Welcome to a new series of entries which I've called Mission Realities. In time I want to touch on some of the realities that I've experience by going through them, talk about them and look at God's point of view on them, hopefully leaving you encouraged should you one day find yourself in a similar situation.
The first one I want to look at therefore is the issue of loneliness. Come with me for a moment and try hard within yourself to picture the scene;
You have just arrived in a totally new location. You don't know the streets, or nice places to go to relax, or where the best value food shops are. You don't have any friends or family around. You don't know any of your neighbours and to top it all of you don't speak their language and they don't speak yours. Welcome to oversea's, cross culture mission! Throw into this picture the obvious problems that arise, eg power cuts, needing help/advice, and you are suddenly stuck, not knowing who to ask, how to ask, not knowing if what you are feeling is real, or normal. Will the electricity just come back on, for example. Should you ask someone? Do you need to report it? How? Help?
I know these feelings because this is what I've gone through - a power cut and needing help with some DIY without any tools and no language.
It's at times like this that you can feel very alone.
If you are blessed enough to have the internet, or a phone line, then that does offer a point of contact back into your previous world. It can also make you feel more alone!
When someone goes overseas and makes the jump, each day is hard and as the days go on they more and more value the odd comment from 'home', where ever that might be. Except, back there, life goes on as normal and what has felt like a lifetime for you, has only been a month or so back home and they'll contact you some time, maybe Christmas. So suddenly loneliness is right back at you again - you have this contact but no body writes. "No body cares" it will try and trick you with.
The truth is, of course, totally the opposite. You'll find, when people do make contact, that they all confirm you are never far from their thoughts and how regularly they pray for you both at home and in groups.
Loneliness also hits when problems come. Some I've already touched on above like the electricity and DIY problem. But when bigger things come and those that are around you are taken away for a time, your lack of friends and local support is raised right to the surface again. For me it came in the form of my wife having to go back to England because of the illness, and then death of her Gran. She'll have been away for 12 days by the time she gets back here in 2 days time. I've looked after our daughter here. At the same time the other family based here, who we don't get to see that often anyway, have been totally consumed as their youngest has been in hospital. So going from a place of relative loneliness anyway (with only 5 other adults around me whom I know in this vast city and nation) I've not seen one of them in this entire time, for one reason or the other, instead having my whole time with a 3 year old!!
Getting to the point when I was fed up at not hearing from anyone, I was a bit cheeky and made a comment that has since meant loads of people have been writing which has been great.
But a reality of mission, it must be said, is loneliness, at least for a season.
The thing to remember in all these experiences is that God is working in you a new thing. Back in England when we were planning on coming out here, our own journey here seemed very lonely at times and very difficult at other times, and sometimes both. So maybe God was just checking what we were made of? We got through that and therefore we'll get through this? Maybe, yes, just maybe God was in that.
And it also must be said from this stand point that my two main occasions when I have actually seen and spoken to the occupants of the two flats on our floor was first with the DIY problem when he came and did the drilling for me (which led us into their home to following day when we went to say thank you) and secondly the power cut which meant I went out the flat and (tried to) speak to the lady opposite who was also out, clearly suffering from the same problem.
Outside of these two problems, we have not been able to meet our neighbours as you spend so little time in the hallway and stairs its difficult to have a reason to see them.
So even through these tough times God was working, encouraging, opening windows of opportunities. And the truth is is that God is never far from you, you just need to take your eyes off your own insecurities long enough to see him right beside you.
And in the long term, just like every experience you have ever had back home (and if you haven't you really should have got out more!) you will meet people. Think of when you first went to a new area, or school, or church, or job, or sports team or holiday camp. You knew no one (probably) and think of how it was when you left any of these.
When I moved up to Manchester to do a voluntary year I knew no one, not even the family I moved in with and lived for a year. I was also on a course where I knew no one.
And yet, 8 years on when we left we said goodbye to many dear friends and have many positive relationships that will go forward through the years, as well as still being in touch with many who were on that year team.
So apparent loneliness in mission is only a small season. It drives us to do exactly what we've come to do - meet people, make friends, build a christian community.
And finally, how ever you are feeling at the moment, remember that the Bible says God promises never to leave us or forsake us.
I hope you have found this encouraging. In time I will look to do more in this series.
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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.
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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)
For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.
Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com
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