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The In's and Out's of Community Overseas


One of the biggest things in life is community.  Friends, family, church, co-workers, all of those relationships help keep us strong (and sane).  Even from the beginning, God intended us for community.  One of the first things He said after creating Adam was, "It is not good for man to be alone."  Community is vital not only for our emotional health, but our spiritual health as well.  This is one of the biggest reasons why church is so important.

And often times one of the hardest things about life overseas is the lack of that community.  There are limited options for community with people from your home culture.  Community with other foreign expats can be good, but there are cultural differences and sometimes language barriers to get over.  Community with locals is vital and the goal of being here, but there are major language and cultural barriers that make it hard to have anything more than a surface level relationship with most people, at least for the first several years of living overseas. 

I've also noticed with the expat community that we often build up walls to protect ourselves.  Life here is often transient.  People come and within six months to two years most of them will leave.  In order to protect themselves, people have to be careful with relationships.  People here have to say goodbye to people back home on such a regular basis that they don't want to do it here as well.  It is just emotionally too hard.  As one of my friends put it, "You have to be here long enough for people to realize you're sticking around before they'll be friends with you.  The bad thing is, by the time that happens you've probably been without community for too long for it to do any good."

This lack of community can be compounded for some of us.  My wife is an introvert.  She has a handful of very deep relationships (most of which she's had for a long time).  She's also not big on small talk.  So, unlike her extroverted husband, she does not enjoy meeting a million people and having the same conversations about "Where are you from?" and "Do you think it will rain today?" The lack of close deep relationships can be hard for both of us, but particularly for her.

Our community here is still very much a work in progress.  God has been doing some big things with community since we came back three months ago.  Instead of having those million shallow relationships, my wife has been given relationships with a couple of girls that she's been able to go deeper with.  They come to our house once a week, share a meal and then have a beginners Bible study.  It has become one of the most fruitful things we have going on right now.  There are also a couple of moms that she has been able to establish weekly play dates with.  Sadly, those people will be moving away over the next few months (there's that transient thing again).  We're seeing God do some good things with our community here, but we've still got a long way to go.  Please join us in prayer for this and that our community here would grow rich and deep.