I’ve been #blessed to travel around the world over the last 20 years of my life. Probably not as much as some of you- I can barely keep up!- but still, I’ve seen some things. And when you’ve seen some things, one thing inevitably is true: it changes you.
It’s the hallmark phrase after a mission trip. “Meeting this person changed me.” “Seeing the other side of the world made me reexamine my life.” Or “I can’t think about this or see this the same way again” You’ve felt it. I’ve felt it.
And honestly, I think it hits another level of depth for us as we live overseas long-term. When we make our homes in another country, and we become intimately acquainted with the struggles and victories of another culture, it gives us a perspective shift. We don’t see things the same way. It’s good. Beautiful. Necessary. Holy.
But also- it’s really hard.
For me, this has never been more evident than the contrast between Rwanda and the US when it comes to vaccinations. Forgive me for leading with a hot button topic- this isn’t about that, I promise- but it’s the clearest example I can pull from my own heart in this season.
Because really, It’s been completely disorienting for me to come from Rwanda, where everyone is trying to figure out how to get vaccinated, what list to get on, who to call, who knows what person in power…
And go to the US, where certain states are to the point of bribing people to get vaccinated with lotteries, scholarships, and freebies. And people are still refusing.
And then, return to Rwanda and be plunged back into lockdown because of rapidly rising cases. Cases that would be preventable if we had access to vaccinations.
Again, not trying to pull y’all into a debate here- but it’s fundamentally changed my perspective on the US right now to have lived in Rwanda and seen the other side. The cognitive dissonance is heavy for me, and many in my community- including East Africans who are watching.
The same can be said of my perspective on church politics, the importance of family, materialism, community, foreign aid, war, government structures, public health, the education system…..the list goes on.
When we experience the world a different way, we are forced to reexamine our “home base” line of thinking, and, well….it often changes us.
And then, when we change- there’s tension.
Because we can’t go back to who we used to be.
Those old patterns of thinking.
Those old beliefs.
And yet, we often find ourselves returning to a physical place- our passport country, for many of us- that still embodies those beliefs, and we feel pressure to regress in our thinking, take up with our old mindsets about the world. We come back to community that hasn’t experienced the things that we have, and it’s overwhelming and sad to try to bridge the gap. Or maybe instead, we feel anger about how the rest of our lives hasn’t caught up, hasn’t learned, hasn’t changed. We feel helpless.
What do we do with this?
> Have grace and gratitude. It’s often because others haven’t experienced the things we have that their perspectives differ from our own. That’s not their fault- the Lord has ordained a different journey for the, and they’ve learned different things. May that help you practice gratitude for where the Lord has brought you, and what he has done in your heart.
> Peacefully educate. Maybe you start to share more about subjects you are passionate about on your social media, or recommend and send books or articles to people that might be receptive to them. This can also be a way to kind of passively / generally address the issue, without it being a confrontation tied to a specific person or group.
> Channel your tension into activism. Rather than just a passive position of education (which is still wildly important), put your money and time into to the causes and organizations that you see doing the good work. Or, better yet, join them in participating in an active way in bringing the changes you want to see.
> Finally, Pray for your passport country and community. The lord has clearly shown you things and done work in your heart in these specific areas for a reason. Be glad when the Lord aligns our hearts with his own, and may that lead you into deeper prayer for the people and nation that he has placed you in to serve. May you have extra sensitivity to His spirit and guidance, seeing where he takes you and what he leads you to. May you never doubt the things He has stirred in your heart as a result of where you’re placed in the world, and may he give you the boldness to speak and act out of those passions into the tensions that you feel. May he give you words, and may he give you peace, as you seek to bring His Kingdom here on this earth.