What types of thoughts or emotions come to your mind when the term “expat” is spoken of... experiencing adventure; enjoying travel; viewing global diversity up close and personal? Or perhaps you struggle to have any thought or emotion about the topic at all. Possibly, it just isn’t currently relevant in your life right now. But trust me when I say, that if you have experienced the “expat” life for any length of time you are bound to be filled with all sorts of images and memories that define this particular word for you and your family.
The expat life is a world filled with just that - “the world.” When you take your suitcase in hand and step off that airplane into another country ready to begin this new adventure, you have officially stepped out of the comfort zone of your own culture and friends and have plunged head long into a location where you will be constantly learning; always humbled and without a doubt you will never be totally the same again. Life will be filled, if you let it, with new ways of doing things, as well as, the enjoyment of experiencing another culture first-hand. The sights, the sounds and the smells of another country can be riveting for the expat.
However, with all the excitement that comes with living and working in another culture other than your own, there are also some emotions that fall below the surface that sometimes can be very hard to sift through during one’s stay overseas. Over our 11 years of living abroad and working & ministering to the international community in our city, we have seen time and time again how various feelings creep in and invade one’s heart and life. People who are willing to leave home and country often experience feelings such as: displacement vs. the stable life their friends might be experiencing or possibly dealing with feelings that come with living in uncomfortable or unknown settings vs. the familiarity of home.
From our experience however, of all the myriad of adjustments expats deal with, loneliness is the #1 issue they wrestle with as they try and assimilate into their new “home.” Each year we watch people come from all over the world to our city and we watch as they walk through the struggle of missing family and friends. We praywiththem, prayforthem and try & walk beside them (all the while, drinking lots of coffee over our conversations together). But the greatest blessing is seeing over time their spiritual walk mature and deepen as they begin to trust in God more and more. You see, if all we know is a “comfort zone” where we can navigate through life quite easily and successfully without God, then it becomes quite normal to think that we can do life without Him entirely. Yet, God from the beginning of time has called his creation to live a life dependent on Him and Him alone. It has been a joy and a privilege to watch the faith of these expat’s deepen as God has taken them out of their comfort zones and placed them in situations where they have the choice to either look up and depend on Him OR continue on living an independent life, struggling to make it on their own. When they choose to let go and let God show His faithfulness in all its glory to them… well, that is beauty.
Is it easy to walk this “expat” life? No. Are their times of loneliness? Absolutely. Personally, even after eleven years of living abroad ourselves bouts of loneliness overcome us about once a week! Yet, God has not called us to an easy life, but a life dependent on Him - a life of faith in the one true God. So, if someone asked me about the term “expat” and what it meant, I would say it was definitely a life of adventure. But my friend,the adventure is not ultimately found in the joy of experiencing a new culture, the adventure lies instead on the profound discovery of a faithful God, who makes all of a dependent life an adventure!
...and yes, our kids are out on the dangerous cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean!
They seem to love adventure, too!