laugh and pray for each other. Another group who has been almost as important is my old team. We are all spread out now, but we stay connected and because of our shared history, we understand each other so well. I am also incredibly grateful that this is not my first move. I had two moves within China before I had to leave. My entry to this new place has been delayed in several ways, but I do get to see a lot of my new home in Asia
For me personally it took time to come to terms with the truth that this was not second best, this was all part of God’s plan. By changing from the victim mentality I sometimes had, and turning to God with a grateful heart full of expectation for what he had in store for us here in our new city made all the difference. There were times when I was afraid to trust again, but I knew that the Lord who called us promised to never leave us, so I held on to his word and surrounded myself with friends who were willing to come along on this ride.
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