Monthly Archives: October 2011

No Room in My Luggage for Baggage

There are a million details to think of and shuffle through before starting a new life on a different continent. This is especially true for families with children. Some common questions are, “What vaccinations do my kids need? To what age should I plan to home school my children before sending them to boarding school in a neighboring country? We are moving to a closed country where we could be imprisoned or even killed for sharing the Gospel. How do we keep our kids from blowing our cover?” And then there are the young families who anticipate starting a family overseas (the category under which my husband and I find ourselves). Some example questions I ask are, “Could we handle having our first child while we’re still in language school? Would a Baby Bjorn be culturally appropriate among the people group in which I will live? Will I be able to get to a decent hospital in time if something unexpected happens during my pregnancy?” {The list goes on, but I’ll spare you. (You’re welcome.)}

There is a question people frequently ask me and it so happens to be another detail with which I’ve wrestled for months: “what should I take with me?” It would be shocking for someone with little overseas experience to interview three different missionaries serving in the same foreign city. All three could be asked to write out a “don’t leave the U.S. without” list and I would guarantee that each list would be amazingly different. But no matter how dissimilar each list looks, there is a universal commonality against which all three are measured—space limit. No matter where you’re from, where you’re going or where you’ve been, you can only bring so much stuff with you {check back later for packing tips and to find out what’s going to East Africa in my suitcase!}. Sure, there are lots of options for getting your stuff across the globe (crating, air cargo, and postal mail to name a few), but accompanying all of these options is a physical weight limit. Then, there’s the issue of customs. And in our case, we can take whatever we want into South Sudan, but we won’t be allowed to take it out of the country. Simply put, whatever we take in will stay there.

Please understand, however, that there are far more consequential questions to ask myself than what little pieces of America I can import to South Sudan. While these deeper questions are similar in that they also deal with a load limit, I must forego the physical and remember that I am first spiritual. What spiritual hindrances am I trying to cram into all the vacant spaces of my suitcase? More specifically, what resentment or bitterness am I holding onto? What disappointment or hurt won’t I let go of? My obedience to go to the nations is, by definition, disobedience if I choose to do so with unconfessed sin in my heart. If I refuse to restore broken relationships before I go to Africa, how can I possibly model forgiveness and healing to the Southern Sudanese—people filled with hatred and hostility toward their oppressors?

To those of you preparing to serve God overseas, examine your heart before ever leaving your country of origin. Understand that you absolutely will not grow spiritually if you are harboring resentment in your heart.  Even if you think you are in the clear, ask God to reveal dormant, deeply rooted relational  sin in your life. However, resolve to do that only once you are ready to repent and extend forgiveness to those who have hurt you. It would take no time at all for a spiritually dry heart to shrivel up and die inside a desolate land. Even the Israelites would have preferred to be the Egyptians’ slaves than to lay waste in the desert.

Let us, then, lay aside every weight that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles…