Leaving and Arriving Well — what to do when your time comes {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

You’re probably going to leave the field.

Someday, somehow, the vast majority of us will say goodbye, pack up, cry tears of joy or sorrow or both, and depart.

How will that work out for you?

Well, frankly, I have no idea. But I do know that there are some things you can do to prepare to leave and some things you can do to prepare to arrive. And while a cross-cultural move is stressful no matter which direction you’re going, knowing some of what to expect and how to prepare really can help.

The first part of this article deals with Leaving Well, while the second part deals with the oft-overlooked importance of Arriving Well.

In Arriving Well, we’ll look at

– Embracing your inner tourist,

– Making movie magic,

– Identifying your needs, and of course,

– Grieving

We’ll wrap up with an Arrival Benediction, which is a prayer for you, the transitioner, from the bottom of my heart.

Click here to read the full post.

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A Missionary’s Call to the Psalms and a Deeper Emotional Intelligence

by Jonathan

I personally think we missionaries are a smart bunch. Our textbook education is typically high. We’ve been to college, perhaps seminary, and we know some stuff. We’ve figured out how to use our cognition for the King, our intellect for the Incarnated. But while western education is first and foremost intellectual (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), life is lived and people are loved on the street level, not the lecture hall.

The classic quip about people caring how much you know only after they know how much you care is classic for a reason: it’s true. When we approach a hurting, lost world with brains first, we risk showing a skewed image of Christ. We need our hearts too.

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Sometimes I Wonder Where We Put Our Hearts
Hearts can seem to get in the way of missiology, and emotions are inefficient. Emotionally detached workaholics may be great at “getting the job done.” They might not make wonderful spouses or parents, but disconnected, task-oriented, stoic workers can be low-maintenance, efficient missionaries.

Conversely, we must remember that emotions are Christ-like. A missions force with low emotional intelligence is bad for missions, not to mention families, teams, and planted churches. When the DNA of new believers and new churches excludes the sometimes messy reality of the heart, it’s not healthy DNA. Furthermore, a disconnected, task-oriented, stoic missions force isn’t much like Jesus.

Have you ever met a man or woman who seems bottled up emotionally, but the minute they start talking about the lost or missions, they start crying? I’ve met many folks like this, and I’m always baffled. When it comes to their families or other interpersonal relationships, they seem distant and cold, but the minute you mention unreached peoples, cue the waterworks. Something is not right about this picture.

It’s awesome they care about the lost, but how is it that all of their emotional capital got put there? Religion should not be the only place in their life where they really feel emotion.

Building Emotional Intelligence
So, how do we add some heart back in? How do we build emotional intelligence in ourselves and our teams? I believe both the Psalms and the life of Jesus can help us find our hearts. John Calvin in describing the Psalms said this: “What various and resplendent riches are contained in this treasury, it were difficult to describe…for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.”

To grow in emotional intelligence and awareness, we must practice. Read a Psalm and the Gospels and try to identify as many emotions as you can. Both involve people, and people feel. Ask yourself, “How do the hands of Jesus reveal the heart of the Father?” If Paul helps us to know the mind of Christ (a good thing), the Psalms show us Christ’s heart. It is the Psalms that Jesus turned to and quoted more often than any other book in the Hebrew Scriptures.

But even more telling, the context in which Jesus referenced the Psalms was almost always when he was in a difficult situation.  Jesus was hated without cause, which the Psalms foretold (Ps. 35:1969:4John 15:25). He quoted Psalm 22 while dying on the cross (Ps. 22:1Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34) and when talking about his betrayal (Ps. 41:9John 13:18). These are just a few of many examples. In stressful situations, when he was under duress or attack, Jesus referred to the Psalms. Maybe that’s when we need to remember the Psalms too.

In our own lives, and in the lives of the people we live among, “bad stuff” is common. Corruption, danger, and loss are the daily realities. And so we need the Psalms. As we watch global instability and fear spread, we need workers with hearts that understand grief and loss. We need workers who know Christ as Healer. We need workers who bring their full hearts to the mission field. Not just their work ethic or their seminarian-intellect, but also their vulnerable, wounded, and healing hearts.

If we connected heart and mind, we’d get kinder, gentler, more sensitive cross-cultural workers. And kinder, gentler, more sensitive disciples.

Making Room for Warrior Poets
The foreign field appeals to warriors, and we amplify this fighting spirit with our dramatic quotes and motivational epigrams. But the unreached peoples of the world also need poets and artists, those who see and speak in different tones, with different cadence and quality.

Too often we think of the “soft” qualities as counterproductive in church-planting work, especially among the least-reached. We recruit hard people for hard fields, and we can’t even imagine the artist or highly emotive worker surviving, let alone thriving. We need warriors, go-getters.

But this approach is wrong, and for the sake of the gospel, we must change it. Tenderness, creativity, gentleness, and whimsy are not soft, esoteric qualities. These are qualities flowing straight from the heart of Christ.

Yes, we should study the mind of Christ, but there is so much more. Christ’s death was not by guillotine, disconnecting head and body. His head was bloodied, his heart was pierced, and all of him was raised.

Let’s make sure that all of him is preached. Let’s make sure that all of him is shown:

  • Jesus the advocate and disrupter, the wild one who defied Rome from underneath.
  • The brilliant intellect who befuddled the learned men.

Let’s make sure we preach his heart too:

  • A heart that felt the sting of death and the tip of the spear.
  • A heart that felt abandonment and despair and cared about a widow’s son.
  • A heart that laughed and wept and wrote in the dirt.

Let’s remember a Christ who loved the Psalms, and let’s imitate him. Let’s connect with the heart of God, and let’s show the world a richer, fuller, more complete image of Christ.

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Suggested Resources
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement
The simple tool I use with 90% of my pastoral counseling clients

 

Originally published at www.imb.org. Used with permission.

Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

When Missionaries Starve — A message on the Power, Beauty, and absolute Necessity of the Word of God

When Missionaries Starve — A message on the Power, Beauty, and absolute Necessity of the Word of God. Recorded at ICA, Phnom Penh Cambodia, July 2017.

Click the link above to listen to the mp3, or check out the trotters41 podcast here.

I also wrote about this topic over at A Life Overseas.

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“God Bless America!” (and other dangerous prayers)

by Jonathan

I love America.

I love her mountains and her National Parks. I love her North Atlantic coastline and her national anthem. I love her freedom of speech and her universities.

As an attorney, I especially love her Constitution and her history of Law.

God bless America!

But that’s a dangerous prayer, because often, with the same tongue that we mouth “God bless America!” we spit “God destroy Iran!” Or North Korea. Or China. Or whatever.

We want to bless America and curse our enemies. And while that kind of talk is certainly in the Bible, it’s not very Biblical. It is not the way of Jesus.

Continue reading over at A Life Overseas

The One Question We Must Ask {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

It’s a simple question, carrying with it the power to clarify purpose and extend longevity. It’s a question that buttresses against the nasty cousins of burnout and bitterness. It’s a question we need to ask more often.

It’s simply this: “What is it that I really need?”

We’ve got to start asking our cross-culturally-working-selves, “In an ideal world, what is it that I really need to make it? To thrive? To be ok? To survive where God’s called me? What is it that I really need?”

Before you crucify me for turning the Gospel inside out and hamstringing it with a message about me and my needs, hear me out.

I’m not at all advocating a life without obedient sacrifice; I am expressly advocating a life of eyes-open sacrifice. You might not get what you need. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t. There are a lot of things you need that a life of cross-cultural service just won’t be able to provide. I’m talking about the full spectrum here, from a Starbucks latte all the way to the absence of gunfire.

And that’s where this gets real.

When you realize that some legitimate needs won’t get met, when you realize that safety and functioning utilities and access to public libraries and date night just aren’t as much a thing where you live, you can do two things. You can seek to mitigate, or you can choose to sacrifice. In reality, I actually recommend both.

Mitigate it: Consider whether there are any creative workarounds that might meet the need, in whole or in part.

Sacrifice it: Obediently, with a full heart and open eyes, sacrifice the thing as a holy act of worship.

Continue reading over at A Life Overseas

An Open Letter to Single Ladies Serving Abroad

by Jonathan

You are loved. Cherished, even.

Not because you were brave enough to move overseas “alone.”
Not because you ignored the caring relatives who asked, “How in the world will you find a husband over there?”

You are loved. Adored, even.

Not because you’re an independent thinker, a strong person.
Not because you’ve sacrificed.

You are loved. Anticipated, even.

Because of Him.

You are loved by the eternal God, your Harbor.
You are loved by a Dad who wraps you up in his everlasting arms.

You are loved by the One who knows the true depths of loneliness and the rich intimacy of friendships.

Indeed, you are loved.

You are valuable.

And you are needed. Our churches, our teams, and our families need you.

You probably know that already. You probably feel that already. But just in case you don’t, as a brother, father, husband, team leader, pastor, and friend, let me remind you how much we value you and need you.

We don’t need you to be a wonderful Christian woman. We need you to be a wonderful Christian human, unique because of your personhood, not just because of your womanhood. We need you to love people uniquely, heartily, and with passion.

You see the woman caught in adultery differently. We need your eyes. You are more aware of the emotional needs behind the physical needs. We need your awareness. We need your heart.

We need you to lead. Your perspective is valuable, your needs valid, your abilities real. You see problems and solutions differently. We need your intellect.

We need you to support us. Not like a cook supports the troops, but like a soldier supports a comrade. We serve side by side in this thing.

My kids need you. And not as a babysitter.

My sons need you to show them what a strong woman looks like. Teach them that a woman’s value does not come from the fact that she’s got a body, or a husband, or kids.

My daughters need you. They need to see a woman who’s willing to follow God’s call regardless of who joins her. They need to see a woman who pursues God on her own, enjoying her own relationship with him.

You are not half a unit. Some stray ingredient that I guess we’ll mix in with the “real” ingredients of teams and churches and potlucks.

You are not leftovers.

Without single women serving abroad, there would be a gaping hole in the Church and in the history of modern missions. And in my own life.

Growing up, the names (and books) of Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, Corrie ten Boom, and Elisabeth Elliot taught and inspired and coached me. I read their books, listened to their stories, and learned from their faith.

Single women still teach, inspire and coach me. I am grateful for ladies like Amy, Sara, Yvonne, Tanya, Christina, Rhoda, Ann, Jenny, Sue, Sarah, Mary, Sovannara, Emma, and so many more. I listen to them speak, I read what they write, I watch them love people, I observe their journey through Facebook status updates, and I am grateful.

I need them. The Church needs them.

And Jesus loves them. And he loves you too. Not because you’re awesome or beautiful or perfect. Not because you’re really good with Instagram filters. But because you are part of his Bride, his people. Immensely valuable.

Every day, Elisabeth Elliot began her radio program with this reminder, “You are loved with an everlasting love – that’s what the Bible says – and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

May you remember his everlasting love,
May you rest in his everlasting arms,
Today, tomorrow, and everyday.

With deep appreciation and gratitude, your friend,
Jonathan Trotter

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*This article originally appeared on Velvet Ashes.
Used with permission