Two years we made a big move from Washington State to the Los Angeles area in California. That move was much harder than I could have anticipated.
Last year we moved from LA to Malawi, Central Africa. This time I didn’t expect the transition to be smooth but I was still unprepared for just how intense culture shock would be.
Transition is hard.
I’ve been thinking of that more as we, less than a year later, are in another time of transition. We are saying goodbye to our friends in Malawi and returning to the United States. After two years away and some huge life experiences under our belts – and two years of life that happened to our friends and family we’re returning to, we realize that it’s not going to actually be home for a long time.
It’s still hard.
I don’t like feeling unsettled and under pressure with more tasks to do than I can handle. That part of moving is really overwhelming for me. But the most difficult part of each transition we’ve done is saying goodbye to people.
People are what make places special. Especially when living overseas and family is far away, you form deep relationships relatively fast. Our church and ministry friends here in Malawi have given us sweet community and shown us what the body of Christ looks like in loving one another, serving one another, forgiving one another and praying for one another.
Saying goodbye to them, and some of them possibly forever, is painful! But can I tell you a secret about it?
Loving people this way is so worth it.
Our time in Malawi has not been easy. I’ve dealt with chronic pain without doctors, I had an emergency surgery in a healthcare clinic, sin has been seriously exposed for both myself and my husband, and we’ve lived in an extremely poor country with daily power outages and limited conveniences.
Looking back on our time here, though, it’s been an incredible year. The painful and difficult things were overwhelming at times but, I can say this without exaggeration, God has helped me to bear them! He has used them to shape and form us and I am so grateful for even the most painful moments.
Taking a risk
Taking a risk and embracing big changes for the sake of God and His kingdom is absolutely worth it.
Luke records a conversation Jesus had with Peter about this very same issue. Luke chapter 18 verses 28-30, And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
I can’t claim to have lacked anything as we stepped out, left our homes and lived in Africa for nearly a year. Yes, there were things that were extremely hard but God was faithful and He truly blessed us, cared for us and provided for us as we were obedient to Him.
Maybe you are considering taking on a new challenge out of your love for Jesus. Maybe you see the needs in your church nursery or your local soup kitchen. Maybe you have an opportunity to do a short term missions trip. Maybe you are more like me, a wife who is considering following her husband as he goes to the unknown and unfamiliar where God is directing him.
Can I give you some advice?
Pray about it. Carefully consider the path to see if it is wise and truly beneficial. And be willing to do whatever God is putting in front of you to do.
Here is more or less what I prayed about a year ago as we considered going to Malawi. “God, you know that I am weak, spiritually and physically. If you can use me in my weakness, send us to Malawi. Provide the strength, the finances and the courage to do what You are calling us to do. It feels like death to go, death to my good job and our community and our savings but we are willing if You will use us.”
The ministry we came to do in Malawi has been a support role for a seminary that is training Malawian pastors to study, practice and preach the Word of God. We knew coming in that our work would be impactful but were unprepared for the great need the seminary is filling in Malawi!
Our funding came in extremely fast. The door was open for us to go. We came, we served, we gave of ourselves but God gave us much, much more than we gave out. We grew in our faith. We made deep friendships. We learned to value Christ more as we worshipped with people from all over the world.
It’s been hard.
All of the transitions and all of the changes has been difficult and the coming weeks will not be any easier.
But, oh! It’s been worth it.
Ashley Mullins is the wife of Chris. They are currently in transition from Malawi, Africa (serving at the Central African Preaching Academy which is a seminary training Malawian pastors) to Spokane, Washington in the United States.